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Updates on Microsoft/Nokia and Apple Patent Wars on Linux

Patent stooges



Summary: A roundup of news relating to Android/Linux and patent wars against Android backers

THE WAR on Android (and to some extent Linux) is partly hinged on the case from B&N [1, 2, 3], which challenged the Nokia/Microsoft patent game:



In recent legal actions, Barnes and Noble is requesting access to the contracts/principals of the Nokia-M$ relationship through the ITC. Nokia has protested vigorously indicating they really want to keep matters hidden. Apparently Barnes and Noble feel M$ and Nokia are abusing their patents to stifle competiton…


Here is the main report about this, courtesy of Groklaw:



Nokia is throwing quite a fit about the ITC approving Barnes & Noble's request that the ITC send a Letter of Request to Finland to ask the country to aid Barnes & Noble to depose five Nokia executives, including CEO Stephen Elop, and provide Barnes & Noble its list of requested Nokia documents.

Barnes & Noble, you may recall, is asserting that Microsoft, partnering with Nokia and MOSAID, is plotting "to use patents to drive open source software out of the market," saying it is threatening companies using Android with an anticompetitive choice: pay Microsoft exorbitant rates for patents -- trivial, invalid, or not infringed, according to Nokia -- or spend a fortune on litigation. It wants discovery to try to prove its claims.

Here's how Nokia took the news. In its Motion to Quash [PDF], Nokia tells the ITC that it immediately contacted Finland and filed objections, and it also contacted the Office of Unfair Import Investigations at the ITC to try to block. And now it asks the ITC to quash the Letter, or in the alternative wait to see what Finland does.

And in a second development, the ITC has denied Microsoft's November motion to force Google to hand over business information about Android, which Google opposed, the Commission saying the requests were unreasonable and not relevant. There was also a second Microsoft motion to depose Google, and the same order grants that motion, which Google had agreed to anyhow. All this means the schedule of discovery in the case has changed, but so far, the hearing is scheduled to be in February. Considering the way Nokia is fighting to quash discovery, threatening an interlocutory appeal if necessary, I'm guessing that date is not going to be the actual date.

Plucky Barnes & Noble is fighting for itself, but this ITC case has the potential to effect the entire Android ecosystem. Barnes & Noble is shining a light on what it views as an anticompetitive plot, with patents just the latest Microsoft weapons of war, probably hoping that if the light is shining right on them, the plotters will be unable to fulfill their unholy scheme. Don't forget that Barnes & Noble has also filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, so it isn't just us chickens who are now watching this play out. That may explain Nokia's determination to avoid discovery. I mean, if there's no such plot, why fight this hard to avoid handing over the contracts?


Nokia has been hijacked. In many ways, Microsoft has already bought it and one new report notes: "After all, some analysts are pushing Microsoft to buy Nokia on the basis that, in the open source-led mobile world, OS licensing fees alone are no longer a viable model without accompanying hardware. Even Google, which achieves huge service revenues via control of Android, is tempted by the hardware/software model with its Motorola buy and Nexus launches. Becoming a software/IP firm may prove to be RIM's only option in future, but it will be a strategy of last resort, and gaining critical mass for a new platform which has suffered from teething troubles even before its launch will be tough, and not a battle on which Samsung is likely to expend much energy."

"According to a senior person at Nokia, the Microsoft-Nokia deal was a takeover, but just like in Novell's case, Microsoft prefers to use the hijacked company as a proxy; it helps keep the regulators away."According to a senior person at Nokia, the Microsoft-Nokia deal was a takeover, but just like in Novell's case, Microsoft prefers to use the hijacked company as a proxy; it helps keep the regulators away. Romours that Microsoft will buy Nokia's smartphone division are being disputed and the matter was mentioned in the latest episode of TechBytes, albeit very briefly.

Microsoft is using patents anti-competitively and it very recently settled a case. For background: "Datel originally took Microsoft to court in November 2009 after claiming a 360 dashboard update blocked its accessories from working. Among the things that were blocked was Datel's Max Memory cards.

"Datel claimed that Vole was playing monopoly and using its powers to cut out competition."

As always.

Microsoft keeps collecting patents [1, 2] and goodwill-washing some patent monopolies too. Bloomberg plays along with this patents frenzy and a lawyers' site glorifies "IP" litigation as though lawsuits should be commended:

McKool Smith namepartner Mike McKool had just scored a $290 million jury verdict in a patent case his firm had taken on contingency. But because the losing party was Microsoft Corporation, McKool wasn't celebrating just yet. The software giant is known for getting substantial damage awards in patent disputes slashed on appeal. Which is why, in May 2009, McKool urged his client in the case, Canadian software developer Infrastructures for Information, Inc. (i4i), to bring in the man McKool calls "the best": Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner name partner Donald Dunner.


We covered this case here many times before.

Moving on to Apple, the company is said to have little incentive to drop its lawsuits against Android backers:

Ever wonder why Apple doesn’t seem keen on settling the Android patent lawsuits it’s involved in? It’s because there’s more money in winning.

On Monday, Deutsche Bank’s Chris Whitmore sent a note out to clients outlining the four possible outcomes for Apple in its various battles with Android device makers worldwide.


IBM seems to be helping Google defend Android and John Dvorak alleges that there might be legal action coming:

quick look at the description of the patents tells me that these are not just a bunch of defensive plays, but a few offensive ones that might allow Google to begin to sue Apple and Microsoft, since that seems to be the game everyone is playing.


We are aware of a brewing patent battle from Android backers against Microsoft and Apple. The madness of the patent system is further illustrated by a story in Murdoch's paper while new patents on software [1, 2] are boasted about in press releases as though these are products.

Our focus in this cause will be to stop Apple's, Microsoft's, and their proxies' patent lawsuits against Android. One shortcut route is to strike the problem at the root -- the USPTO. In the coming week we'll concentrate some more on patents.

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