Bonum Certa Men Certa

Red Hat is Chastised For Playing Along With Microsoft's Patent Scheme Rather Than Challenge the Patents Like Google and the Alice Case Did

China has already made publicly known which patents Microsoft uses against Linux/Android

Nixon visit to China
Context: 1972 Nixon visit to China [1, 2]

Summary: Criticism of Red Hat's approach to dealing with Microsoft spreads to more sites, especially those that understand the impact of patents in this area

WE REALLY wanted to avoid further commentary on the Microsoft-Red Hat deal, but another shallow article has just come out, this time from Linux Insider (not necessarily a Linux-friendly site). The authur says nothing about patents, which is often what’s missing from all the puff pieces about this subject.

"Well, Richard Nixon was at least opening up to trade. In the case of Red Hat, it opens up other companies to potential patent lawsuits from Microsoft."Over at FOSS Force, a pro-FOSS site, Larry Cafiero wrote: "Red Hat and Microsoft on Wednesday announced a partnership that will allow businesses to deploy Red Hat’s open source software on the Microsoft Azure cloud. From news reports, the deal makes Red Hat the “preferred choice” on Microsoft Azure, Redmond’s infrastructure-as-a-service platform. Make what you will of this. Me? If you know my distaste for what’s nebulously called “the cloud,” I’m just walking away from it, though the one comment I read in one story comparing this to Nixon going to China is probably the best comparison."

Well, Richard Nixon was at least opening up to trade. In the case of Red Hat, it opens up other companies to potential patent lawsuits from Microsoft. We have already explained this in 5 articles, namely:

Florian Müller, who had worked as a patents spinner for Microsoft (for a while), was very hard on Red Hat. He wrote that "Red Hat hopes to leverage patents to cement its Linux market leadership [with the] Microsoft deal" and makes a claim similar to claims we have been making here for over half a decade. "I've been saying for years," he wrote, "that Red Hat is utterly hypocritical when it comes to patents. It has a history of feeding patent trolls and fooling the open source community. There is, to put it mildly, no assurance that all of its related dealings actually comply with the GPL."

This is exactly our concern and unless there is transparency from the "Open Organisation", we don't know for sure. The patent "standstill" does not extend to companies other than Red Hat, so where does that leave even CentOS users (Techrights uses CentOS)? "Red Hat now wants to tell Linux users," Müller explains, "that the way to be protected with respect to patents is to use Red Hat Linux. "Reduce your exposure, buy from us." That is a way of seeking to benefit from software patents."

That's similar to what Novell did, but secrecy makes it harder to know what really goes on here.

“If you know my distaste for what’s nebulously called “the cloud,” I’m just walking away from it, though the one comment I read in one story comparing this to Nixon going to China is probably the best comparison.”
      --Larry Cafiero
"I want to give Simon Phipps credit," Müller wrote, "for distinguishing between the positive and not so positive ramifications of this partnership from an open source point of view. The Open Source Initiative is an organization on whose board Simon Phipps serves with, among others, a Red Hat lawyer.

"Without the Red Hat connection, Simon Phipps would presumably have criticized Red Hat clearly as opposed to just making it sound like Microsoft should do more. He says Microsoft should relinquish its patent rights because that's how he defines "love" for Linux. However, he doesn't talk about what Red Hat could have done. Red Hat could have challenged any Microsoft patents that allegedly infringe Linux: in court (declaratory judgment actions) and through reexamination requests. That course of action would have done free and open source software a greater service than a deal."

In Twitter, Müller goes on and chastises the FSF, SFLC etc. for not criticising Red Hat (because of financial ties). This very much reminds us of the reluctance to criticise systemd, which is mostly Red Hat's own creation. Red Hat's clout in the community almost makes it immune to criticism.

"Google-Moto defended Linux against MSFT's patent infringement allegations in court and won," Müller wrote in Twitter, whereas "Red Hat decided to benefit from them."

He said that "GPL enforcers like Harald Welte should sue Red Hat for alleged breach of the GPLv2 patent clause, arguing a covenant not to sue is a license" (we don't know if there is such a covenant because the "Open Organisation" is still quite secretive about it).

"Android," he says, "not Red Hat, is the #1 Linux distribution. Google, not Red Hat, is the #1 defender of Linux against Microsoft's patents."

As we said at the very start (hours after the Microsoft-Red Hat deal had been announced), Red Hat's actions are defeatist and dangerous. They come at a time when, at least in the US, software patents rapidly lose their teeth anyway.

“"It's one thing to be a Linux parasite. It's another to be a Trojan horse. And the worst option is to be both at the same time.”
      --Florian Müller
According to Patent Buddy, citing the Bilski Blog, "Sue L Robinson, the Patent Killer Judge, Has Not Held a Single Patent Valid under 101/Alice" and even at the capital of patent trolls, "E. Dist. Of TX has Alice / 101 Invalidity Rate of 34.8%" (that's pretty high for such a corrupt district).

To quote the Bilski Blog: "There have been 34 district court decisions in the past two months, but the percentage of invalidity decision is holding constant at 70.5%. The number of patent claims invalidated is now over 11,000, but also holding steady at around 71%.

"There have been no new Federal Circuit Section 101 decisions, but we're going to see a flurry of activity in the next couple of months, as the court has recently heard oral argument in a number of patent eligibility cases, and more are on calendar for November.

"Motions on the pleadings have soared, with 23 in the past two months alone, and the success rate is up a tick from 70.1% to 71.4%.

"PTAB is a bit mixed: the CBM institution rate is down from 86.2% 83.7%, but the final decision rate is still 100%, with 6 decisions in the past two months invalidating the patents in suit."

Red Hat could make use of what Bilski Blog called #AliceStorm (referring to the avalanche of software patents) to basically invalidate a lot of Microsoft's software patents. Instead, Red Hat reached a patent agreement with Microsoft.

Müller's analysis ends with strong words that we don't agree with but are worth quoting nonetheless: "It's one thing to be a Linux parasite. It's another to be a Trojan horse. And the worst option is to be both at the same time."

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