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06.15.08

Trend Micro Soft Patent Against Lower-cost Competition

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Red Hat at 5:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Is it not cheating if the law is broken?

There is clearly a trend here. Companies that are unable to compete with superior and more affordable competition go beyond just dismissal using stereotypes. They start to attack. How so? Using software patents, which were never supposed to be valid in the first place (they are still seen as illegal by the vast majority of the world).

The same type of dilemma and response chracterises the music industry, which still tries to transform business models using new laws and defective ‘feature’ (anti-features), whose purpose may be to turn a purchasing model into a renting model much to the consumer’s disappointment and the middleman/merchant’s delight.

A couple of days ago, Groklaw identified a Web page that spoke about Microsoft’s plan for Novell. It also gives insight into other strategies for ‘competing’ against Free software (using law, not technical merit). Microsoft is prepared to use RAND, which is absurd for being a mechanism designed only to secure a monopoly. Here is some text of interest, which is deliberately brought second-handed from Digital Majority:

Microsoft patenst in these protocols will be made available on RAND terms at very low royalty rates Covenant not to sue open source developers for development and non-commercial distribution of implementations of these Open Protocols.

It should be obvious then that when Microsoft talks about “Open Protocols” (both capitalised) it does not mean free-to-use protocols. It’s neither libre nor gratis. It’s another fine example of Microsoft bending or misusing the word "open". Remember what Microsoft thinks of the word “open”:

“I am constantly amazed at the flexibility of this single word.”

Jason Matusow, Microsoft

Eventually, Microsoft is likely to just dilute the word “open” until it has no valuable meaning whatsoever. It serves it well.

“It should be obvious then that when Microsoft talks about “Open Protocols” (both capitalised) it does not mean free-to-use protocols.”The mighty sting that enables visibility of APIs to mean no free access is of course the notion of intellectual monopolies, which are recognised only in a handful of nations. Microsoft is not alone when it comes to such strategy, whose core principle is extraction of money from one’s own competition. Trend Micro tried this too. And look where it ended up:

  1. Trend Micro patent claim provokes FOSS community, leads to boycott
  2. Call for action: Boycott Trend Micro

The CEO of the company, who is also one of the ‘geniuses’ behind the bad business plan, is currently doing some ‘damage control’. First they attack and then they apologise and pretend to be clueless.

Trend Micro may have received more than it bargained for in its software patent dispute with rival Barracuda Networks. In the past few months Barracuda’s cause has been taken up by free software advocates, who see Trend Micro’s patent claims as a threat to the open-source ClamAV antivirus project.

[...]

Chen: In the patent, we are not claiming that we invented the antivirus scanner. We are not claiming that we invented the proxy server. But the concept of using these two together so that you can stop the virus during the transition is new. Like I said, I’m not a patent specialist, but at that time it was awarded as a patent. And then later on even IBM themselves exchanged their patent with us, and so there was some recognition of that as a valid patent. And then later on it was litigated.

Software patents are always very controversial. It’s not about open source; it’s about how you define the patent.

Here is what Bruce Perens said about it:

Eva Chen, CEO of Trend Micro, currently suing Barracuda over Trend’s patent on an anti-virus scanning gateway, was interviewed in PC World. She says “It’s not about Open Source”, but she manages to sound rather short of a clue in this interview, and makes a poor case for this sort of patent being issued at all.

PJ at Groklaw said this: “Here’s the article about prior art referenced in the article. If you find any more, it’s still not too late. The case, in my view, in unequivocally about open source.”

It ought to be clear by now that software patent attacks come not only from patent trolls (empty shells without even a product) but also directly from companies that want to ‘negotiate’ using terms like RAND, “settlement”, and ‘interoperability’. All are just a case of putting lipstick on a pig. Pamela Jones has already said that Microsoft will be the next SCO Group.

Software patent abuse is an abuse; it should be called for what it is. Red Hat too was a victim of those that need to be eradicated. Tolerance towards this might only encourage more of the same and, as Trend Micro shows, IBM’s cross-licensing did no good, let alone its filing of silly patents. At the end of the day, programmers don’t want patents. Copyright are far more than sufficient. But.. who are they to decide when the likes of Microsoft are run by lawyers, MBAs, investors and marketing people?

The article reports the results of a survey on the optimal legal way to protect developers’ rights to their intellectual property in the US. Two groups were incorporated: software developers and attorneys. The majority of both groups favor copyright as the legal method, but attorneys prefer patenting with a longer protection period.

Lawyers should not be setting the rules for the software industry. It’s an obtrusive perversion by those who only think of money.

“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

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