EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.03.08

The Software Patents Situation and How It Affects Free Software

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 2:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Free Open Source Software

In this latest summary of reports, we concentrate mainly on the effect of the current patent terrain on FOSS. One of the bigger developments last week was Mozilla’s decision to add native Ogg Vorbis and Theora support to the build of Firefox 3.1, which is still buggy at this early alpha stage. Watch what they heroically said on the issue of patents.

[T]here is a risk to bundling even an open source codec like Theora because of the possibility of submarine patents -patents nobody knows about until a product that unknowingly infringes it, succeeds, becoming a target for the patent owner who will seek monetary compensation and a good licensing agreement. This is why the HTML 5 spec doesn’t recommend any encoder so vendors don’t have to choose between taking this kind of risk or not complying with the standard.

During today’s announcement at the Products and Technology Roadmap Mozilla Summit session, Mitchell Baker commented that Mozilla would be a bad target as it is a project with a product a lot of people cares about.

Mike Shaver, interim Mozilla’s VP of Engineering, also commented “Somebody had to do it. It’s good it was us”.

Prior to this, Opera was probably the main pusher towards it. In the case of Firefox, there’s good reach (penetration) into many PCs, so it’s truly a turning point. Other Web browsers might follow suit.

GNU/Linux

Proprietary media codecs are one ugly beast because each company tries to spread its own codecs to gain control. Standards that are patents-free are insufficient in this area, and regardless, with the attempt to pass files through the Web or among peers, there’s a need to get quite a pile of non-free codecs. There are ways of addressing this problem. Digital Majority diverts attention to the explanation from Medibuntu:

Medibuntu is a packaging project dedicated to distributing software that cannot be included in Ubuntu for various reasons, related to geographical variations in legislation regarding intellectual property, security and other issues:

* patentability of software, algorithms, formats and other abstract creation
* legal restrictions on freedom of speech or communication
* restrictions on the use of certain types of technical solution, such as cryptography
* legal restrictions on imports of software technology, requiring for example specific permissions
* etc.

The sad reality is that codecs are one of the main issues and barriers to FOSS (this goes back to an older discussion). In order to limit their damage, software patents must be abolished and not spread to more countries.

Patent Trolls

Those with nothing to lose and those who haven’t assets to defend are some of the more dangerous creatures out there. Ray Niro was mentioned here before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] and he wants the world to know, just like Nathan Myhrvold, that he wishes to abuse the industry peacefully, without being denounced or criticised.

Ray Niro doesn’t like the term “patent troll,” and has taken umbrage when that pejorative is used against his clients. It’s not unusual for patent enforcers to ask judges to ban that term from court (as Rambus did recently.) Indeed, it’s increasingly common for courts to police the use of “hot button” words generally.

Now we learn Niro doesn’t care for the term “shell entities” either; court documents filed last month lay out his novel attempt to re-align the patent patois.

If policing “JPEG on a Website” [1, 2] seems acceptable, why not wish lists?

Europe’s Back Door

The ‘wish list’ plague has already reached Europe, demonstrating the fact that software patents can be described in a way that makes them patentable in Europe. It’s a loophole which ‘artistic’ patent solicitors can get away with it. [via Digital Majority]

During the impassioned debate over a proposed European directive on software patents, opponents of software patents mounted a graphic demonstration of the problem, entitled the Patented European Webshop. The website showed that despite official proscription of patents on “computer programs as such” in Europe, patents were nonetheless granted for common website functions. This propaganda coup elicited anxiety among small businesses and played an important in defeating the directive, which would have legitimized those patents.

These poor software patents need to be destroyed before they are put up for auction and then abused by the likes of Sheldon Goldberg. It seems like another patent troll.

In the late 1990s, few would have predicted the internet would become the giant artery we use today for our commerce, entertainment and daily activities. However, back in the late 1990s, there were patents floating around for many of the tools we use on the internet…and someone bought them.

Over the last 10 months the patent buyer, Sheldon Goldberg, has filed suit against some of the largest websites out there: Careerbuilder, Blockdot, CNet, Jabez Networks, The Washington Post, The Weather Channel, The New York Times and Rochester-based eBaum’s World. Goldberg himself is based on the west coast and is known for buying patents on a variety of inventions.

Microsoft

We now know that Microsoft uses its patents offensively and it’s not reluctant to get aggressive.

Some months ago, Mark Shuttleworth told us that he was not worried about Microsoft going litigious. He was more worried about patent trolls. What Pamela Jones said in response to this was: “What Shuttleworth may not understand is that a patent troll can be a proxy for someone else who does have something to lose.

Microsoft may already be using some patent trolls against GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], but nobody knows for sure because there is no solid evidence. At the same time, based on the news, Microsoft is likely to continue to suffer from them.

Tucson-based Research Corporation Technologies said today it has won a reversal of a federal court decision that denied the local company’s charges of patent infringement against computer giant Microsoft Corp.

In what RCT called a “stunning decision” Friday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona which had held that six patents held by RCT for digital imaging technology were unenforceable due to inequitable conduct.

Even if the patent trolls had vanished overnight, this would not prevent Microsoft from funding the likes of SCO.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

4 Comments

  1. Meh said,

    August 3, 2008 at 3:36 am

    Gravatar

    http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=englishvoiceover

  2. Chris Lees said,

    August 4, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Gravatar

    >

    I was delighted to read this statement, because it gives me hope that BoycottNovell.com has taken off its aluminium foil hat and is ready to start printing news that is properly backed up by demonstratable facts. Good work.

  3. Jose_X said,

    August 5, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Gravatar

    [Chris Lees] >> I was delighted to read this statement, because it gives me hope that BoycottNovell.com has taken off its aluminium foil hat and is ready to start printing news that is properly backed up by demonstratable facts.

    Could you be a little more specific?

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 5, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Gravatar

    Jose_X,

    Chris has repeatedly insulted this site.

What Else is New


  1. Links 4/5/2016: Wine Staging 1.9.9, ImageMagick Bug Fixes

    Links for the day



  2. Links 3/5/2016: Mozilla Firefox 46.0.1, More Jolla Funding

    Links for the day



  3. New Paper About the UPC Explains Why It is Bad for Small- and Medium-sized European Businesses

    A detailed academic analysis of the Unitary (or Unified) Patent Court reveals/concludes/asserts that it is being marketed or promoted using a misleading premise and promise



  4. [ES] Gobiernos en Europa Todavía Activos en Contra de la Gerencia de la EPO

    Todavía hay trabajo político que está siendo hecho — aunque discretamente — contra Battistelli y sus chácales en la alta gerencia de la Oficina Europea de Patentes



  5. Links 3/5/2016: International Day Against DRM, 25th Anniversary of Linux (Kernel) Near

    Links for the day



  6. Interesting Supreme Court Cases About Patents in the United States

    A quick review of some of the latest developments regarding SCOTUS (the US Supreme Court) as far as patents go



  7. Governments in Europe Still Active Against EPO Management

    There is still political work being done -- albeit rather discreetly -- against Battistelli and his goons at the European Patent Office's top-level management



  8. The European Spam Office (EPO)

    EPO budget at 'work', days after doing copy-paste jobs and also working overtime in the weekend for an extravagant and needless/purposeless event (except for Battistelli's own pride)



  9. Not Just Benoît Battistelli and Willy Minnoye (EPO): Željko Topić Too Thinks He is Above the Law, Avoids the Judges and Courts

    The latest developments regarding some of the criminal complaints and civil lawsuits against Topić, who is now a Vice-President at the European Patent Office (EPO)



  10. Nefarious Forces for Patent Abuse and Software Patents in the United States, Australia, India, Korea, and Europe

    A roundup of news from the weekend and today, with emphasis on the elements inside the system (or the media) which push for regressive policies that benefit them financially at the expense of everybody else



  11. [ES] El Sistema de Patentes de los EE.UU: Donde Uno Desperdicia Años en Corte y Gasta $8,000,000 en Honorarios de Abogados Peleándo una Patente Falsa

    un sumario de noticias acerca de las patentes de software en los EE.UU. Y ha lo que han llevado, debido en gran manera al decline en calidad de las patentes por parte de la USPTO (dejando que otros se las arreglen limpiando el desórden)



  12. [ES] La Oficina Europea de Patentes Todavía Sigilósamente Abusiva, Pagará $15,000 en Compensasió a Trabajadora Tras un Tardío Fallo de la ILO

    La Organización Internacional del Trabajo (ILO) emite un fallo en un caso de abuso de la EPO y nota “la excesiva duración de los procedimienteos internos de apelación.”



  13. Links 2/5/2016: Linux 4.6 RC6, DragonBox Pyra

    Links for the day



  14. Links 1/5/2016: Wine 1.9.9, Devuan Jessie 1.0 Beta

    Links for the day



  15. The US Patent System: Where One Wastes Years in Court and Spends $8,000,000 in Lawyers' Fees Fighting a Bogus Patent

    A roundup of news about software patents in the US and what they have led to, owing in part to the USPTO's declining patent quality (leaving others to clean up its mess)



  16. The European Patent Office Still Silently Abusive, Will Pay $15,000 in Compensation to Female Worker After Belated ILO Judgment

    The International Labour Organisation (ILO) issues a judgment on a case of abuse by the EPO and notes "excessive length of the internal appeal proceedings."



  17. [ES] Alice Continúa Quebrando Patentes de Software Asi Que los Abogados de Patentes, Cabilderos de los Monopolistas, Etc. Ahora Atacan a la Corte Suprema por Hacer Esto

    los cabilderos Corpórativos y abogados de patentes están tratándo de poner a Alicia en la tumba, por su impacto en las patentes de software que es muy profundo y así hasta ahora casi indetenible



  18. [ES] ¿Cómo Salvar la Reputación de la EPO?: Crear Más Jurados de Apelaciónes en Europa y Abolir la Malgíada/Malintencionada Fantasía de la UPC

    Una crítica evaluación de lo que ocurre en la Oficina Europea de Patentes (EPO), la que rápidamente se está yendo para abajo (y degradando sobre todo) a el nivel de los sistemas Chinos, en conjuntamente con corrupción, los abusos, y la bajísima calidad de las patentes



  19. [ES] La Corte de Apelaciónes del Circuito Federal (CAFC) Acaba de Ponerse a Favor de los Trolles de Patentes

    la tristémente célebre CAFC, que manifestó las patentes de software en los EE.UU, acaba de dar un regalo a los trolles de patentes quienes típicamente usan las patentes de software para extorsión enc complicidad con los jueces del Este de Texas



  20. [ES] Análisis de los Últimos Datos de Lex Machina Acerca de la Litigación de Patentes Muestra Como está Declinándo

    el Professor Mark Lemley de Lex Machina resalta las tendencias en litigation al colectar y analizar datos relacionados con patente y concerniéntes a monopolios intelectuales en general; actualmente muestra una sequía de litigaciones (muestran que ha disminuído)



  21. [ES] La India Está Teniendo Otra Prueba de los Peligros de las Patentes Occidentales, Debe Aprender a Rechazar Completamente las Patentes de Software en Medio de Gran Presión

    El gigante de software que es la India continua enfrentándos ea la cruel y agresivo cabildeo de Occidente, haciéndo que este controle a la India por patentes que no deberían de existir en primer lugar



  22. [ES] Microsoft Dice que Continuará Extorsiónando a Compañías Que Distribuyan Linux, Usando Patentes de Software Usuallmente

    La guerra de Microsoft contra Linux, una guerra que es peleada usando patentes de software patents (por ganancias y/o por chantáje con arreglos empaquetados), todavía continúa a pesar de todas las tácticas de relaciónes públicas de Microsoft y sus sócios



  23. Alice Continues to Smash Software Patents So Patent Lawyers, Monopolists' Lobbyists Etc. Now Attack the Supreme Court for Doing This

    Corporate lobbyists and patent lawyers are trying to put Alice in the grave, for its impact on software patents is very profound and thus far almost unstoppable



  24. How to Salvage the EPO's Reputation: Create More Boards of Appeal in Europe and Abolish the Misguided UPC Fantasy

    A critical evaluation of what goes on at the European Patent Office (EPO), which is quickly descending down (and overall degrading) to the level of Chinese systems, along with the corruption, the abuses, and the low quality of patents



  25. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Has Just Sided With Patent Trolls

    The notorious CAFC, which manifested software patents in the United States, has just given a gift to patent trolls that typically use software patents for extortion down in Texas



  26. Analyses of the Latest Data From Lex Machina About Patent Litigation Show Some Litigation Declines

    Professor Mark Lemley's Lex Machina highlights litigation trends by collecting and analysing data related to patents and pertaining to intellectual monopolies in general; now it shows litigation droughts



  27. India is Having Another Taste of the Dangers of Western Patents, Must Learn to Reject Software Patents in the Face of Great Pressure

    The growing software giant which is India continues to face cruel and aggressive lobbying from the West, enabling the West to control India by patents that should not exist in the first place



  28. Links 29/4/2016: GNOME 3.21.1, Fairphone

    Links for the day



  29. Microsoft Says It Will Continue to Extort Companies That Distribute Linux, Using Software Patents As Usual

    Microsoft's war on Linux, a war which is waged using software patents (for revenue and/or for coercion in bundling deals), is still going on in spite of all the PR tactics from Microsoft and its paid partners



  30. Australia Might be Next to Block Software Patents If Commission's Advice is Followed

    Australian advice against software patents, which can hopefully influence Australian politicians and put an end, once and for all, to all software patents in Australia


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts