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. Corporate Media, Led Astray by Patent Lawyers, Continues to Distort the Reality of Software Patents Post-Alice

    The press of the rich and the powerful continues its attempt to preserve software patents, despite the US Supreme Court's decision to abolish a lot of them on the basis of abstraction



  2. An Estimated 1,000 EPO Employees-Strong Legion Engulfs Danish Consulate to Protest Jesper Kongstad's (of Administrative Council) Protection of Benoît Battistelli

    A large protest waged by staff of the EPO targets one of the key facilitators of Battistelli's terrifying tyranny



  3. Links 28/1/2015: Ubuntu Touch Windowed Mode, NVIDIA Linux Legacy Drivers Updated

    Links for the day



  4. Breaking: EPO Vice-President Željko Topić Loses Defamation Case in Croatia

    The EPO's notorious Vice-President, whose appointment at the EPO is still raising some alarming questions, has just lost his case in Croatia (one of many cases), motivating us to accelerate coverage about the persona known as Željko Topić



  5. Qualys Starts Self-Promotional FUD Campaign, Naming a Bug That Was Already Fixed 2 Years Ago and Distros Have Covered With Patches

    Responding to the media blitz which paints GNU/Linux as insecure despite the fact that bugs were evidently found and fixed



  6. The Openwashing of Microsoft is Now Threatening to Eliminate the Identity of Free Software

    More openwashing of Microsoft, including in the corporate media, shows just to what great an extent and how quickly the old "Microsoft Open Source" Big Lie grows feet



  7. Links 27/1/2015: Plasma 5.2, Dell Precision With GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  8. Microsoft's Media Attack on Free Software and GNU/Linux

    Brainwash war is still being waged by Microsoft and its friends to convince people that Windows is universally dominant and that Microsoft is now part of the Free software world



  9. Microsoft Accounting Practices After Fire Again, After Previous Abuses and Book-Cooking

    After the infamous IRS brawl comes another confrontation between Microsoft and the SEC, which is unhappy with Microsoft for seemingly cooking the books again



  10. Links 26/1/2015: Debian 8.0 “Jessie” RC1, Linux Kernel 3.19 RC6

    Links for the day



  11. Links 25/1/2015: Android Wear 5.0, Tizen in Bangladesh

    Links for the day



  12. IRC Proceedings: January 11th, 2015 – January 24th, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  13. Links 24/1/2015: Zenwalk Linux Reviewed, Netrunner 14.1 Released

    Links for the day



  14. The Latest 'Microsoft is Open Source' Propaganda a Parade of Lies

    Microsoft myth makers continue their assault on what is objectively true and try to tell the public that Microsoft is a friend of "Open Source"



  15. Apple -- Like Microsoft -- Not Interested in the Security of Its Operating Systems

    Apple neglected to patch known security flaws in Mac OS X for no less than three months and only did something about that vector of intrusion when the public found out about it



  16. As Battistelli Breaks the Rules and Topić Silences Staff, New European Parliament Petition for Tackling the EPO's Abuses is Needed

    The neglected (by EPO) Article 4a of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the European Parliament petition/complaint against the EPO's crooked management



  17. Links 23/1/2015: Red Hat on IBM Power, Meizu Leaks With Ubuntu

    Links for the day



  18. Links 23/1/2015: Plasma 5.2, Manjaro 0.9-pre1

    Links for the day



  19. Microsoft is Dying Due to Free Software, Tries to Infect GNU/Linux With .NET and to Infect Moodle in Schools With Microsoft Office and OOXML Lock-in

    'Free' drugs (a proprietary software analogy) the new strategy of Microsoft in its latest battle against Free software, especially in schools where choice is a rarity (if not an impossibility), with the premeditated intention of forming dependency/addiction among young people



  20. Microsoft Symptoms of a Dying Company: More Boosters Depart, Back Doors Revealed, Microsoft's Outlook Cracked

    Bad news for Microsoft shortly before the marketing extravaganza served to cover much of it up



  21. The Collapse of European Patent Office Management Culminates With Resignations

    No blood is spilled, but even the management of the EPO is falling apart as the Director of Internal Communication is said to have just resigned



  22. New LCA Talk: Open Invention Network's Deb Nicholson on Software Patents and Patent Trolls

    Deb Nicholson's LCA talk is now publicly accessible



  23. Links 22/1/2015: GNU/Linux Sysadmin Opportunities, TraceFS Introduced

    Links for the day



  24. Links 21/1/2015: Andrew Tridgell, Torvalds Being Baited

    Links for the day



  25. Vesna Stilin Renews Her Fight for Justice in Željko Topić Case (EPO VP)

    Željko Topić's abuses continue to cloud the legitimacy of the European Patent Office, in which he is a Vice-President



  26. Failure of the EPO Can Derail the Trojan Horse of Software Patents and Patent Trolls

    Dazzled by his endless pursuit of infinite money and power, Battistelli pushes for expansion of patent scope (geographically too), but he won't have it without a challenge



  27. Links 20/1/2015: Linux 3.19 RC5, 30 Years of FSF

    Links for the day



  28. Translations of Member of the European Parliament Complaining About European Patent Office (EPO)

    French, German, Dutch, and English translations of the article from Dennis De Jong



  29. Microsoft, the Back Doors Company, is Gradually Dying and Trying to Embrace the Competition

    The world is leaving Microsoft's common carrier (Windows) behind, so Microsoft, which is shrinking, tries to conquer Free software and GNU/Linux



  30. Battistelli's Latest Propaganda War Tries to Convince EPO Staff That Željko Topić's Many Criminal Charges Don't Exist

    Battistelli's right-hand man, Željko Topić, is now facing real danger of prosecution and possibly arrest in his home country, so Battistelli rushes to defend this thug's reputation


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