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 26/11/2014: Docker Patched, New DragonFlyBSD

    Links for the day



  2. Message to the Corporate Media: Bill Gates is Not an Ebola Expert

    Brainwash in the corporate media, including media that the Gates Foundation bribes in exchange for sheer bias, paints the super-rich as the solution rather than the problem



  3. US Government Finally Probes Microsoft Over Financial Fraud, Microsoft Then Bullies the Government With a Lawsuit

    Microsoft is finally being investigated -- perhaps properly too -- for its well-known tax abuses that have so far proved that Microsoft is "too big to jail"; Microsoft is suing the investigator, exerting its abusive power to discourage further investigation



  4. Gagging Critics: Micro Focus-Run SUSE Bribes Journalists in Exchange for Positive Coverage

    Amid the takeover by Micro Focus, SUSE pays journahayess (especially critics) who in turn become some kind of advertisements feed of Novell



  5. Links 25/11/2014: Tizen News, Jolla Tablet Past Million

    Links for the day



  6. Links 24/11/2014: Linux 3.18-rc6, Qualcomm Eyes GNU/Linux Servers

    Links for the day



  7. Boycotting Micro Focus International

    Microsoft's "Partner of the Year" is taking over the patron of SUSE and all of Novell's remains, except the patents (Microsoft has already grabbed those)



  8. Vesna Stilin's Remarks on Željko Topić: Part XI

    Vesna Stilin speaks about her confrontation with EPO Vice-President Željko Topić, who has criminal lawsuits against him in Croatia



  9. Links 22/11/2014: Linux Mint 17.1, Ubuntu MATE

    Links for the day



  10. Links 21/11/2014: Problems at Debian, Jolla Tablet

    Links for the day



  11. Links 18/11/2014: Linux 3.18 RC 5, New DigiKam

    Links for the day



  12. Special Report: Many Criminal Charges Against EPO Vice-President Željko Topić

    The abuses of Željko Topić, who has gained notoriety in his home country, are rapidly becoming public knowledge across all of Europe



  13. Links 16/11/2014: Xfdesktop 4.10.3, GNU Hello 2.10

    Links for the day



  14. Microsoft is Going Into the Anti-Whistleblowing Business, Dodges Criticism Over 19-Year Bug Door in Windows

    With Aorato acquisition Microsoft helps protect the criminals (from whistleblowers) and with lies about .NET Microsoft distracts from a bug that has facilitated remote access into Windows (by those in the know) for nearly two decades



  15. Reaffirming Microsoft's Long-Known Hostility Towards Net Neutrality, Microsoft Crashed Juniper

    Steve Ballmer is ranting against net neutrality and Juniper's business is in trouble after a lot of executives from Microsoft took over most top positions there



  16. Another Massive Step Towards Elimination of Software Patents as Even CAFC Rules Against Them

    After SCOTUS gets involved in the Ultramercial case, the CAFC finally decides to actually serve justice rather than dogma



  17. The GOP's Patent Reform Plan Not Effective Enough to Stop Massive Patent Trolls Like Microsoft/Nokia

    The corporations-serving GOP says that it wants a patent reform, but another reminder is needed of the futility of the suggested changes



  18. How the EPO's Executive Branch (Battistelli and Topić) Banned Scrutiny and Created Authoritarian Model of Control: Part X

    A look at highly dubious moves by EPO President Battistelli and his right-hand man Topić, whose abuses are becoming hard to oversee or even report



  19. Links 15/11/2014: Linux Mint 17.1 Release Candidate, Popcorn Time 0.3.5

    Links for the day



  20. IRC Proceedings: October 26th, 2014 – November 8th, 2014

    Many IRC logs



  21. The Terrible Joke Which is Microsoft 'Loving' Linux: Nightmares With UEFI 'Secure' Boot (i.e. Windows Monopoly Imposed) Continue to Affect GNU/Linux Users

    A reminder of Microsoft's sheer hostility towards GNU/Linux and long-reaching sabotage of GNU/Linux installations



  22. Patent Lawyers Worry About Section 101 in 'Alice' (and Other Patent News)

    A quick roundup of news of interest regarding software patents



  23. Will Write for FUD (Against FOSS)

    Black Duck rears its ugly head again, serving to show that it is in the business of changing perceptions and not in the information or analysis business



  24. Debunking Several Days of Never-Ending Lies About Microsoft and .NET

    .NET is not "Open Source", it cannot be forked (there remains patent threat), Visual Studio is still completely proprietary and it is expected to come to other platforms only because Windows has lost its dominance and Microsoft wants to perpetually control APIs (with software patents) and hence reign over developers



  25. Links 14/11/2014: LibreOffice 4.3.4, Ads Now in Firefox

    Links for the day



  26. Links 14/11/2014: GNOME 3.14.2, PulseAudio 6.0

    Links for the day



  27. Microsoft Windows is Still Designed as a Paradise of Back Doors, Intrusion, Wiretaps, and Interception

    At many levels -- from communication to storage and encryption -- Windows is designed for the very opposite of security



  28. Forget the FUD About Bash and OpenSSL, Microsoft Windows Blamed for Massive Credit Cards Heist

    Home Depot learns its lesson from a Microsoft Windows disaster, but it stays with proprietary software rather than move to software that is actively audited by many people and is inherently better maintained (Free/libre software)



  29. Windows 'Update' and NSA Back Doors, Including a 19-Year Bug Door in Microsoft Windows

    The back doors-enabled Microsoft Windows is being revealed and portrayed as the Swiss cheese that it really is after massive holes are discovered (mostly to be buried by a .NET propaganda blitz)



  30. Revealed: Microsoft is Trying to Corrupt the UK in Order to Eliminate Its OpenDocument Format-Oriented Standards Policy

    Microsoft interference with Britain's preference for ODF is now confirmed, thanks to a valuable news report from Computer Weekly; OOXML lock-in is being unleashed by Microsoft on Android users


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