Tag Archive for 'patent'

Microsoft “licenses its patents” to Android manufacturers, sues if they don’t agree

There’s never been any evidence that Microsoft goes after Linux based products, right? Hog wash.

Well, now it’s just Tom Tom all over again. So, we know that Microsoft has numerous patent licensing programs in place, including exFAT, FAT, .NET (Novell), and now Android. We know that Microsoft claims that Linux violates a few hundred of their patents. We know that as a part of these licensing agreements, companies sign a Non Disclosure Agreement so that they can’t let everyone else know the details. We know that if companies don’t agree to this extortion, Microsoft sues them.

Despite all this evidence, people still think .NET technology in Linux is not a risk. Wake up and smell the bananas, you morons.

Microsoft states that Android infringes on their intellectual property:

The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft’s patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights.

Microsoft has a patent licensing program in place for Android, which companies like HTC have signed:

To facilitate that we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers. HTC, a market leader in Android smartphones, has taken a license under this program.

Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec (link above) because they did not take a license.

Microsoft Corp. today filed legal actions…against Barnes & Noble, Inc. and its device manufacturers, Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. and Inventec Corporation, for patent infringement by their Android-based e-reader and tablet devices that are marketed under the Barnes & Noble brand… We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec. Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market

You know what will happen now. They will settle and Microsoft will continue this racket.


Google should just BUY Oracle

Stupid Oracle. They’ve just gone and sued Google over their use of Java.

An Oracle spokesperson said in a statement:

In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly, and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement.

I guess it’s mostly over Dalvik, Google’s Java Virtual Machine, rather than using Java itself. We’ll see.
Update: It’s much more than Dalvik! It even goes to the core of basic computing like initializing variables. There’s a copy of the complaint on scribd.

If you were all wondering how Oracle would treat its new open source acquisitions, now you know. OpenSolaris is all but dead and they’re “suing over Java” (whatever that really means). Perfect fodder for the pro-Microsoft .NET camp, no doubt.

If only Sun had put Java under the freakin’ GPLv3 in the first place, we could avoid mess like this.

In actuality, Google should utilise the Tridge defence and show that they simply do not infringe those patents. Where they might be, work around them. Problem solved, case thrown out.

I-O Data pays Microsoft to use Linux

Another day, another Microsoft cross-patent licensing agreement for companies who use Linux.

Japan-based I-O Data Device Inc. has agreed to cough up an undisclosed sum to the software giant for using Linux and other open source software applications in its devices and routers.

Now I-O Data joins the ranks of Samsung, LG, Kyocera, Fuji Xerox, Brother and TomTom (and others which we don’t know about).

Microsoft says:

Microsoft has a strong track record of collaboration with companies running Linux-based offerings, and this agreement is a reflection of our commitment to partner with industry leaders around the world.

Thank goodness we aren’t doing anything crazy like deliberately putting Microsoft technologies such as .NET into Linux distributions. That would just be insane.

Do you use H.264 or MPEG? You need a license.

Recently it was confirmed by the MPEG LA that a license is needed for any use of H.264 and that everyone on the chain is liable. Free software projects are not exempt from this either and neither are end users.

Ben Swartz has an excellent summary about why H.264 should not be used.

A lot of commercial software comes with H.264 encoders and decoders, and some computers arrive with this software preinstalled. This leads a lot of people to believe that they can legally view and create H.264 videos for whatever purpose they like. Unfortunately for them, it ain’t so.

The license that comes with commercial software, such as Apple’s Final Cut Pro, does not cover commercial works. Even so, if you use a commercial software package to create something non-commercial and give it to a friend, they need to be properly licensed also.

You have a license to use their software, provided you don’t make any money, your friends are also all correctly licensed, and you only produce content that complies with the MPEG standard. Using video for a commercial purpose? Producing video that isn’t within MPEG’s parameters? Have friends who use unlicensed encoders like x264, ffmpeg, or xvid? Too bad.

This last thing is actually a particularly interesting point. If you encode a video using one of these (open-source) unlicensed encoders, you’re practising patents without a license, and you can be sued. But hey, maybe you’re just a scofflaw. After all, it’s not like you’re making trouble for anyone else, right? Wrong. If you send a video to a friend who uses a licensed decoder, and they watch it, you’ve caused them to violate their own software license, so they can be sued too.

That’s right folks. Use Handbrake to rip a DVD, or create, view, watch or distribute any H.264 video and you’re liable (royalty free streaming via the Internet has been extended until the end of 2016).

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

MPEG LA confirms H.264 license needed for free software and end users

Currently, there is no default video format for use with the HTML5 video tag. The patent and royalty free Theora format was planned to be the default, but this was opposed by corporations like Apple and Nokia. The most popular video format at the moment is the heavily patent encumbered H.264, which is often encapsulated in Flash. As the move to HTML5 gathers steam, the battle for a video format rages on.

The issue of which format becomes prevalent is very important for the future of open web (and especially Linux). Youtube is one of the biggest providers of H.264 encoded media (currently encapsulated in Flash, but there is an HTML5 beta program) and Google will pay hefty royalties for the privilege.

The question of royalties over use of H.264 has become a popular talking point of late, because while Safari and Chrome support it, Chromium (the free software version of Chrome browser) Opera and Firefox don’t.

Now, a discussion on the Linux Weekly News site has answered the question as to whether the MPEG LA will require and enforce free software projects (and developers) to cough up for a license.

The question asked of MPEG LA via email exchange:

I read through the FAQ and can’t find out if Free and Open Source developers and products need to license the MPEG LA patents for MPEG-4 Visual. It was alleged in a comment that royalties are only necessary for products sold, not for free products. Is this correct? Could you please comment on the licensing options for Free (e.g. GPL) and open source implementations of MPEG-4 Visual, specifically h.264? What about downstream users/developers/distributors of Free and open source software?

The answer is a resounding “Yes” and even end users are liable:

In response to your specific question, under the Licenses royalties are paid on all MPEG-4 Visual/AVC products of like functionality, and the Licenses do not make any distinction for products offered for free (whether open source or otherwise)…

I would also like to mention that while our Licenses are not concluded by End Users, anyone in the product chain has liability if an end product is unlicensed. Therefore, a royalty paid for an end product by the end product supplier would render the product licensed in the hands of the End User, but where a royalty has not been paid, such a product remains unlicensed and any downstream users/distributors would have liability.

As an article over at OSNews states, we must ensure that H.264 does NOT become the de-facto standard for video on the web:

“In other words, h264 is simply not an option for Free and open source software. It is not compatible with “Free”, and the licensing costs are prohibitive for most Free and open source software projects. This means that if the web were to standardise on this encumbered codec, we’d be falling into the same trap as we did with Flash, GIF, and Internet Explorer 6.”

I guess it’s up to web developers and corporations to make the smart choice. If Google can purchase On2 Technologies, they might release later generation versions of VP (on which Theora is based) to surpass the quality of H.264.

Xandros selling Microsoft patent protection direct

Back in 2007 Xandros struck a patent deal with Microsoft, while in June this year they said they were: “kind of getting away from being a Linux company.”

I never actually noticed this before, but Xandros sells patent protection from Microsoft directly to end users who purchase their Debian based GNU/Linux distribution.

Xandros racketeering for Microsoft

They call it “Intellectual Property Assurance” but I call it a “Protection Racket“:

A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces other less powerful entities to pay protection money which allegedly serves to purchase protection services against various external threats, usually violence or property damage – sometimes perpetrated by the racketeers themselves.

Isn’t that a perfect explanation of what Microsoft’s been doing?

openSUSE 11.2 – Mono with Windows.Forms by default, in GNOME

I was pleased to see (although not too surprised) that the KDE desktop in openSUSE 11.2 does not ship Mono by default.

With GNOME, however it’s a different story. The main .NET applications included with 11.2 include Banshee, Beagle, F-Spot, GNOME Do, Tasque and Tomboy.

Not much of this has changed from the openSUSE 11.1 release, with the exception of GNOME Do which is new.

What is interesting, is that by default openSUSE ships the Mono implementation of Windows.Forms from .NET, which is outside the ECMA standard (and not covered under Microsoft’s horribly inadequate Community Promise).

Furthermore, all of the afore mentioned applications rely on Windows.Forms (package “mono-winforms“) and want to pull it in as a dependency.

At some point, Novell intends to split the Mono package between free and non-free components, but that doesn’t appear to have happened yet.

The fix

For users who don’t want Mono and .NET applications on their system, the solution is simple. Firstly, remove Mono and all that depend on it:
chris@wks1004925:~> sudo zypper remove mono

root's password:
Loading repository data...
Reading installed packages...
Resolving package dependencies...

The following packages are going to be REMOVED:
art-sharp2 avahi-mono banshee-1 banshee-1-backend-engine-gstreamer banshee-1-backend-platform-gnome
banshee-1-backend-platform-unix banshee-1-client-classic banshee-1-core banshee-1-extensions-default beagle
beagle-evolution beagle-gui beagle-index evolution-sharp flickrnet f-spot gconf-sharp2 glade-sharp2 glib-sharp2
gmime-sharp gnome-desktop-sharp2 gnome-do gnome-do-plugins gnome-keyring-sharp gnome-panel-sharp gnome-sharp2
gnome-vfs-sharp2 gsf-sharp gtk-sharp2 mono-addins mono-core mono-data mono-data-sqlite mono-nunit mono-web mono-winforms
mono-zeroconf mono-zeroconf-provider-avahi ndesk-dbus ndesk-dbus-glib notify-sharp rsvg2-sharp taglib-sharp tasque tomboy

46 packages to remove.
After the operation, 126.0 MiB will be freed.
Continue? [y/n/?] (y):

Next, lock Mono so that it can’t be brought back by any application you install in the future:
sudo zypper al *mono*

Finally, install replacement applications.

After a reboot, I had a weird issue where the GNOME Desktop Manager (GDM) didn’t load completely. There was no-where to put my username and the “Restart” and “Shut Down” buttons did nothing. It only happened once I had removed Mono, but it could just be Virtualbox playing up. I’ll investigate further..

Jeremy Allison on Mono (and how it differs from Samba)

Jeremy Allison has spoken up about Mono, Novell’s implementation of Microsoft’s heavily patented .NET platform. He recommends that it be put into “restricted” repositories until the licensing issues can be sorted out.

Mono is controversial as it is a re-implementation of Microsoft’s .NET technology, in much the same way as Samba is a re-implementation of Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) file sharing protocol. The genesis of each project and how they have developed over the years is somewhat different however…

But my basic issue with the Microsoft Community Promise is that Miguel doesn’t have to depend on it like everyone else does. Miguel’s employer, Novell, has a patent agreement with Microsoft that exempts Mono users from Microsoft patent aggression, so long as you get Mono from Novell. Miguel takes pains to point this out. This is not a level playing field, or software freedom for all. This is a preferred supplier trying to pretend there is no problem. Sure there isn’t a problem, for them. If it isn’t good enough for Miguel, why is it good enough for other developers?

If .NET is not a risk to free software, then why did Novell get patent cover from Microsoft for their clients?

Had Novell arranged a royalty-free agreement with Microsoft for everyone (and not just their clients) like Andrew Tridgell did for Samba, then Mono would not be a problem.

Of course, once software patents come crumbling down this won’t be an issue at all. Until then it is wise to play safe..

FSF response to Microsoft’s “Promise”

The Free Software Foundation has published a reply to Microsoft’s Community Promise surrounding C# and CLI. Here’s a snippet:

Incomplete Standards

The ECMA 334 and 335 specifications describe the core C# language, including information about standard libraries that must be available in any compliant implementation. However, there are several libraries that are included with Mono, and commonly used by applications like Tomboy, that are not required by the standard. And just to be clear, we’re not talking about Windows-specific libraries like ASP.NET and Windows Forms. Instead, we’re talking about libraries under the System namespace that provide common functionality programmers expect in modern programming languages: binary object serialization, regular expressions, XPath and XSLT, and more.

Microsoft needs to do more to assure the free software community that they will not sue over the use of .NET. Release an irrevocable license for all patents in .NET (or at least Mono’s implementation) that remains in effect even after a sale of said patents. Or make a deal with Novell and get them to release Mono under GPLv3..

It’s time to beat the tom-toms

If you’ve been following the news of late, you’ll be aware that Microsoft is suing Tom Tom (maker of GPS devices which ship with Linux) over claimed patent infringements, which include the FAT filesystem.

You really should read this article on ZDNet which discusses Microsoft’s reasons behind doing so, thanks to a comment made by Samba guru Jeremy Allison. Essentially, Microsoft has been getting companies to sign NDA agreements over patent deals with FAT. This is forbidden under Section 7 of the GPLv2 which means those companies are then not allowed to distribute Linux.

Jeremy Allison says,

Tom Tom are the first company to publicly refuse to engage in this ugly little protection racket, and so they got sued. Had Tom Tom silently agreed to violate the GPL, as so many others have, then we’d only hear about a vague “patent cross licensing deal” just like the ones Microsoft announces with other companies.

Make no mistake, this is intended to force Tom Tom to violate the GPL, or change to Microsoft embedded software.

Let’s hope the Free Software World can rally behind Tom Tom and help win the case. It would be a shame to see Microsoft continue to get away with this sort of behaviour. Did we not see this coming?