Patents As Theft: How Oracle & Microsoft Seek To Profit From Android Despite Having Nothing To Do With It

from the shameful dept

People talk about patent laws as if they're about "protecting property." If only that were true. In most cases, they seem to be about the exact opposite. They're about getting paid for things that don't belong to you and which you had absolutely nothing to do with. Take, for example, Google's Android operating system. Microsoft has been using its patents to demand a cut of every Android phone. In fact, people have pointed out that Microsoft is likely going to make more money from Android than it makes from its own competing mobile operating system. Now add to that Oracle's decision to demand $15 to $20 for every Android device, and what you get seems like highway robbery. You have two companies -- Oracle and Microsoft -- who have done absolutely nothing to contribute to Android in any way, but who are both using large questionable patent portfolios to demand a cut. That's not protecting or encouraging innovation. That seems like the exact opposite. It seems to be shaking down people for cash that they have no right to. I'd argue that's much more like "theft" than anyone who infringes on a patent by building something the market wants.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:08am

    Again, for those who do not understand, THIS is Piracy. THIS is Theft.

    But because it's all legal, it's clearly okay. Yet WE are called the freetards.

     

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  2.  
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    FatGiant (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    Or downloads a bunch of songs.

    You are correct, that is not the intended purpose of patents. They are infringing on the contract that "We" the public made with them.

    Hmmm.. I wish there was something "We" could do...

     

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  3.  
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    robin, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:15am

    RICO

    RICO. discuss.....

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    I wouldn't say "in any way"

    Sun did develop Java. That doesn't mean Oracle deserves any money, but they were involved.

     

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  5.  
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    Angus (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:26am

    To bastardize Proudhon: intellectual property is theft.

     

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  6.  
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    LegitTroll (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:27am

    "Money for nothin' and chicks for free" Dire Straits

     

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  7.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:28am

    Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    The fact that they';re doing this now, rather than before Android was officially released, tells you all you really need to know.

     

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  8.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    No point trying to steal money from something which doesn't yet have any money... like, duh.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    Java is open-source. Google or anyone else, should be allowed to fork it, just like you can fork Linux if you want, or any other open source project.

     

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  10.  
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    RD, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Re:

    "Hmmm.. I wish there was something "We" could do..."

    Yeah I wish too. Too bad there is no way to change any of this. And dont spout off about "voting" or changing laws. You, I and the American people have zero (less than zero) input into reforming or eliminating blatantly one-sided laws like this. The lawyers, judges and politicians who run things will never allow these systems to be changed, they get too much money from special interests and invested parties to ever work for the good of the rest of us.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    -, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    Java may have open source implementations, but it doesn't make it an open technology. It is covered by various types of IP and you have to play well with all of them, not just one (copyright).

    I'm not saying it's good (I have mixed feelings), but Google is not allowed to just take Java and twist it the way they like. And, like it was said, Oracle bought Java, so _their_ technology is a core part of Android.
    Actually even before Oracle bought Sun, it got big involvement in Java and had their impact on what it is.

     

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  12.  
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    lucidrenegade (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    If you can't innovate, litigate. Especially in Microsoft's case.

     

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  13.  
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    cjstg (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    i really would like to feel sorry for these guys (apple, google, oracle) but they perpetuate this behavior. but why should i feel bad for them. i feel a little bad that our lunch is being eaten by lesser-ip nations. however, it seems that ip law will eventually catch up in those place to prevent progress.

    actually, when you think about it maybe all these suits are a concerted plan to simply raise prices and blame the other guy. if apple sues motorola for one thing and motorola sues apple for another they settle for certain amounts and add that to the price of their products. we pay more and both sides make more money.

     

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  14.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:08am

    This is why gov't should go after corporations merely because "big".

    It's inevitable that corporations will go from excess to larger excess to total excess. There's no other check on corporate power than gov't regulation -- that's a large portion of why we hire public servants, to keep /private/ thugs from becoming too large.

    So the solution is easy: bring back anti-trust prosecution, BREAK UP especially Microsoft, just like AT&T was broken up (but is now more or less back together!), open up the field so small corporations have an actual chance.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:21am

    Re:

    Agreed. You're stealing my natural right to copy.

     

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  16.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    All open source programs (pick one) violate dozens, maybe hundreds of patents held by every major high tech company (eg, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Lucent, Cisco, etc.).

    Those evil freetards! That open source should not be allowed to just take those patented technologies and twist them any way they want!

    In fact, it is impossible to write a non trivial program today that does not step on numerous patents. Programmers should all be locked up I tell you!

    Think of the children!

     

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  17.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:32am

    Re: This is why gov't should go after corporations merely because "big".

    > There's no other check on corporate power than gov't regulation


    There's no other check on government operation than corporate money.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:34am

    Re:

    This is nothing short of legalized theft.

    The government has no business legalizing, and enforcing, theft. Abolish IP!!!

     

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  19.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:36am

    Re:

    Obviously, we are depriving them from fictional earnings. In their delusional worlds they are entitled to our money without any effort.

     

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  20.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:46am

    Re:

    This article tells all. The fact that a Microsoft lawyer is commenting on the technical details of a botnet tells you all you need to know: Microsoft is now run by lawyers. If anyone technical was involved, they'd be telling this guy to stick to his field, or at least quote someone who knows who is technical.
    I guess I can start giving legal advice now, since turn-about is fair play...

     

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  21.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    Obviously... not. I can see your sarcasm you lil mischievous kid!

    The example of java is classic. So it's open for me to install and use on my pc but not on my phone? Wtf?! And if Google 'tampered' with the original java and introduced a few juice to it so they should pay me even though it's a different thing?

    And while you are moaning about ppl using your system what the fuck are you doing to deserve money?

    They should charge a fee over every computer sold too after all the computers CAN be used to run their shit.

     

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  22.  
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    rich, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    It's a tax

    Perhaps we should leverage the popular zeitgeist and call this a "tax".

     

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  23.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: This is why gov't should go after corporations merely because "big".

    Vicious circle. Ppl are screwed. Democracy is just a beautiful name.

     

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  24.  
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    sondun2001 (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    Google didn't "twist" it, all they did was upload an example file to their repo by mistake, but those example source files did NOT ship on any actual device. Thousands of developers use Java, with the right assumption that Oracle wont come after them if their product succeeds, this should also apply to Google.

     

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  25.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    "And if Google 'tampered' with the original java and introduced a few juice to it so they should pay me even though it's a different thing?"

    Java is a language specification, a JVM, and a set of class libraries. Google, from my understanding of the matter, didn't want to pay to license "Java". So they "supposedly" rebuilt the JVM in a clean room implementation, stripped the headers off the class libraries and recompiled them, and use a new "language" with the exact same syntax and idioms.

    So, new JVM, same language, same libraries, plus additions. Plus many of the functions implemented in the JVM (JIT caching) and libraries (image processing, network stacks and so on) are under patents of their own.

    So it's a new thing... and the same thing. But mostly all of that work is little more than a sneaky attempt to get around paying for a Java license.

     

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  26.  
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    ts, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    There is nothing illegal about taking a bunch of letters, numbers, and symbols that looks like java code and compiling it to Dalvik byte code... assuming you wrote or have a license to use said bunch of letters, numbers, and symbols.

    Like all software patent disputes, this is all stupid. Prove that they didn't STEAL your code or GTFO.

     

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  27.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:43am

    Re: It's a tax

    yes, it's a tax on intelligewnce, just like Faux News.

     

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  28.  
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    Ryan, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    How are people so dumb as to think that because something is it could not have been anything else?

    Google acted in such a way as to avoid paying a license. If they couldn't legally do that using Java...they'd have used something else. There is nothing "sneaky" about it whatsoever.

     

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  29.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    "... taking a bunch of letters, numbers, and symbols that looks like java code and compiling it to Dalvik byte code... assuming you wrote or have a license to use said bunch of letters, numbers, and symbols. "

    That "bunch" of letters, numbers, and symbols that looks like java code IS Java code, and that particular expression is subject to copyright. The same "bunch" of letters, numbers, and symbols also embodies algorithms and functions that are subject to patents.

    And they didn't have a license. That's why they went to rather absurd lengths in a attempt to bypass it.

     

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  30.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    "Google acted in such a way as to avoid paying a license. ... There is nothing "sneaky" about it whatsoever."

    Well, I consider copying something, changing part of it, and then claiming it to be your own simply to avoid paying a license fee "sneaky."

    And the legality of doing so is still under consideration.

     

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  31.  
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    known coward, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Re: It's a tax

    can we have a corollary to godwin’s law that whoever bring up fox news or obama, in a completely unrelated instance automatically loses the argument

     

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  32.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: It's a tax

    I shall hereby dub it....Brook's Law.

     

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  33.  
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    Jan Bilek (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Two questions

    I have two things that I don't understand... any explanations/opinions would be appreciated.

    1. I keep reading that Microsoft demands 15 bucks for any Android device that Samsung sells etc. - why is it not only for devices sold in the US? AFAIK Samsung is South Korean company, I for example live in EU and we don't have software patents here... so why should we care about American patents... or even pay for them?

    It seems to me that the best strategy to deal with patents would be to let only Americans pay for them (which would maybe make them want to fix their broken patent system) - but nobody seems to be doing that, why?

    2. It seems to me that American patent system has deviated into the tool that allows to transfer money from those who do things and are successful to those who have government granted monopolies. This must have terrible impact on American economy - why is it not changed? I know... lobbying, corruption, political pressure... but innovative anti-patent companies like Google are rich too and should have some political impact. Even companies like Microsoft and Oracle have been damaged by patent trolls and should have at least some motivation to change things.

    Why is nothing changing? Why are innovative and creative companies not pressuring the government to change patent law... or moving outside of US jurisdiction... which would seem to me to be even smarter thing to do?

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 3:12pm

    Google may have had less to do with Android than you think

    Come on Mike!

    If Google is found to have stolen java as the foundation for Android. How can you say Sun and now proxy had nothing to do with the success of Android?

    At some point, how do folks expect Java to continue to thrive if companies like Google can just grab copies of it and do with it what they will?

    Finally. Java's primary benefit is write once work everywhere. There are even more indirect damages to developers (new porting costs) as Google fractures the Java platform.

    Android is an example of the greatness that Sun's Java can achieve. Don't discount it as being simply "free" for any one. You know the issue isn't that simple.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Re: I wouldn't say "in any way"

    Open source has nothing to do with open to do with it what you want. It simply means the code is published. The owner can still lock it down if they want.

    There's a big difference between the various license types (GPL, LGPL, APL, EPL, and on and on). All of them are open, so "open" is an entirely meaningless word in terms of rights you may or may not have to use or fork code.

     

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  36.  
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    Sambo, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    and up next - Home baking!

    After recently securing the broad patent #10337780C rev 1.0
    "method of mixing basic ingredients to achieve deliciousness"

    It has recently been announced that the wheat, sugar and chicken farmers (with the support of the Microsoft, MPAA and the RIAA) have created a new body whose responsibility will be to collect the new 'cake and biscuits' tax from all bakes goods sold at church and school fundraisers.

    The farmers representative, Mr Auld McDonald was quoted as saying "it's only fair that we are properly compensated for the use of the ingredients that we have.

     

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  37.  
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    darryl, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 3:29pm

    Android Despite Having Nothing To Do With It

    Android Despite Having Nothing To Do With It



    I would not say nothing, and neither would google, as they are happy to pay, if it was nothing they would fight it, (only an idiot would think they would pay if they did not legally have too).

    So MS invented and patented key components and Android needs to be functional, if google was 'good enough' they would rewrite that code and screw MS.

    But clearly that are not "that good" it is easier and cheaper for them to use the technology (and fairly pay for it) than it is for them to develop their own technology..

    Dont forget Google is **NOT** a software company and have *NO* expertise or experience in complete product development.

    (sure they can copy what others are doing, but not that well, but when it comes to the hard stuff, they defer to the experts, or 'techsperts'...)

     

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  38.  
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    A Guy, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    Well, one solution may be to tell users to download Android separately for install on setup and then run a proprietary setup program to put on the carrier specific OEM modifications on it.

    The carriers wouldn't be distributing potentially infringing code and the consumer gets all the features.

    For those who don't know how or don't want to do this, offer a service to set it up for them and charge them the license fees for the service.

     

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  39.  
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    Nicedoggy, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 6:36pm

    The next big frontier for patents is to patent first every possible advancement path others could to improve something, it is not about discovering something new and usefull is about how to cut the path of progress so the patent holder can no longer sell anything without having to deal with someone else.

    Just let the dumb patent some "new idea" and after that you patent every path he has to upgrade so eventually he will need to deal with you if he want to stay in business.

     

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  40.  
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    Nicedoggy, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 7:35pm

    Also patents may be useless to the U.S. since others are trying hard to undermine their grip on reality.

    Quote:
    The world's top emerging countries banded together Monday to help fight diseases in the poorest countries, pledging to explore the transfer of technologies to the developing world to enable poor nations to produce cheap and effective lifesaving medicines.

    Source: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-07-brics-countries-vow-poor-nations.html

     

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  41.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 7:39pm

    Re: So they "supposedly" rebuilt the JVM in a clean room implementation ...

    I don’t know why people keep thinking Dalvik is some kind of drop-in replacement for JVM. It’s not. It has virtually nothing in common with JVM, and was developed to fulfil quite different requirements.

     

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  42.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 7:42pm

    Re: Two questions

    Jan Bilek:

    ... why is it not only for devices sold in the US?


    Because they can.

     

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  43.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 7:46pm

    Re: At some point, how do folks expect Java to continue to thrive if companies like Google can just grab copies of it and do with it what they will?

    Funnily enough, other languages like Python, Ruby, Perl and PHP were quite able to thrive precisely because nobody was being scared that “companies like [take your pick] can just grab copies of it and do with it what they will”.

    It was Sun’s preciousness over Java that cost it a lot of its early momentum. For example, its lawsuit against Microsoft put an end to Java being distributed with every Windows installation. That took away a huge potential market for Java programs pretty much overnight.

     

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  44.  
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    Ed C., Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:28pm

    Re: Android Despite Having Nothing To Do With It

    Google is not a software company? I guess the software that their entire search engine was built on was just blinked into existence by the 1000s of "code fairies" they paid.

     

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  45.  
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    Brendan (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 9:38pm

    Re: Android Despite Having Nothing To Do With It

    Google isn't paying -- various device manufacturers are.

     

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  46.  
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    Nicedoggy, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:41pm

    Re:

    Don't know why use JAVA when you can use LUA.

     

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  47.  
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    Nicedoggy, Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:43pm

    Re: Android Despite Having Nothing To Do With It

    What MS invented that is key to Android?

    If they had that they would have sued everybody sooner not latter they bought the patents, they didn't invent shit.

     

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  48.  
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    Jan Bilek (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:46pm

    Re: Re: Two questions

    How? The US courts have no jurisdiction over EU or South Korea.

     

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  49.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jul 11th, 2011 @ 10:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Two questions

    No, but they like to play that they do. Just look at the MAFIAA.

     

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  50.  
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    phayes (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    It is theft, yes.

    I'm only surprised you didn't make the point more forcefully, Mike. As Stephan Kinsella has pointed out, a patent can be viewed as a (coercive, potential) transfer of partial ownership of the tangible property of others to the patentee. That, along with the fact that a patent is a “no independent invention defence” right, already makes something of a mockery of “natural rights” arguments in their favour. Add to that the high rate of independent (re-)invention (+ inadvertent infringement) and the conspicuous lack of evidence for a substantial overall positive economic/welfare effect, and I think it certainly is reasonable to view the granting and enforcement of software patents as (legalised) theft - and be very angry about it.

     

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  51.  
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    staff, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 7:48am

    large infringers and their paid assassins

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay”. This is just dissembling by large infringers and their paid assassins to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org.

     

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  52.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:54am

    M$ and Oracle stealing money from Android

    EXACTLY RIGHT!
    But again, "pegging" on a conclusion!
    This is not a "go-no go" situation; all IP is good, or all IP is bad.
    This is about so-called "defensive" or "large entity" type patents. Originally intended to make it too expensive for people to attempt to steal money from successful companies, it has morphed into the exact opposite, ALLOWING people to do so!
    IP as the founders intended is a vibrant force for good, just a (small) minority, now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:51am

    On The Take From MSFT?

    I'll ask it now, as I occasionally do:

    ACs: Where are all the idiots who often write in the comments that Masnick's positions on IP are fully funded by MSFT?

    Ron Resnick...I'm thinking of you, for one (with all due respect).

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 13th, 2011 @ 8:29am

    fvck Micro$hit

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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