by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 11th 2011 7:03pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 11th 2011 8:59am
Patents As Theft: How Oracle & Microsoft Seek To Profit From Android Despite Having Nothing To Do With It
from the shameful dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 1st 2011 1:42am
from the this-won't-end-well dept
So, Microsoft apparently got together with Apple, EMC, Ericsson, RIM and Sony... and coughed up an insane $4.5 billion. It's kind of brilliant in a nefarious way. With six companies together, they could each spend less than the $900 million initially pitched by Google... and then just all agree not to sue each other, but leave open the option to sue anyone else. And, given just how aggressive these companies have been with patents lately, you can rest assured that "license" demands will be made and there will almost certainly be lawsuits. Progress via the courtroom, apparently.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 15th 2011 6:22am
from the ain't-that-always-the-way dept
However, there is one company that's quite worried about all of this: Microsoft. Even though it's not clear who will win the bid for Nortel's patents (and many expect Google to be outbid), Microsoft has officially objected to Google's attempt to buy the patents, saying that it has a perpetual royalty-free license to those patents, and under the terms of the sale, any buyer could end that deal.
And here's why Microsoft is a steaming pile of hypocrisy on this subject: Microsoft has ramped up its own anti-Android patent trolling efforts, lately. It's been demanding licensing fees and/or suing all sorts of companies who use Android. In fact, some reports suggest that thanks to all this effort, Microsoft makes significantly more money from Android phones than from its own mobile platforms. Clearly, shaking down others with patents is good money.
And Microsoft doesn't think it's fair that someone else could do the same thing to it:
For Microsoft to complain is pretty rich, of course. Here it is, using patents to attack companies employing Android in an attempt to slow down the uptake of that rival to its own Windows Phone smartphone system. That's a clear abuse of the patent system to dissuade companies from signing up with a competitor (which, interestingly, it doesn't attack directly), rather than to protect real innovation (an aim that was thrown out of the patent system long ago.)
After all, those deeply innovative ideas that Microsoft is claiming that companies are infringing include “natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need, surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books”. Tabbed screens - yeah, right.
And yet when there is the prospect that Google might be able to threaten in exactly the same way, by pulling existing licences - not, admittedly, a very nice thing to do, but all's fair etc. etc. - Microsoft suddenly wants the government to intervene to protect it from this bullying.
I mean, let's be consistent here: if you want to abuse the patent system, expect to be on the receiving end of similar abuse. On the other hand, rather more laudably, why not stop abusing, in which case you can take the moral high ground when others start abusing the system to attack you?
by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 17th 2011 1:58pm
Patent Troll Lodsys: All We Want Is 0.575% Of The Entire Mobile In-App Payment Ecosystem, Is That So Wrong?
from the if-i-just-had-0.5%... dept
It's basically a compendium of ridiculous, silly and debunked arguments for why patent trolling is awesome (while also denying that Lodsys is a patent troll). There were some weakly-sourced rumors over the weekend that Lodsys was a front company for Intellectual Ventures, but there wasn't much significant evidence to support that, and Lodsys denies it. It is true that the patents in question were once owned by IV, who sold them (and it's not clear if IV still has an economic interest in the patents -- something it allegedly keeps with some of its patent sales, though it's notoriously secretive in such deals). However, Lodsys insists that IV sold all of its rights to Lodsys.
Of course, the key question is what does Lodsys want. There was some speculation that it was pushing for a license from Apple, but it notes that Apple already has a license (though, it's almost certainly from when the patents were held by IV). It also notes that Microsoft and Google hold licenses (again, potentially via IV), so it may be going after developers on other devices soon too. Of course, Lodsys pretends that the licenses from Apple, Google and Microsoft show that the patents are legit, but that's being deceptive yet again. From the details, it's almost entirely certain that all three companies got the license as a part of a blanket license from IV, and had no idea about this specific patent, nor took any interest in the details of this particular patent. For Lodsys to pretend this legitimizes their patent is yet another example of patent trolls being misleading. This patent was not considered important by Apple, Google or Microsoft. It was almost certainly included in a bulk licensing deal.
Finally, Lodsys points out that it has no interest in receiving a single lump sum from big companies, claiming that it's likely to get "the best return" by shaking down developers one-by-one-by-one. So, what does Lodsys want? Well, it appears to want at least 0.575% of the entire in-app payment market:
In the case of an Application doing an in-application upgrade (and only this scenario), Lodsys is seeking 0.575% of US revenue over for the period of the notice letter to the expiration of the patent, plus applicable past usage.Of course, since the power of in-app payments is that it lets you do a lot more than just app upgrades, you have to imagine Lodsys is asking for a lot more in those other cases.
And for what? For coming up with an insanely abstract idea that was a natural and obvious evolution of such apps. No one -- no one -- came up with the concept or implementation of in-app payments for mobile device apps because of this patent. And, of course, this assumes (incorrectly, of course) that this will be the only patent that someone digs up that appears to (broadly defined) cover things like in-app payments. If all such patent holders start demanding 0.575% (or more) this will put a huge burden on developers.
Lodsys talks high and mighty about "property rights" and paying those who are owed money in its blog, but those claims are laughable. First, it claims that it's Lodsys patents that are responsible for in-app payments:
The economic gains provided by the Lodsys inventions (increase in revenue through additional sales, or decrease in costs to service the customer) are being enjoyed by the business that provides the product or service that interacts with the user. Since Lodsys patent rights are of value to that overall solution, it is only fair to get paid by the party that is accountable for the entire solution and which captures the value (rather than a technology supplier or a retailer).But that assumes, totally incorrectly, that Lodsys or even the original patent was instrumental in making this happen. It was not. This is the natural evolution of app development. But Lodsys can't let up and gets ridiculous:
As a comparative example, it is the owner of the hotel who is responsible for the overall service (value proposition) that guests pay for, not the owner of the land that the hotel may be leasing, not the travel agent that sold the reservation, not the manufacturer of tools such as hammers, nor the provider of materials such as nails or steel beams, which may be used in building the hotel; nor is it the outsourced linen washing service or the architect of the building who is responsible. Lodsys’ patent portfolio is being used as a part of an overall solution and we are seeking to be paid for the use of patent rights by the accountable party.Except that whole first part disagrees with the conclusion Lodsys is shooting for. Yes, the owner of a hotel is responsible for its overall service, but if you went to the owner of a hotel and said "hey, I came up with the idea of putting bathrooms in hotel rooms, pay me," the owner of the hotel would laugh at you. Because that's just a basic implementation that's an obvious advance as a result of indoor plumbing. Ditto for in-app payments. That's an obvious advance in the evolution of mobile apps. Again, no one is doing in-app payments because they suddenly discovered this Lodsys patent and its vague and useless descriptions.
There's also the myth of the brilliant inventor shining the light on this concept via this patent for the rest of the world to learn from:
Dan Abelow is an independent inventor who visualized/created metaphors, documented for the world to see (in exchange for exclusivity) and created value for doing so. This ideation, as expressed in the patent, enabled a building block for others to build on and create more value.That assumes that the people being sued actually built off of this patent. Lodsys presents absolutely no evidence to support such claims, because it almost certainly has none. Of course, Lodsys defends patent trolling and insists that people who don't like this are just freeloaders:
In aggregate, this cycle of patent licensing means that more invention can happen and it means that the economic profit pie is distributed more efficiently to suppliers of building blocks that are incorporated in the products or services.This is false. And it's been shown false over and over and over again by various economic studies. It's based on the very false assumption that any economic activity is good economic efficiency. When the economic activity involves artificial protectionist barriers to innovation (which is what's happening here), then nearly every serious economist will point out the serious costs involved in hindering economics. To claim that this means more invention can happen is simply not supported by the evidence at all, which suggests more optimal results are found without patents getting in the way.
There are lots of bills in life that it would be preferable to not pay if one didn’t have to. Lodsys is just trying to get value for assets that it owns, just like each and every company selling products or services is, trying to do business and make a profit. Its odd that some of the companies that received notices had such a visceral reaction. Some of these companies have our favorite apps, for which we paid the asking price. We realize you have to get paid for your work and so do we.It's not that people don't want to pay these bills. It's that they think it's ridiculous that some company that no one's ever heard of, holding some piece of paper that includes nothing of value or relevant to these developers, is suddenly demanding a cut for doing absolutely nothing. That's incredibly different than someone paying for an app that they liked.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 5th 2011 3:08pm
from the oh-come-on dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 22nd 2011 6:14am
from the fight-fight-fight dept
- System provided child window controls: 5,889,522
- Remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images: 5,778,372
- Loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area: 6,339,780
- Selection handles in editing electronic documents: 6,891,551
- Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering annotations for non-modifiable electronic content: 6,957,233
Of course, it's nice to see the response on Microsoft's own blog involves comments trashing Microsoft for this decision. Scrolling down the comments, almost all of them are incredibly negative against Microsoft, pointing out that these patents are obvious, that Microsoft should be ashamed of itself for suing, and people swearing off Microsoft products for being a patent bully. Perhaps Microsoft might want to think its patent litigation strategy in recognizing that it's not particularly well received by consumers.
The comments really are great, but my favorite may be: "None of this BS will get anyone to buy a Windows phone anyway." And that's kind of the point. Microsoft should focus on innovating. Not bitching about what competitors are doing better than it did.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 3rd 2011 12:07am
from the say-a-little-prayer dept
In 2007, after the Sidekick had long fallen off the map, and after the initial iPhone had already hit the market, Danger announced plans to IPO, but with financials that were anything but appealing. Microsoft stepped in and bought the company instead, probably more for the (remaining) talent than anything else. A year later, there was a massive server failure, that caused a bunch of people to lose data. It became clear that the platform was really on its last legs.
And, now, finally, T-Mobile is putting it out of its misery and will be shutting off service to its Sidekick servers. If you don't remember (or never knew), the way the Sidekick worked was everything had to go through special Sidekick/Danger servers hosted by your ISP (in some ways similar to the way Blackberries work). So, without those servers, the few remaining Sidekicks become even more useless. Somewhere, buried in a box, I'm pretty sure I still have my original (black and white!) Sidekick. I might just have to put it on my desk as a reminder of how quickly technology changes.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 18th 2011 4:17pm
from the nicely-done dept
"Excluded License" means any license requiring, as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of the software subject to the license, that the software or other software combined and/or distributed with it be (i) disclosed or distributed in source code form; (ii) licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (iii) redistributable at no charge.The only problem? This appears to cover a few of Microsoft's own licenses. As Simon Phipps points out, both Microsoft's Reciprocal License and its Public License appear to violate those terms.
Upon realizing this, Microsoft is sorta trying to backtrack on this, saying that it is reconsidering the policy, but it had, in fact, done this on purpose. Still, it's apparently open to reviewing different open source licenses, meaning that it's likely trying to figure out a way to carve out rules that allow its own licenses, but still forbid GPL software. Whether you're a GPL supporter or not (and let's avoid a "holy war" discussion), this does seem a little petty.
Of course, in this rush to "app store-ify" everything, with various gatekeepers and restrictions, sooner or later people are going to remember that they can simply avoid all of this by building web apps instead.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 11th 2010 9:49am
from the an-accidental-XP-virus dept
The answer? Well, it's all Microsoft's fault.
Apparently, there was a bit of a bug (one of many...) in Windows XP in terms of how it handles certain situations, and it effectively created a "virus" in that unwitting travelers around the globe are all broadcasting "Free Public WiFi" from their computers without realizing it, after they tried to connect to such a network:
When a computer running an older version of XP can't find any of its "favorite" wireless networks, it will automatically create an ad hoc network with the same name as the last one it connected to -- in this case, "Free Public WiFi." Other computers within range of that new ad hoc network can see it, luring other users to connect. And who can resist the word "free?"And so it continues to spread. No one's quite sure where it started, but somewhere way back when, someone set up such an ad hoc network in an airport (perhaps as a joke or a honeypot), and it got picked up by others... and then it just continued spreading. Eventually, it should die out as Windows XP machines finally go extinct, but for now, enjoy (but don't bother connecting) the "Free Public WiFi" found in so many airports...
Not a lot of people, judging from the spread of Free Public WiFi. Computers with the XP bug that try to connect to the Internet will remember the name, create their own ad hoc networks and entice other users wherever they go.