Walt French’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Free Market Doing What Comes Naturally

    Keurig is just one of many competing coffee systems—I've seen at least two others in offices I frequent—not to mention all sorts of more hands-on single-cup approaches.

    Anybody who uses one of these things for a while quickly watches the costs add up, and I can't see anything technologically superior to Keurig's approach. So Keurig is simply announcing a price increase, and future buyers will easily see the higher cost of the convenience, perhaps choosing another system.

    BTW, “take it or leave it” is a feature of virtually all commerce in the US. If I want a nice iPad but don't want to pay $499 for it, I can either give in or walk down the street to get a less costly competitor's product. That's plenty of power for me, whereas some belligerent “don't tell me what to do” is toothless.

  • Feb 29th, 2012 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Re: Central Thesis is Bogus, Must be Biased.

    Heh. I didn't think that a little light-hearted silliness would provoke an ad hominem attack; I thought you'd try to deal with the content.

    Go back and read all my posts (or maybe, you have). I think this whole notion of deciding right vs wrong based on what Tribe a given company is from is just the worst way to understand what is happening.

    No, I was trying to make the point that the original post is based on a really weird notion, and it couldn't have just happened by chance. Nobody has provided a word of evidence that it makes sense.

    Take away the notion that anti-trust rules are making Moto violate anti-trust laws, and all you have is some recent news that nut just rivals (such as Apple), but also courts (Karlsruhe) and regulatory agencies (Dept of Justice and EU Competition Commission) are attacking Motorola's FRAND abuse by name.

    Now: between a ridiculous theory from Mike exonerating Moto, and a little hot off-the-press, factual information that's gone negative on Moto, you are worried that some little joke is really the problem? What are you actually prioritizing, the Defense of Fantasy Dept?

    I confess to being a bit of a defender of the patent system, while recognizing its flaws. But the point here is that this post is an ill-thought-out mishmash of fantasy that would never survive a minute in a forum not packed with zealots who want to hear why Moto is right, instead of what will happen over the next few months, and why. If you swallow this crazy story, there will be some awfully strange things happening, where the virginal, innocent Moto is attacked by the very people who supposedly love innovation and competition.

  • Feb 29th, 2012 @ 6:28pm

    Re: Re: Are you a lawyer who understands the difference between FRAND vs. non-FRAND patents?

    Whoops, I'm not really an A/C. Just as I'm not a lawyer. I've spent a bit of time in a jury box but that's about it.

    But you asked whether anybody besides lawyers understood the difference between FRAND and ordinary; why would you now trash a perfectly clear writeup on Wikipedia?

    “FRAND” is a principle. Call it a Platonic Ideal, with every actual instance slightly different — just as the definition for a “human” normally describes a biped but quadriplegics are just as human as anybody else.

    Sorry I missed your point that you weren't looking for information. Next time, you should be clearer that you don't trust the government regulators or judges who try to protect innocents from depredations by patent abusers. (Oops, another technical term. Not “child abusers” or any other kind of abusers.)


  • Feb 29th, 2012 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Guess you'd deny Annie Proulx her Pullitzer for Shipping News. Just a bunch of English words put together a different way. Part of the world's cultural tradition, so torrent that work wherever, it's ours, not hers.

    Why should John Adams get paid for writing Dr. Atomic? Same notes as we've known since the Greeks, plus some nameless performers sawing on fiddles and warbling. Not THEIR performances or work.

    That “genius grant” recipient Emmanuel Saez? He's no better than I am. Why should he get a big wad of dough for pretentiously offering his ramblings to the world? Isn't it enough that he gets a steady check from UC Berkeley?

    For that matter, what's this crap about this guy Einstein getting a “Nobel” prize for discovering that light can bang electrons off a piece of metal? Did he invent the universe? Minimum wage at the Swiss Patent … oops, we're abolishing the Swiss Patent Office. Well, he's dead so we don't have to give him anything anyway.

    Yes, I see the light now: nobody's work deserves to be personal; from each according to his ability and to each according to his need.

  • Feb 28th, 2012 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    “even if I come up with my own solution to a particular problem, I have to pay up to someone else.”

    Whoever told you that was lying. You might run afoul of somebody else's patent if you implement their solution, copied or otherwise. But if you really have something innovative of your own, you shouldn't have any trouble.

    What are there now, almost a million different apps for smartphones? And there's been one troll who's hit a few dozen devs, plus there must be at least 20 others we haven't heard of. Even 100 ÷ 1,000,000 is 0.01%; it's worse odds than being “screwed” by a lightning strike, but less likely than having some careless/drunk/never-shoulda-been-driving driver plowing into you.

    Don't get blinded by all the Big Boys elbowing each other over billions. Small entrepreneurs are basically not worth the trouble; even for the cockroaches who call themselves Lodsys, developers got support/help from Apple (and others?) who can't have some troll harming their business by ripping off their partners.

    Just because certain propagandists are trying to make patents be the end of the world, for their own companies' interests, doesn't make it so. Although patent issues *do* arise, the tone of this whole debate strikes me as similar to the contrived problem of illegal voters, riling up the electorate over a basically non-existent problem, for blatantly obvious gain by disenfranchising voters. We should have concern about how well patents work, but for at least a year now, the discussion has been polluted by propaganda.

  • Feb 28th, 2012 @ 5:13pm

    Re: Re: Only Lawyers Grok it? Hah!

    @techflaws, OSS advocates can point to MANY travesties that are wrought by the patent system. I get that.

    But there's an element of throwing out the baby with the bathwater in the demand to prohibit patents. You look at their history; the fact that some of our great accomplishments (I've seen GSM credited as being one of the watershed technological events of all time) are based on the trust and collaboration that patents encourage; the quote from Almunia I cite above; … all these show that serious people who are pro-competition can like patents, too.

    It certainly ain't the one-sided open-and-shut that some short-attention-span types say, thanks to gratuitous trash-talking by people who are talking up their side in a multi-billion-dollar dispute.

  • Feb 28th, 2012 @ 5:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I have given MS enough money

    This article is based on a cockamamie legal theory that exonerates Motorola's behavior (by claiming that “better” behavior is impossible). It offers a judgement about Moto's actions. I challenged that mealy-mouthed apology for bad behavior.

    I offered reasons why I thought those actions would be slapped down. Those reasons were not so much my opinions about Moto as they were an attempt to understand what was happening. (My first hands-on experience was on a 1970's-era MC6800 breadboard computer; loved my RAZR; etc.)

    When a person offering an interpretation is met with, “that's it. End of discussion. You're done,” it's pretty obvious that, as I noted earlier, you are not interested in anything other than the answer that suits your preconceptions. We could talk about whether Moto was taking a risky course, based on what you've read or otherwise know. But you don't care because you don't like the idea that Moto doesn't walk on water.

    Anyhow, it seems unnecessary. Unexpected by me, the EU Competition Commission's chief Almunia laid out his organization's intention to stop predations by holders of standards-essential patents in a speech today:

    I have been following with keen interest the patent wars among mobile-device firms. It is clear to me that competition policy must intervene to prevent that patents that are essential for a standard are used strategically to block competitors.
    That would defeat the very purpose of the patent system, which is supposed to stimulate innovation.
    This is the crux of the case we have opened against Samsung on concerns that the company may have abused the standard-essential patents it holds and failed to honour its commitment to licence them at terms that are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.
    Standards are essential in this industry, because different devices can work with each other only thanks to commonly agreed technologies.
    And because to build a modern smart phone one needs thousands of standard-essential patents, their holders often have considerable market power.
    Any company that holds these patents can effectively hold up the entire industry with the threat of banning the products of competitors from the market. This sort of hold-up is not acceptable.
    This month, we have received two new similar complaints against Motorola and we will examine them very closely.
    (I added some emphasis for those who can't find the connection.) Bloomberg News, Business Week and others have the story but the press release of the official text is here.

    Usually I like to trumpet that my judgement allows me to see a better semblance of the future than those without it. But here, while I have had clear indications of both the US and EU bodies' concerns, I had no idea that 24 hours after I volunteered that Moto's actions might be illegal, the chief regulator for the EU — the head of the very group charged with balancing the continent's economic and business interests under their laws — would echo my concerns by saying that blocking rivals was “not acceptable.”

    So no, the fact that I said Moto's actions looked risky was NOT all you needed to know to dismiss my thinking. But the fact that you thought so sure ought to let others know how well-grounded your positions are.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 9:47pm

    Central Thesis is Bogus, Must be Biased.

    “While many of us would prefer that Google make a big statement by freeing or opening up many of these patents, the company is actually in something of a ridiculous position: if it does that... its competitors (mainly Microsoft) will claim anti-trust violations by saying that the company is using its market position to undercut the prices that other charge.”

    I'm a bit of an expert on random number generation. Perhaps I know more than 99.995% of the world's population, while 300,000 people know more. So I claim authority in saying that this innovative legal theory is not some random collection of English words. Rather, it is meant to convey an argument, i.e., it has a motivation (in terms of quasi-random numbers, “is biased.”)

    The theory, as far as I can tell, has exactly zero precedent in any discussion of patents, FRAND, anti-trust legislation, recent comments by the US Dept of Justice or the EU Competition Commission. If anything, actually, the opposite: it rejects common-sense and well-established concerns about patent licensing.

    So the words didn't just arise from a cat walking on a keyboard, and they fly in the face of common sense. They must have been written with some purpose that ordinary common sense doesn't reveal.

    I will guess: the writer is trying to show a reason that Google (which explicitly signed off on Moto's patent actions, to the alarm of the DoJ and EU CC), and Motorola (now rebuffed another time by the Karlsruhe court) still wear the White Hats. Because wearing White Hats is important to telling who are the good guys in 1950s TV shows for adolescents.

    We statistician types always have to concede that we may be wrong: this silly claim, contradicted by all the facts, might have been purely accidental. I estimate — OK, SWAG — about a 0.01% chance that the writer simply was trying to get some page visits by writing something meaningless.

    It would be helpful, Mike, to know why you published this drivel after you got Twitter comments that said your “theory” had no relationship to reality, from an authority in the field. (Maybe there were more favorable comments, but they didn't exactly jump out of your thread.)

    So readers: Mike is apparently mealy-mouthing behavior by Motorola that he can't find a sensible justification for. He seems to be unhappy that his champions are stuck in something inexplicable. You are reading stuff that the word “agitprop” was invented for, perhaps inspired by the Department of Propaganda at Google. Or perhaps Mike volunteered to trash his reputation of sensibility for the good of The Cause. Whatever the reason (alas, detecting obvious bias is different from knowing what caused it), this is a rubbish claim.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Maybe you saw an Ars thread that was different from the ones I've visited recently. They are replete with false and baseless assertions, some bordering on slander, and the usual level of tribalistic My Side Is Right chest-beating. Maybe one post out of ten made an assertion that could be backed with evidence.

    The articles themselves are nicely factual, but even the one about the DoJ and EU greenlighting Google's Moto acquisition? The DoJ press release was more direct, clear and understandable, IMHO.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I have given MS enough money

    Oops, forgot to note: the thesis that Moto would be acting illegally by asking MPEG-LA to license its work as part of the patent pool that maybe 99% of all h.264 patents are in?

    Utter garbage. No correlation to Planet Earth in 2012, except that the opposite has happened, and might again. Driven by who-knows-what feverish brain or mealy-mouthed justification of Google's statement that drew a sharp rebuke from both EU and DoJ. (And you can Google those; I'm not making up fantasies!)

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I have given MS enough money

    Just re-read it and yes, still have the same sense: the author is justifying Motorola's actions, which may be (looks to me as if they are) illegal, based on innuendo and claims of “he started it!” against Microsoft.

    Truth of those claims is irrelevant to a court of law, or to the EU Competition Commission, who will investigate Microsoft's claims of Motorola abusing its patents. Just as trash-talk on a football line doesn't justify ripping somebody's helmet off, Microsoft's aggressive patent policies don't rise to the level of concern that Motorola's and Google's have.

    Go ahead and wish for a world where companies do things out of the goodness of their hearts — I could hope that years ago, Google got Stanford to donate the PageRank patent to the public — but it ain't happening because you think it should, and it ain't NOT happening because Google is under attack by Microsoft. That's a red herring in understanding where this story goes.

    (And besides understanding what is likely to happen, *not* watching propagandistic half-truths or downright dishonesty is my only other reason for tuning in and commenting.)

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 11:05am

    Re: Antitrust law needs to go

    Nice thing about your post here, and Mike's comment as well, is that nobody will think you're practicing law without knowing what you're talking about.

    No, it's obvious that a real lawyer (economists, too!) understand simple facts about what makes our economy tick, which you haven't bothered to consider.

    If it were a real consideration about predatory pricing, Oracle would've sued Google out of existence for giving away a mobile OS that was derived from java ME. They haven't, because that simple-minded complaint just doesn't hold water.

    But keep having fun claiming that the system is so broken that Moto has to break the laws to survive. All the girls here will think you're really manly for beating your chest this way!

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Good thing that Google never uses phrases like “a draconian future where one man, one company” controls the internet!

    Helps me know that THEY'RE never evil; it's just their competitors who are!

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's only hypocritical if you believe that there are not BIG DIFFERENCES between FRAND and non-Standards-Essential patents.

    The US Constitution explicitly calls for giving inventors a (time-limited) monopoly on their work. Patent-holders are given TOTAL FREEDOM to sit on an invention, sell a zillion widgets that competitors can't build, (or uniquely run a dataing service based on Singlar Value Decomposition!), or license to other firms at vastly “unfair” terms. In the Constitution.

    But Moto voluntarily signed away those rights when they declared their h.264 work essential to that standard. Within h.264, they have promised to let any and all use it on FRANDly terms.

    *YOU* may not like Microsoft's stance, but that is not to say it is hypocritical for Microsoft to exercise its constitutionally-guaranteed right, while accusing Motorola of breaking its contract with all potential customers of h.264, by suing somebody they want to play rough with. Many companies *ARE* hypocritical but it's all legal and people who call out hypocrisy never seem to balance all the players; they're playing a children's game of “he did it first!” that we parents try to help them grow out of.

    If Microsoft's complaints are judged unworthy, the EU will reply, “tough. You can stew over how you don't want to pay Motorola many billions of dollars a year, and either rip out h.264 support from your products, or work it out.”

    That won't be your or my call, however; it'll be done by the EU and US regulators who we have given the power to enforce the laws this way. So let Microsoft make all the false claims they want. If they are racketeering, they'll get slapped down. It's just that the evidence we all see suggests just the opposite. Moto hasn't said a word why what they're doing is legal/fair, and when Google wrote about Moto's policies, the EU expressed explicit concern about patent abuse. So I think the “tough” scenario is pretty unlikely. I can't imagine what Moto/Google thinks it's gaining here.

    PS breaking news that a German appeals court has overturned Moto enforcing its FRAND-pledged patent against Apple. Despite what either of us think about Apple's and Moto's patent aggressiveness, they couldn't support an injunction based on the same type of patent — one pledged as FRAND — that Microsoft complained about.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: I have given MS enough money

    @Arthur, maybe I should've been more explicit: I find that TAKING SIDES prematurely — before you understand a reasonable amount of the facts — is the big problem here.

    I'm not defending Microsoft as a corporation, not even citing any of their objections they raised. I have no reason or connection that'd lead me to do so, and if you ever saw my posts at other sites, you'd realize how ridiculous your claim is.

    My concerns are only a bit conservative: that companies honor their contracts, follow the law, and don't engage in unscrupulous marketing. Any company should have PLENTY of wiggle room within those even-handed standards, but I'm happy to call Moto (and Google, which has *explicitly* sanctioned Moto's FRAND abuse) out when they haven't met those easy standards.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    actually, a bit easier than that. Moto voluntarily obligated itself to license its patents to any and all comers on FRAND terms. They have exclusive right to their patents — they're all about short-term monopolies — but they signed away unlimited rights in exchange for MPEG pushing their particular innovation to literally billions of TV receivers, videocameras, DVD players, etc.

    This is a simple case of breaking its contract pledge to the h.264 standard-holders, in a way that reeks of anti-trust abuse. Can't see how this ends well for Moto, especially as it came just days after both the DoJ and EU Competition Commission said they were especially sensitive to exactly this type of abuse.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 6:38am

    Only Lawyers Grok it? Hah!

    My training is as an economist (now work in Finance, but was formerly a software developer). The issues here are not trivial, but they're a LOT easier to understand than say, java.

    Patent-holders are given a limited (20 year) monopoly on their inventions. But when they help write the h.264 standard, and declare that those patents are essential to the standard, they voluntarily promise to license their work on FRAND terms. (Similar on other standards-essential patents, at least since Moto abused its GSM patents in the 90's and standards bodies realized that nobody would accept a standard infested with land mines, so required patent-holders to limit their rights or else see their patents NOT included in standards.

    No legal-speak at all required! Actually, pretty easy, and more friendly to the notion of a shared community advancing the state of the art for all, while still giving inventors such as Motorola fair compensation for their work. Firms that contribute their patents to a standard may give up some control, but in exchange they get (in the case of GSM and h.264) literally billions of licensees.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 6:28am

    Re: I have given MS enough money

    Hey, Anonymous Coward: believe in acting morally? Great!

    Swallowing the self-serving jizz from Google apologists uncritically? Really? How can you claim to be motivated to do the right thing when you turn a blind eye to others' rough treatments?

    You don't have to ignore the fact that Moto has LONG been aggressive with its radio and software patents. In fact, is seems the whole concern about “Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory” was started because of Moto's blocking rivals by controlling the GSM standard.

    Nor the fact that Google pretty much destroyed the innovators who created the java language they use, when they pulled the rug out from under Sun's freemium model. Pretty nifty: propose a joint venture, get cooperation, then offer the product in a way that serves your interests perfectly, but puts the final nail into Sun's coffin by trashing its ability to sell java ME. That's something you're endorsing?

    I'm a big believer in looking at the bigger impact of MY actions, but this astroturf crap claiming everybody else besides the Google Tribe are Bad Guys is just too dishonest to stomach.

  • Feb 27th, 2012 @ 5:32am

    Name-Calling is OK for schoolchildren who don't know better

    …but it won't help you or your readers understand how these cases will work thru courts.

    Yes, Microsoft has been aggressive in insisting that others license its patents. But you don't have to ignore the fact that the whole mobile industry has been rife with this behavior since long before Microsoft was a player.

    Look to the citations that Motorola blocked Japanese rivals in the 1990's by refusing to license GSM patents. This appears to me the first realization that if a standard was going to be successful, the authors of its patents would have to declare them essential in the open, and guarantee that they would be fairly licensed. They have played hardball since their first involvement in standards, but the societal standards have changed.

    Motorola knows the obligations it made to the UN's ITU and the NGO ISO/IEC's MPEG (which “own” the h.264 standard) because a Moto rep at one time chaired the committee that brought the standard together. MPEG has a clear FRAND policy (“reasonable” was not explicitly defined, but NonDiscriminatory was clearly laid out as offering it on the same terms to all) and I can't imagine any tortured reasoning reading of history under which Moto has been charging the billions of other h.264 applications 2.X% . Nor can Motorola's targeting of a single rival for this ridiculous fee be seen any other way than a tit-for-tat discrimination that is explicitly what the h.264's non-discriminitation pledge was meant to preclude.

    Maybe there's some way that Moto will be actually able to defend this claim, but US courts have found industry FRAND pledges to be legally binding on all patent holders… look at the RAMBUS story for a famous error by a company illegally asserting standard-essential patents, or read the Western Wisconsin order in Apple v Moto for explicit citations. This looks like Moto heading into a PR disaster and possibly some serious damages (courts have stripped patent-holders of rights when they abuse FRAND), all for some short-term messing with Microsoft's legal team.

    So another read is that Moto has been aggressive with FRAND patents for a couple of decades, and while it should have no trouble asserting its non-standards-essential patents such as push email, this one looks like a big loser for a firm that knows it won't win.

    Despite Microsoft being a big bully that supposedly started it first. Waaaaah!