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Microsoft goes nuclear against Linux

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  • User profile image
    Bass

    http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2009/02/microsoft-sues-tomtom-over-fat-patents-in-linux-based-device.ars

    This will be interesting. I wonder if the Open Invention Network will retaliate.

  • User profile image
    warren

    How is this "going nuclear against Linux"?  They're going after a profitable company for not licensing technology that isn't free, and TomTom is refusing to pay.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    warren said:
    How is this "going nuclear against Linux"?  They're going after a profitable company for not licensing technology that isn't free, and TomTom is refusing to pay.
    Well specifically the FAT32 patents. They are going against a company not just for it's own technology, but for using a technology that is freely available in Linux.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Bass said:
    warren said:
    *snip*
    Well specifically the FAT32 patents. They are going against a company not just for it's own technology, but for using a technology that is freely available in Linux.
    I reckon the FAT32 one was thrown in for the sake of it, you'll notice there were other patents they were filing against. Microsoft hasn't previously sued over FAT or FAT32 (IIRC) but the commentators on slashdot think that's because it's likely the FAT patents wouldn't stand scrutiny.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    W3bbo said:
    Bass said:
    *snip*
    I reckon the FAT32 one was thrown in for the sake of it, you'll notice there were other patents they were filing against. Microsoft hasn't previously sued over FAT or FAT32 (IIRC) but the commentators on slashdot think that's because it's likely the FAT patents wouldn't stand scrutiny.
    Yeah it looks like the bulk of the patents have to do with GPS, but just throwing the FAT32 patent in there is kind of strange.

  • User profile image
    Ray7

    Bass said:
    W3bbo said:
    *snip*
    Yeah it looks like the bulk of the patents have to do with GPS, but just throwing the FAT32 patent in there is kind of strange.
    I guess every little bit helps ...


  • User profile image
    Sabot

    This is sooooooo not Microsoft v Open Source it's laughable ! People are *****desperately***** trying to turn this into this battle but Microsoft are at pains to say it's not.

    Microsoft makes money and registers IP's to protect revenue.

    TomTom makes money and registers IP's to protect revenue.

    So I see this as two companies that disagree on patents and I'm sure there are plenty more companies doing the same thing all over the world from biology, chemistry, engineering to weaponary.

    If you have a good idea you would want to be the person that benefits from it. No point in being a brilliant inventor and not being able to feed your family or pay your morgage.

    So give some stuff away, don't be greedy, I get that ... but at least have the courtesy to acknowledge rather than take the whole idea as their own .... and sell it! ... which is what happen to my Open Source code, thats why I don't trust Open Source any more. It's for suckers. This is why there is a patent system and when IT matures it will get it why it needs this system too.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    Sabot said:

    This is sooooooo not Microsoft v Open Source it's laughable ! People are *****desperately***** trying to turn this into this battle but Microsoft are at pains to say it's not.

    Microsoft makes money and registers IP's to protect revenue.

    TomTom makes money and registers IP's to protect revenue.

    So I see this as two companies that disagree on patents and I'm sure there are plenty more companies doing the same thing all over the world from biology, chemistry, engineering to weaponary.

    If you have a good idea you would want to be the person that benefits from it. No point in being a brilliant inventor and not being able to feed your family or pay your morgage.

    So give some stuff away, don't be greedy, I get that ... but at least have the courtesy to acknowledge rather than take the whole idea as their own .... and sell it! ... which is what happen to my Open Source code, thats why I don't trust Open Source any more. It's for suckers. This is why there is a patent system and when IT matures it will get it why it needs this system too.

    "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today." -Bill Gates

    The issue I have is with software patents. Software patents make it difficult to write software in general, because there is no guarantee what you are writing is violating some other persons patent. And software patents tend to be sufficiently broad it makes writing any kind of software very easily illegal.

    The patents most people are concerned about in this case are the FAT32 patents. It's very clear FAT32 wasn't the work of a "brilliant inventor". TomTom isn't using it because it's a great and amazing technology. TomTom is using FAT32 because between it and NTFS (also patented), it's the only filesystems Windows can read.

    Fact of the matter is, it's damn near impossible to inter-operate or write software that works on Windows without violating Microsoft's IP. Anytime you interface with the OS you are likely using some kind of "patented" interface to do it.

    So if you support this kind of thing, basically you want a world where you have to get permission everytime you write something that runs on Windows or everytime you make a device that Windows can detect and use. That could give Microsoft significant control of the entire hardware and software industry, and they can do stuff like prohibit competitive products from ever working with Windows. I don't want this personally.

  • User profile image
    jamie

    lets see how Newsday.com does (charging for content)
    http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE51P71W20090226

    The simple fact is - people are broke, social netowrking = talk about news and stuff / blog... if "reputable sourses" decide to charge - other new one will take their place ... etc and onward

    it is like the music bus (riaa/pirate bay)
    and the software biz (bsa / linux free)

    google has the right model - free to us - charge companies.


    *as for linux - im sure many hope a utopian OS somehow - one day comes of it - for free.
    Everyone building it together.    March! (2,3,4)

    (patents are about trying to control the uncontrolable.  you cant download a couch. you cant watch eating (=you ineviably buy food)

    its all about bundling with devices (something ms is king at) .. but the software part is getting chisled out...
    so chisle them out!.. build your own XBOX, XBOX PC and XPhone.  ..all running Windows.com  Tongue Out



    **  it is time to cut everyone out but ms - screw the pc industry - and release your own line
    (back to reaming companies instead of consumers! woo hoo! )  Wink

    (obamanomics 101)

  • User profile image
    Sabot

    Bass said:
    Sabot said:
    *snip*
    "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today." -Bill Gates

    The issue I have is with software patents. Software patents make it difficult to write software in general, because there is no guarantee what you are writing is violating some other persons patent. And software patents tend to be sufficiently broad it makes writing any kind of software very easily illegal.

    The patents most people are concerned about in this case are the FAT32 patents. It's very clear FAT32 wasn't the work of a "brilliant inventor". TomTom isn't using it because it's a great and amazing technology. TomTom is using FAT32 because between it and NTFS (also patented), it's the only filesystems Windows can read.

    Fact of the matter is, it's damn near impossible to inter-operate or write software that works on Windows without violating Microsoft's IP. Anytime you interface with the OS you are likely using some kind of "patented" interface to do it.

    So if you support this kind of thing, basically you want a world where you have to get permission everytime you write something that runs on Windows or everytime you make a device that Windows can detect and use. That could give Microsoft significant control of the entire hardware and software industry, and they can do stuff like prohibit competitive products from ever working with Windows. I don't want this personally.

    Why is software so hard to patent?

    Similar fights over patents where faced with photography and music in times past and some are still going on today. However with code it's abit more scientific to prove unlike a picture or a sound. If you don't wish to patent your code crack on, no problem, but respect the people that have chosen too to protect their revenue.  

    Jamie, I don't think we can rely on the fact the Google software will stay free, the T&C point to a future where we are gonna pay and as advertising is the first thing that gets cut in a downturn Google potientially isn't going to have so much cash.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    Sabot said:
    Bass said:
    *snip*

    Why is software so hard to patent?

    Similar fights over patents where faced with photography and music in times past and some are still going on today. However with code it's abit more scientific to prove unlike a picture or a sound. If you don't wish to patent your code crack on, no problem, but respect the people that have chosen too to protect their revenue.  

    Jamie, I don't think we can rely on the fact the Google software will stay free, the T&C point to a future where we are gonna pay and as advertising is the first thing that gets cut in a downturn Google potientially isn't going to have so much cash.

    Software should be under by copyright, not patents. Usually you can put something under one or the other. For example, you can't copyright an idea, only patent it.

    Patents are bad for software because they make the act of writing software illegal. Yes, WRITING software can be illegal. From scratch. Not copying software. Simply writing it. Like you just made a simple application? Good luck "making money". Did you get a lawyer to do a patent search for you? No? You probably just broke the law. Yes, with software patents the only real way to stay legal is to have a lawyer look over your code every release, and do an extensive (and very costly) patent search. Wow! That sounds really efficient. Do you already do this with your software? No? How do you know YOU aren't violating patents?

    That's what Bill Gates ment when he spoke against software patents. If software patents are allowed to continue without restriction, it's quite likely writing any kind of software will very hard to be legal. People have put out patents on stuff like specific HTML tags or something as simple as the generic string datatype. If you use strings in an software application and there is a patent for that, you could be sued! You might lose the ability to sell your software? Is that really fair?

    And really you protect your revenue by having a better product, not relying on the government to make sure you'll never have any competition. That's actually the purpose of both copyright and patents. To increase innovation, to promote science and the arts. It's not there their to protect business models and crush competition. And NOT suppose to hinder innovation (which is what software patents tend to do).

  • User profile image
    Yggdrasil

    Bass said:
    Sabot said:
    *snip*
    Software should be under by copyright, not patents. Usually you can put something under one or the other. For example, you can't copyright an idea, only patent it.

    Patents are bad for software because they make the act of writing software illegal. Yes, WRITING software can be illegal. From scratch. Not copying software. Simply writing it. Like you just made a simple application? Good luck "making money". Did you get a lawyer to do a patent search for you? No? You probably just broke the law. Yes, with software patents the only real way to stay legal is to have a lawyer look over your code every release, and do an extensive (and very costly) patent search. Wow! That sounds really efficient. Do you already do this with your software? No? How do you know YOU aren't violating patents?

    That's what Bill Gates ment when he spoke against software patents. If software patents are allowed to continue without restriction, it's quite likely writing any kind of software will very hard to be legal. People have put out patents on stuff like specific HTML tags or something as simple as the generic string datatype. If you use strings in an software application and there is a patent for that, you could be sued! You might lose the ability to sell your software? Is that really fair?

    And really you protect your revenue by having a better product, not relying on the government to make sure you'll never have any competition. That's actually the purpose of both copyright and patents. To increase innovation, to promote science and the arts. It's not there their to protect business models and crush competition. And NOT suppose to hinder innovation (which is what software patents tend to do).
    For your first claim, I'll argue that in most places, including the US and UK, patent infringement is a civil case, not a criminal case. I feel the cry of "Wrote software? It's illegal!" is a bit alarmist and sensationalistic.

    As for your last paragraph - I agree that software patents as used today are a legalistic exercise in money-grabbing and fearmongering that do not serve their original purpose. But you have to remember that they do have an original purpose - allowing inventors to benefit from their invention. If they didn't exist, any product I released could be reverse-engineered within hours and competition thrive without having to spend the R&D time I did. Not only that, but big companies could spend that R&D budget on marketing and overtake my business by a mile. 

    I'm not trying to defend the current practices, but just to avoid the kneejerk "All patents are evil!" reaction. The "you'll succeed if you just have a good enough product" line works only in Horatio Alger stories, not in the marketplace where PR can make or break a product.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    Yggdrasil said:
    Bass said:
    *snip*
    For your first claim, I'll argue that in most places, including the US and UK, patent infringement is a civil case, not a criminal case. I feel the cry of "Wrote software? It's illegal!" is a bit alarmist and sensationalistic.

    As for your last paragraph - I agree that software patents as used today are a legalistic exercise in money-grabbing and fearmongering that do not serve their original purpose. But you have to remember that they do have an original purpose - allowing inventors to benefit from their invention. If they didn't exist, any product I released could be reverse-engineered within hours and competition thrive without having to spend the R&D time I did. Not only that, but big companies could spend that R&D budget on marketing and overtake my business by a mile. 

    I'm not trying to defend the current practices, but just to avoid the kneejerk "All patents are evil!" reaction. The "you'll succeed if you just have a good enough product" line works only in Horatio Alger stories, not in the marketplace where PR can make or break a product.
    I agree with what you said but I want to make it clear that I am talking about software patents. I don't have problems with patents in general, as long is they follow the original guidelines (ie, they must be detailed and well written enough so that some one competent in the subject can understand and reproduce the invention in question). Software is already established under copyright.

    It's not alarmist at all by the way. I hope you realize that Microsoft themselves loses billions of dollars from what amounts to frivolous patent lawsuits. At one point they had to cripple IE for one of the patents. A patent if broad enough (and there is no legal limit to what is considered "broad", only "obvious") it a lawsuit could be enough to ban the sales of Windows or any software, until it no longer violates the patent. Plus billions of dollars in fines can be issued. This is not being alarmist at all, this is being realistic. All I am saying is how it is. I am not a moralist or an idealist. This is stuff that could directly affect me and probably anyone else who works with software.

  • User profile image
    Sabot

    Bass said:
    Yggdrasil said:
    *snip*
    I agree with what you said but I want to make it clear that I am talking about software patents. I don't have problems with patents in general, as long is they follow the original guidelines (ie, they must be detailed and well written enough so that some one competent in the subject can understand and reproduce the invention in question). Software is already established under copyright.

    It's not alarmist at all by the way. I hope you realize that Microsoft themselves loses billions of dollars from what amounts to frivolous patent lawsuits. At one point they had to cripple IE for one of the patents. A patent if broad enough (and there is no legal limit to what is considered "broad", only "obvious") it a lawsuit could be enough to ban the sales of Windows or any software, until it no longer violates the patent. Plus billions of dollars in fines can be issued. This is not being alarmist at all, this is being realistic. All I am saying is how it is. I am not a moralist or an idealist. This is stuff that could directly affect me and probably anyone else who works with software.
    Ok, if you write a bit of code differently from Microsoft and come up with a result that is the same that's not patent infringement, Microsoft have a department to work with companies that are in this situation, they have coughed up millions (if not billions by now) of dollars to companies where they weren't the first to patent.

    Some people out there have made allot of money out of Microsoft, I actually do know one guy that has retired because he 'sold his company' to Microsoft so they could have his code (he had to register a company first for Microsoft to buy)

    If you want to use a piece of code that Microsoft has already patented but can't afford it, again, they are happy to cut a deal. In one case I read that Microsoft could clearly see the advantage to them of a good interoperability story, they let the fee slide.

    However, FAT32, you can't argue that you wrote a bit of code and it came out exactly the same as FAT32. Gee-whizz! How did that happen?!

    Then if the owner of that patent finds out and gives the person an opportunity to sort it out and tries to get in contact but gets stone-walled ... and this goes on for a YEAR ... this is clearly taking the mick! What recourse do you have over than to go legal?

    TomTom aren't a small company, they clearly sell stuff for profit, they charge £30 for a data-file that tells you where the 'safety-camera's' are, however this file is offered free by almost everyone else, infact the Transport Agency recommends that this informatinon is 'easily accessible' ... but still TomTom charge.

    So looking at the facts here I would advise that the Open Source posse would be better advised to pick on a story that better serves their cause!

    I have nothing against Open Source ... I have even written years worth of code back in the days when I was a true believer ... just now I believe it has a place ... not the place.

  • User profile image
    Yggdrasil

    Bass said:
    Yggdrasil said:
    *snip*
    I agree with what you said but I want to make it clear that I am talking about software patents. I don't have problems with patents in general, as long is they follow the original guidelines (ie, they must be detailed and well written enough so that some one competent in the subject can understand and reproduce the invention in question). Software is already established under copyright.

    It's not alarmist at all by the way. I hope you realize that Microsoft themselves loses billions of dollars from what amounts to frivolous patent lawsuits. At one point they had to cripple IE for one of the patents. A patent if broad enough (and there is no legal limit to what is considered "broad", only "obvious") it a lawsuit could be enough to ban the sales of Windows or any software, until it no longer violates the patent. Plus billions of dollars in fines can be issued. This is not being alarmist at all, this is being realistic. All I am saying is how it is. I am not a moralist or an idealist. This is stuff that could directly affect me and probably anyone else who works with software.
    I don't see how software patents differe from other patents here? Sure, they have their own complexity, but the essence - protecting innovators and allowing them to profit from their inventions - is the same. If anything, the ease of reverse-engineering and copying is much greater with software, since a company wanting to steal a product and rerelease it doesn't even need manufacturing facilities like a hardware patent does. This isn't a matter of relying on government intervention instead of making a better product, but a case where the market forces are skewed in favor of the late-comer and the plagiarist.

  • User profile image
    Ray7

    Sabot said:
    Bass said:
    *snip*
    Ok, if you write a bit of code differently from Microsoft and come up with a result that is the same that's not patent infringement, Microsoft have a department to work with companies that are in this situation, they have coughed up millions (if not billions by now) of dollars to companies where they weren't the first to patent.

    Some people out there have made allot of money out of Microsoft, I actually do know one guy that has retired because he 'sold his company' to Microsoft so they could have his code (he had to register a company first for Microsoft to buy)

    If you want to use a piece of code that Microsoft has already patented but can't afford it, again, they are happy to cut a deal. In one case I read that Microsoft could clearly see the advantage to them of a good interoperability story, they let the fee slide.

    However, FAT32, you can't argue that you wrote a bit of code and it came out exactly the same as FAT32. Gee-whizz! How did that happen?!

    Then if the owner of that patent finds out and gives the person an opportunity to sort it out and tries to get in contact but gets stone-walled ... and this goes on for a YEAR ... this is clearly taking the mick! What recourse do you have over than to go legal?

    TomTom aren't a small company, they clearly sell stuff for profit, they charge £30 for a data-file that tells you where the 'safety-camera's' are, however this file is offered free by almost everyone else, infact the Transport Agency recommends that this informatinon is 'easily accessible' ... but still TomTom charge.

    So looking at the facts here I would advise that the Open Source posse would be better advised to pick on a story that better serves their cause!

    I have nothing against Open Source ... I have even written years worth of code back in the days when I was a true believer ... just now I believe it has a place ... not the place.
    Well said.

    If it were Microsoft infringing on someone else's patents, then I'm pretty sure that the same people would be making the same argument against them.


  • User profile image
    Bass

    Sabot said:
    Bass said:
    *snip*
    Ok, if you write a bit of code differently from Microsoft and come up with a result that is the same that's not patent infringement, Microsoft have a department to work with companies that are in this situation, they have coughed up millions (if not billions by now) of dollars to companies where they weren't the first to patent.

    Some people out there have made allot of money out of Microsoft, I actually do know one guy that has retired because he 'sold his company' to Microsoft so they could have his code (he had to register a company first for Microsoft to buy)

    If you want to use a piece of code that Microsoft has already patented but can't afford it, again, they are happy to cut a deal. In one case I read that Microsoft could clearly see the advantage to them of a good interoperability story, they let the fee slide.

    However, FAT32, you can't argue that you wrote a bit of code and it came out exactly the same as FAT32. Gee-whizz! How did that happen?!

    Then if the owner of that patent finds out and gives the person an opportunity to sort it out and tries to get in contact but gets stone-walled ... and this goes on for a YEAR ... this is clearly taking the mick! What recourse do you have over than to go legal?

    TomTom aren't a small company, they clearly sell stuff for profit, they charge £30 for a data-file that tells you where the 'safety-camera's' are, however this file is offered free by almost everyone else, infact the Transport Agency recommends that this informatinon is 'easily accessible' ... but still TomTom charge.

    So looking at the facts here I would advise that the Open Source posse would be better advised to pick on a story that better serves their cause!

    I have nothing against Open Source ... I have even written years worth of code back in the days when I was a true believer ... just now I believe it has a place ... not the place.
    Well whatever, this is the first time I have ever met people who support software patents. I'm sticking with the Bill Gates opinion on the matter.

  • User profile image
    Sabot

    Bass said:
    Sabot said:
    *snip*
    Well whatever, this is the first time I have ever met people who support software patents. I'm sticking with the Bill Gates opinion on the matter.
    Bass it is a little disrespectful just giving us the 'whatever' because we don't agree with you.

    The Open Source community has been very vocal in recent years, it doesn't mean however they are the majority. Please understand that software developers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, motivations, backgrounds, challenges ... and preferences. This means that one size cannot fit all. 

    There is enough room for Open and Closed source communities, we just have to work out a way that we can both get on with each other and benefit from each other to make the whole the development world easier because companies that make money from code aren't going away anytime soon and nor are companies that are happy to give it away but make their money another way ... and companies that do both.

    Just like we aim for interoperability between platforms, we should also aim to being interoperable in our communities. As basically, in these financially strap days we shouldn't decry anyone that wishes to make a buck as long as it's legal, decent and honest ... and fair.


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