Which patents exactly?
Are they like the Linux ones?
Microsoft has inked two more patent licensing agreements with Android hardware manufacturers. Onkyo Corp and Velocity Micro have each signed agreements with Redmond that will mean Microsoft receives royalties on Android tablets sold by the two companies. Details of the agreements were not revealed, but it's standard practice …
If the tom-tom one is anything to go by, they're patents for the FAT32 file system, which is required if you want to plug your device into a windows box and use it as a flash drive.
Windows doesn't natively support any file systems which they haven't incumbered with patents, so it's catch 22.
....and I have done quite a bit of "clicking" trying to find out. Whilst I have no doubt that MS is (in common with the rest of "BigCorp") fully capable of behaving like a patent troll now and then the question remains, are they doing so on *this* occasion. I realise that this will not earn me any brownie points amongst some of the S-key dyslexics here at El Reg but without that information it is impossible to *know* whether that is the case this time. Microsoft may very well have acceptable/unacceptable motivation for being tight-lipped about which patents are involved but why are the ones (several of whom are big enough not to need to automatically bend over for MS) who are refusing to pay up not letting it be known what the alleged breeches are if they are confident of their case? PR is after all and integral part of this kind of how's your father normally - why not this time?
..........We have not heard so much as a "woof" out of Mountain View so far, have we? When you consider that Apple went into bat recently (albeit somewhat slowly) for their partners it is striking that all we are hearing from Google is a deafening silence.
I bet the same people were celebrating when microsoft lost their office xml patent case. So patents are good when they work for you only. Patents and software copying is not something to be proud of. Should we let the Chess programmer off too?? He did copy other' people's code. Call it patent call it whatever I can't condone it. You don't know what exactly the case details are, there must be something very strong behind it.
I'm not sure that I have come accross anything made by either of those two comapnies, but it just narrows the choice down further.
I wasn't even aware that money from the sale of Kindles was used to support (legal) criminal activity (patent trolling extortion). That makes the choice between it and the Nook easier especially if they are resisting the blackmail demands,
They failed to mass patents, and now they have no ammunition in the patent war. If they tried to go on Microsoft now they would lose.
Google's lack of a patent war chest is why they go after Nortel's patent portfolio. Even though Microsoft are protected against those specific patents, having licensed them, it will go towards strengthening Google's positioning in the global patent war.
We live in a sad state of affairs when it is more important to have as many patents as possible rather than actually innovate. It is even sadder that trivial patents are allowed to exist.
Nice how MS have moved on to bullying the small fry.
Step one: Use your best buddy HTC to give the extortion racket a degree of legitimacy.
Step Two: Point to HTC and threaten the smaller players in to following suit.
Microsoft need to die. They do nothing but harm not only to the IT industry, but now they have moved on to the mobile phone and CE industries as well. Apart from some Kalahari tribesmen and the odd tribe in the Amazon there is hardly a person on this planet who has not been harmed by some degree, however small, by Microsoft and their sociopathic behaviours.
Kill them. Kill them with fire
If M$'s arguments were so weak it is highly likley that Google would have stepped in to support their customers. After all, Google wants Android to succeed. I'm pretty sure the "free-till-I-die" people like the OSF would be all over this if M$ didn't have at least some grounds. Unless we get some leaks from those lecensees already bitten, it seems we are unlikely to uncover exactly patents M$ clubbed them with, but that might change when they get round to a bigger opponent (such as Motorola).
>> Nice how MS have moved on to bullying the small fry.
General Dynamics is the fifth largest defense contractor in the world.
Guns. Tanks. Submarines.
But 34% of its revenues come from IT services and technologies. The first NSA certified smartphone, for example.
All this amd more you will find sketched out in the Wikipedia.
The geek can't argue that General Dynamics is a company without technical competence or financial resources.
It is not a company known for being easily pushed around.
If it sees a problem with Android --- it just might be because there - is - a problem with Android.
>Microsoft is adamant that Android violates its patents. The chief financial officer for Microsoft's mobile communications business in September 2010 told investors: "It [Android] does infringe on a bunch of patents, and there's a cost associated with that." This cost would seem to be legal and licensing.
I dont know if its some liberal interpretation from the author or if the CFO really said that Android specifically infringe on MS patents, but in any case it's most likely untrue. When someone has a problem with Android they go after Google, not after the hardware vendors. See the ongoing Oracle vs Google spat about Java.
What is more likely here is that the vendors include some VFAT-formatted storage (on *that*, MS has a few patents) and possibly issues with Exchange compatibility, as suggested by someone else in response to the previous article on that topic. MS has spent the best of the last 3 decades trying to persuade the world that Linux infringes on some of their patents (which would apply to Android, it being a Linux distro), but they always failed to make a real case. They just spread unsubstanciated fears, as a form of damage control. Trolls, trolls, trolls.
"......When someone has a problem with Android they go after Google, not after the hardware vendors...." Follow the money, dummy! If M$ sues Google all they get is a big bill from the lawyers and no doubt plenty of attention from monopolies commissions, and all Google have to do is point out they give Android away for free to stop a request for money. If M$ pushes Google too hard then Google may rewrite whatever bits are impacted by M$'s patents, and then release that code for free to other people that could use it to get round M$'s patents. If M$ get licence deals with Android handset vendors then they get a revenue stream, their patents saty valuable, and they don't run up massive legal bills either. Seeing as Android is growing so fast, it looks like a nice revenue stream to have!
Linux is different, I think you'll find the biggest anit-Linux swingers were actually SCO and Sun. Although M$ made lots of noise, their dominance in the desktop, netbook and server markets meant they didn't really need to be too aggressive and eventually they didn't need more attention from monopolies commissions. Phones are different, M$ can afford to throw their weight around without getting too much attention from the authorities as they are not leading the phone OS segment.
The fact that - so far - just about every vendor has coughed up quickly implies M$ has a good case, even if they are "bogus" patents. I suspect it is to do with FAT storage of one type or another, which M$ seem to have zeroed in on as a solid case for licence deals. What we need is for someone like Motorola to take it to court so the World+dog can examine the patents, then maybe someone clever can write something free to get round the patents.
> The fact that - so far - just about every vendor has coughed up quickly
> implies M$ has a good case
It does no such thing.
What it implies is that the US legal system is tilted in favour of patent owners and that it is cripplingly expensive to fight and win a case.
A company paying the Danegeld says nothing about the validity of any patents - it's just cheaper to pay off the trolls than to fight for what is right.
The core of your argument is:
>follow the money, dummy
That would usually hold. If you assume that Onkyo Corp and Velocity Micro have more cash than Google. I find this assumption, erm, quite bold, to say the least.
As the rest of your argument depends on it, I feel like I don't really have to discuss the relevance of Motorola (or, indeed, lack thereof), the dominance of MS in the server or netbook market (or, indeed, lack thereof), the need for new patent-free filesystems (or indeed lack thereof; there are plenty to choose from), the difference between Android and Linux (or, indeed, the lack thereof), or any such tiny details.
".....That would usually hold. If you assume that Onkyo Corp and Velocity Micro have more cash than Google...." No, what you need to see is which companies MAKE MONEY FROM ANDROID as they are the targets M$ is hitting. Regardless of how much money Google has from other activities, Google gives Android away free, it is effectively a loss-leader for them. Even the Nexus was an HTC jobbie in Google drag. Google make a sum total of zero dollars from Android. In fact, probably a loss, but a minus sign would just confuse you so let's stay with zero dollars. The handset vendors are the ones that make money selling handsets with Android installed. You got that? Zero dollars, versus lots of dollars. Concentrate, see which is the bigger figure? And that figure is getting bigger as Android has the fastest growing share of the market. So M$ will target the handset vendors.
Now, I suggest you stop reading here as the remainder of this post is speculation about business stuff and likely well over your head. Each company M$ signs up to their patent licencing scheme sends M$ money for every Android phone they sell, so that rapidly growing Android market share is a rapidly growing revenue stream to M$ for very little outlay. Each vendor signed up sets a stronger and stronger precedent to go clout more handset vendors with. It also increases the cost of making each Android phone, therefore allowing M$ to compete better with their own phone OS (in fact, you could say the patents revenue allows M$ to offset some of the cost of their own phone OS development and marketting, making them even more competitive). After all, M$ is not obliged to sell a licence to any handset vendor, so taking away say their FAT licence would kill their ability to use many external devices. Not nice, but then this is business.
Now, would an adult please take Pierre back to the ballpit?
someone to leak exactly which patents Microsoft are using as the tip of the wedge.
Whilst I believe they should be challenged, the likely ones are Fat32 patents that are often quoted, #5,579,517 and #5,758,352. Unfortunately, these look like they still have 5 and 7 years respectively to run.
Maybe Microsoft are trying to make sure they get maximum value from these by building up a long list of licensees before the patents become useless for trolling.
Now, to reformat the microSD card used in my 'Phone to ext2 or journal-less ext4. I don't need no steenkin' Windows compatibility to attach to my Linux systems!
Actually, interesting point. Why don't companies making Android devices ship an ext2 driver for Windows as part of the application suite for their devices, and remove Fat support? After all, most users are used to putting buckets of crap on their Windows systems as soon as they get a new device. Why not a new filesystem? I know that there will be problems using cards from other devices, but how often to most people do that? Most people use the microSD card as fixed memory, and I'm sure that many would have to think hard about where the microSD card actually is.
begin_quote "Actually, interesting point. Why don't companies making Android devices ship an ext2 driver for Windows as part of the application suite for their devices, and remove Fat support? After all, most users are used to putting buckets of crap on their Windows systems as soon as they get a new device. Why not a new filesystem? I know that there will be problems using cards from other devices, but how often to most people do that? Most people use the microSD card as fixed memory, and I'm sure that many would have to think hard about where the microSD card actually is." end_quote
Microsoft will make it very awkward for users to install said driver for alternate filesystem by holding up the signing process and possibly stalling the signing process for any other drivers from that company that need resigning... nVidia fell foul of Microsoft by supporting Linux too much with the open source GL drivers for nVidia cards... Microsoft retalitated by holding up signing nVidia's drivers for Vista...
They'll also sneakilly ensure that said driver when installed unsigned will result in deliberately lost files every now and then and the occasional scrambled filesystem... just to rub it in... try providing evidence of this underhanded deliberate crippling of alternate products will be extremely difficult and involve huge legal costs...
"Microsoft will make it very awkward for users to install said driver for alternate filesystem by holding up the signing process and possibly stalling the signing process for any other drivers from that company that need resigning..."
Technically, you don't need Microsoft's signature on a driver, even on 64-bit systems. You only need a signature from one of a small list of CAs and not all of those are part-owned by MS. :)
What you *can* get is a counter-signature from the MS quality control group. If you don't, there is a prompt from Windows to ask the user if they trust the vendor. Since the vendor is named and will presumably match the branding on the device the end-user has just bought, it isn't very scary to be asked "Do you want to install the vendor's driver for this new toy?".
If there is an issue with infringed patents Microsoft, man up and prove it by taking google to court. I know it will cost you millions instead of making you millions, but at least you won't look like criminals and then the next time you claim you're open source friendly it will at least sound feasible.
for Free Software Foundation to send their lawyers for an extensive licensing audit at those companies and see if the patents licensed from Microsoft are covering GPL'd software being actively distributied. If Linux infringes on something then all this must be made public so we can all work to correct it.
Those companies must know they are not allowed to sign patent agreements on behalf of the Linux community. When Microsoft came a their door claiming IP infringement all those companies should have turn to the FSF to make them aware of those claims. If they didn't do it and if indeed Linux is infringing some patents then they are themselves on the wrong side of the copyright law.
It is as simple as that!
Perhaps google could file a defamation claim against Microsoft? This would force them to name the patents in question or withdraw the infringement claim? Im not really well up on law but common sense says that its taking the piss to make claims and refuse to back them up whilst making money from them. Smacks of extortion to me.
> What's curious ... is that these three companies are not exactly the biggest OEMs
It's not at all curious. It's exactly the same process that every racketeer has followed since the dawn of time.
You start off picking on those that can't fight back. This gives you momentum - you've got the resource you get from the small-fry paying his protection money, and you've got the FUD from clueless commentators who think there might be smoe legitimacy in such action.
Only after you've got enough of those under your belt do you have a chance of frightening the real players into settling; before that, you'd be wiped out.
If Micrososft really had a case against Android, they'd tell us what it is - in public, with facts instead of innuendo. It would wipe out Android overnight, leaving them to clean up in what remains of the market.
Microsoft's silence is deafening...
If it wasn't for their patent system, things would be more like the games industry was thirty years ago... the winne was the person who presented the better version of a game. The stupid f*ck who couldn't make a game for toffee wouldn't be allowed to corner the market with a good idea, but lousy delivery.
At the very least, idea patent, especially in the fast moving market of tech, should only last for a very short number of years ... because todays new invention is tomorrows standard feature and ... if all of yester years new inventions continually have to be paid for, then the cost of any future product will rise exponentially as all these past inventions continue to be paid for.
Possibly licence renumeration should be halved every year until it reaches one penny per unit, and then die.
I avoid all MS products when possible and recommend alternatives whenever anyone asks. So when the shills realise this exists & start the big MS love-in...
I don't care when MS accidentally manages to put out a half decent product they are still a bunch of total wankers who need to be punched repeatedly in the face.
...because the Obama administration is already half-way through the process of completely re-writing the U.S. Patent-system, specifically to allow big corporations to patent anything that hasn't been patented before... whether they created it, or even if it has already been used by others. And, guess who one of the biggest supporters of this, so-called, "Patent Reform", was..? YUP... that's a big MS-YES..!
I' m 99% sure this is another VFAT patent thing, just like TomTom. That's why they go after the manufacturers, not Google.
Can we *really* stop using this braindead(*) FAT format and move to something more current and up-to-date? Please.
(*) Having been on the implementation side for (V)FAT in some projects, I can assure you it is braindead and really shows its age.
> But I get sued for the copyright infringement of the parts?
This is about *patents*. Not copyright.
> If *Android* is the problem
We don't know that it is.
All we know is that MS are targetting certain implementations of their competitor's system. Until and unless one of the defendants spills the beans on what they're being sued over, we can only guess at what their beef is.
I wish Google would carry on the work they're doling in de-patenting CODECs and the like and turn their hand to getting everyone to install EXT3 drivers (for example, insert free file system of your choice) on their Windows machines. That way those of us who don't want to pay Microsoft could be free of this scourge forever.
Call me selfish -- but I do not want to be forced to pay Microsoft or do without a phone, camera, USB stick, Media player or any other device which stores files.
Heck, Apple could even get in on this act and ban all versions of FAT from their devices, or do they use something else already? That would explain them forcing iTunes on anyone who wants to use one of their devices (yes, I know there are workarounds.).
but only on devices that attach to a Mac.
It used to be the first time that you attached an iPod to a computer with iTunes installed, it would check what the computer was, and if a Mac, format the iPod with HFS+, and if a Windows system, use Fat32.
I found this out when I inherited a nearly-but-not-quite broken iPod from my Daughter after the dog chewed it, and had to install HFS+ onto my Linux laptop to use it.
Soon worked out how to swap to Fat32 (what's the choice when considering two equally patent encumbered filesystems), even keeping the music loaded (ain't tar wonderful)!
Lots of calls for this, but Google only supply an OS for free and a spec sheet to allow Market and the like to be included.
Anyone can write software that impinges on hundreds of patents, but there's no profit in suing me if i'm not making money on it.
However, if someone implements my code on something that *is* being sold for cash monies, then thats likely to be the target - the one making some money.
Nobody who owns a patent wants you to stop making mnoey, they want you to make even more, but they want a slice of that pie.
From the companies being sued, it's just simple maths. Patent law-suit that will cost £M's to defend and potentially lead to even more money going out the door or pay a licence fee that means investors wont be worried about your stock tanking if you lose the case.
Investors will see the companies that have a licence a safer bet than those that look like they are about to go toe to toe with one of the richest (money and patent-wise) companies in the US.
> Nobody who owns a patent wants you to stop making mnoey
That is incorrect.
The patent system might have been set up so as to permit inventors to benefit from other implementations of their invention, but it is currently being used as a way to prevent others from shipping anything.
Just look at the number of times Microsoft has rattled the patent sabre in relation to Linux; they are trying to kill the product. If they had anything concrete, they might even succeed in certain jurisdictions - but if they had anything concrete, they'd have shown it to the world, rather than relying on FUD...
This patents nonsense is one of the reasons the USA will sink into oblivion and the East will be the new force.
Having software patents is just as daft as patenting novels. Imagine if Dan Brown obtained a patent on 'The Divinci Code' and then sued every other novelist who wrote a similar yarn.
In a sane legal system you copyright your software and anyone else can reverse engineer it which leads to innovation and inter-operability.
... in theory you can. Just as if a photographer took a picture of something, and then I later went to the same spot and took a picture in the same lighting conditions, then I could actually be liable for copying.
It was all a matter of degrees a few decades ago. Aconsoft brought out a PacMan clone that was so close to the arcade version that they were threatened with action; but they made enough changes so that it wasn't, and they didn't (get sued) but to my eyes, it's a perfectly acceptable replacement for the arcade game.
Now, if they were to try that, I'm convinced it would be a different story. The American system has allowed the IT industry to go patent loopy. and I agree with you; I think it will play a significant part in the death of America and the rise in the East; but perhaps for a different reason.
I read an article, possibly on El-Reg, that the Chinese were starting to get in on the patent game, and were starting to hammer the Americans with their own bat. It read to me that, if the Americans don't sort their house out, then they'll have the Chinese hammering them on their own turf, by their own rules. And that ... would probably be their just deserts.
> ... then I could actually be liable for copying.
This is not true.
If you take your own photograph, the copyright is yours - however similar it might look to someone else's. An attempt to sue your for copyright infringement would necessarily fail.
> The American system has allowed the IT industry to go patent loopy
Indeed it has. But patents and copyrights are very different animals.
 In the US, of course, that doesn't actually mean you'd survive such an attempt. US justice is cripplingly expensive even when you win.
Professional singers who happen to "sound like" better-known performers, HAVE actually been prohibited (by U.S. courts) from publicly-performing songs (that, otherwise, they had every legal right to perform). The rational was that the, voice of the other performer might be mistaken for the better-known singer... and were, therefore, duplicating the other singer's, more famous, rendition... thereby, harming their COPYRIGHT.
the gas that comes out of their butts because they think they can monetize it, let them get on with it, but only in the USA!
So far as anyone knows the rest of the world is not the 51st state, much as many within the USA may believe/wish it to be so. A lot of the problem is the complete spinelessness of other governments (and businesses), who still actively allow the US to call the shots as though it owns the world. Shock, horror: it never has, and it never will.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, the more 'underground', i.e. non-proprietory, "FOAD patent trolls" OSes and software generally worm their way into the everyday lives of ordinary people all over the world, the less grip the patent/corporate fascists/mobsters will be able to exert their greedy and malign influence.
i4i Ltd v Microsoft Corp. appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Case No. 10-290 (MS Word infringes on i4i patent, wins by losing.)
JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of the Court:
"Under § 282 of the Patent Act of 1952, "[a] patent shall be presumed valid" and "[t]he burden of establishing invalidity of a patent or any claim thereof shall rest on the party asserting such invalidity." 35 U.S.C. § 282. We consider whether § 282 requires an invalidity defense to be proved by clear and convincing evidence. We hold that it does.
... Microsoft and its amici contend that the heightened standard of proof dampens innovation by unduly insulating "bad" patents from invalidity challenges... And, they insist that the heightened standard of proof essentially causes juries to abdicate their role in reviewing invalidity claims raised in infringement actions. ...For their part, i4i and its amici, including the United States, contend that the heightened standard of proof properly limits the circumstances in which a lay jury overturns the considered judgment of an expert agency. They claim that the heightened standard of proof is an essential component of the patent "bargain,"
...Through it all, the evidentiary standard adopted in § 282 has gone untouched. Indeed, Congress has left the Federal Circuit's [*39] interpretation of § 282 in place despite ongoing criticism, both from within the Federal Government and without."
Easier said than done. The FAT storage issue is because the vendors that make the external appliances (iPods, USB storage disks, etc) all want to be as compatible as possible with a range of old and new kit. If the M$ offering was unpopular and junk, then FAT would be a distant memory, but it seems to be both popular and cost-efficeint (M$ seem to have got the pricing at a point where most companies fold rather than looking for other options).
As regards Exchange, I spent years crusading against it before accepting it as a necessary evil, and now use it with grudging respect. We tried several options, inlcuding Oracle Collaboration Suite (didn't get past user acceptance testing), IBM's awful Domino and Lotus Notes (truly horrible, suffered for years, was a party when the senior management said we'd go back to Exchange/Outlook), even trialled Groupwise (or "Groupunwise", as we dubbed it). At the end of the day, as email and calendars are truly a vital service, and the tie-in to BalckBerry BES was so good, we went back to Exchange/Outlook.
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