Free Software legal news weekly. November 7-13, 2011

Software patents

Microsoft v. Barnes & Noble: Trivial patents lawsuit?

  • Groklaw – Barnes & Noble Exposes Microsoft’s “Trivial” Patents and Strategy Against Android ~pj Updated

    Barnes & Noble has done the world a tremendous favor, by pulling aside the curtain and revealing Microsoft’s patent campaign tactics against Android in lurid detail.

    It reveals the assertion of “trivial” and “invalid” patents against Barnes & Noble and some shocking details about an “oppressive” license agreement that would have controlled hardware and software design features that Microsoft presented, thus limiting to what degree Barnes & Noble could offer upgrades and improved features to its customers if it had signed it, features it says none of Microsoft’s patents cover. Microsoft worked so hard to keep it all secret, and I think you’ll see why. It’s ugly behind that curtain.

  • Barnes & Noble’s 29-page slide deck calls B.S. on Microsoft’s Android patent campaign – GeekWire

    A 29-page slide deck — made public this week in Microsoft’s patent lawsuit against Barnes & Noble — outlines, in great detail, the bookseller’s objections to the software company’s campaign to collect patent licensing fees from Android device …

Patents in the multimedia realm have always been an issue; recently with the battle for HTML5 video codecs between H264, backed by Apple and Microsoft, against Theora and WebM backed by Google, Opera, Mozilla and others. A lot of media and PR from proprietary companies tried to discredit Free Software technologies by means of patent infringement threats. This article about the Xiph.org foundation shows what legal strategy can be pursued; and how much this draws back innovation.

  • Xiph.org’s “Monty” on codecs and patents [LWN.net]

    One way to combat that is to document why the patents don’t apply. Basically, Xiph did enough research to show why the Qualcomm patents don’t apply to Opus and it is planning to release that information. It is a dangerous strategy at some level because it gives away some of the defense strategy, he said, but Xiph has to try something. By publishing the results of the research, Xiph will be “giving away detailed knowledge of the patents” and may be called to testify if those patents ever do get litigated, but it should counter the belief that the Qualcomm patents cover Opus.

    […] regardless of how Qualcomm responds, Xiph has something concrete (i.e. the research) for the money that it has spent, which is not really the case when taking the declaratory judgement route.

    New codecs:
    […] Finishing the Opus rollout and “responding to patent claims” have been higher on the list, but they will get to it eventually.

Software and copyrightability

  • Android’s Bionic Problem Is Not “Bogus”: Why Judge Alsup Got It Right And Linus Torvalds Got It Wrong

    In September, federal judge William Alsup denied Google’s request for a ruling that the Java application programming interfaces (“APIs”) were, categorically, not protected under copyright law[...] Judge Alsup ruled that each of the disputed files must be analyzed individually to determine whether it is protected by copyright. He also ruled that even if the individual files are ultimately determined not to be copyrightable, the selection and arrangement of those unprotected elements may nevertheless show creativity that is entitled to copyright protection. [...]

    That analysis leads me to the conclusion that Google’s approach doesn’t work. But if it does work, if the guardians of the Linux kernel and the GPL believe that it is acceptable to use an automated process to “clean” GPL’d headers or code so that you can re-distribute them under a non-copyleft license

  • Groklaw – Oracle v. Google – How to Proceed on the Copyright Issue II

    Oracle is not claiming that the code that implements the APIs infringes. See 9/15/11 Tr. at 51 (“We are not claiming that this code is not an—that this code is not an independent implementation.”). Instead, it appears to be claiming that Google’s code is an infringing derivative work of Oracle’s specifications because the Android source code implements the APIs described by those specifications.

IT news of legal interest

A newcomer in the very competitive “App Store” landscape.

  • NASA Plans Cloud Marketplace For Scientists – Government – Cloud/SaaS – Informationweek

    “Cloud services suite to expand with platform as a service, data as a service, and a new cloud computing storefront likened to Apple’s AppStore and Google’s Android Market.

    “NASA, already among the government leaders in cloud computing, plans to offer a cloud storefront where scientists will be able to determine their computing needs and access cloud services from a central location. […]

    “The storefront or marketplace won’t just serve as a single point of access to NASA’s cloud services. Scientists will also be able to enter details on their computing needs, and NASA will offer service suggestions based on those needs. For example, a prospective user might be able to detail the type of application they are using, storage requirements, and other variables, and the marketplace, in return, will make a suggestion about what service to use.”

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