Free Software legal news weekly. October 24-31, 2011

Free Software and patents: Microsoft licensing of Android

Summary: With its tenths patent license agreement related to Android, Microsoft now claims to have covered more than half Android devices. 

  • Microsoft’s New Patent Agreement with Compal: A New Milestone for Our Android Licensing Program

    “Today, Microsoft  announced its tenth license agreement providing coverage under our  patent portfolio for Android mobile phones and tablets. Today’s  agreement is with Compal, one of the world’s largest Original Design  Manufacturers, or ODMs. Compal is based in Taiwan, where it produces  smartphones and tablet computers for third parties, and has revenue of  roughly $28 billion per year.

    Today’s announcement marks Microsoft’s ninth Android agreement in the  last four months. More important, today’s announcement means that  companies accounting for more than half of all Android devices have now  entered into patent license agreements with Microsoft.”

  • Microsoft collects license fees on 50% of Android devices, tells Google to “wake up”

    “After signing patent licensing  agreements with 10 Android vendors, Microsoft claims that it now  collects licensing fees for more than half of all Android devices.

    Across all types of  computing systems, Microsoft has entered into 1,133 agreements to  license its patents to other companies. Regarding Android specifically,  Microsoft has sued vendors that haven’t paid up, including Motorola,  whose mobile division is in the process of being purchased by Google.

    You are probably wondering which Microsoft patents have allowed  Microsoft to sign up all these vendors to license deals. While all the  details of licensing agreements aren’t made public, Microsoft’s  Android-related patents have been revealed in lawsuits. Examples include  patents related to “implementing both long and short file names in the  same file system,” a monitoring system that determines when to erase  memory from flash memory devices, and patents related to managing  contact databases and meeting requests.”

“SecureBoot,” UEFI and non-Microsoft operating systems

Summary: With the announce of Windows 8 requiring UEFI (the successor of BIOS), Microsoft have raised concerns about the probability that non-Windows operating systems will be impossible or unreasonalby difficult to install. However, at this stage, it is difficult to really know what will be required of OEMs.

  • UEFI secure booting (part 2)

    “What does this mean for the end user? Microsoft claim that the customer  is in control of their PC. That’s true, if by “customer” they mean  “hardware manufacturer”. The end user is not guaranteed the ability to  install extra signing keys in order to securely boot the operating  system of their choice. The end user is not guaranteed the ability to  disable this functionality. The end user is not guaranteed that their  system will include the signing keys that would be required for them to  swap their graphics card for one from another vendor, or replace their  network card and still be able to netboot, or install a newer SATA  controller and have it recognise their hard drive in the firmware. The  end user is no longer in control of their PC. […]

    The final  irony? If the user has no control over the installed keys, the user has  no way to indicate that they don’t trust Microsoft products. They can  prevent their system booting malware. They can prevent their system  booting Red Hat, Ubuntu, FreeBSD, OS X or any other operating system.  But they can’t prevent their system from running Windows 8.

    Microsoft’s  rebuttal is entirely factually accurate. But it’s also misleading. The  truth is that Microsoft’s move removes control from the end user and  places it in the hands of Microsoft and the hardware vendors. The truth  is that it makes it more difficult to run anything other than Windows.  The truth is that UEFI secure boot is a valuable and worthwhile feature  that Microsoft are misusing to gain tighter control over the market. And  the truth is that Microsoft haven’t even attempted to argue otherwise.”

  • The Linux Foundation has issued a white paper on the subject with Canonical.

IT Legal news of interest

  • How To Respond To A Cease & Desist Letter | Intellectual Property Watch

    This article mostly focuses on patents in the US, and some strategic advice may differ in other jurisdictions, such as in the EU.

    “US companies are generally  known to be much more litigious than non-US companies. Thus, if you are a  non-US company looking to enter the US market, it is prudent to  understand the nuances of responding to a cease and desist letter. While  cease and [...]  

    First, if you have a  legitimate reason for why you do not infringe the patent, consider  filing a Declaratory Judgment of non-infringement. This brings the  matter into court, but allows you to pick a more desirable venue. In the  alternative, if you wait for the US patent owner to sue you for  infringement, you may wind up in a less convenient location. This option  may be less desirable if you want to avoid litigation at all costs, but  it may be a good option to resolve the matter if the issue is  negatively affecting your business.”

  • Apple Must Prove iPad Patent Is Valid In Samsung Suit

    “Apple must prove that their iPad patents are valid in the US Federal Court case against Samsung. […]

    Specifically, the “court  believes that the iPad patent is invalid”. That minor statement has  shifted the burden of this case away from Samsung and back to Apple. If  they are not able to prove to the satisfaction of the court that they do  indeed have a valid patent for the iPad, it could undermine their  entire case against Samsung.”

  • Righthaven hit with largest fine yet: $119,488

    “Federal judges have not taken kindly to Righthaven’s “sue your way to success” business model. […]

    Nevada’s homegrown  copyright troll, Righthaven, started life with a plan to save the  newspaper business through infringement lawsuits—but nearly staggering  incompetence has left the company on the receiving end of fine after  fine from federal judges. Today, Righthaven was hit with a new fine for  $116,718 in legal fees and $2,770 in costs.”

  • Legalis.net  | JURISPRUDENCES  | Cour d’appel de Paris Pole 5, chambre 12 Arrêt du 26 septembre 2011

    A  Court of appeal in Paris had to judge about a case on DRMs (Digital  Restriction Management). This case is specifically about a company  selling “linkers”  for video-games consoles (Nintendo DS and Nintendo Lite) that are aimed  at circumventing “technical measures of protection” (DRMs in 2006  French law DADVSI) in most cases (thus aiding copyright infringement).

    “Considérant  qu’il  apparaît ainsi, que le délit de commercialisation de moyens de  nature à  porter atteinte à une mesure technique de protection d’une  œuvre est  établi en tous ses éléments à l’égard de Messieurs G. M., R.  L.et Z. et  de Madame J., dans les termes de la prévention, ces derniers  ayant une  parfaite connaissance que les linkers qu’ils vendaient  étaient  essentiellement destinés à permettre la lecture de copies non  autorisées  de jeux Nintendo, sur les consoles Nintendo DS et Lite, peut  important  qu’ils n’en soient pas les fabricants ; que de même ces  derniers  professionnels dans le domaine des produits informatiques ne  pouvaient  ignorer que les linkers étaient munis d’un dispositif  frauduleux  permettant de casser les codes mis en place par la société  Nintendo et  ainsi de contourner les mesures de protection ;”

    “Considérant  dès lors que les prévenus, en fournissant à leurs clients le  moyen de  commettre une contrefaçon, savaient au moment de leur  livraison que les  utilisateurs allaient en faire un usage frauduleux  dans la grande  majorité des cas ;”

Legal misc

  • The IPKat: Past historic 1: how patents for invention came from Venice to England… 

    “The English Patent as a  Reward for Invention: the Importation of an Idea”, was first published  in 1983 in the Journal of Legal History, but the version which appears  here is a reprint which was published the same year in the European  Intellectual Property Review. Its thesis is that the Venetian Patent Law  of 1474 — which is so often and so irrelevantly cited in so many  articles which have crossed his desk over the years — was probably the  inspiration for the petition of Jacobus Acontius to Queen Elizabeth for  protection for his own invention.”

  • Is your online game gold real? | Virtual Navigator 

    An interesting article about property and “online property”– questions raised by games such as World of Warcraft or Second Life, etc.

    “Finally, this debate has  been going on for a while because no one has definitively answered the  questions we have raised.  To be blunt, no one has really tried all that  hard, mostly because the law is pretty well tilted toward the creators  of the virtual worlds and social games that most virtual items appear  in.  It’s all in the contracts you read and agree to before signing up.   Which is why I think there needs to be a better system in place to  encourage and enable people to read the standard form contracts that we  see on everything these days.  We, as Americans, have gotten so used to  these annoying windows full of text that stand between us and the cool  service just beyond that we forget that they almost completely replace  the laws and protections we ordinarily expect to prevail.  I think it’s  an important debate and just because I point out questions that don’t  have good answers doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have been asked in  the first place.”

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