Free Software legal news weekly. November 1-6, 2011

Undeniably the most surprising news this week is Microsoft’s contribution (licensed as GPLv3) to Samba, free software for workgroups and a direct competitor to Microsoft Windows Server (Active Directory, print services, network storage, etc.). Note that this is not part of Microsoft’s agreement resulting from the EU case.

  • Microsoft contributes open-source code to Samba | ZDNet

    “As Chris Hertel of the Samba Team wrote, “A few years back, a patch submission from coders at Microsoft would have been amazing to the point of unthinkable, but the battles are mostly over and times have changed. We still disagree on some things such as the role of software patents in preventing the creation of innovative software; but Microsoft is now at the forefront of efforts to build a stronger community and improve interoperability in the SMB world.”

    “[Jeremy Allison] continued, “Now if they’d only stop threatening OSS over patents, and just tried to make money with it the same way everyone else does by building it into products (they’re nearly there I think), I think we could finally bury the hatchet :-).””

  • An update on UEFI secure boot

    “The worst-case scenario — a flood of “restricted boot” systems hitting the market that are incapable of booting Linux or anything other than signed Windows 8 — does seem unlikely. But we’re a long way from Garrett’s proposal as well. Users interested in complete control of their systems will need to keep an eye on this process, and make sure that OEMs are aware that having the ability to disable secure boot is not enough. In order to truly control your system, you must have a way to install your own trusted keys as well.”

Anti-trust and patents

  • EU Commission probes Samsung, Apple over patents | Reuters

    The first part of the article recaps the EU Commission’s declaration, in some context.

    “EU regulators are investigating whether Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc may have breached EU antitrust laws with patent infringement claims in their global legal battle over the lucrative smartphone and tablet market.

    “The two technology companies are embroiled in more than 20 legal disputes in 10 countries.”


  • Cabinet Office (UK) – Open Source Procurement Toolkit

    “The Government ICT Strategy states that “Where appropriate, Government will procure open source solutions.”

    “To support this, Action 3 of the Strategy says that “To create a level playing field for the use of innovative ICT solutions, the Government will publish a toolkit for procurers on best practice for evaluating the use of open source solutions.”

    “The purpose of this toolkit is to ensure that there is a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and that some of the myths associated with open source are dispelled. It is intended for those who need to consider, evaluate or procure open source solutions as well as anyone just wanting to know more about open source.”

Patents: UK & US

  • UK Patent Case Lowers Bar on Utility (Industrial Application) – Patent Law Blog

    “This decision focuses on EPC and UK version of the utility doctrine — the requirement that a patentable invention be “susceptible of industrial application”. In a unanimous decision, the court determined that US utility doctrine creates an unduly high bar of patentability. Thus, rather than requiring proof of specific, credible, and substantial utility at the time of filing, the UK court agreed that HGS’s genetic sequence coding for Neutrokine-α was patentable even though there was no known use of the protein at the time the patent application was filing.”

  • Promoting Innovation and Competitive Markets through Quality Patents | The White House

    “We understand that the concern about software patents stems, in part, from concerns that overly broad patents on software-based inventions may stifle the very innovative and creative open source software development community. As an Administration, we recognize the tremendous value of open source innovation and rely on it to accomplish key missions.”

  • Groklaw – Changing the Software Patent Landscape in the U.S. – What won’t work

    “Why not start a petition aimed at Congress, […] and why not aim for enough signatures to really get their attention. Say, a million. That would be a critical mass they would ignore at their peril. Apart from Congress, the single best hope for narrowing the scope of or eliminating software patents in the U.S. will have to come through the court system, ala Bilski. But it will take just the right case at just the right time, and it will require a tremendous amount of fortitude on the part of the Supreme Court justices who could face wiping away billions of dollars of book value from corporate balance sheets in one fell swoop. If you want to understand a bit more about the arguments that can be made along these lines, read the amicus brief filed by Red Hat in the case.

    “And let’s not let the Administration off the hook altogether. The Justice Department is responsible for enforcing U.S. antitrust (competition) law

Court cases: Spain

  • Spanish Firm Wins Tablet Case Against Apple

    “A small Spanish company has won a legal case against Apple Inc. and will now be able to sell a tablet computer that the U.S. technology giant had claimed infringes on the iPad patent.

    “The case, which represents a rare defeat in Apple’s globe-spanning campaign to protect its leadership in the lucrative tablet market from alleged iPad copycats, was launched a year ago when Apple obtained an injunction from a local court to ban imports of the NT-K tablet computer into Spain. […]

    “But in a recent ruling, a Spanish court removed the injunction, arguing that there are no legal grounds to stop the sale of the NT-K, according to court documents.

    “Nuevas Tecnologias said it plans to file a lawsuit asking for compensation from Apple for the losses incurred. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.”