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 ;”
- 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.”