The SCO Group, a little while back, filed a motion asking for a delay in
the trial of its suit against IBM. According to SCO, IBM's foot-dragging
had slowed things to the point that SCO could not get its act together in
time. IBM has now responded; the full filing can be read in PDF format
. It is not particularly
surprising that IBM opposes this delay.
In fact, IBM has taken this filing as an opportunity to stiffen its
language against SCO in general:
Since this suit began in March, 2003, SCO has publicly touted its
evidence of IBM's alleged misconduct, but has resisted disclosing
the supposed evidence to IBM. In fact, SCO's Chief Executive Darl
McBride commented in an interview that SCO was 'fine to go to court
just on what we have before discovery.' ... In contrast to its
public assertions, SCO's conduct during discovery reflects a
remarkable pattern of delay and obfuscation.
It's not clear when the judge will rule on this motion.
A hearing will be held on June 9 on SCO's suit against
DaimlerChrysler, with a focus on Daimler's motion for a summary dismissal
of the case. As reported
in Groklaw, this case appears to have drawn a no-nonsense judge who
will try to see things through to a resolution in relatively short order.
The Free Software Foundation received a subpoena from SCO last year; they
have now posted
the subpoena on their site with some related discussion. It will
surprise few to see that the subpoena is impossibly broad; the FSF has no
intention of fulfilling it in its entirety. Being the FSF, they cannot
stop with just the subpoena, however:
In addition to answering and/or disputing the subpoena, we must
also educate the community about why it is that Linux was attacked
and GNU was not. For more than a decade, FSF has urged projects to
build a process whereby the legal assembly of the software is as
sound as the software development itself. Many Free Software
developers saw the copyright assignment process used for most GNU
components as a nuisance, but we arduously designed and redesigned
the process to remove the onerousness. Now the SCO fiasco has shown
the community the resilience and complete certainty that a good
legal assembly process can create.
The FSF is right to emphasize the importance of ensuring that stolen code
is not merged into free software projects; there is no doubt that more care
is called for in that regard. Claiming that the FSF's
copyright assignment policies headed off a legal attack from the SCO Group
seems a little strong, however. It seems just as likely that SCO was
repelled by the FSF's small bank balance. IBM, too, has strong rules
covering its code contributions; armies of lawyers are involved. Those
rules did not keep SCO from suing IBM, however.
Expect some fun around June 2, when SCO will announce its second
quarter results. One can only assume that said results will not be of
a kind that will revive the company's stock price, which fell below its
one-year low this last week. It will be interesting to see what the
company comes up with as a way of distracting attention from these matters.
Comments (5 posted)
The United States and Australia recently negotiated a trade agreement
which, like many US-driven agreements these days, requires Australia to
follow America's lead on numerous intellectual property issues. In
particular, the agreement forces the adoption of software patents and DMCA-like copyright
laws. Needless to say, free software advocates have been concerned about
this agreement; they have also been doing something about it.
On May 17, The Australian Senate Select Committee on the Free Trade
Agreement between Australia and the US heard testimony on the effects that
the agreement would have. The transcript is available as a 700KB PDF
file. Included therein are several pages of testimony from kernel
hacker Rusty Russell, representing Linux Australia.
Open source is particularly important to Australia because we are
good at it. We develop it, we distribute it, and our expertise
gives Australian business a competitive advantage over
international competitors--not just IT business but all businesses
that use IT. The Boston Consulting Group in a survey a few years
ago found that eight per cent of open source developers are in
Australia--hugely disproportionate to our population. We are in a
prime position to take advantage of the growth opportunities
provided by these projects especially the benefits of better, more
open infrastructure that open source provides. On the other hand,
the cost of chilling competition in this area will affect us
greatly now and we will lament the loss of our lead in years to
Unfortunately, there is no picture of Rusty in his suit and tie.
Many other witnesses appeared, including representatives of Electronic
Frontiers Australia, and the Australian Digital Alliance. Whether this
testimony will have an effect on the eventual ratification of this treaty
is to be seen; the fact that these issues were heard in this forum is a
good start, however. (Thanks to Michael Neuling for the transcript
Comments (3 posted)
Toward the end, it appeared that the European Council might not approve
software patents after all. Representatives of the German and Italian
governments had expressed reservations, and an objection from Luxembourg
forced a discussion on what was supposed to be a fast-track vote. But, on
May 18, the Council voted in favor of a patent directive which strips
out the European Parliament's changes, and which thus legitimizes software
patents in Europe.
Believe it or not, this lengthy process is still not complete, however.
The directive must return to the Parliament one last time for final
approval; this vote is likely to happen sometime in the (northern
hemisphere) autumn. If the Parliament rejects the Council's draft, then some
sort of compromise will be hammered out. Thus, it is not time for
anti-patent activists to rest, even though they are likely to be tired and
discouraged. Software patents in Europe are not yet a done deal, but
heading them off will require efforts to educate members of Parliament in
all EU member countries.
It is also worth remembering that elections to the Parliament are happening
in June. Voter turnout in European Parliament elections tends to be low,
so those who do vote have a relatively strong voice.
If you are able to vote in these elections, you may want to consider learning the
candidates' positions on software patents and voting accordingly. There is
yet time to make a difference on this issue.
Comments (4 posted)
If you read about Microsoft's patent
number 6,727,830, "Time based
hardware button for application launch," issued on April 27, 2004,
you're probably thinking that now you've heard everything. A patent on
double-clicking and on holding down an application button? How can the
Patent Office issue such a patent, since you can probably think of
several instances of prior art off the top of your head?
the abstract, explaining the patent:
A method and system are provided for extending the functionality of
application buttons on a limited resource computing device. Alternative
application functions are launched based on the length of time an
application button is pressed. A default function for an application is
launched if the button is pressed for a short, i.e., normal, period of
time. An alternative function of the application is launched if the
button is pressed for a long, (e.g., at least one second), period of
time. Still another function can be launched if the application button
is pressed multiple times within a short period of time, e.g., double
It drones on a while longer, but although they expend a great many
words, what they have patented is simply this:
- You have a device with a button. If you press the button quickly, you
get different behavior than if you hold the button down. Electric
typewriters have worked that way for decades, and portable CD players
- Press the button twice in a short period, and you get different
behavior. This, of course, is the "double click."
Linux systems are full of software which implements the claimed
Double-clicking is found everywhere. The "hold the button for different
behavior" can be found in places like the CD player.
The patent specifies a "limited resource" computing device, so they are
talking about PDA-type systems. The simple fact is that all computing
devices are "limited resource," however.
I asked my right-hand man on Groklaw, Dr Stupid, if he could think of
any prior art and he had no trouble in about 10 minutes coming up with
The general concept of short press and long press doing different
things is not new at all - many embedded devices use it. What the
patent is about is a particular use of this concept for launching
programs on a device. That is, clicking once on the icon launches the
program with one command line parameter, and a double-click a different
command line parameter. Or a hold down is yet another.
The very old FVWM window manager for Linux has a 'maximize' button
which works like this:
- Click-and-hold: stretches the window vertically.
- Single Click: stretches the window but does not cover the taskbar
- Double Click: stretches the window to cover the entire
So you have normal action, hold-it-down action, and double-click
action. It's still shipped with SuSE and most distributions to this day, I
To me, it fails the 'not obvious' test. Another one that I wonder if
it might be relevant is here:
'If you wish, you can distinguish single, double, and triple clicks.
A double click means clicking a mouse button twice in approximately the
same place. The first click generates an ordinary click event. The
second click, if it comes soon enough, generates a double-click event
Microsoft listed 8 prior art documents, each slightly different from
theirs. But then you find a long list of what they asserted was unique
to this patent. But, without analyzing this one in great depth,
certainly we can agree there are patents issued that should not be
issued, and the real question is: why does the Patent Office issue
them? And why do companies want them?
The answer to the first question is simple: they are understaffed and
there is a general policy that you do your best and later the courts
can determine if the patent was valid or not.
Why do companies want them? I asked that question of patent attorney
Dan Ravicher, head of PubPat, the
organization that is dedicated to going after patents that were wrongly
issued, and also asked about this specific patent, and here is what he
When I read those claims, I was like, sure, nice try. I
Microsoft would ever assert this patent. But, there is still value in
building up a portfolio because many valuations are based purely on the
objective factor of how many patents or how many claims one has, despite
the fact that a wide swath of them are useless. The valuation experts
aren't that sophisticated, yet.
A patent, in other words, is an
intangible, and you look good to valuation experts if you have a big
pile of them.
Does that mean there is no danger? Should something be done? He told
me that until Microsoft begins to assert the patent, which so far it
seems not to have done, the best thing is just to monitor it. "If
to assert this patent specifically, then we'll review the situation and
make a decision about how best to protect the public," he says.
Comments (8 posted)
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