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Microsoft The Courts Windows

Chinese Court Rules Microsoft Violated IP Rights 237

Posted by kdawson
from the shut-down-the-pirated-versions-and-that-would-really-hurt dept.
angry tapir writes "A Beijing court has ruled that Microsoft violated a Chinese company's intellectual property rights in a case over fonts used in past Windows operating systems. The Beijing Number One Intermediate People's Court ordered Microsoft to stop selling versions of Windows that use the Chinese fonts, including Windows XP. Microsoft plans to appeal the case. Microsoft originally licensed Zhongyi's intellectual property more than a decade ago for use in the Chinese version of Windows 95, according to Zhongyi. Zhongyi argues that agreement applied only to Windows 95, but that Microsoft continued to use the intellectual property in eight versions of Windows from Windows 98 to Windows XP. Vista and Windows 7 are not involved."
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Chinese Court Rules Microsoft Violated IP Rights

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  • A bit late? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @05:59PM (#30136668) Homepage Journal

    Shouldn't Zhongyi have reacted a bit sooner?

    • Re:A bit late? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:03PM (#30136734) Journal

      You're assuming they knew. Just because the newer versions of windows have Chinese character support doesn't mean the company automatically knows its their font being used.

      The designers assumed Microsoft must have a license, and the rest of the company thought they were using someone elses font.

      • Re:A bit late? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:13PM (#30136864)
        So how is it a big deal then? If the fonts are so indistinguishable should they even be copyrighted?
        • Re:A bit late? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:18PM (#30136926) Journal

          I would contend that most fonts are indistinguishable from at least a half dozen other fonts.

          The guys over in the mac lab would probably disagree.

          I can't distinguish between all the supposed shades of blue in a large box of crayons either (or at least not without a side by side comparison).

          That's what I was getting at. Fonts can be very similar and the suits who would know about the licensing likely wouldn't know one from another without a side by side comparison. The designers would know their font at a glance but likely wouldn't know the licensing terms.

        • Re:A bit late? (Score:5, Informative)

          by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:53PM (#30137368) Journal

          If the fonts are so indistinguishable should they even be copyrighted?

          In the United States, you can't copyright a font, at least, not exactly. You can copyright the name and code you used to create a font but you have no legal recourse if someone buys a copy of your font, prints it out, traces it exactly, creates an identical font and sells it under a different name. That's why you can find so many versions of what looks like the same font, often with similar names. Geneva and Helvetica (Helvetica being a name sometimes applied to Switzerland) comes immediately to mind. Futura and Avant Garde are the same, even if the names are not so obviously similar.

          • Re:A bit late? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @09:50PM (#30138864)

            The legal part is correct, but the examples are wrong. Geneva is not a clone of Helvetica, and Avant Garde is not a clone of Futura.

            The former two are members of the same typographic family (the neo-grotesques), and Helvetica did much to popularize that family, becoming at one point the most popular typeface in the world. Geneva is a separate creation in the same style. The names are similar because Helvetica cemented the neo-grotesques' association with Switzerland; many later neo-grotesques were names with Swiss themes. If you want a Helvetica clone, take Arial; it has almost the same letterforms and exactly the same metrics, and was in fact designed to substitute directly for Helvetica.

            Avant Garde and Futura are likewise both in the geometric family, and Futura was likewise an early and popular example, but other than that, they are distinct. Futura has in fact been cloned as Twentieth Century, and Avant Garde as Century Gothic; both of the latter are virtually identical to the originals.

            Seriously, look at these typefaces at a decent size; they're similar in the same way that, say, Star Wars and Star Trek are.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by BrokenHalo (565198)
            In any case, I would have thought Microsoft could simply use the defence that it never sells Windows in that country, since the Chinese prefer to pirate it. ;-)
      • You're assuming they knew. Just because the newer versions of windows have Chinese character support doesn't mean the company automatically knows its their font being used.

        How could they not? Unless this company is using Linux, OSX (even less likely than Linux) or Win95, they would have to know.

        • by shaitand (626655)

          "they would have to know"

          Why? Just because its on their desktop? I doubt the suits who handle the licensing would recognize one font from another at a glance. Especially a generic font intended for operating system text as opposed to a stylish or graphical font. Without having them side by side I certainly wouldn't claim to be able to distinguish between serif, times new roman, arial, and courier.

          The graphics people would know instantly but they would just assume Microsoft had a license.

          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            Why? Just because its on their desktop?

            ..because one of their businesses is fonts. They had a vested interest in them as it pertains to Microsoft products. Its like Toyota not checking out whats inside the new hybrids that hit the market this year. It is inconceivable to think that they didn't know.

        • Who says they didn't know? They probably had some management turnover and nobody bothered to check the old contracts. Or maybe the lawyers took a second look and thought they could get more money.

          Novell almost forgot they owned UNIX System V, so it happens.

      • by fermion (181285)
        Which I why I just upgraded all my computer to MS Windows 7. I assume that someone somewhere has a licensee. We are a big origination with many disparate computer locations. We can't be expected to micromanage all the licenses. If it turns out we don't have the license, it is not like anyone will get a huge reward and we will have to pay punitive settlements, in addition to inflated licensing costs. MS, being the nice company they are, will just allow us to buy the license from the current price sheets
  • If one was really interested in revenue, the very next version ought to have been challenged.

  • by ifwm (687373) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:00PM (#30136678) Journal

    It fascinates me that China thinks they can simultaneously not give a shit about IP in every day practice, yet still think a ruling like this will have credibility.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:01PM (#30136692) Journal

      Yeah I had that same thought. The Chinese have as much standing to complain about IP violations as the United States has to lecture on fiscal responsibility.

      • The Chinese do care about IP, but only when it benefits their economy, not someone else's economy.

        Which is why there is an IP case about Chinese fonts, but illegal copies of Windows 98 to Windows XP being sold on the streets of China for $1 a CD each. If Microsoft were a Chinese company, the Chinese government would crack down on the illegal copies, but since Microsoft is a US company, the Chinese government turns a blind eye on the illegal copies of Windows 98 to Windows XP.

        You will find that Asian nations

        • by wisty (1335733)

          This is not correct. "Copy factories" will copy anything, including local brands like Hair and Oppo. I'm sure those factories get shut down, on occasion, but somebody has to press charges before anything will happen. It's like the US - "they" don't just crack down on companies that are infringing on another companies property. It's up to the businesses to police each other, and press charges if anything goes wrong.

          The difference is that local companies make hardware, or use more modern business models (ad d

        • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @05:34AM (#30141538)

          Which is why there is an IP case about Chinese fonts, but illegal copies of Windows 98 to Windows XP being sold on the streets of China for $1 a CD each. If Microsoft were a Chinese company, the Chinese government would crack down on the illegal copies, but since Microsoft is a US company, the Chinese government turns a blind eye on the illegal copies of Windows 98 to Windows XP.

          And western owned companies take a similar attitude to human rights. They won't have their people working in sweatshop conditions, as the public outcry would ruin them if legal action didn't first, but they are quite happy to deal with factories in countries further east that are run that way. Governments don't do enough about the issue because it isn't directly affecting their voters and the indirect affect on their economies and lifestyles (at least in the short-to-medium term, certainly on the scale of a political term) through cheaper products is largely positive.

          While China has no good case not to be called hypocritical on IP law enforcement and other issues, other nations have no such claim to even handed fairness in all issues either and the Chinese are likely to see (well, those who can see it, pervasive censorship will reduce the number that can) our calling their government hypocritical as, well, hypocritical....

      • by abigor (540274)

        I know, I broke out laughing when I saw this story. I've worked with a few Chinese offshore dev outfits who quite casually use GPL code on a regular basis - they just download it, strip out the license text, and change a few things around. When I remark on the copyright violation thing, their responses range from indifference to indignation.

        IP has zero value in China. So this case is pretty rich - I'll bet MS is shaking its collective head right about now.

      • by jabuzz (182671)

        Perhaps the USA might like to pay damages to the heirs of the Dickens estate for example...

        In the 19th century the USA paid little head to other peoples IP.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mike260 (224212)

      Pretty easy to make the same argument but with the opposite emphasis, no?

      • How is this insightful? He didn't even make a coherent point?

        Are you saying MS doesn't give a shit about IP?

        Why does that matter when they'reneither a sovereign nation nor a court of law, thereby making it impossible for their opinion to be interchangeable with the court of law of a sovereign nation?

        Please try to ACTUALLY MAKE A POINT in the future, you totally failed here.

        • by mike260 (224212) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:41PM (#30137208)

          The converse argument to that of OP would be:
          "It fascinates me that Microsoft thinks they can bug China about software theft while simultaneously stealing Chinese IP"

    • by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:06PM (#30136784) Journal

      If the case is legit and the rest of the world has IP agreements with them (pretty sure they do) then this should be upheld.

      The hypocrisy of China is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

      • Do unto others... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        In an ideal world, yes. Each case on its merits and all that but. But if a serial mugger chooses the wrong victim and gets kicked to death then so be it.

        Rough justice has a certain poetic appeal, don't you think?

        • by Vainglorious Coward (267452) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:17PM (#30136924) Journal

          But if a serial mugger chooses the wrong victim and gets kicked to death then so be it.

          In most places, the would-be victim would then be up on a manslaughter charge, which I think is not the analogy you were shooting for. Maybe try something with cars?

          • by Shakrai (717556)

            In most places, the would-be victim would then be up on a manslaughter charge, which I think is not the analogy you were shooting for.

            What 'most places' are those? In most American jurisdictions you are well within your rights to resist a mugging attempt with whatever force is reasonably required to terminate the encounter in your favor.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by pete-classic (75983)

              I'm a fervent supporter of self-defense rights. But let's revisit the quote he was referring to. "But if a serial mugger chooses the wrong victim and gets kicked to death then so be it."

              I live in Colorado, where we have the "make my day" law. One of the strongest self-defense statutes anywhere, ever. (This is for context, I'm well aware that it doesn't apply to a mugger.)

              But I would fully expect to be prosecuted (and very possibly convicted) if I kicked a mugger to death!

              Now, this, of course, depends on

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by idontgno (624372)

                "He kept getting up and coming after me!"

                Lacking witness testimony to the contrary, it'd be hard to prove that the "victim" (deceased ex-criminal) didn't bring his own unlamented death on himself. If the basic standard of self-defense is "you're entitled to defend yourself as long as the threat exists", you may not get to stop until the assailant isn't moving any more. And death by that kind of blunt-force trauma may not be instantaneous: one well-place kick to the upper abdomen could leave dead-boy with ru

            • by Ash Vince (602485)

              What 'most places' are those? In most American jurisdictions you are well within your rights to resist a mugging attempt with whatever force is reasonably required to terminate the encounter in your favor.

              Reasonable force would probably involve you not kicking him when he was on the floor and stopped being a threat. If you continued putting the boot in then your intent stopped being self defence and became revenge, at that point manslaughter charges are a serious possibility. Unless the guy is very unlucky or you are Bruce Lee, it is very hard to fatally kick someone while they are standing. Assuming you get them on the floor it is very hard to make the argument that it still self defence unless they are arm

        • by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:22PM (#30136976) Journal

          Do unto others is fine and dandy. Somehow I doubt ignoring IP recognition treaties is something any western nation wants done unto them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Thinboy00 (1190815)

            Do unto others is fine and dandy. Somehow I doubt ignoring IP recognition treaties is something any western nation wants done unto them.

            Unless I'm severely mistaken about what you're saying, it's already been done on to them.

            • by shaitand (626655)

              "Unless I'm severely mistaken about what you're saying, it's already been done on to them."

              China is not the only nation in the world nor the only nation western nations have IP treaties with. If nations welch on their IP treaties what is to stop other nations with more to gain from ignoring IP than they have to lose following China's example?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Archr5 (1097341)
            But it IS "done unto them" on a regular and consistent basis in China.

            the Counterfeiting industry in China pulls in 16 billion dollars a year and the government has done almost nothing about it. Now that they want to be involved in the WTO they're making some superficial efforts to "crack down" but so far it's been a pretty pitiful effort.

            The real problem is, Hardware manufacturers in the US and other countries have been enablers of this behavior for almost as long as it has existed. Some of the hardware
            • by shaitand (626655)

              'But it IS "done unto them" on a regular and consistent basis in China.'

              There are other nations in the world besides China. China produces things, the US doesn't produce anything but IP anymore. The US has a lot more to lose by setting a precedent of ignoring its reciprocal IP agreements than China does. Then most nations do.

              If we ignore our agreements with China today then we are giving every nation in the world a good reason to stop recognizing our IP.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by wvmarle (1070040)

              China is doing in a way what the US did about 200 or so years ago. (Most of) Europe had signed the Berne convention on copyrights; the US which was busy building up their own industry didn't.

              China is now building up their own industry - allowing them to look very closely to how it's done elsewhere helps a lot. That includes copying industrial designs and related infringements.

              This is though by far from the first copyright case in China. There are many going on - mostly between Chinese companies suing each

        • Would you please make it a car analogy?
      • The hypocrisy of China is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

        I think pointing out the arbitrary nature of law enforcement is ALWAYS relevant to any issue regarding the law.

        There's really no way to argue otherwise.

        • Arbitrary enforcement of laws pretty much defines corruption.

          The laws applies to all, or none. Selective application shows the laws are meaningless, just ways to punish some scapegoats.

      • by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@p ... t ['ay.' in gap]> on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:27PM (#30137064) Homepage Journal
        I can't disagree with the premise of your argument. Companies should be held accountable for their actions.

        That said, I'd really like to see a bar graph with two values on it, one for the amount of IP theft perpetrated by US-based companies, and one for IP theft perpetrated by Chinese firms. I imagine in might look something like this [imageshack.us].
        • by langelgjm (860756)
          Sure, it might look like that this decade. But, as you know, China's population is about four (or more?) times the size of the US's, and China's economy is still developing. Read up on the history IP piracy in the U.S. - when our economy was in its infancy, we essentially promoted piracy from abroad (there's a reason it took us so long to sign on to Berne). Dickens complained about how his works were being sold in the US and he never saw a penny.
        • by rastos1 (601318)

          I'd really like to see a bar graph with two values on it, one for the amount of IP theft perpetrated by US-based companies, and one for IP theft perpetrated by Chinese firms

          Ask and you shall receive [googlefight.com]. ;-)

      • "The hypocrisy of China is irrelevant to the issue at hand."

        No sir, the law is based on treaties, and I strongly suspect the reciprocal application of the treaty is in fact, a requirement of the law, as it is in most such treaties.

        So, if China is NOT applying the law adequately in everyday practice, then MS may very well be ableto use that as evidence that China isn't upholding their end of the treaty.

        So, you see, it IS relevant, despite your pontification that it isn't.

  • Hahahahah (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:04PM (#30136740)

    A Chinese company trying to pinch Microsoft for IP theft. That's funny.

    I'm no Microsoft fanboy, but I have to wonder what minuscule percentage of Chinese Windows installations are actually using legit copies of Windows. Based on my few years of time in Beijing and being in Chinese GOVERNMENT offices where every copy of the OS and Office that I saw used a pirated license key (yes, every last one), I can't help but get a big belly laugh out of this.

    I'd type this in Chinese, but I fear that would just be piling on. :)

    • by Rennt (582550)

      But Microsoft have been found to be distributing IP without a licence - this is a much more serious charge then garden variety software piracy.

      If Microsoft ignore this ruling then what basis does it have to insist that all those pirate versions be made legit?

      • How is pirating millions of copies of Windows not distributing IP without a license? I don't think you understand what the term means.
        • by Rennt (582550)

          In this context, "distributing" implies some kind of distribution system. I don't think that CD-R's on a blanket count.

          There is no Keyser Söze responsible for all those pirate installs, just millions of individuals. MS on the other hand, is solely responsible for the software they distribute, and every single copy of windows from 98-XP infringes. I wouldn't like to guess how many copies that is, but they have fraudulently accepted payment for each and every copy.

          • The Chinese government is responsible for decades of allowing people to literally set up stalls on the street selling pirated copies of Windows by the thousands. The monetary loss from IP theft perpetrated in this manner is a hell of a lot higher than the fraction attributable to the fonts. Your logic utterly fails.
            • by Rennt (582550)
              The Chinese government is responsible for a lot of things, but I don't see that failing to actively punish infringement makes them responsible for it. That is some pretty epic logic failure right there.

              The monetary loss from IP theft perpetrated in this manner is a hell of a lot higher than the fraction attributable to the fonts.

              Irrelevant to the case at hand. The whole piracy angle is a mis-direction. It's the licensed copies of Windows that are interesting here, and exactly what that licence covers (not the Chinese fonts apparently)

  • by Haxzaw (1502841) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:05PM (#30136758)
    MS should just stop selling Windows in China, it isn't like anybody actually buys it over there anyway.
    • will be paved with companies that don't think doing business in China is important.

      • by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @07:47PM (#30137954)
        Did you learn nothing from the dot-com bust? A business must earn money. If people pirate your wares and cause loses then what is the point? The Chinese Government pretends to care about copyright and patents while in actuality they care about who pays them the most to do something. By the time one endures all of the corruption, knock-offs, copying, theft, etc that goes on in China it always "just on the verge" of being profitable. Some businesses are profitable in China, but software is not among them right now and probably never will be. The Chinese are the ultimate pragmatists: inward looking, amoral, and opportunistic. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
        • Did you learn nothing from the dot-com bust? A business must earn money. If people pirate your wares and cause loses then what is the point?

          The people who pirate your wares today - especially when they're poor - may well be buying it tomorrow, when they become rich. And it's in your interest to make sure that they know to buy your stuff over competitors' when that day comes.

        • by Morty (32057)

          Because market share has advantages even if the market share is due to piracy.

          Think of Chinese ISVs and the OS/ISV catch-22. Right now Linux ISVs are relatively rare (on the desktop at least) because Windows is so dominant, and Windows is so dominant because most software is for Windows. Linux ISVs have trouble because of this catch-22. If the dominant local OS in a huge market like China were Windows, even if it's pirated, local ISVs would produce software for Windows. If Microsoft withdraws its produc

      • by evilviper (135110)

        The road to future global irrelevance will be paved with companies that don't think doing business in China is important.

        Why? India is on-track to have more people, has a superior political structure, and has a much higher-tech economy... they just don't assemble all our cheap crap at slave wages for us like China does, so they aren't as high profile.

    • by MiniMike (234881)
      No, the next update should just remove all Chinese characters, from every version of Windows. Finally an update that won't check for pirated versions....
  • Yesss... du du du, duh du dut dut Hammertime....

    Errr... I mean it is terrible that and IP abuser evil monstrosity... errr a respectable innovator like Microsoft would be the victim an IP attack like this.

    In China of all places ROFLMFAO

  • It's used all over, but no one's paying money for it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It could be that there are a lot of Chinese speaking people that don't live in China. Possibly. And they might use Windows. Statistically, they likely do. :)
  • Hmmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:17PM (#30136916)

    Will the capitalist running dog Steve Balmer kowtow to the Chinese after writing a self-criticism?

    Pass the eggrolls.....this is going to get interesting.

  • by Reason58 (775044) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:19PM (#30136944)
    Why fight it? It seems like a much cheaper solution would be for Microsoft to pay a fee for each copy of Windows sold in China.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Thinboy00 (1190815)

      Why fight it? It seems like a much cheaper solution would be for Microsoft to pay a fee for each copy of Windows sold in China.

      What, all five of them?

  • 10+ years? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis (642305) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:22PM (#30136986)

    >Zhongyi argues that agreement applied only to Windows 95

    It took them over 10 years to notice their fonts were also being used in 98, 2000, xp, vista, and 7???

    • by xigxag (167441)

      Nitpicking aside, font IP law can be a little tricky. In the US, anyway, you can't copyright typefaces [boingboing.net], that is, the actual representation of the font on the page. You can't even copyright bitmapped fonts, which are nothing but representations of typefaces. You can however, copyright scalable fonts such as TrueType fonts which are basically instructions (programs) on how to draw a font. In other countries the law tends to be more in favor of the creator, but even so, it's not unreasonable that MS could'

    • by prockcore (543967) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @08:27PM (#30138260)

      It took them over 10 years to acquire enough legit Windows licenses for their company to not be countersued.

    • by lanner (107308)

      poster didn't RTFA, mod down.

    • by khchung (462899)

      Perhaps it took them 10 years to find a Chinese court that will accept the case? That they are not optimistic nor rich enough to hope to win the case in US courts?

      Or maybe it is just a pawn in the latest volley between the US-China trade disputes?

      It could just be a small warning to US, that if they push too hard at China's IP law enforcement, they might find a few of their own companies being hit?

  • Wow, now if this isn't a prime example of the Pot calling th Kettle black, I don't know what is.
  • Only one thing to do (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dododuh (806858) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @07:25PM (#30137716)
    Clearly, Microsoft MUST withdraw WIndows 98, ME, 2000, and XP from the Chinese market, and refund the purchase money paid for said products. This should not cost Microsoft very much; after all, there can't have been more than one legitimate copy of each OS sold in-country. Microsoft would then be well-placed to declare all other copies of the affected products in the PRC illegal, and use the automatic-update feature to download a deactivating code. Microsoft should also apologize profusely to the font-sourcing company for the fact that their fonts would then be completely unused, then sell lots of Windows 7 upgrades. Oh wait, they can't actually sell Windows 7 in China, since they can't afford to pay for it due to the manipulated exchange rate for the Yuan.
  • Did I miss a russian reversal joke somewhere? Chinese government suing over IP infringement?

  • I hear that this sort of thing is a capital offense over there.

  • ...when you shoot your mouth off on our TV show.
  • by shentino (1139071)

    Irony at its finest.

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