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Microsoft, Apple, EMC, and Oracle Form Patent Bloc 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the axis-of-prior-art dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When Novell finally sold itself, part of the deal included the sale of 882 patents to a consortium backed by Microsoft. Thanks to a tip from Florian Mueller, it turns out that Microsoft's partners are Apple, Oracle, and EMC, which raises questions about where these companies are heading and what it means for the rest of the industry."
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Microsoft, Apple, EMC, and Oracle Form Patent Bloc

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  • First Post (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    SOVIET PATENT BLOC LOLOL

  • There can be only one.

    • like the old ATT?

      whats next comcast becomes the one cable co?

      Then Directv be comes the only satellite tv co?

      • by ArhcAngel (247594)

        The new ATT is actually Southwestern Bell or SBC Communications [wikipedia.org]? They basically made several power plays over the last decade and slowly but surely swallowed up all the other bells and eventually the original ATT. They simply decided to use the existing brand recognition ATT already had.

        • Yeah but they're now a kinder gentler AT&T cause the new "death star" logo is much less threatening looking that the logo of old. The new one looks kinda like a Christmas ornament.
        • by moeluv (1785142)
          Southwestern Bell is one of the companies that was created when the original AT&T company was broken up. Essentially one of the child companies grew and swallowed up most of the other "Bells". The company also controls what was Cingular Wireless and the original AT&T wireless. Is there really so much competition now that the FCC should have allowed these mergers? Considering the new AT&T encompasses not just landline but wireless, television and internet services i'm not sure. In some areas they
          • Is there really so much competition now that the FCC should have allowed these mergers?

            I don't mind these companies were allowed to merge with one another, what I don't like is that they are still government granted monopolies.

            Free the Airwaves!

            Falcon

            • by mattack2 (1165421)

              Are you serious? How do you prevent the various companies from simply using the same frequencies, thus making it unusable for anybody?

              I'm all for way fewer government granted monopolies (even cable companies, which of course could require multiple cable runs for competing companies, just like the telephone system originally), but for things that
              use the limited bandwidth of the air, there needs to be some regulation.

              • Are you serious? How do you prevent the various companies from simply using the same frequencies, thus making it unusable for anybody?

                I'm all for way fewer government granted monopolies (even cable companies, which of course could require multiple cable runs for competing companies, just like the telephone system originally), but for things that use the limited bandwidth of the air, there needs to be some regulation.

                Are you serious? How do you prevent the various companies from simply using the same freque

                • by mattack2 (1165421)

                  You mention "Fox". You're referring to Fox News, a CABLE channel. I am talking about the actual airwaves. When you want broadcasting, WiFi, emergency communication, cell phones, etc., all using the same limited bandwidth.

                  • You're referring to Fox News, a CABLE channel.

                    No matter how good you think you can read minds, you're wrong, I was not talking about the cable channel Fox New, Fox [fox.com] also owns TV [newscorp.com] and radio [foxnews.com] broadcasting stations.

                    Falcon

        • The new ATT is actually Southwestern Bell or SBC Communications [wikipedia.org]? They basically made several power plays over the last decade and slowly but surely swallowed up all the other bells and eventually the original ATT.

          Except they, SBC, didn't "swallow up" all the other baby bells. Bell Atlantic [wikipedia.org] was one the those baby bells but it merged with GTE which never was part of ATT, and the combined company changed it's name to Verizon. Another of the Baby Bells [wikipedia.org] was NYNEX [wikipedia.org] which was acquired by Bell Atla

  • Ahh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by itsownreward (688406) on Friday December 17, 2010 @10:52AM (#34588058)
    ...the axis of evil.
  • I, for one, welcome our patent troll overlords.
  • What it means (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:01AM (#34588200) Homepage

    Is that it's going to get a little bit harder to run a new business that makes computer products.

    I don't think there's anything we can do about this. The general sentiment is that patents make the market "fair" by "protecting inventors." The American people care more about a "fair market" than a "free market" today. If you suggest that no one has a right to make money from their ideas, only their actual products, you're seen as a cold-hearted bastard in the mold of Randroid who believes cigar-chomping fatcats should be able to keep guys working on The Next Big Thing in their garage from getting rich by stealing their ideas.

    Nevermind the fact that more often than not, what the patent system really means is that the cigar-chomping fatcat can sue the guy in his garage into bankruptcy 100 times over before he can get his product to market.

    • by alen (225700)

      no it doesn't, just license the patents. almost every new product has a built in licensing cost built in since it's covered by so many patents. Apple pays out a lot of money in licensing costs for every iphone sold. Estimates are $50 or so. you have to pay the GSM people, wi-fi people and a long list of others who developed tech for it. same with Windows, Android phones, x-boxes, playstations and almost everything else

      • Re:What it means (Score:5, Insightful)

        by metrometro (1092237) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:56AM (#34589012)

        just license the patents.

        ...and when Apple decides to compete with your new product, they will simply stop licensing to your company to shut you down. Remember Lala.com? Me neither.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          And just where can you license the PageRank algorithms (Google exclusive deal) or HP, Lexmark printer cartridge patents? Even if a license is available they can just make it stupidly expensive.

          • by MBC1977 (978793)
            The Google's exclusive use of the PageRank algorithm expires next year (unless Stanford lets Google renew it).
            • by PCM2 (4486)

              As I understand it, Google moved beyond the original PageRank algorithm long ago, so good luck with your PageRank-derived business.

        • by alen (225700)

          except apple doesn't license any patents to anyone, industry consortiums do. same concept as open source except there is money involved. if you want to make a new cell phone, license the patents from GSM, Wifi Alliance and whoever else and add on your own tech.

          • if you want to make a new cell phone, license the patents from GSM, Wifi Alliance and whoever else and add on your own tech.

            That still shuts out the little guy or gal working in the garage. How many have the millions of dollars to buy licenses?

            Falcon

        • by dhovis (303725)
          Apple didn't shut down Lala.com with licensing. They bought Lala (apparently for the engineering talent) and decided to discontinue their signature product.
        • by Tablizer (95088)

          just license the patents.

          ...and when Apple decides to compete with your new product, they will simply stop licensing to your company to shut you down. Remember Lala.com? Me neither.

          There should be an upper limit on the percent charged for licensing. Absolute forbiddence is anti-competitive.

      • >> you have to pay the GSM people, wi-fi people and a long list of others who developed tech for it

        Except if it's Nokia. Then, Apple does not have to pay anything, right? Right.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      not at all.

      if you join OIN now, they cannot sue you for any of these patents when they are acquired no matter what.

      most big companies are already members, so whoopty do.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        But doesn't it raise anti-trust concerns?

        Couldn't this "consortium" of patent holders be construed as limiting to a new player or a common "enemy"?

        • by alen (225700)

          no because it's been done for decades

          how do you think VCR's and DVD players were sold from so many manufacturers? companies come together, pool their patents and you sell your product and pay part of your revenue to the consortium that goes back to the members to fund future R&D. VHS, DVD, Blu-RAM, JEDEC, bluetooth, cell phones, wifi and a long list of other technologies are funded by royalties paid to patent consortiums

          • It's not just modern inventions, either. Look up the history of the sewing machine, and you'll see the same pattern of interdependant patents building on each other. Patent thickets and consortiums are nothing new.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            no because it's been done for decades

            That's only a half-truth. All examples that you give are application- or field-limited: the WiFi alliance only issues and collects patents for wireless networking, MPEG-LA only licenses video codec implementations, JEDEC only holds DRAM storage/bus technology.

            This consortium does not appear to have a clear goal, other than complete dominance over "computing" in the broadest sense. And without a mission statement (their current mission statement is "patents"), I guess that is exactly what this will be used f

        • by ArhcAngel (247594)

          But doesn't it raise anti-trust concerns?

          Couldn't this "consortium" of patent holders be construed as limiting to a new player or a common "Google"?

          FTFY

    • Re:What it means (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alvinrod (889928) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:24AM (#34588544)
      The big problem is that the tech industry moves so much faster than most other industries. By the time a patent on something has expired, it's likely fallen out of use or has been supplanted by something else. Either that or its a patent that covers something so vague that it can be applied to almost any product and it takes forever (by tech industry standards) for it to expire.

      There's also a horrible feedback loop because a few people have been burned by patent suits over asinine patents. To prevent this, companies patent everything and anything just so they can avoid patent trolls. If the company starts to go belly up it can bust out its patent portfolio and become a patent troll itself and the vicious circle goes around once more.

      I think that most of the /. community would agree that a patent system is a good thing, but that what we have now is horribly broken and badly in need of being fixed. Of course that's easier said than done.
      • by alen (225700)

        big problem is that even toys depend on hundreds if not thousands of patents. unlike the cotton gin or the original photo camera that was one product one patent or a few patents

        something like an ipod touch depends on wifi, file systems, MP3 and other audio patents, video decoding patents and the list goes on

      • by HiThere (15173)

        It's not just the tech. industry. We notice it more than most, because we're a recent industry. The problem is that the patent system doesn't scale nicely. Something that works great when there's 5 people doing development doesn't necessarily work so well when there's 500 people doing development, and can be catastrophically bad when there's 50,000 people doing development.

        There are other effects, but let's just look at one, credit assignment. At any one time there are only a certain number of "optimall

    • Is that it's going to get a little bit harder to run a new business that makes computer products.

      I don't think there's anything we can do about this. The general sentiment is that patents make the market "fair" by "protecting inventors." The American people care more about a "fair market" than a "free market" today. If you suggest that no one has a right to make money from their ideas, only their actual products, you're seen as a cold-hearted bastard in the mold of Randroid who believes cigar-chomping fatcats should be able to keep guys working on The Next Big Thing in their garage from getting rich by stealing their ideas.

      Nevermind the fact that more often than not, what the patent system really means is that the cigar-chomping fatcat can sue the guy in his garage into bankruptcy 100 times over before he can get his product to market.

      Wait, all you free software supporters actually give a flying crap about the market and small "garage based" software businesses now?? REALLY? Did anyone think free software competed with the cigar-chomping fatcats business???

  • They probably just don't want to worry about getting sued.

    I would expect most of these patents, and especially the ones that matter, will expire in the next couple years. Has Novell done anything worth a patent in the last 10 years? Patents only last 20 years.

    • by molnarcs (675885) <molnarcs&gmail,com> on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:16AM (#34588446) Homepage Journal

      They probably just don't want to worry about getting sued.

      I think I heard that line before... And then APPLE went after HTC waving ridiculous software patents, while their buddies at Microsoft covered the other big player: Motorola. Oracle is attacking Google directly...

    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      They probably just don't want to worry about getting sued.

      I would expect most of these patents, and especially the ones that matter, will expire in the next couple years. Has Novell done anything worth a patent in the last 10 years? Patents only last 20 years.

      Since when do you have to do anything (apart from file a patent, I mean) to have a patent?

      • They probably just don't want to worry about getting sued.

        I would expect most of these patents, and especially the ones that matter, will expire in the next couple years. Has Novell done anything worth a patent in the last 10 years? Patents only last 20 years.

        Since when do you have to do anything (apart from file a patent, I mean) to have a patent?

        I think he's trying to say that the patents must all be more than ten years old, since Novell hasn't done anything recently that was patent-worthy.

        Which implie

        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          They probably just don't want to worry about getting sued.

          I would expect most of these patents, and especially the ones that matter, will expire in the next couple years. Has Novell done anything worth a patent in the last 10 years? Patents only last 20 years.

          Since when do you have to do anything (apart from file a patent, I mean) to have a patent?

          I think he's trying to say that the patents must all be more than ten years old, since Novell hasn't done anything recently that was patent-worthy.

          But that's exactly my point. You don't have to do anything patent-worthy to obtain a patent, you just have to come up with something someone else might want to do, and file a patent on it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've heard that when you get enough patents together they can reach critical mass and be made into a Weapon of Mass Litigation.

  • Group Name (Score:5, Funny)

    by should_be_linear (779431) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:04AM (#34588250)
    Copyright and Research Office for Organized Knowledge Sharing
  • by NotInfinitumLabs (1150639) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:04AM (#34588254)
    They're all involved with litigation against Google (or Google products, like Android).
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      They're all involved with litigation against Google (or Google products, like Android).

      The McBoxes against the McClouds. The McBoxes are a bigger clan, but McCloud is more forward thinking.
         

  • by alvinrod (889928) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:06AM (#34588294)
    More interesting than the companies on the list is the company who isn't: Google.

    Strange that almost everyone involved in the consortium has some kind of axe to grind with Google. Both Apple and Microsoft have been involved in lawsuits with phone manufacturers who make Android devices and Oracle is suing Google over their JVM. EMC has fingers in several pies and some of those pies are ones that Google could conceivably want to sink fingers into as well so it's not inconceivable that they might target Google in the near future.

    Could just be a group of companies looking to ward off patent trolls, but I foresee that one or more of these companies will be bringing one or more of these newly acquired patents into the fray before too long.
    • What about IBM? I thought they got some patent nukes as well.

      • IBM does, but IBM tends to use them more defensively these days. There is an unwritten rule there if you don't go after IBM, they won't come after you. And it wouldn't surprise me if these folks already had patent pooling/cross licensing terms with IBM.

    • by dclozier (1002772)
      Google already has a license for these patents via OIN. About Those 882 Novell Patents: This is Where OIN Comes In [groklaw.net] Everyone can join OIN and get a license to these patents if they do so before January 23rd of next year. I highly recommend doing this since it is free to join. (as an individual, company or whatnot)
  • by Jerry (6400) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:07AM (#34588302)

    Microsoft tried to fight Linux with its "253 Patents infringed by Linux" portfolio, even supplying instructions on how to attack Linux in court to a would-be buyer. But, the cockroaches scurried away into the darkness when their plans came to light.

    The entire purpose of this group's combined patent portfolio will be to fight Linux and FOSS, with a goal of doing what SCO failed to do: gain "ownership" of the Linux kernel.

    • by alvinrod (889928) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:13AM (#34588414)
      Microsoft knew that they wouldn't win in court. They just made up a number that sounded scary and started making noise. Some good old-fashioned FUD-slinging. The worst they can do is appear menacing and make it appear there's a sword hanging over the head of Linux.

      Even if they could somehow "own" Linux, it wouldn't stop the FOSS community from removing the offending parts and moving something new that can't be shutdown.
      • It means we're eventually looking at one giant IT company that controls everything!

        "Microappacle-EMC" will have one OS, one set of server protocols, and one line of shoddy consumer goods at ridiculous prices.

        OMFG!

    • Even if they succeed, it would matter only in US, which is some 30% of global IT market and shrinking. Google can take Android away from US market, just like it did in China. That would immediately ring bells in Washington.
    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Pam Jones at Groklaw called it "Operation Kill Android". A very perceptive girl, that Pamela.
  • hold the patent on patent trolling.

  • Why the hell do I keep hearing the "Imperial March" in my head?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because you haven't risen to the level of seeing things as a rational human being so you still fall back on your childhood fantasies? That's my guess.
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Did you go to the dentist lately?

    • Have you just met the pope?

      • by Tetsujin (103070)

        Have you just met the pope?

        When I met the pope it was the "Terminator" theme song that got stuck in my head...

  • You know the score, pal. If you're not part of a patent bloc, you're little people!
  • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:16AM (#34588448) Journal

    Meanwhile, somewhere in near the future...

    - War Is Peace
    - Freedom Is Slavery
    - Ignorance Is Strength
    - Monopoly Is Competition
    - Fools Are Wise
    - Drugs Are Health
    - Torvalds Is Goldstein
    - Assange Is An Unlawful Informant

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You left out "Diversity is our Strength".

    • by imadoofus (233751)

      - All companies are equal, but some are more equal than others

  • So if Google is the 800 pound gorilla can 4 monkeys standing on each others shoulders take it on?
    • So if Google is the 800 pound gorilla can 4 monkeys standing on each others shoulders take it on?

      No, it takes 5 monkeys, and they have to combine to form Monkey Voltron ("gozaru" in the original Japanese...)

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday December 17, 2010 @11:37AM (#34588738) Journal

    What is needed is an arbiter that reads a patent, then tries to build what the patent describes, and if it doesn't resemble the item being sued for, then the patent is invalidated. The purpose of a patent is to secure for a limited time, the working knowledge of the item being patented. If it is not possible to build a working prototype from a patent, then the patent should be invalidated.

    I'm not sure that the idea of a "process" is sufficient for a patent. Especially if all it takes to get a patent is adding "on the internet" or "using a browser" or similar. That would be obvious to people skilled in the art ... would it not? Programming a process is also not sufficient because if it is a process, then the goal of programming would be to automate the process, and anyone skilled in programming should be able to code a process given enough information about the process.

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      I'm not sure that the idea of a "process" is sufficient for a patent. Especially if all it takes to get a patent is adding "on the internet" or "using a browser" or similar.

      You seem to be suffering from the delusion that the description of a patent on Slashdot is the same as the actual language of the patent. Most real-world patents comprise many pages of text, much of which is boilerplate and gobbledigook.

  • Any chance that such cooperation between companies meets the legal definition of collusion or trust?

    • Any chance that such cooperation between companies meets the legal definition of collusion or trust?

      I do not believe the current Supreme Court is inclined to recognize any "collusion" or "trust" regardless of the facts or the law.

  • But to me this indicates strongly that Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle see their future as dire as can be. Strange bedfellows is the epitome of eroding market and money making. How long till they all croak? IMHO all of them are irrelevant and their core businesses are not needed in the amounts of yesteryear. So rather than trying to come up with something better and new and commercially successful they must use patents... much like IBM does. The companies are over the hill and they know it. Same as KODAK

  • This could lead to a replay of Microsoft's dirty old past: getting monopoly status, forcing others to bow down to it, heavy-handed goons... Shouldn't the government look into it just like it would in cases of price fixing or lack of players in a market (due to some fat monopolist glutton controlling it)?
    • This could lead to a replay of Microsoft's dirty old past

      How so with Apple, EMC, and Oracle being part of CPTN Holdings LLC? Also Groklaw has the article About Those 882 Novell Patents: This is Where OIN Comes In - Updated [groklaw.net] saying those patents were licensed to Open Invention Network (OIN) in perpetuity by Novell. Anyone who joins OIN by the proposed 23 January 2011 closing date of the sell can use those patents.

      Falcon

  • We have seen the Four Horsemen of the Patentpocypse!

    We're doomed, DOOMED, as soon as they figure out their assignments within the group. They all want to be Conquest, and none of them want to be Famine.

    • They all want to be Conquest, and none of them want to be Famine.

      Nonsense. It's quite clear that Apple wants to be Famine, since being skinny is fashionable.

      The big question is, who would be Pestilence?

      • by zstlaw (910185)

        Obviously you have not installed a Windows OS recently. They have pestilence thing locked down.

  • It means the creation of a formal cartel that can exercise control over who is able to compete in the software industry. Members of the cartel, which also have vast armies of lawyers, will be able to effectively shut down any competing firm at will with crushing patent litigation, if the threat alone is not sufficient to do it. This is a cartel of legal rights, i.e. it monopolizes and entirely artificial "good", and thus exist purely through its influence of legislative and judicial processes.

  • by AntEater (16627) on Friday December 17, 2010 @01:53PM (#34590640) Homepage

    ...which raises questions about where these companies are heading and what it means for the rest of the industry.

    Total. World. Domination.

  • ... for any one of these, regarding the other three, respectively.

    Meet the "Ivy League" of patent grabbers.

  • by zQuo (1050152) on Friday December 17, 2010 @02:43PM (#34591392)
    This is a excerpted from http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1678028&cid=32489738 [slashdot.org] (not my post) which I think is very relevant.

    Before the United States government forced aircraft manufacturers and patent holders into the Manufacturers Aircraft Association [wikipedia.org] there was a patent war that resulted in lots of litigation in the United States but no aircraft manufacturing or innovation once the patent war started.

    When a real war broke out, WW1, the United States had to buy aircraft from France because the United States business ventures were more interested in lawsuits than making aircraft.

    After ending the patent war by forcing everyone into a patent pool the aircraft industry in the United States took off.

    There are other similar cases that plainly show how the patent system has been a failure from the beginning in serving the Constitutional requirements. To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts [wikipedia.org].

    Note that the aircraft industry had to be forced into a patent pool by the US Government. This is another patent pool, but unfortunately controlled by a few giants. It's totally necessary to get business done, but excludes everyone else.

  • Why cant we all just get along and share? Patent Pending... All Rights Reserved
  • Patents are Pokemon but for CEOS.

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