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EU Targets Motorola In Antitrust Investigation Over Standards-Essential Patents 85

Fluffeh writes "Motorola Mobility has found itself on the receiving end of an antitrust investigation by the European Commission due to its alleged abuse of standards-essential patents related to WiFi, H.264, and 3G wireless networking. The EC investigation comes shortly after it launched a similar investigation of Samsung, which has been attempting to leverage its 3G-related patents against Apple. The investigation could be especially worrisome for Google, which was recently granted approval of its planned merger with Motorola."
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EU Targets Motorola In Antitrust Investigation Over Standards-Essential Patents

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  • Why is it that the only antitrust enforcement I hear about in the EU is against non-EU based companies? Is it really that case that no corporations inside the EU are big enough to be anti-competitive? Or is it that there are cases with EU companies that are not reported very much? Or is it that the EU differentially goes after foreign concerns? I truly have no idea, I was just wondering.
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @05:06AM (#39569665) Journal
      There are many cases [europa.eu] brought against European corporations. Most of those do not make the news across the pond, and many do not make the headlines here in the EU either. The same goes for antitrust cases brought against lesser-known US companies.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        There are many cases brought against European corporations.

        In many cases it's also an unimportant distinction. To see a multinational corporation headquartered in the US but with substantial presence, employees, infrastructure, business partners, suppliers in the EU as "a US corporation" as opposed to "an EU corporation" is a big mistake. The interests of a country in relation to a multinational company have little to do with where it's headquarters are located.

      • While I'm glad the EU still has some teeth (we sold out the DoJ years ago, hell they might as well wear hooker boots and stand on street corners now) I'm kinda divided on cases like this. I mean as long as they didn't "pull a Rambus" and went behind everyone's backs with the patents why can't they charge what they want? Nobody forced anyone to decide to stick their tech into a standard did they? It seems like the moral of the story is don't stick things you don't own into the standards.

        If they had signed

        • From the proceedings:

          [...] by seeking and enforcing injunctions against Apple's and Microsoft's flagship products such as iPhone, iPad, Windows and Xbox on the basis of patents it had declared essential to produce standard-compliant products, Motorola has failed to honour its irrevocable commitments made to standard setting organisations. In these commitments, Motorola engaged to license those standard-essential patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

          Sounds like Motorola actually did commit to offer licenses for these patents on a FRAND basis, then reneged on that commitment. Or so Apple and Microsoft claim. That is what the Commission is investigating; there's no ruling as yet, and perhaps they will find that whatever terms Motorola offered were fair and non discriminatory.

    • by cbope ( 130292 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @05:10AM (#39569671)

      It's because large US-based corporations doing business in the EU tend to try and get away with anti-competitive practices that are allowed to pass for "business as usual" in the US, where there is a much more permissive the-market-will-regulate-itself attitude.

      It makes headlines because we in the EU try to keep companies from pulling this shit over here, and largely it works.

      • Which is why your economy is in the shitter and ours...

        Oh, wait so is ours. There goes that line of conservative "logic".

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Europe is having to support former USSR style countries coming in to the regular Western society/mold. It's draining the major countries. Add to that the criminal behavior of the USA's financial sector, bringing down most of the world's economies, the EU members are having certain issues. But that doesn't stop them from addressing potential illegal business practices, even if the companies in question are USA based.

      • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @06:40AM (#39569979)

        Europe does a lot of stuff I like and a lot of stuff I don't like.

        What frustrates me is mankind's desire to reinvent the wheel.

        We have a fight in America over nationalized healthcare. Obamacare is a half-assed mix between true socialized healthcare like what is in pretty much every European country and our private system. Why reinvent the wheel when we can just copy what has, say, already been working quite well for the UK since the end of World War 2?

        We have issues in our schools with... everything. We're looking at more tests and more hours in school like Asian countries that are often near the top of world rankings. Yet Finland [nationmultimedia.com] is also very much near the top in those rankings but with shorter school hours and more professional teachers. They are doing something quite right and have been for some time. Why don't we have the people who designed this system coming over here and unfucking ours?

        I could go on with many more examples. I wish I could say "They can do it, so we should be able to do it as well!" and have someone respond "Right, let's find out how they did it!" rather than "Let's stubbornly try to figure it out ourselves and give private interests the opportunity to corrupt the system!" Related to business, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a great idea that gets nowhere because they are essentially stripped of any real power. Private interests got their hands in the cookie jar.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          > Why reinvent the wheel when we can just copy what has, say, already been working quite well for the UK since the end of World War 2?

          You might want to follow the UK debate on the state and sustainability of the NHS. Or Germany's debate on its health care. It turns out that the populous European countries have health care systems that aren't exactly the panacea some people believe they are. People are getting older and require care that is far more expensive across their life time than it used to be all

          • by iserlohn ( 49556 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @07:25AM (#39570195) Homepage

            The whole "debate" on the viability of the NHS is just a convenient justification for recently passed Tory-led reforms that many consider "privitisation through the back door". The increase in funding earlier on the last decade has started to show results, and heath outcomes are generally on the rise - why we are looking at another complete overhaul of NHS structure is beyond most observers.

            The NHS performs quite well compared to any other system in the developed world - it also allows the UK to have the lowest cost as a percentage of GDP (in the developed world, adjusted for demographics) due to the nationalised/socialised nature of the organisation.

            http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Surveys/2011/Nov/2011-International-Survey.aspx [commonwealthfund.org]

            • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

              Yeah, of course UK's NHS isn't perfect, but it is a hell of a lot better than what we have in the United States.

          • > Why reinvent the wheel when we can just copy what has, say, already been working quite well for the UK since the end of World War 2?

            You might want to follow the UK debate on the state and sustainability of the NHS. Or Germany's debate on its health care. It turns out that the populous European countries have health care systems that aren't exactly the panacea some people believe they are. People are getting older and require care that is far more expensive across their life time than it used to be all while people complain about tax rates.

            Okay, so yes, health care is becoming more expensive because demographics are changing.
            Not because public health care is inefficient, numerous studies have found that public health care systems are more efficient in terms of treatment on the dollar.

            In reality the discussion about public health care systems being expensive, sums up to the question of whether or not everybody should have access to health care. The alternative health care systems are more expensive if everybody should have access. Personall

        • by cbope ( 130292 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @07:31AM (#39570225)

          Well, for one thing, don't model your healthcare on the UK system. It's not exactly a pinnacle of socialized healthcare today. In fact there are a lot of problems with the UK system, not necessarily related to socialized healthcare as a whole. I would urge you to look to Scandinavian countries, such as Finland, Sweden and Denmark, for models on which a good healthcare system can be built. I live in Finland and can attest to both the good education system (do I have to mention that university education is *free*?) and a working socialized healthcare system where you don't end up in the poorhouse when you get ill. Prescriptions drugs cost a fraction of what they do in the US, and if you have a chronic illness that requires continuous medication, once you reach a very reasonable yearly cap, everything else above that is free.

          As a sidenote, since you brought it up, the Finnish education system is not based on rote memorization and testing of students to gauge progress. It's based on the teacher actually teaching the students (wow, innovative concept!) and taking the needs of each student into account. Each student is allowed to learn at their own pace, it's not forcing the entire class to learn at one speed and fuck the ones who can't keep up. It's also more objective based and learning of problem-solving skills that will be useful in a real job.

          I am very familiar with the US and Finnish systems, I'm an American living in Finland for 12 years. I bet you can guess which I prefer...

          • Is US "healthcare" companies lobbying to be able to take it over below a fair market price and exploit it, and the 70 or so MPs they are giving money too. It's a scandal.

            The basic system works, but politicians feel the need to interfere with it at the behest of McKinsey - who may, if you are paranoid enough, have been the stalking horse for the US companies. Labour set ridiculous and disconnected "targets" which invited abuse of the system - just as happened with education in Chicago, as reported in Freakon

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Please don't knock the UK NHS unless you have actually had to use it. I had a heart attack a couple of years ago in the UK: In hospital in 20 minutes, tests taken confirmed a heart attack. Angiogram next day (14 hours after the event), diagnosis while the angiogram was running, three stents fitted and discharged (and I was healthy enough to walk out!) the day after. Total cost to me UKP 0.0.

            After care, including medically supervised exercise classes for six months, follow ups at the hospital with the consul

          • by Xest ( 935314 )

            "Well, for one thing, don't model your healthcare on the UK system. It's not exactly a pinnacle of socialized healthcare today."

            Care to elaborate? It's always seemed pretty good to me, but then, maybe that's because I've actually used it, rather than read about it on the internet. The only problems with the NHS are that the current government seems to feel the need to fuck around with it despite the fact it's about the only thing the previous government got right. Well, that and sorting out the passport off

        • by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @08:03AM (#39570463)

          Because the US would never get away with passing such legislation in the path of the well-entrenched and well-funded empires that already exist -- especially when they can bill it as "communist" in the press to garner instant public disapproval.

          So they're stuck with such half-assed attempts that don't really please anybody, but are close enough to status quo that they also don't piss off the powerful people and organizations (or at least, not enough to keep fighting it.)

          But on the other hand, a half-assed measure is better than none at all. If nothing else, it at least opens the door to the possibility of further change in the future. One step at a time.

        • Why don't we have the people who designed this system coming over here and unfucking ours?

          Because that's not what the people in charge are trying to do. Corporate america is running the government. They choose which candidates we will even hear about, they write the laws and pay for their passage. They want students who are pliable and obedient. I got in trouble in third grade for looking at other children instead of putting my head down on my desk and resting quietly when I was finished with my work. When the unit's work is done, it shall enter an idle state until required again. They don't wan

    • by SilenceBE ( 1439827 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @05:13AM (#39569679)
      There are numerous antitrust enforcements or investigations against European companies. Even ones with very hefty fines. The reason you don't hear about it is that this mostly isn't picked up by non European news agencies.

      It isn't about it are "American" companies if that is what you are insinuating. I personally think it also has to do that in America companies get a way with a lot more (America is led by corporations imho) in the states and then they are confronted with a continent that put them more on a leash to more or less protect their citizens.

      The warranty thing with Apple and Europe is for me a class book example.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The understandable US-centric bias of /. (and the wider international media) means that only stuff with a US/international element gets reported here.

      It's also the case that there aren't that many EU-based abusive monopolies precisely because we've had sensible rules on this kind of thing for a long time, and companies know that they would find it difficult to get away with. We had (and still do have) plenty of national monopolies within the EU, but generally they are careful to keep (just) within the law o

    • If it's a suit in the EU against an EU company, with manufacturing distribution and sales in the EU then we won't hear about it here because it's a local thing. Much like local fights about water use rules for Boise, Idaho don't make the front page of /. If it has to do with Microsoft, Novell, or some other big multinational company, then it may come to the fore. Or not. Based on how relevant it is. The rule is "news for nerds, stuff that matters" and the rule is pretty bendy.
    • Is it really that case that no corporations inside the EU are big enough to be anti-competitive?

      It's because no corporations operating solely inside the EU are big enough for us to give a fuck about.

    • by Splab ( 574204 )

      It's a matter of what your local newspapers think is important, US ones carry US interest, Danish carries Danish interest. We (Denmark) have had quite a bit of fun being whacked over the head for our shady business practices...

    • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @06:59AM (#39570061)

      Why is it that the only antitrust enforcement I hear about in the EU is against non-EU based companies?

      Technically every enforcement action is against an EU based corporation - in order to legally do trade within the EU, you need an EU corporate presence. The European Commission regulates violations of trade law within the EU. The EU didn't levy fines against Microsoft US for antitrust violations within the borders of the United States, it levied fines against Microsoft Europe [microsoft.eu] for antitrust violations within the EU borders.

      I would guess that you haven't heard about other enforcement actions because you don't read the EU antitrust news? You chose to read US oriented news, which doesn't report on enforcement actions of foreign regulatory bodies against foreign companies? Also, the EU is made up of many nation states, each of which has its own antitrust regulatory body. The EU only gets involved in antitrust when the scale of the illegal activity exceeds the ability of the national courts to handle, or where the national courts have erred or require clarification. This is usually difficult cases, or those with international scope that involve large transnational corporations. EU-level enforcement actions are, by their nature, more likely to be against a large corporation trading internationally, which for tax and trade reasons may well be headquartered in the U.S. (although increasingly companies are choosing to be headquartered in Ireland or Luxembourg for tax purposes, see Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

      Is it really that case that no corporations inside the EU are big enough to be anti-competitive?

      The EU have issued over €12 billion of fines in the last 5 years against illegal cartels. How many of those cases did you read about in the U.S. press? This is not some conspiracy - it is entirely understandable, their readers (Americans) generally don't care about the EU fining a Belgian glass manufacturer, or Frankfurt Airport. They only feel an emotional connection when the target of the fine is the subsidiary of a U.S. corporation.
      2011/03/03 Siemens AG fined €397 million by EU antitrust [reuters.com]
      2012/03/29 Telefonica fined €152 million. [bloomberg.com]
      2011/10/25 Solvay fined €23 million [businessweek.com]
      2011/06/22 Telekomunikacja Polska S.A €127 million [europa.eu]
      2008/11/12 Largest every cartel fine from the EU - over €1.3 billion against a Japanese/US/English/Belgian cartel. [europa.eu]

    • Last I checked, the EU was more often to bring American companies to trial, and then when a verdict was given, they would apply a much higher fine than average. It's all on their website if you care to look. I haven't checked in the past couple of years, but that was the trend when I did check for myself.

  • Who is behind it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @04:58AM (#39569639) Journal

    We all know who is behind the complaint, and pretending we don't know slows justice. Did they remember to filter their involvement through a proxy like RBC again? Who knows, or cares. It's all transparent at this point. Did they remember to engage their plausible deniability?

    Frankly I don't care any more. The base problem is patent and copyright. If Y'all won't fix the real problem you're doomed to deal with the derivaties of your lack. That's just how it is.

    Do away with copyrights and patents and all these suits are moot. Me and the judges can toddle on down to the corner tav for some beers.

    • Well, it sure smells funny. In particular after seeing how the companies that have pressed for this investigation have been trying to lobby MEPs. [falkvinge.net] Maybe in the end they found out that it is easier to sway the commission than the parliament...
      • Lobbying the law enforcement agencies to investigate others seems to be the most effective use of a lobbyists time. Get 'em to just look will slow the opposition quite a bit, and a full-blown investigation will set their development back half a year. Microsoft, having been passed through the finest screen available, knows this quite well. They had to buy a Bush presidency to get clear of their antitrust investigation. Once upon a time Microsoft's policy was "we do business, and we let politicians do pol

        • They had to buy a Bush presidency to get clear of their antitrust investigation.

          It doesn't work that way. They had to get in bed with the powers that be, including the Bushes. So now BillyG is beholden to even more powerful masters. Now he pushes western IP not just to protect his own rights but also for Big Pharma.

  • And so it is that we see the moral of the story:
    Make sure all your patent are for wiggling your fingers when in contact with a screen displaying a picture, or for a shape first popularised in 300 BC.
    Actually do expensive research and get patents that mean something, and they will label them "standards essential" and prosecute you when the wiggly fingers and rounded corners bunch try to shut you down.

    • by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @06:38AM (#39569969)

      Actually do expensive research and get patents that mean something, and they will label them "standards essential"...

      Um, you do realize that Motorola submitted those patents for inclusion in the industry standard and were accepted into the standard in return for an agreement to license them for FRAND terms. They weren't labeled, against their will, standards essential - they asked to be included in the industry standard.

      Motorola isn't the victim here.

      • He was appealing to what's fair rather than what's legal. I agree with him - certainly not all patents are equal with regards to how much technical meat is there, and it's ridiculous that junk, non-technical patents end up being a more powerful legal weapon just because they're not 'essential' to a standard.
  • by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @06:32AM (#39569943)

    Motorola brought this on themselves. When you attempt to unfairly abuse FRAND patents against your market competition, you're eventually going to be investigated for anticompetitive behaviour. They abused their FRAND patents. They're being investigated. And they're going to be found guilty of anticompetitive behaviour and everyone knows it.

    And we should be happy about that.

    It doesn't matter what you think of Motorola, Apple, Microsoft, Google, or any other company. You may like or hate any of those companies - it doesn't matter. We should all be happy that Motorola's actions are going to be punished because this is precisely the sort of thing that limits innovation in an industry. This isn't about patents limiting innovation - this is about FRAND patents that are essential for involvement in an industry.

    If you don't know what FRAND patents are, you should make an effort to understand them because understanding them is vital to understanding this situation.

    FRAND patents are essential patents that are part of an industry standard that MUST be licensed to ANYONE who wishes to license them at _Fair, Reasonable, and Non Discriminatory_ rates. When a company gets a patent included in an industry standard, they agree to license them under FRAND terms.

    Motorola's actions have not been Fair, Reasonable, nor Non Discriminatory. They have targeted specific companies (that's discriminatory) with excessive licensing demands (ranging from 2.25% up to "your entire non-FRAND patent portfolio" which is not reasonable), all of which is not fair.

    You don't have to like or hate any company involved in this to recognize that Motorola is abusing their FRAND patents and everyone should want them to be punished for doing so.

    They have abused their FRAND patents. They are being investigated. They will be found guilty of anticompetitive behaviour.

    They overplayed their hand and now they are going to face the consequences.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      the patents they hold are for telecoms standards related radio tech and h264. it wouldn't be too far fetched to say that the valuable patents were ejected from the sinking ship motorola mobility is, along with the profitable sections of the company.

      then they just happened to find google to buy them. suckers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "When a company gets a patent included in an industry standard, they agree to license them under FRAND terms." [citation needed]

      "They have targeted specific companies (that's discriminatory) with excessive licensing demands"

      But have they? If they say: "here is the standard licensing terms that everyone else has agreed to" and you say "that's not acceptable, we want a better deal", how is that Motorola being unfair or discriminatory.

      • "When a company gets a patent included in an industry standard, they agree to license them under FRAND terms." [citation needed]

        I don't know if that's true in general, but in this particular case Motorola has actually signed a legal document to that effect. I've made a more detailed analysis with references to patents and other documents in question in a past post [slashdot.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is that the patents being leveraged against companies like Motorola are patents that don't require much R&D and so don't require a standards committee to come up with, but similarly aren't covered by FRAND as a result.

      Many of the things companies like Apple and Microsoft are using against their competitors are just as important to computing and particularly in the case of Apple, modern interaction, but don't have the FRAND badge.

      So you've got this absurd situation where Apple can prevent com

      • I agree with almost everything stated, but the idea that Apple has patents that required little R&D, but are still essential to the modern smart phone sure sounds like real innovation.

        As a corollary, before the iPhone, most smart phones were phones first. Therefore, the patents related to the mobile technology were reasonably a larger share of the device's value. Comparing an iPhone with an iPod touch in terms of price suggests that the "phone" is about 50-60% of the iPhone's value. A fixed percentag

      • by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @08:07AM (#39570495)

        What nonsense.

        FRAND works because you get a return on your investment - if your patent goes into the standard then *everyone needs to use it* so you are guaranteed a steady flow of income from your patent. The restriction on this is that as a condition for inclusion of the patent, you must licence it fairly to everyone who wants to use it. That is, you can't use that patent to keep a competitor out of the market, or charge them an outrageous fee etc.

        Apple's patents *are not in a standard* and as such are not "pretty essential to a modern smartphone". They differ from FRAND patents because Apple is free to do what it likes with them (licence them, not licence them, charge more for them to company A, less to company B etc) but equally it has no guarantee that anyone will use them at all, since they are not an essential part of any standard that goes into making a smartphone.

        You not need to contribute *anything* to be able to use FRAND patents. If I want to make and sell a phone then I do not need to have any patents of my own - I can simply assemble it from other patented technology that I am free to choose from (and pay for the use of those patents). However, what I am *not* free to choose are things that relate to a standard that is necessary for it to work as a phone (eg, GSM/3G/WiFi) - I *must* choose the patent package that covers those technologies whether I want to or not, and as such they are covered by a FRAND agreement to enable me to do so without Motorola saying "hmm, your phone is selling better than ours and we don;t like competition... that will be 2.5% of your revenue please".

        Now, where it gets complicated is that companies often offer their own (non-FRAND) patents in cross licensing agreements in payment, but it is *not required*. You can pay in cash if you really want. You don't have to have something to trade if you want to use a FRAND patent.

        It is not a competitive disadvantage to have a FRAND patent in a standard - it is quite the opposite, since it is a guaranteed and ongoing source of revenue. What you *cannot* do is then use that patent in violation of the terms of the agreement that you signed up for in exchange for its use by the standards body.

        Ultimately the best thing Samsung, Nokia, HTC, etc. could do at this point is jointly develop their own standards without the FRAND badge, use their combined market weight to force them into the industry and refuse to license them to Apple, so that Apple can't even have a smartphone that works on future networks at all. It's apparently the way business has to be done now.

        Wow. I mean... really.... wow. I'm not even... Fuck me.

        So, they should make phones that don't work with the current cell tower infrastructure? Who's going to pay to tear down all those cell towers and replace them with new ones? Of course, this assumes that the international standards body that sets the standard will accept this cartel's new, incompatible standard. Or they could just make their own network, and be unable to interoperate with every other cellphone on earth. Sounds like a great business model!

        • by http ( 589131 )
          Why is a standards body including chargeable, patented items in a standard in the first place?
          Who do I have to pay to build a 1/8" audio plug?
          • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

            Because where else do they get R&D for these things? Development of technologies isn't free, and it can't all come from government funded research etc.

            Companies sink time and money into developing things that they can submit for use in a standard precisely because they can recoup the cost if it gets included. The FRAND system ensures that it is all fair for all.

            I know we all want rainbows and sunshine and free shit handed to us on a plate, but it simply doesn't work that way for everything.

      • So you've got this absurd situation where Apple can prevent companies like Motorola using tech that is pretty essential to a modern smartphone, but Motorola is barred from doing the same -

        Is "slide to unlock" really essential to a modern smartphone? Who said "multitouch" was the only possible way of designing a touch UI? If its "pretty essential" for a modern smartphone to look and work pretty much like an iPhone then maybe Apple have a point about people stealing their ideas. Or manufacturers could think up new ways of doing these things. ISTR Samsung and Moto have already designed around some of Apple's UI patents - and others may get rejected as overbroad or knocked down by prior art.


    • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @09:01AM (#39570981)
      One of the claims by Apple is that Motorola is double-dipping in requiring licenses for some patents. Apple claims that they don't have to license some of the patents as they were in the stock chips they bought from Qualcomm and those patents covered with Motorola's license with Qualcomm. An analogy is that consumers or PC manufacturers don't license SDRAM directly. They buy the memory from the memory manufacturers like Micron who are responsible for licensing the patents. The two areas that will decide this is Apple's agreement with Qualcomm and Motorola's license with Qualcomm.
    • Motorola's actions have not been Fair, Reasonable, nor Non Discriminatory. They have targeted specific companies (that's discriminatory)

      I haven't read anything about Motorola targeting specific companies. The only other company that I have heard speak out is Microsoft, and according to them they have been paying Motorola the same fees that Motorola has been asking of Apple. The rates may be unreasonable, but they are not discriminatory.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Motorola tried to specifically require Qualcomm in a contract to exclude Apple from getting the same FRAND rates for Motorola's patents that everybody else was paying just so Motorola could try to pull this bullshit 2.25% fee. Blatantly anticompetitive behavior and almost certainly illegal.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Put the patents in the public domain, if the older patents are in everything then for the good of the technology and the future ideas that my be put forth from it.

    There must be a point that the good of the future ideas out way the short term power from them.


  • The more that governments, courts and lawyers get involved in the computer industry the higher the costs to the end user. Companies can not be in constant litigation or in taking steps to avoid legal entanglement without passing the cost to the end users one way or another. It doesn't matter if it is hardware, software, or simply regulating transmission or use of products all cost get passed on to the end users. The net may well be the one place where a wild, wild west mentality might be best for

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"