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B&N Sought DoJ Inquiry Over Microsoft Patents

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the sanity-check-in-aisle-four dept.

Microsoft 162

Meshach writes "There's an interesting story at the WSJ about how Barnes & Noble lobbied the Justice Department to open a new antitrust probe against Microsoft regarding their abuse of the patent system. B&N saw Microsoft filing a slew of frivolous patents in order to stop the development of handheld devices, potentially affecting their Nook reader. The article mentions how Microsoft has a similar racket going with various Android device manufacturers, but B&N does not have the cash reserves to support similar licensing, and is fighting back." Reader qantr points out related news: Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has confirmed that Microsoft is demanding royalty payments over products running Android.

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162 comments

Time to buy a Nook (4, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997144)

Microsoft are nothing but vile patent trolls, screwing everybody, including their customers.

Support B&N with your wallets. Most of all, don't buy Microsoft products.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997190)

Say what you want about Microsoft (or Apple for that matter) but trolls they are not... at least not in the patent abuse sense of the word. They have been on the giving and receiving end of the game and while they "net benefit" from the system as it is, they have certainly been harmed in some measurable ways.

What they are doing, however, is using the patent system to supplement and maintain their income. I think proper references need to be cited on this, but I seem to recall something about how Microsoft is making more money from Android devices than they are from their own mobile hand-held devices. Microsoft isn't even trying to compete very hard, but they are making products for sale.

(In Apple's case, they seem to be using the system to keep their products on top... it's a perverted form of "competition" at least... very perverted)

Trolls (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997252)

What they're doing is avoiding a lawsuit against Google, and instead going after licensees of Android. If they went after Google, Google would fight it and thus reveal the origin of the inventions they are claiming.

They come to some arrangement, which looks like it's really a fake agreement (e.g. you pay us $45 million, and we pay you $45 million back in marketing and discounts - which is what the Samsung deal is rumoured to be). They they present the payment to them as a license fee for Android to create a false cost associated with Android.

All done under NDA so the details of the fraud are not revealed and investors are kept in the dark.

Re:Trolls (5, Informative)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997530)

if you read up on the B&N complaints about Microsoft it was indeed about how they insisted and even tried various tricks to get B&N to sign an NDA or act as if they were still under one. The B&N lawyers kept saying we don't need any NDA to read public patents so just give a list.

What you stated sounds just like the Microsoft I've known for 20+ years and would not surprise me.

Too bad so many think Microsoft is doing this to make money from the licensing.

LoB

Re:Trolls (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998024)

Right now Microsoft is making more money on andriod from secert NDA patent deals with HTC, Samsung, etc than all of windiws mobile.

That is a fact. Why dont you learn some more on just what those secert patents are? Oh wait they are secret patents you cant now what it is your paying for ever.

Re:Trolls (2)

blarkon (1712194) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998344)

Google can jump in anytime. MSFT has said to the orgs licensing Windows Phone that if someone tries to take them to court over patent infringement, MSFT will come to court with them and will fight the suit. Why GOOG didn't offer something similar to its licensees is beyond me.

Re:Trolls (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998556)

Possibly because Google didn't actually create most of Android, or even own it eg. the Linux kernel, they just bundle together source code and release that. Also android licensers often want to modify the user interface and add their own base GUI apps. Google can not offer patent protection for a user interface that it has no control over. On the other hand they could offer patent protection for an unmodified android install, it would even be a good way to encourage the manufacturers not to divert from the mainline

Re:Trolls (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998572)

Why GOOG didn't offer something similar to its licensees is beyond me.

Google themselves license patents from Microsoft for the phones with the Google brand name.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997270)

B&N refutes Microsoft because the litigation is about some few patents regarding cosmetic features from an operating system that has a much more number of features and is asking the equivalent in money of the entire license of Windows Mobile.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (5, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997426)

For MS it's not about making money from Android, thats a side benefit... Their actual goal is to drive up the cost of Android and to dissuade companies from using it at all. Their end game is to get users locked into their platform instead.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997990)

it's only driving the cost up if you're not at the same time selling ms phones.

sad, isn't it? the mobile business is still held by the same few big manufacturers, by means of ip-racketeering.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997476)

Oh please, Microsoft is every bit a patent troll as Apple is.
What the hell do you think this attack on Android is ? Party time ?
No one wants WP, no one cares a fuck about WP. So what does Microsoft do, instead of competing by improving WP they extort the competition in such a way as to make that shit of WP less costly than Android.
Microsoft is a criminal enterprise. They have been convicted in the past and it seems time has not changed their modus operandi. They need to be striked down and if the US won't do it then maybe the EU will be up to the task.
Mobile phone makers don't want the same situation of the pc space where Microsoft made all the profits and left mere cents to everybody else. They all learned (except Nokia). And since the market doesn't want WP what to do, what to do ? Sue everybody into submission. Way to go Microsoft, a shit company. Always was, always will be; Bill Gates or not Bill Gates at the helm.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (4, Funny)

md65536 (670240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997484)

I seem to recall something about how Microsoft is making more money from Android devices than they are from their own mobile hand-held devices.

I'm making more money selling lemonade on the street than ms is making from their phones. But then, I've sold a few glasses of lemonade.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997748)

...and you didn't have many R&D expenses.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998468)

do those glasses have rounded edges on them?

don't worry, your apple police squad is on their way there. yes, we used the gps you have to aid us in finding you.

I wonder when the first terrorism-related thing happens due to some vp or ceo or some whackjob losing it over being patent-troll sued.

people in this society are on edge, in many ways. the more you push people, the more we can expect problems to happen.

either we de-escalate things so that we don't have everyone on a hair trigger, or we pay the piper when the idiots freak out.

we are most definitely in a pressure cooker right now. the patent stuff, the net neutrality stuff, everything else that is encroaching our freedoms and chosen way of life is going up and up and up.

maybe some guy with a gun and a 'manifesto' that makes the papers will finally call attention to this madness. sure seem that we are not able to work this out 'on our own' in peaceful terms.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (5, Insightful)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997776)

Abusing a ridiculous patent about "long file names" to extort money from people who are using that technique only to provide interoperability with their monopolist OS looks much like patent trolling to me - the difference is that they do have a product, which the market rejected, implementing that feature, unlike typical patent trolls. But the intentions and the result are the same.

Google, for example, are playing in the same game and by the same rules: they buy patents and pay licenses, but I haven't seen them using their patent portfolio for offensive purposes yet.

One need only look at the patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997242)

to say WTF

if android uses VFAT.. they have to pay royalties?

what about the principles behind the EUs decision to force microsoft to license protocols for interopability, shouldnt the same apply to VFAT?

this is ridiculous

Re:One need only look at the patents (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997370)

MS did invent both the original FAT filesystem and it's derivatives, and still holds some important patents - most noteably one on storing both a long filename and a short filename in one filesystem for backwards compatibility purposes. It's also the reason behind ExFAT: Everyone knows that FAT32's days are numbered, and Microsoft wants to make sure that what replaces it is a filesystem they still hold patents on, and not some open standard. ExFAT will eventually come to replace FAT for removeable media, simply because it's the only FAT-replacement that Windows supports without third-party extensions.

Re:One need only look at the patents (1)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997786)

Actually Windows supports UDF out of the box, too. And it works well, much better than FAT, almost in every case where FAT is used today.

Anyway, it's too late to care about that, because Microsoft managed to inject exFAT into the relevant standards for SD cards, so we'll have to keep dealing with them in the near future, whether we like it or not.

Re:One need only look at the patents (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998602)

I knew it works on optical media, but wasn't aware it supported UDF on hdd-like removeable media.

Re:One need only look at the patents (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998672)

Only some systems do... if you still run XP systems, exFAT (FAT64) is a no go without additional downloads

Re:One need only look at the patents (0, Troll)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997548)

what about the principles behind the EUs decision to force microsoft to license protocols for interopability

Microsoft did try to license them. B&N refused to talk. Here we are.

Re:One need only look at the patents (5, Informative)

andydread (758754) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997862)

Microsoft is using gangster extortion tactics. [geekwire.com]

In Barnes & Noble's own words to the court:-
At the meeting, Microsoft alleged that the Nook infringed six patents purportedly owned by Microsoft. Microsoft had prepared claim charts purportedly detailing the alleged infringement but insisted that it would only share the detailed claim charts if Barnes & Noble agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”) that would cover the claim charts as well as all other aspects of the parties’ discussions. Noting that the patents were public and that the infringement allegations pertained to Barnes & Noble’s public product, Barnes & Noble refused to sign an NDA.

Insisting that an NDA was necessary, Microsoft discussed the alleged infringement on a high level basis only. Microsoft nevertheless maintained that it possessed patents sufficient to dominate and entirely preclude the use of the Android Operating System by the Nook. Microsoft demanded an exorbitant royalty (on a per device basis) for a license to its patent portfolio for the Nook device and at the end of the meeting Microsoft stated that it would demand an even higher per device royalty for any device that acted “more like a computer” as opposed to an eReader.

After sending the proposed license agreement, Microsoft confirmed the shockingly high licensing fees Microsoft was demanding, reiterating its exorbitant per device royalty for Nook, and for the first time demanding a royalty for Nook Color which was more than double the per device royalty Microsoft was demanding for Nook. On information and belief, the license fees demanded by Microsoft are higher than what Microsoft charges for a license to its entire operating system designed for mobile devices, Windows Phone 7

So Microsoft is not trying to license their trivial, dubious software-patents under Fair Reasonable and NON Discriminatory terms. They are trying to drive up the cost of open source beyond what it would cost to purchase windows from them. They are sleazy slimy bullies. Will no longer use or recommend their products to ANYONE.

Re:One need only look at the patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998050)

You know, I never considered myself an MS hater/basher, but reading stuff like that makes me wonder if I should become one :(

Re:One need only look at the patents (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998122)

Every company in the industry that enters into licensing talks with any other company signs NDA's before doing so. Both parties interested in talking want the NDA.

B&N didnt want to sign the NDA because B&N wasnt interested in talking. Thats does not mean extortion.... what it means is that because B&N have no patents of their own, that they are going to have to pay full price. A lawsuit delays paying for the technology that they use, which is what they want... a delay.

Re:One need only look at the patents (4, Insightful)

Raenex (947668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998390)

Both parties interested in talking want the NDA.

If you feel you're being shaken down for money, signing an NDA doesn't benefit you. Would you sign an NDA with an extortionist?

Re:One need only look at the patents (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998156)

Do we know how much MS changes for Windowws Phone 7? I can easily imagine them giving it away under the circumstances.

Re:One need only look at the patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998214)

why are forming some giant theory about microsoft based about what barnes and noble is self-servingly saying?

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997258)

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

What if the player is fraudulant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997350)

MS don't have a true patent claim, even under the rigged game. If they did, they'd go after Google instead of this back door NDA thing.

It's perfectly OK to hate the player if the player is creating a fraudulent market.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997962)

>Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Yes and/or no, maybe.

(Zeroeth of all: hate is a strong word. It doesn't imply rationality. Don't hate. Be opposed with a calm, matter-of-factly demeanor.)

Sure, the game is the fundamental problem and if it wasn't for one player filling a void on the board, then another one would, as long as the game is so fundamentally flawed that you can be real bad even within the frame of the rules.

But what does not hating the player (or the legitimate, albeit immoral, actions of said player, at least) accomplish?

The right thing to do would be to do the right thing even if the wrong thing is allowed.

So, in conclusion:

Disapprove of the actions of the player. Disapprove of the game.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997994)

Should have said legal, not legitimate. Legitimate would mean the actions were ethically correct (right?), when the point was they aren't, even if they may be legal.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997314)

I'm curious what the actual patents are, if it's just using FAT on SDCards, can't these devices format to ext(something) to work around that?

I also feel a bit sorry for Microsoft in regards to tablets, BillG was pushing for all this YEARS ago, WinCE, whilst not good, was quick to... hmm.. rip off? the layout of other stuff whenever possible, When WinCE was codenamed... Pegasus? Showed they were really trying to get into the PalmPilot Factor, when before they were aiming for the mini-netbook layouts. If they'd have kept the pressure up, and admitted that the Windows UI, as is, just isn't suitable for the formfactor it was aiming for, they'd have been perfectly positioned to take over the tablet market before ANYONE else got a look in I suspect. Boss in.. 2002 I think it was had a Toshiba that had a reasonable touchscreen you could swivel around and scribble on too, but there just wasn't the software for a long time to really make use of it.

But MS DID do a huge amount of research, tried a massive amount of things out on what would be needed, which is why they've got the patent folio they have. I wish they'd have used them to make a decent tablet 6-7 years ago, but that's MS without BillG now. Unable to 'get' the paradigm shifts occurring in computing.

Not fully a patent troll, they're using a lot of the things they patented, but they've not really invested in the hardware that others have. Nor made the deals (until now with WP7.5) that could have placed them in a far better position to compete.

Of course, that's not to say they're using these patents to bash over the heads of all the WindowsPhone capable producers for decent licensing rates, but as the market has spoken so far, it just doesn't appear to want WindowsPhone. As MS continues to fail, I can see them raising the Android cost until the phone makers start getting just as aggressive back and go after Nokia, MS's newest subsidary. (and it really is only a matter of time before Nokia gets absorbed).

MS were worried the Playstations in the home were going to take over the market for PCs, they missed the phones, and are scrambling to recover. Patent wars will continue to grow.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997404)

For a phone's internal storage, no problem - they aren't even FAT, no problem there. But SD cards aren't internal storage. They are used to transfer files too. A means of putting data on and off a phone. Let's just say that Android did as you propose and put the card as ext3. All works very well, until you plug the phone into a PC with a USB cable and select storage device mode. At which point... nothing happens, if you're running a Windows desktop, as the vast majority do. Because Windows only supports but three filesystems on non-optical media: FAT(12/16/32), NTFS and ExFAT. All three of which are MS-developed and MS-patented. Sure, Android could run without FAT, but only by abandoning Windows compatibility - and in a world where almost everyone runs Windows and most of the rest run OSX (Which also supports only those three plus the apple-patented HPFS varients), that simply isn't an option.

The ideal solution would be for someone to design an open-standards unpatented FAT alternative and everyone to support that, but there isn't a snowball's hope in Hell that Microsoft would build support for such a filesystem into Windows, and no-one is going to bother designing it when they know that no removeable-media filesystem can catch on without Microsoft's blessing.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997510)

Forced incompatibility is anti-competitive, microsoft should be fined and a consent decree issued to correct the fraudulent behaviour

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997552)

Plug in the device, first thing it does is download the drivers to translate the files as needed, whilst still keeping them on ext3? (though probably a patent for that too).
Bah, when does FAT patent run out?

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997718)

Download... how? The only way you are getting files from USB device to Windows host is via FAT (or NTFS, or ExFAT - same problem). Besides which, adding filesystem support couldn't be done by just any user - only by a local administrator account. Fine for those on their home PCs, not so fine for those who want to quickly plug their phone in at a friend's or at work.

That said, it might be a good idea for Google to design and endorse an open patent-free FAT-replacement - as they are the only company who has even the slightest hope of getting it widely adopted. It's a long shot even for them though.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997806)

For windows machines, the device would ID itself, download the drivers, then be seen in whatever format it needed to be.
For macos/linux, ext partitions would be read natively?
Don't know, just throwing it out there, that it might not be needed to be in FAT format, if the device you plug into can easily (operative word!) download the required drivers to get access.

That'd cover most people perhaps, then a market download to cover FAT access if you really need it (and for camera access?)

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998016)

MS would never do that. Like Apple, they will only support their own defaults. NTFS has been around for years, it's the ubiquitous filesystem on external HDs, but even today Apple will not have NTFS drivers and require third party purchases costing $45 before you can access NTFS volumes. Windows is the same, MS will not work to have their users have access to alternative files systems.

Today we have HDTV and media players playing media directly from USB HDs. The machines themselves use ext3, but they will only support FAT and NTFS on the USB drives. Even that isn't enough for Apple to add NTFS.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998580)

Actually OSX does support NTFS, but only in read-only. Can't write them with stock OSX. You can install fuse though, that'll do it.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998084)

Great idea now you just have to get Microsoft certify this driver and to incorporate into Windows update ...

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

Pembers (250842) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997880)

Until a few years ago, you could've (ab)used the autorun feature to make that work, but since malware writers finally got around to exploiting the gaping security hole that autorun represents, Microsoft now disable it by default. So you're back where you started.

Support for long filenames in FAT appeared in Windows 95, so any patents on it ought to expire in the next few years. FAT32 came in with Windows 95 OSR 2 - I'm too lazy to look up when that was released, but patents on it probably haven't got much longer. I don't imagine it's a coincidence that Microsoft are pushing a replacement for these filesystems.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998368)

how do you autorun if you don't have fat?

well, you could use iso format, for read only drivers partition I suppose.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

Pembers (250842) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998666)

A small partition at the start of the drive formatted as FAT16 or FAT32 that contains the drivers. The rest of the space is a big partition formatted as ext-whatever. I have a 256-meg USB drive with a floppy-sized partition that contains some sort of driver for Windows 95 or 98, presumably so that you can format the big partition without making the drive useless with any computer where you didn't install the driver.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997888)

and in a world where almost everyone runs Windows and most of the rest run OSX (Which also supports only those three plus the apple-patented HPFS varients), that simply isn't an option.

As a side note, without plug-ins OS X also supports UDF and UFS for external storage. Both are workable solutions if you only use non-windows platforms.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997670)

Dont blame microsoft.
These are the silly rules that the silly patent system and goverments have decided on.

Complaining to MS or others wont help. If nothing else they are victims too.

If you want to fight the patent system, you should start filing stupid patents, the more the better, and sell them to patent trolls.
Patent system will not change unless it becomes too expensive not to fix it. So go out and abuse it more. Nothing else can bring an end to the insanity.

Embrace the trolls as your agents of change. Register silly patents and give to the trolls until the system collapses. That is how to win/change.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997836)

Dont blame microsoft. These are the silly rules that the silly patent system and goverments have decided on. Complaining to MS or others wont help. If nothing else they are victims too.

No they aren' t. Other companies are playing with the same rules but they don't act that way. Example given: Google.

Microsoft are just being Microsoft, as they always do and as they've always done [wordpress.com] .

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997988)

Other companies are playing with the same rules but they don't act that way. Example given: Google.

Funny that Google (aka Motorola Mobility) just won a patent suit against Apple in Germany. Notice that you didn't notice.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

nedwidek (98930) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998290)

Google does not own Motorola Mobility yet. That is purely Motorola's fight.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998338)

explain how google is able to give motorola patents to htc

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998304)

They were sued by Apple first. Notice the difference.

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998434)

Motorola shot at Apple first on October 6th, 2010.

Apple didnt fire back at Motorola until October 29th, 2010.

Ah, but those are U.S. lawsuits.

We can discuss the ones strictly in Germany, where again Motorola shot first in April, 2011 while Apple didn't fire back until May 27th, 2011.

The facts suck, eh?

Re:Time to buy a Nook (1)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998610)

Google didn't buy Motorola until August 2011.

Geeks don't have $$ (4, Informative)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997154)

So the next best thing we can hope for is that the interests of various corporations align with the general geek consensus for an open Internet and the right to develop software:

For an open Internet: Google
For the right to copy (not infringing copies): the Consumer Electronics Association.
Against patents: B&N, Google/Motorola, various Linux foundations.

Re:Geeks don't have $$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997180)

Actually, it's much worse than that.

Next time you go die in a war, think about who lobbied for it.

If money directs justice, does justice really exist?

Re:Geeks don't have $$ (2)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997216)

Next time you go die in a war, think about who lobbied for it.

I already did that last time I died in a war.

Re:Geeks don't have $$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997460)

Greeks don't have $$.
Corrected that for you!

Re:Geeks don't have $$ (3, Interesting)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997562)

I believe Canada, UK and Europe don't recognize software patents. Does this mean some software will not be legal in the US?

From Wikipedia:
United Kingdom patent law is interpreted to have the same effect as the European Patent Convention such that "programs for computers" are excluded from patentability to the extent that a patent application relates to a computer program "as such". Current case law in the UK states that an (alleged) invention will only be actually regarded as an invention if it provides a contribution that is not excluded and which is also technical. A computer program implementing a business process is therefore not an invention, but a computer program implementing an industrial process may well be.

From another source:
In June 1993, the Canadian Patent Office replaced its August 1, 1978 guidelines and published them for the "information and guidance" of practitioners. They were:
    "1. Computer programs per se are not patentable.
        2. Processes which are unapplied mathematical calculations, even if expressed in words rather than in mathematical symbols, are not patentable.
        3. A process and/or computer program which merely produces information for mental interpretation by a human being is not patentable, nor does the process or program confer novelty upon the apparatus which uses it.
        4. Claims drawn up in terms of means plus function which merely produces intellectual data are not patentable.
        5. New and useful processes incorporating a programmed computer, are directed to patentable subject matter if the computer related matter has been integrated with another practical system that falls within an area which is traditionally patentable.
        6. The presence of a programmed general purpose computer or a program for such computer does not lend patentability to, nor subtract patentability from, an apparatus or process."

Re:Geeks don't have $$ (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998120)

Yes, this means some perfectly legal software is illegal (or needs additional patent licences) in the USA

The problem for a company like Google is that they are US based and so will be hounded in the US courts, and for other companies it means they will have difficulty selling into the US, or having to produce two versions of a product on for the US market and one for non-US

Do you remember the two versions of browsers, one with strong encryption one without ... due to US export laws ....

I'm Glad (5, Insightful)

sunr2007 (2309530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997214)

that B &N is showing MS that they have balls which other big companies like Samsung , HTC din't. It doesnt matter whether B & N succeed or not atleast they have shown the intent to fight Troll called MS. This could be the next David Vs Goliath fight.

Re:I'm Glad (-1, Offtopic)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997298)

Yes, Microsoft are so gay

Re:I'm Glad (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997782)

The problem for companies like Samsung and HTC is that because they are American companies they suffer greatly in US courts as frankly American courts are extremely biased towards American companies, presumably stemming from it's national disease of over the top patriotism and general high levels of xenophobia. That's not to say this is always the case, but if you're a foreign company going up against a US firm in US courts, then the odds are stacked far more greatly against you than say a foreign company fighting a native firm in Canadian, or European courts which is again not to say it doesn't happen there too - just not so frequently.

It's no coincidence really that the firms that have folded against Microsoft are the foreign ones, and the ones fighting it are the American ones - Google, Motorola, B&N. If you want a slice of America's consumer pie, you have to accept that you'll play second place to American companies.

Other industries have been used to this for decades- you only have to ask companies like Airbus and BP about that, or any of the companies that led to complaints against the US via the WTO which have resulted in rulings against the US but which the US has chosen to completely ignore be it lumber from Canada or cotton from Brazil, but with the patent war hotting up it's becoming a painful reality for the mobile industry now too.

Re:I'm Glad (2)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998188)

BP is not a good example .... they were formed by a merger of several companies, the largest was Amoco (A merger of large parts of Standard Oil), along with several other American Oil Companies, are currently run by an American, and the investors are 40% American, (and only 30% UK)

They are about as British as New England ....

Re:I'm Glad (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998294)

It doesn't really matter though, if a company doesn't have pure American roots, isn't "made in America" or at least not seen that way by the xenophobes then for all intents and purposes it may as well have originated purely in Iran.

The problem isn't the real, actual grounding of a company, it's the perceived patriotic merit the company has, and BP historically always being known as British Petroleum there just isn't much patriotic merit in that. You only have to look at how many commentators and even Obama himself referred to it as that when trying to score political points with the xenophobes in a "hey, I'm slapping this evil foreign company down!" kind of way even though that hasn't been it's real name for some time.

The rhetoric was all about BRITISH petroleum. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998704)

So, yes, the concensus was that BP is a foreign company. Therefore, no votes lost in dumping them, votes available for ragging on them. 'course for many US Senators, there was money in not letting them be punished, just told they were a very naughty boy.

Re:I'm Glad (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998398)

american this and american that.

you have fallen for the rhetoric, full on, haven't you?

those in power laugh at you (and me) while we play these futile us-vs-them games.

just like R and D in the US political system. either way, you are owned. almost does not matter anymore who you 'vote' for; you will get the same treatment from 'the 1%' no matter what.

stop thinking this is a country border issue. you sound like a chump when you fall for the propaganda machine's bleatings.

Same ol' Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997264)

Its probable that Microsoft will "buy" itself out of this mess in the US.
Now if B&N had sued MS in the EU oh boy oh boy. Maybe the EU should fine Microsoft oh lets see 10 billion $ ?
Microsoft, the same old Microsoft. You can't compete so you destroy the competition.
The leopard cannot change its spots. We need to hit, and hit hard the leopard again.

Re:Same ol' Microsoft... (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998702)

You certainly can't find a bigger shakedown artist then the EU business regulation committees. An unelected body who are virtually immune to any graft and bribery investigations.

Paywalled (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997266)

Article is paywalled. Base price (for 1 year) is E94.38. Although they do have a entry in their form for "Delivery instructions". Can I please have the weekly digital digest delivered on a 3TB harddisk?

Let's see how schizophrenic the government is (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997274)

Because it looks like B&N is essentially arguing that it's fine to have a huge pile of software patents, but it's foul play if you actually use them.

The government (in its various guises) can't reasonably award software patents and then punish the owners for using them for exactly the purpose that they are intended, right?

Re:Let's see how schizophrenic the government is (4, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997344)

Depends. Microsoft is a convicted monopolist, and if the patents in this case are needed to stay interoperable with the Windows environment, and the fees demanded border to extortion (i.e. the product is no longer competitive with Microsoft's product), then I suspect the DOJ might find that interesting.

Re:Let's see how schizophrenic the government is (2, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997410)

And in ten years, once Microsoft has destroyed Android and taken over it's place in the market for billions in revenue, the case might finally finish winding through the courts. We've been here with Netscape. Legal action runs at a snail's pace compared to most industries - but in the fast-moving world of technology, it's glacial.

Re:Let's see how schizophrenic the government is (1, Informative)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997650)

bull shit, B&N is mainly complaining that the licensing fees are excessive. Microsoft wants something like $15 per device and that is as much or more than they charge for licensing their complete Windows Mobile OS. vFAT or what ever Microsoft is claiming is such a small part of the whole system the fees are excessive in any patent system.

These excessive fees and how Microsoft is forcing vendors to sign an NDA just to see the patents are outside of the patent system. To top it off, it appears at least the vFAT patent is related to ties with interoperability with their monopoly in the Windows desktop OS.

LoB

And it's not a patent on vFAT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998092)

It's a patent on how to mangle long names do the old DOS 8.3 format. Which isn't the same method used in Linux and Android uses the same method as Linux does.

Unless this patent is on the idea of mangling long file names to an 8.3 format, in which case, the patent is invalid because it isn't specific.

Please hit apple as well (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997288)

I hope they include Apple in this probing as well. If you ask me Apple abuses the patent system in much worse ways that MS does. Apple loves software patents, aesthetic "patents", obvious ideas and not original ideas patents, i.e. all the thing that shouldn't be protected by patents. And they don't want you to pay for their licences, they want you to stop selling your product and get out of their turf.

From another article (3, Interesting)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997322)

A trial on Microsoft’s patent claims against Barnes & Noble is scheduled for February in Washington.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-08/barnes-noble-urges-u-s-regulators-to-probe-microsoft-on-mobile-patents.html [bloomberg.com]

At least we'll finally see what patents Microsoft has been using to strong arm manufacturers of Android based phones into patent licensing. The must-sign-a-nda-or-we-wont-tell-what-you're-infringing-on tactic they've been using on everyone feels really underhanded to me, and I'm no Microsoft hater.

I figure there actually has to be something substantial in those patents to merit virtually all the big names in Android phones agreeing to license them at the amount MIcrosoft has been asking.

Re:From another article (0)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997422)

At least we'll finally see what patents Microsoft has been using to strong arm manufacturers of Android based phones into patent licensing.

Tell me how you strong arm a company the size of Samsung or General Dynamics.

Re:From another article (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997816)

Samsung makes Windows laptops. One of General Dynamics' four main business groups provides defense-oriented, IT consulting, systems integration, network management, etc.

In other words, both companies you mentions are significant Microsoft users, customers and resellers. The details of the remaining strong-arming are an exercise for the reader.

Re:From another article (5, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997876)

Did you know they both sell products which run Microsoft Windows? Do you think they might talk about how those licensing fees would go up sharply if they were not to play this Android game. Seeing how they _require_ an NDA before even telling the vendors what patents are being infringed, these kinds of contracts only get exposed in court documents or leaked.

So that is just a couple of ways Microsoft strong arms companies the size of Samsung or General Dynamics. And don't forget, Microsoft strong armed Intel into shutting down a software division they were running which did Java and multimedia software. It's pretty well known by the older geeks how Microsoft got its market and has kept its market and it was not because they competed on product quality. IMO

LoB

Re:From another article (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998244)

By making it not worth their while to not comply

Small birds harass much larger ones, they have no hope of stopping them, but they do make it not worth going after their vulnerable young....

Re:From another article (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997808)

>I figure there actually has to be something substantial in those patents to merit virtually all the big names in Android phones agreeing to license them at the amount MIcrosoft has been asking.

No. Usually Microsoft gives them back the same money they paid (for now).
It's a ploy to make it look AS IF there is something substantial in those patents.

Re:From another article (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997810)

did you hear that Microsoft was possibly inflating the licensing fee while also signing a marketing deal with the vendors which bring the total cost of "the deal" to zero dollars. It was said that the Samsung deal was such a deal. B&N does not sell or ship any Microsoft Windows based products so there is no place for any leverage there.

I also expect that schedule to get delayed and delayed many times.

LoB

Re:From another article (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997830)

At least we'll finally see what patents Microsoft has been using to strong arm manufacturers of Android based phones into patent licensing.

We have already seen some of the patents with the Microsoft vs Motorola lawsuit [patentlyapple.com] . It is not a patent list of which I would be particularly proud.

Re:From another article (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997942)

"I figure there actually has to be something substantial in those patents to merit virtually all the big names in Android phones agreeing to license them at the amount MIcrosoft has been asking."

Agreed, IMO the issue at hand isn't whether Microsoft has valid patents, I think it very likely does else firms would be less likely to sign agreements with it, I think the issue is that Microsoft is abusing NDAs and so forth to prevent anyone telling the world what the patents are so that they can re-write software to not infringe on Microsoft's payments.

Effectively Microsoft is doing it's best to encourage continued infringement so that people have to license. IMO that should be grounds to lose rights to a patent - you should either be open about infringement and give people the opportunity to avoid it or license it, or lose the right to the patent altogether, not trap people into infringing and then force them to pay up. That really is protection racket type tactics.

Re:From another article (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998690)

At least we'll finally see what patents Microsoft has been using to strong arm manufacturers of Android based phones into patent licensing.

Here are the 9 patents that Motorola is defending itself from against Microsoft [arstechnica.com]

I mean jesus fucking christ its been a whole fucking year now.. WE KNOW WHAT THE PATENTS ARE ALREADY.

if you are this uninformed, maybe just maybe you shouldnt fucking be discussing things? For christ sakes.

Innovation from the US of A (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997352)

I get the feeling that the patent business is growing faster than the industries patents are supposed to protect..

Soon we'll have Bill O'Reilly telling us which patents are good and which are not.. lol... everything that was progress and innovation reduced to a guy in a box and between commercials...

and you will make fire with sticks again..

The problem is... (5, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997368)

the android companies that have caved into MS and paid them. Hopefully B&N and Google/Motorola will win out over MS, while those companies that signed with MS will be forced to continue paying.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37997694)

Furthermore, we still don't know what MS patents are being used, because the companies are signing NDAs.

One is FAT related, but the rest?

Re:The problem is... (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997762)

> the android companies that have caved ...

Sad, but for most corporations, that's just considered part of the cost of doing business. They're not going to fight if they feel that it's cheaper just to cave in.

If hiring attorneys and spending months (or even years) in court doesn't present some obvious benefit for them, or if they think it won't provide a clear strategic advantage, they'll probably choose the path of least resistance -- and cost. Especially in a weak economy.

Re:The problem is... (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997918)

some of those deals are likely to cost the vendors nothing since they included a side deal worth moneys similar to the patent license just for putting a Windows sticker on a box or logo on a web page. They're called Microsoft Marketing Programs and they allow Microsoft to charge an inflated licensing fee while still costing the vendor little, nothing or even to make a profit.

It will be interesting to hear what happens to those vendor licensing deals if this runs its course. We won't hear too much though because of the NDAs required by Microsoft and if this digs into these contracts in court then I suspect Microsoft will negotiate a much smaller fee for B&N and end it before they get exposed for the racket they are playing. Google/Motorola is another story.

LoB

The REAL issue here is (5, Interesting)

andydread (758754) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997766)

Microsoft is taking ownership of other people's code through the abuse of software-patents. This is scary. The notion that you cannot sit down in front of your computer and write successful code without Microsoft attacking you with a team of lawyers using dubious and obvious software-patents is scary. All you code are belong to Microsoft. They didn't write it but the own it anyway. This egregious behavior is something that Microsoft actually promised in their Halloween document. This is not just against Android. Its campaign to sink open source particularly Linux in the marketplace. By making it an expnesive hassle to deploy Linux vendors will just use windows instead. Its not noble. Its sleazy. MIcrosoft's Steve Balmer has been treating to use sleazy tactics and they are doing it now.

Here is how it works :
Microsoft Approaches open source company
Microsoft: My what a nice open source company you have here
Microsoft: You know this is a dangerous neighborhood you need some protection.
Business Owner: Protection? From who?
Microsoft: Well...From us really.
Microsoft: Oh and sign this NDA you cannot talk about this to anyone. Got it?

Its egregious sleazy software-patent extortion tactics.

The real question is how does the greater open source community stop them. So far only Shuttleworth has pledged to fight them in court if they come knocking on Ubuntu's doorstep

If you think this is about Android then you are sadly mistaken. This is about LInux and open source victims include:- TomTom, Buffalo, IO-DATA, Kyocera MIta etc. None of those produce Android products. They are now beating drums that Open Office and Libre Office violates their patents. Look for them to start suing anyone that distributes Open Office or Libre Office in a successful product.

This is their strategy against open source in general If you write open source software that competes with Micorosoft expect them to make it very expensive for you in the marketplace if your product becomes successful.

Lack of Cash (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997768)

Just because "B&N does not have the cash reserves to support similar licensing" doesn't mean the patents are frivolous. Given that most Android manufacturers have signed licensing agreements with MS, it suggests that the patents are decidedly _NOT_ frivolous. If they were or even if the average person thought they were, several other manufacturers would have pushed back and defended themselves in court.

Re:Lack of Cash (2)

dell623 (2021586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997914)

You don't understand the patent system. Even if the patent is frivolous, it takes expensive litigation to invalidate one patent, forget the thousands Microsoft has registered for Pg Up/ Pg Down to double click.

The patents are frivolous, software patents, with a lot of prior art and can be said to apply to absolutely any computing device these days:

http://www.geekwire.com/2011/microsoft-cites-new-patents-vs-android [geekwire.com]

The major phone and tablet makers who signed deals with Microsoft are Samsung, HTC who are also coincidentally the only major Windows Phone manufacturers.

Also Microsoft has been in less of a hurry to go after companies with major Windows PC manufacturers like Asus, Acer, Sony etc.

Microsoft is clearly using these patents to stifle Android, and this raises serious anti trust concerns. Many of these patents would not stand up well to a challenge, and many like the FAT patent and the filename system are patents companies are forced to use to maintain compatibility with existing standards.

Also, Microsoft charges more to license these patents than it does to license its Windows Phone operating system:

"The book retailer claims also that the fees Microsoft was demanding were equal to or greater than those it demanded for an entire operating system, Windows Phone, even though the patents covered only "trivial and non-essential design elements" of the Android user interface".

Re:Lack of Cash (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998010)

they can't name the patents in court after hearing what the patents are. nifty, eh?

Re:Lack of Cash (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37998078)

The article is kind of bullshit, it makes it seem like B&N is just crying because Microsoft wants to be paid for their patents. That's not what's happening here. Having read through the documents B&N released on Groklaw, it's far more than that.

Microsoft approached them to license patents to cover Android, well refusing to disclose what patents without B&N first signing a NDA.
B&N's lawyers told Microsoft they weren't signing a NDA if they're discussing public information like patents.
Microsoft came back later to try getting them to sign a license well referencing a NDA B&N has with them about something completely unrelated.
B&N refused and told them not to try that again.
Microsoft finally agreed to talk to them about the patents without an NDA, B&N's lawyers looked at them and explained to Microsoft they don't cover their devices, as the patents covered features the devices didn't have.
Microsoft came back and explained those were just a few of the patents they had, that they could go back and find patents B&N did infringe on if they didn't sign a license agreement.
B&N is now taking Microsoft to court, fighting against their patent extortion, and trying to get the DoJ to open a new anti-trust case against Microsoft for their extortion tactics, and blatent abuse of the patent system to harm anyone trying to compete.

Re:Lack of Cash (5, Informative)

alexhs (877055) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998302)

Microsoft finally agreed to talk to them about the patents without an NDA, B&N's lawyers looked at them and explained to Microsoft they don't cover their devices, as the patents covered features the devices didn't have.
Microsoft came back and explained those were just a few of the patents they had, that they could go back and find patents B&N did infringe on if they didn't sign a license agreement.

Yes, same tactics [forbes.com] as IBM used in the 80's :

My own introduction to the realities of the patent system came in the 1980s, when my client, Sun Microsystems--then a small company--was accused by IBM of patent infringement. Threatening a massive lawsuit, IBM demanded a meeting to present its claims. Fourteen IBM lawyers and their assistants, all clad in the requisite dark blue suits, crowded into the largest conference room Sun had.

The chief blue suit orchestrated the presentation of the seven patents IBM claimed were infringed [...]

After IBM's presentation, our turn came. As the Big Blue crew looked on (without a flicker of emotion), my colleagues--all of whom had both engineering and law degrees--took to the whiteboard with markers, methodically illustrating, dissecting, and demolishing IBM's claims. [...] Confidently, we proclaimed our conclusion: Only one of the seven IBM patents would be deemed valid by a court, and no rational court would find that Sun's technology infringed even that one.

An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"

After a modest bit of negotiation, Sun cut IBM a check, and the blue suits went to the next company on their hit list.

In corporate America, this type of shakedown is repeated weekly. The patent as stimulant to invention has long since given way to the patent as blunt instrument for establishing an innovation stranglehold. [...]

Re:Lack of Cash (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998322)

Without knowing the details of the agreements (and that's all behind NDAs) there's no way of reasonably coming to those conclusions. For all you know Microsoft are effectively paying companies to license the patents to give it credibility... All you can infer is that it the other companies thought it was in their interest to sign the deal, but you know nothing about what the deal was, or if they were right.

Sunlight (2)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997890)

If they have a valid claim, Microsoft should not be allowed to hide it under a blackmail-as-nda bushel basket. If they do have something valid, I suspect it is very trivial to work around and they know it. Hence their wisper campaign against Linux / Android whilst steadfastly refusing to show actual proof.

And when did Brinksmanship become an acceptable / legal business practice? Perhaps it was part of the Supreme Court horseshit decision about Corporate Personhood...

Past Tense? (1)

SadButTrue (848439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37998268)

The title and summary both suggest this is over. I was under the impression that the request to the DoJ had just begun. That is it should read, "is seeking" not "sought"?

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