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Microsoft Patents The Courts Apple

Microsoft, IBM Want to Seal Patents Agreements With Samsung 126

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the nothing-to-see-here dept.
sfcrazy writes "The court battle between Apple and Samsung has created the possibility of disclosing the cross patent agreement between Microsoft and Samsung. Microsoft is suddenly scared and has filed a motion asking the court to seal the cross license agreement. I would like to remind that the Judge has asked both parties to make all the filings in this dispute available to the public for free." And on Monday, IBM filed for a restraining order to prevent Reuters from publishing their agreement with Samsung as well.
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Microsoft, IBM Want to Seal Patents Agreements With Samsung

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  • by HearVoic (2696967) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:04AM (#40825945)
    Wait, what now? Slashdot's summaries are starting to get quite childish. Microsoft is scared, really?

    It couldn't even barely be possible that Microsoft wants to follow the mobile companies common practice of cross licensing almost all of their patents.

    This includes one of the pioneers of mobile industry, Nokia, as well as they could stop licensing their technology and make the other companies really suffer. But the armchair generals and armchair CEO's on Slashdot think everything is outright war between technology companies. In fact it's not.
    • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:13AM (#40825977) Homepage Journal

      oh but nokia's been xlicensing traditionally, since that was the old way mobile companies worked and kept new entrants from coming. ms/nokia and apple/nokia and ms/apple full cross licensing deals kind of step on that though.

      that they don't want the deals public is a bit shitty for the common stockholder though.

      the real reason I suspect MS wanting to seal the documents is that they state that when you're big enough you can get MS licenses for android in exchange of giving WP phones a shot - along with patent licenses to whatever both platforms need.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:19AM (#40825999)
        It is far more likely that different companies get different rates depending on how well they negotiate and how much they have to offer in return (standard practise by all of the big boys). Revealing details of such agreements puts them at a disadvantage in any future negotiations and hence the demand for non disclosure is pretty standard. This has nothing to do with fear of anything but the disadvantage they would have in future price bargaining.
        • It is far more likely that different companies get different rates depending on how well they negotiate and how much they have to offer in return.

          A good example is the Nook. They really had nothing in terms of patents to counter with. I guess that's why they were considered a pretty weak target. But they got so outraged and vocal about their opposition, that Microsoft just had to shovel lots of money their way just to keep them quiet about the whole scam.

          • by Locutus (9039)
            good to see someone else remembers that. So many here are still claiming this is all about the money and the B&N case really showed that to what lengths they'll go to just to keep the dealings hidden from public view.

            Too bad you're post is still only rated 2 and I have no mod points.

            LoB
        • by ArhcAngel (247594)
          I suspect you are right. I was working at Compaq during the hp takeover and when hp discovered they were paying more for identical hard drives than Compaq they were incensed.
    • by Vintermann (400722) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:43AM (#40826071) Homepage

      Microsoft does not want to disclose which patents they're using to get royalties for Android/Linux. Apart from the VFAT patent, it is not publicly known which 235 patents Microsoft claim to own that cover the Linux kernel - they only reveal that to parties they approach to intimidate, a really bizarre and perverse state of affairs if you ask me.

      • So why doesn't Linux Foundation do the same for Microsoft and Windows? Or doesn't Linux use any advanced technology?
        • Two things. One, there are no software patents in Europe. Two, money. The Linux Foundation doesn't have tens of millions of dollars to piss away on lawyers. Microsoft has hundreds of millions of dollars to piss away on lawyers. No point in starting a fight where you're outfunded by an order of magnitude.

          • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @04:05AM (#40826155) Homepage

            One, there are no software patents in Europe.

            Wrong, but the obviousness requirement is applied much more stringently so there are far fewer software patents granted. Getting a patent for being 6 months ahead of the competition is a problem, getting one for being 15 years ahead is not.

            • by Teun (17872) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @06:32AM (#40826675) Homepage
              Since 1985 the EU patent office keeps a registry where you can deposit plans that could be turned into patents even though the relevant law of 1978 does specifically not recognise computer programs a patentable.
              The 2005 vote in the EU parliament dismissed the idea of software patents with 648 out of 729 votes.
              Besides, the individual member states don't agree so the EU commission does not have much chance to ever enforce these patents.

              Now there is the possibility to patent a specific model of hardware like a phone including the firmware within but it's not easy or anywhere close to the US system.

              • by ewieling (90662)
                If you cannot patent software in Europe, then are the patents on audio and video codecs not valid in Europe? Specifically the G729, G723.1 and H.264 codecs.
                • by ledow (319597)

                  Given that this page exists in Europe and hasn't been forcibly taken down?

                  http://www.videolan.org/developers/x264.html [videolan.org]

                  Pretty much. You can't enforce software patents alone in Europe. When you put them into hardware (e.g. a TV that decode H.264, for instance), things become a little more tricky, and there is still "licensing", just not necessarily patent licensing going on.

                  For example, the people who developed the VLC implementation and library actually license their version to other people for a fee. It'

              • by pantaril (1624521)

                Since 1985 the EU patent office keeps a registry where you can deposit plans that could be turned into patents even though the relevant law of 1978 does specifically not recognise computer programs a patentable.
                The 2005 vote in the EU parliament dismissed the idea of software patents with 648 out of 729 votes.

                I hear this a lot, but if you look at some actual cases, you find out software patents are valid and enforced in EU. Maybe there are less software patents than in US but they are there. Look for example at this case: http://www.dailytech.com/German+Judge+Bans+Androids+for+SwipeUnlocking+Despite+Prior+Art/article24027.htm [dailytech.com]

                Swipe to unlock IMO is software patent - you input something using the touchscreen and the software in the phone performs some action.
                Maybe this is just german specific and is unenforcable i

            • Getting a patent for being 6 months ahead of the competition is a problem, getting one for being 15 years ahead is not.

              Once you've gone to market, however, how do we know you were really 15 years ahead, and not only 6 months?

        • by s73v3r (963317)

          Because most of the companies that promote Linux are nowhere near as powerful as Microsoft is in the legal arena. Further, most of Microsoft's stuff is not open source, making it much harder to actually prove infringement occurred.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:47AM (#40826097)

      No, Microsoft has released details of the claimed license, by Samsung of its 'Android patents'. But leaks came out that Sammy would get 'marketing money' back from Microsoft, and lo and behold they did.

      Here's Microsoft and their fake claim to IP rights over Android:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15106889

      Here's money back from MS to Samsung:
      http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/10/16/2050244/microsoft-pays-44-million-to-samsung-and-nokia-for-mango-marketing

      Now suddenly they want the real details sealed? Yet they were keen to claim it was a patent license for IP claims over Android!

      MSFT Investors need to wonder what the truth is here, because Samsung doesn't mind the unsealing, but yet MS does? But MS were the ones making the public claim, not Samsung!!

    • by guttentag (313541) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @04:46AM (#40826303) Journal

      Wait, what now? Slashdot's summaries are starting to get quite childish. Microsoft is scared, really?

      Normally I would agree with you, in the name of professionalism and all. However, in this case the greater issue is that Microsoft is actually not scared, so the statement is factually incorrect. What TFA actually states is (no joke, paragraph 2):

      Microsoft's hair is on fire about it

      Obviously this is not a cause for Microsoft to be "scared," because its fearless leader doesn't have hair [wikipedia.org]. It would be more accurate for the summary to state, "Microsoft execs are laughing themselves to sleep tonight after a pointless attempt by Apple to set Steve Ballmer's hair on fire."

      Realistically, even if Ballmer had hair, this wouldn't set it on fire. Microsoft has a long history of doing things that either land it in court (bundling, monopoly abuse, etc.) or result in throwing huge sums of money away (Windows Phone 7 [wikipedia.org], Zune [wikipedia.org], 5 billion lost on the Xbox [wikipedia.org], Ultimate TV [wikipedia.org], Actimates [wikipedia.org], BOB [wikipedia.org], SPOT [wikipedia.org], Kin [wikipedia.org], etc.), but none of those things set his dome on fire because Wall Street doesn't care as long as the majority of the world's personal computers are running Windows. I'm not saying Wall Street is correct in doing so, but stock prices rarely have much to do with a company's actual performance, and most public companies teams are focused on "shareholder value." And the shareholders always let Microsoft come out of this stuff unscathed. If this were something that materially threatened Windows or Office, Ballmer's dome might be on fire. But we're not likely to see that show until the new Surface is released and the strategic partners Microsoft just blew off decide what they want to do about it.

      • by konaya (2617279)

        Obviously this is not a cause for Microsoft to be "scared," because its fearless leader doesn't have hair [wikipedia.org]

        How do you know it's the hair on his head they mean?

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Wait, what now? Slashdot's summaries are starting to get quite childish.

      Starting to??? /facepalm

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      in a word, yes. Or as other sites say "Microsoft's hair is on fire". (as noted elsewhere)

      Microsoft wants to keep their patent settlements high and the risk of DOJ investigations low. They have a lot of negative press awaiting if their shakedowns are mae public. Also on groklaw: "IBM's motion has been denied [PDF] by the magistrate judge. Reuters gets to publish" So it appears that an IBM agreement will be able to be published.

      Pretty much the second big companies that have questionable settlements are made p

    • by Mabhatter (126906)

      But the courts and public (and lawmakers) have never really been informed of what these deals entail... Even though 90% of tech industry patents would fall under these.

      This is the kind of thing that can push for REAL REFORM... Nobody with the cross license deals WANTS the situation fixed. They essentially have their own little "extra legal" club going on the big guys use to bully little guys with actual innovation.

      Steve wanted to protect his patents or burn down the house... THAT is why the big kids don't

  • By the end of this, the whole landscape is going to look very different. Hard to say how exactly, but everyone aware of the licensing between each other could lead to some hilarious later complaints 'hey, wait, you're charging us this much, and them HOW much?!??!" That IBM 'accidentally' sent the full version of the license to Reuters, and then went 'oops'... Wonder if it was an accidentally on purpose. They may be feeling that their part of the deal isn't as good as they'd have liked. And of course, Mic
    • by Pieroxy (222434) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:20AM (#40826003) Homepage

      Methinks we're going to see who the real villains are in this story. Apple may be evil and all, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Note that Apple being villain and all is all due to the fact that they make their patent dispute public, unlike the rest of the field which hides it under a thick veil of secrecy. I'd be very interested to know exactly who gets paid what over there.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Vintermann (400722)

        The reason Apple does it publicly, is that they have to defend their image as spectacularly innovative. They couldn't just have handed over the patents to a proxy and sued with that - although it would have been a lot less risky. They need to defend the idea that rounded corners are innovative, not just in court but in public opinion as well (at least, the part of the public that buys their products).

        • The part of the public that buys their product will be very willing to continue buying their product. Because it's the evil Samsung stealing from their beloved Apple. A court decision will not change their mind, any more than it would change our minds if Apple won.

        • by Pieroxy (222434)

          I'm not so sure. Apple has publicly claimed at several occasions that they dislike the patent system and find it hurtful. And in the long run, the suing spree that Apple is currently leading could do a lot of good. Already some judges have made public statements that the patent system is just out of control.

          All in all, Apple is raising awareness on the silliness of the patent system, and I think that's good. And I can't imagine that nobody at Apple is aware of that fact.

          • by poetmatt (793785)

            Really? they declared patents hurtful? Was this before or after they declared that they will sue all their competitors and claimed that the competitors "stole" from them things that apple never even developed?

            • Re:Nerf bat in play (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Pieroxy (222434) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:13AM (#40827127) Homepage

              It was well after they had started their suing spree. The way I see it is this: If you want to be competitive and survive you have to play by the rules. The rules state that you can't use some stuff that is patented without explicit permission and/or licensing fees which are not guaranteed to be granted or even fair unless your patent if a FRAND one. If ${BigCorp} wants to be competitive they have to enforce those rules on their patent, to counteract the fact that they're paying everyone up on theirs and thus bleeding money to the competition with no counterpart.

              Apple's stance is not to license, but to restrict which is their perfect right. Some people don't like it.

              The fact that they play by today's rules is a necessity. It doesn't imply at all that they like the rules.

            • by s73v3r (963317)

              Was this before or after they declared that they will sue all their competitors

              I'm guessing it was back before then, when all of their competitors were suing them. Or don't you remember when Apple was the patent whipping boy, and everyone from Nokia to Kodak to Creative was using patents to sue the crap out of them?

              Or is it only a bad thing when it's a company you don't like doing the suing?

              • by poetmatt (793785)

                when was apple ever the patent whipping boy? They are the ones that pretty much kicked this mess into high gear.

                • by s73v3r (963317)

                  Yeah, they are, actually. They're the ones that forced Apple to take such an aggressive stance on patents.

                  And if you'd actually do your research, you'd find that they had gotten the crap sued out of them through most of the 2000s, especially when they first came out with the iPhone.

        • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @06:00AM (#40826537) Homepage Journal
          The reason it is public is because Apple are using their patents in the courts to restrict competition from entering the market rather than licencing for a reasonable sum to make money.

          I don't think this has anything to do with "image". Rather they realise that this is a critical time in cornering a market that will continue to pay off for them for a long time.

          Just like the iPod made the iPhone purchase a "no brainer" for many people the iPhone makes (or will make) the iPad or Apple TV (etc etc) a no brainer. Once people are invested in the iTunes/Appstore ecosystem they are more likely to stay there (and keep spending more money there).

          Removing credible alternatives to the iPhone from the market doesn't just mean more iPhone sales now, it means more recurring sales down the road too.
          • by Mabhatter (126906)

            Patents ARE A MONOPOLY. There is no LEGAL reason Apple has to share. Apple wants to SELL iPhones. They want to protect that multi billion $$$ from poachers. There are plenty of ways to make tablets and phones that aren't "just like" iDevices.

            I'm reminded of the Dyson Vacuum commercial. They were the first ones to make bagless vacuums really work and to sell them.. Then every body started copying. If you're not going to ENFORCE legit patents, why play the game?

            • I don't necessarily disagree in principle but I will observe that if everybody behaves that way then it wouldn't work very well, particularly for complex devices. Apple could only enter the mobile phone market at all because so many other entities offer their patents more freely.

              It is inconsistent to be so high and mighty about your own innovation (which is in reality not much more than a thin but well thought out veneer) while you are so clearly standing on the shoulders of giants. Indeed this is why I t
          • by s73v3r (963317)

            The reason it is public is because Apple are using their patents in the courts to restrict competition from entering the market rather than licencing for a reasonable sum to make money.

            And licensing fees doesn't keep competition out?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          They couldn't just have handed over the patents to a proxy and sued with that -

          It actually seems they do. http://techcrunch.com/2011/12/09/apple-made-a-deal-with-the-devil-no-worse-a-patent-troll/ [techcrunch.com]

        • by s73v3r (963317)

          They need to defend the idea that rounded corners are innovative

          They never claimed rounded corners are "innovative". They did, however, claim that rounded corners are cornerstone of the iPhone/iPad design, and that Samsung blatantly copied that in a way that would confuse consumers.

      • by Dupple (1016592) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:53AM (#40826117)

        If differing companies are paying differing licensing rates on the same patents it would change all future negotiations. It's no wonder MS and Motorola have filed emergency motions. Who is charging how much for what is something that I doubt most companies want revealing. Particularly Microsoft, with it's claims against Andoid. We know of FAT and probably activesync, but they claim patents on a great deal more.

        What I'd like to see is the consequences of this case eventually shedding light on the US Patent Office and why some of the more dubious patents are granted. This case could easily be far wider ranging than it first appears.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:23AM (#40826013)
      I doubt that is true. What this is really about is monopolistic business practices in the US and how they distort the global market. I suspect that the US Government doesn't actually want too much light shed because then the EU competition commission might get involved, and that might shame the US equivalent into action.

      However, I doubt any of it is much of a brake on real technical progress. The limitation on that, at the moment, is battery technology. And that has been the limitation on mobile technical progress since the first mobile phones.

      • by MrDoh! (71235) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @05:26AM (#40826429) Homepage Journal
        Maybe, I do think though there must be a slight fear from anyone creating tech that a few key players may try and claim later. Many tech companies must be dragging lawyers in to design sessions perhaps, just to cover themselves. Having lawyers over your shoulders is going to get people thinking how not to get infringed, maybe not what's the best way to solve a problem. Having knocked out a few UI's with things that, in retrospect, /could/ be close to what Apple are claiming (though on a terminal, not a mobile device) in... late 80's/early 90's, so many of these things look familiar, and may be the thing we'd have come up with. Getting it prototyped/designed on an Amiga, then working on x-windows, with the later MS Windows versions looking very similar. If I'd have made a version for a mobile version, it'd have looked the same again, icons on the bottom, scrollable top part. That a UI I created 20+ years ago, copying my own design onto a mobile device could get me sued for crazy bucks, scares the living snot out of me. The point about it dragging in the euro stuff though is I think spot on, and why this really is going to be crazy for a time yet. The nerf bat really can take out some odd bystanders.
        • Among those "Monopolistic business practices" must be included "Using the USPTO as a barrier to trade by allowing trivial patents by large corporations and making it prohibitively expensive for small companies to oppose them in court". The US patent system is now designed to achieve the exact opposite of its original goals, just as in the late 2000s the credit ratings agencies were gamed so as to give good ratings to junk debt, at the instigation of the banks, thus doing the exact opposite of what investors
  • by phonewebcam (446772) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:16AM (#40825987) Homepage

    Which he does [wordpress.com] very well indeed [northupinfo.com].

    • I'm not a phrenologist or anything, but anyone with a tongue like that should be treated very suspiciously. It's a sign of the devil.

  • Why? I really don't understand what they are afraid of
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      A list of what was swapped.
      It could show a pool of simple buy out innovation ranging from large and small firms bought up/out over many years.
      This would show a lower quality of projected in house skill.
      Real world testing, prior art claims.
      The ratio of look and feel, trade dress vs real world wireless telecom physics.
      Legal questions over the quality and use of patents could dilute a strong legal and US political position in other cases.
  • by oobayly (1056050) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @03:59AM (#40826139)

    If you're expecting the state to pay because you throw your toys out of the pram then everything should be made public.

    Don't want your dirty laundry aired in public, then either grow up or pay an independent arbitrator to make the decision. What is it with people wanting to eat their cake and have it too?

    • I think I agree with you but I have no idea wtf a pram is.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        i think it's some kind of european train or something

      • by andrewbaldwin (442273) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @04:22AM (#40826211)

        I think I agree with you but I have no idea wtf a pram is.

        Pram is a common shortening of "perambulator" ** -- a baby carriage on wheels. These days they're not so common as baby buggies (smaller lightweight versions) have taken their place as 'traditional' prams were bigger, heavier coachbuilt affairs - more room for the baby and with bigger wheels/better suspension but not very practical for transporting in cars.

        Throwing ones toys out of the pram is a common expression in the UK. It's roughly equivalent to "throwing a hissy fit" / "having a tantrum" -- ie exhibiting impotent rage and/or childish behaviour, making a lot of noise and fuss yet gaining nothing but causing inconvenience to others as they have to retrieve them [or not]

        ** Perambulator - in the sense it let the baby and carer go for a walk (perambulate) -- Old fashioned and I don't know anyone who still says perambulator these days [or even said it in my childhood many years ago]

        • Actually, prams were smaller than today's monstrous SUV buggies. The main limitation on folding them was the large wheels, developed in a day when many roads even in towns were gravelled rather than hard surfaced. They require less effort to push than a buggy, partly because of the large wheels with narrow tyres and partly because they have proper bicycle ball bearings for the wheels, and when they come on the market they tend to fetch quite a lot of money. There was one in need of some minor restoration at
      • by Pikoro (844299)

        A pram is a type of baby carriage.

      • Parameter random access memory. It's what you zap when your mac starts acting a little.... errrr..oh... never mind

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        Pram == Prambulator == Baby Carriage

    • Also it's Apple and Samsung that are throwing their toys out of whatever a pram is, Microsoft was just standing nearby and got hit by one of them.

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @04:21AM (#40826207)

    ...IBM's motion to prevent Reuters from publishing what IBM gave them has been denied already. Those of a conspiracy turn of mind will now cue the old boy network where IBM execs get together with Reuter's execs at the Old Boys Club and work out what Reuters gets for not publishing after all.

    Reuters may gleefully print the whole thing, but that seems unlikely. More likely they'll excerpt it anyway, even without any alleged backroom deals.

    I know I know, I read TFA. I'm sorry... it won't happen again.

    • I know I know, I read TFA. I'm sorry... it won't happen again.

      Areyoukiddingme?!

    • IBM's motion to prevent Reuters from publishing what IBM gave them has been denied already. Those of a conspiracy turn of mind will now cue the old boy network where IBM execs get together with Reuter's execs at the Old Boys Club and work out what Reuters gets for not publishing after all.

      Presumably, what they would get for not publishing is not sued for publishing. They request for an order for them not to publish was denied as a prior restraint, which doesn't require the court to find that the publication

  • by tstrunk (2562139) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @04:43AM (#40826297)

    In my opinion they don't want to keep only the public from viewing these agreements, they want the other corporate partners not to know the details, because they could use it to renegotiate the terms.

    Imagine this hypothetical situation:
    Microsoft has an agreement both with Sony and with Apple. They both agreed on different but confidential patent agreements.
    Sony paid (or swapped) more than Apple.
    Apple releases their agreement.
    Sony sees this and has a reason to renegotiate.

    • by js3 (319268)

      Well duh, why would we have a right to know when the dispute in question has nothing to do with Microsoft?

    • Imagine this hypothetical situation:
      Microsoft has an agreement both with Sony and with Apple. They both agreed on different but confidential patent agreements.
      Sony paid (or swapped) more than Apple.
      Apple releases their agreement.
      Sony sees this and has a reason to renegotiate.

      As well they should, now that it's public knowledge that everybody copied Sony's phones.

  • They're afraid to show that someone who has the resources to fight them gets sweetheart deals, effectively resulting in no financial penalty, or even benefitting the "violating" company - because it'll start to become clear and undeniable that they practice extortion against companies that DON'T have the resources to take on a legal battle. If it was all above board, they wouldn't mind releasing exact info about what patents are involved, and at least the general financial terms (while possibly withholding

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