Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Given the latest “hook up” between Novell and Microsoft, I have received many an email from colleagues asking what I think. Not that it matters, but I do have an opinion. Here it is.

 

I am a big supporter of Open Source *and* Intellectual Property. You may be thinking “this is oil and water”! No, it’s not. If you can secure a patent from the US PTO and it helps you competitively, by all means, use it to your advantage…but not as a tax. It should be used as a one on one negotiation to license a right, not used to burden an entire ecosystem with a tax, in this case a Linux tax. Many in the Open Source world deem patents to be evil. It’s not the patents that are evil; it’s the business model behind its use and the zealousness of certain leaders promoting that model.  In the case of MSFT and NOVL, it’s misguided. This is clearly Microsoft knocking on doors assessing your home value. Novell happens to have the biggest house. It’s a “taxing” message to the industry that MSFT is still acting like a monopoly. You don’t sleep with the enemy and wake up feeling good about it. 

 

Do you really think this concept of patent cross-licensing (keyword here is cross-licensing, Novell has patents as well) between NOVL and MSFT is new? This has been going on for years. Customers have told NOVL to make nice with Microsoft forever, but rarely told Microsoft to do the same. This deal was doomed from the beginning. It’s not exclusive; it gives Microsoft the upper and heavy hand.  It’s all threats and chest hair. Maybe some new light will be shed on all of this but I think Novell fell for it. Maybe Novell will see some short term revenue because of it but when the dust settles, and MSFT starts getting other vendors to roll over so they can rub their belly, this deal will be stalled and stale. For those of you considering a similar deal with MSFT, please run away. Force their hand. Don’t sell out.

 

Chris

StreamServe is a global leader in dynamic document composition, delivery, and document management software solutions for ERP and CRM systems.

11/21/2006 11:07:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [34]
4/5/2007 12:21:45 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Chris,

I really hate it when non-technical people write about patents. And from my point of view software people are non-technical. I work with machinery - do some designing, some sales, and damned near everything else involved with it. I'm working with technology that less than 50 people in North America understand - I know know most of them.

Because of my position, I can't publicly state my name, or where I work - however feel free to email me after you read this. Note that I posted a variation on this on another blog recently.

From my point of view everyone (including all the software types) lack understanding of the real issues with patents. This is my attempt to educate a few people on the issues.

Congress was given authority to award "Innovators" for their innovations. The method used is to give a limited period of monopoly on the innovation, so that they innovator is encouraged to innovate. Copyright and Patent are the methods used.

Copyright makes good sense. Consider J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". Is there anyone who would claim that Tolkien is not entitled to payment for this Magnum Opus?

While it can be argued that copyrights may currently be too long, the copyright system does provide the artist with a payback, if their work is attractive enough that the audience will pay for it.

The Patent System is another issue - and one that non-technologists seem constitutionally incapable of understanding. Consider the following:

1) It it too easy to patent obvious things (like the propane powered lawn mower - propane had only been used as a fuel for automobiles, forklifts, and light construction equipment for 30 years prior to the issuance of these patents.
Patent 05884460
http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=35&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&S1=(propane+AND+mower)&OS=propane+and+mower&RS=(propane+AND+mower)
Patent 05878730
http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=36&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&S1=(propane+AND+mower)&OS=propane+and+mower&RS=(propane+AND+mower)
Patent 05852993
http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=38&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&S1=(propane+AND+mower)&OS=propane+and+mower&RS=(propane+AND+mower)
Patent 05676117
http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=41&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&S1=(propane+AND+mower)&OS=propane+and+mower&RS=(propane+AND+mower)
Patent 05581986
http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=45&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&S1=(propane+AND+mower)&OS=propane+and+mower&RS=(propane+AND+mower)

2) It is too easy to patent impossible machines, such as the Dean Drive, an interstellar radio, etc.
Patent 02886976
http://patimg2.uspto.gov/.piw?Docid=02886976&homeurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpatft1.uspto.gov%2Fnetacgi%2Fnph-Parser%3FSect1%3DPTO2%2526Sect2%3DHITOFF%2526u%3D%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsearch-adv.htm%2526r%3D4%2526p%3D1%2526f%3DG%2526l%3D50%2526d%3DPALL%2526S1%3DDean-Norman-L%2526OS%3DDean-Norman-L%2526RS%3DDean-Norman-L&PageNum=&Rtype=&SectionNum=&idkey=NONE&Input=View+first+page
Patent 03182517
http://patimg1.uspto.gov/.piw?docid=US003182517&SectionNum=2&IDKey=447B991D5146&HomeUrl=http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2%2526Sect2=HITOFF%2526u=%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsearch-adv.htm%2526r=3%2526p=1%2526f=G%2526l=50%2526d=PALL%2526S1=Dean-Norman-L%2526OS=Dean-Norman-L%2526RS=Dean-Norman-L

Dean Drive on Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_drive

Jerry Pournelle on the Dean Drive
http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/dean.html


3) It's too easy to patent existent items/technologies
http://www.progress.org/patent03.htm
http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/2004/february/7675.htm


4) It's too easy to patent an existent idea - for example in the 1930's E. E. "Doc" Smith wrote about the use of diesel genset engine being used to power some spaceship systems. If a patent application was applied for today, the patent office would not be likely to find this.

What non-technologists don't understand is that once you've developed a technology - for instance polishing a piece of glass so that the sides are not parallel to each other, but curved so that they bend light - then microscopes, telescopes, contact lenses, glasses, fun house mirrors, convex and concave mirrors, magnifying glasses, fluid level indicators, etc., etc., all become instantly obvious to someone skilled in the art. If a technology doesn't develop for a period of time, such as our friend the propane mower, it is because the technology has no useful purpose at the time (propane mowers are now becoming popular as the output zero particulate, unlike diesel mowers.

The large majority of patents in the USPTO.GOV database are junk - less than 1 in 100 are real "innovations", and it may be less than 1 in 1000.

In simple terms the system is a joke - a damned expensive one. I suspect that more than 5% of the American economy is being wasted on invalid Patents. Just think of what could be done with that money, in the nature of curing heart disease, or updating the interstate system, or making FEMA actually work so that no community suffers what New Orleans went through.

Wayne
5/15/2007 3:04:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It is a growing problem.
5/15/2007 3:05:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The problem is that these come back to haunt you years later.
5/15/2007 3:06:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Finding a solution to this problem is urgent.
5/15/2007 3:07:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I'm sure we will be hearing a lot more about this.
7/4/2007 12:16:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I still owe a code sample about using DependencyObject from a previous post (I will write that!), however I'm curious what would interest the couple people out there that read this... besides my boring opinions about the universe, and my adventures with aquatics, what do you want to read about?
9/8/2007 11:28:21 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I heard that Microsoft will officially recommend Suse Linux Enterprise for people who want to run both Windows and Linux. It will distribute coupons for maintenance and support for Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server operating system.
9/11/2007 11:53:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think that beyond there divergences they are currently working something out so both the parts have something to win. It's just fair ...
11/29/2007 3:37:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Great post. I think this topic will be debated for years to come especially since you will be seeing more bigger companies combining forces.
12/3/2007 12:14:04 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This is great! One question: Is there any way around the authentication issue? I have a portal which requires a login/password. Am I out of luck?
4/25/2008 3:58:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
If Novell protects us from Microsoft, who protects us from Novell:

The one thing we all have to remember is that open source leads to new concepts and market opportunity for small development shops. Just ask Astrum Inc. http://www.astruminc.com, what astrum did was to develop the first SUSE based Solution Stack using Novell technology. What they produced and what the independent testing reported was a beast of an appliance and Astrum published these reports on its website.

This solution described at RSA is the first true Identity based encryption system that can target users who have access to critical data or compliant sensitive data and harden compliance based policies that are compliance mandated. Astrum then did a OEM with nCipher and converted the nCIpher HSM from a 32bit card to a true 64bit card with eDirectory integration. Now if that wasn't enough they then developed a key management system that never exposes any part of the key to a hacker outside the appliance and without making a customer change it’s network or put agents on it’s storage. I was very impressed as I spoke to representative from Astrum. Now according to nCipher as told to me at RSA this makes the Astrum solution the only solution to meet the up coming FIPS 3 compliance changes and make this appliance very unique in the market space.
The problem:
The concept from what I could gather was presented to Novell under NDA two years ago at the end of 2006 and promises of concept protection were made and agreements were signed and both worked with business units to ensure no competitive issues may arise. They did not! So Astrum shared with Novell executives the plan that at the end of the day for example map 8 of the PCI requirements to the appliance along with all the major compliances while having the ability to leverage all the security solutions sold by Novell or any other security software based solution that could sit in the network. What happened is Astrum became the first ever to develop and Novell based solution stack using SUSE enterprise server in a appliance only to have it stolen from them!.. Hence the following links.
http://sev.prnewswire.com/computer-electronics/20080416/AQW05816042008-1.html
http://www.novell.com/linux2/appliance/
So if the solution is potentially a market changing concept as Linux can be why expose a concept to a company like Novell who touts protection in the Open source community, of course they promise protection from Microsoft but who promises concept protection from Novell. When Novell realized the market impact of such a solution they have moved to slowly create competition for little Astrum who is coming to market with out any assistance as promised by Novell. This solution from what I hear from internal Novell had enough potential market impact that it changed a direction for a major software company like it did for Novell. Prior to 07 and from what I understand Novell couldn't spell compliance much less understands an appliance stack approach to compliancy and encryption.
Develop for Novell on SUSE or jeOS, and expose a development and market plan, NO WAY!!! I really feel for these guys and have to ask why anyone would trust Novell and are they truly moving to a channel model.
4/29/2008 12:51:44 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This is a great topic that needs more attention. It is a growing problem and requires to be addressed! WE need a solution fast!

Lora

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