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[News] Microsoft's Latest Trojan Horse: Patent Trap in ODF Clothing

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Microsoft Supporting ODF? -- Close, But No Cigar

,----[ Quote ]
| Once again, the problem is software patents. Internet News  indicates that 
| commercial Linux/FOSS vendors, and the GPL license that Linux comes with, 
| will be excluded...  
| [...]
| GPL developers can't obtain patent licenses. That would violate the terms of 
| the GPL. Period. 
| Like Microsoft doesn't know that.
| But, you say, Linux is GPL'd and that's Microsoft's primary competition. Can 
| it be that commercial vendors and the GPL will be exiled again from 
| the "even" playing field everyone else gets to be on? Why yes. It appears so. 
| Commercial Linux vendors need not apply. Or they can sell out.   
| In short, I think Microsoft has no intention of interoperability with its 
| actual competition, namely commercial Linux, like Red Hat and Ubuntu, et al, 
| all the vendors who refuse to sell out to their patent demands. I'd say it 
| has to be deliberate on Microsoft's part, because when Microsoft offered its 
| Open Specification Promise (OSP), the promise not to sue over OOXML, sorta, 
| kinda, it was clearly informed by the Software Freedom Law Center that the 
| OSP's terms are inconsistent with the GPL and that the promise provides no 
| assurance for FOSS developers. And Microsoft is certainly knowledgeable about 
| the problems with RAND terms for FOSS. But they persist in offering what they 
| know commercial GPL developers can't accept.         
| [...]
| Please note that they too expressed dreams of maintaining ODF, not just 
| OOXML, and making the two "interoperable". So, now Microsoft says it will 
| join OASIS and "help" ODF and it hopes ODF will go to the same folks who 
| mangled OOXML.   
| Does that sound helpful?
| I wish they were sincere. I'd love to be proven wrong. But I'm afraid, having 
| watched Microsoft shove OOXML through the Fast Track process, despite it not 
| even being usable, that ODF will be harmonized out of meaningful existence. I 
| suspect that is the plan. And so to me, the announcement of "support" for ODF 
| sounds like it could just be the next chess move in Microsoft's strategy to 
| maintain its heavy footprint.      


Microsoft and ODF: Has Hades Gone Sub-Zero?

,----[ Quote ]
| As I've written elsewhere, I see increasing signs of new Microsoft approach 
| to open source, which involves loving applications to death, while 
| undermining GNU/Linux. The idea might be to lull the wider free software 
| community into a false sense of security while digging away at the 
| foundations, so that one day open sources apps find themselves running mostly 
| on Windows, with Microsoft in the driving seat.     
| That's more of a long-term threat, albeit one that the free software world 
| needs to be aware of. So, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that 
| Microsoft is sincere, that it really will offer proper ODF support in Office, 
| and that it really wants work with rather than against the OASIS technical 
| committee: why might that be?    


"Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental 
deficiency, as in, "he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2." 
Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make
the complete failure of the competition's technology part of the mythology of 
the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies 
and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors' technologies, 
to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over 

                                --- Microsoft, internal document



What is Wrong with RAND?

,----[ Quote ]
| I wrote yesterday that RAND terms can be discriminatory, and that in fact due 
| to the Microsoft OSP, OOXML is  discriminatory against the GPL and Open 
| Source licenses, despite being made available under RAND terms. Microsoft's 
| Jason Matusow responded with a blog entry suggesting I need to bone up on 
| standards and licenses. Why Microsoft folks can't be polite is a mystery to 
| me, but I persist in responding with decency. He thought it would be helpful 
| to hear from lawyers on the subject. So, I did some research for him, and I 
| find that there are quite a number of lawyers who agree with me.       
| So here you are, Jason: what is wrong with RAND from folks whose credentials 
| you will respect. They are not radical or extreme, and neither is Groklaw, as  
| you will see. The problem, rather, is that Microsoft is wishing that time 
| would stand still for it, and that the old, proprietary software model were 
| all that there was in the world. However, like the music industry, 
| Microsoft -- and standards bodies -- now have to cope with the new and modern 
| software development model and licenses that foster and underpin it, not just 
| the old-fashioned, closed, and patent-licensed model that Microsoft 
| represents. And isn't it you at Microsoft, and your friends at CompTIA, who 
| have told the governments of the world that one business model should not be 
| favored over any other? How much less should a standard?         


Buy, Cheat, Steal, and Lie: The OOXML Story

,----[ Quote ]
| A 2007 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit may end 
| up coming back to haunt Microsoft in their ongoing U.S. antitrust battle. The  
| case revolved around claims by Broadcom that Qualcomm had deliberately 
| included its patents in the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System 
| standard in order to create a monopoly for its products. The appeals court 
| held that if a company acts deceptively to gain adoption of a standard that 
| then results in a monopoly to their advantage, they can be held to have 
| violated anti-trust laws, irrespective of their right to determine the use of 
| their patents. Interestingly enough, the Court of Appeals ruling relies on a 
| Federal Trade Commission ruling which in turn relied on — drumroll, please — 
| United States v. Microsoft, the very case that put MS under supervision in 
| the first place.          
| All we can say is, we hope that with this many available avenues, something 
| is done to rectify the farce acted out over the last several months. 


Another Reason Microsoft's OSP Isn't Good Enough

,----[ Quote ]
| Eek. I understand that to be saying that there are gaps in OSP coverage. 
| You'll get documents you can't legally open unless you are using Microsoft's 
| software, because the extensions found in Office but not in OOXML proper, so 
| to speak, are not covered. Let me explain what I think they are saying this 
| means.    
| We knew we'd get documents we couldn't open effectively from a technical 
| standpoint, without at least losing something in the translation. But if 
| extensions to the OOXML format, as exemplified in Microsoft Office 2007, are 
| not covered by the OSP, and evidently they are not, when you get a document 
| with, say, spreadsheet macros, or DRM, what legally protects you if open the 
| document? All Microsoft has to do, then, is extend the format, as it already 
| has, and you then can only interoperate with them if you use Microsoft 
| software too. So. OSP gaps. Nice work if you can get it.       



OOXML IPR problems

,----[ Quote ]
| Anyway, the phrase that caught my eye last night in one of the presentations 
| I was sent was “No IPR problems!”. 
| I immediately thought “That should have an asterisk.” As in:
| “No IPR problems!*”
| * If you don’t care about 1) everything you need to use the spec, or 2) are 
| interested in using free software. 


Microsoft patents by Brian Jones

,----[ Quote ]
| For fun we just did a quick search of published US patent applications 
| with "Brian Jones" as an author, and "Microsoft" as the assignee. 
| [...]
| Some of these, like the packing ones, seem to apply directly to OOXML. What 
| isn't clear to us is why Microsoft would pursue patent protection for patents 
| rights that their are promising that they won't assert over users of OOXML.  


Wishful Spinning

,----[ Quote ]
| OOXML gets adopted. More and more projects are started. Let's see which of 
| these would survive without funding. Meanwhile a spin factory sends out 
| success stories that most bloggers find worthless to discuss. It is possible 
| to get the Krauts on board that are supposed to review OOXML but would OOXML 
| survive a review by the crowds?    


Digging in the Comments: Patents

,----[ Quote ]
| Patent licensing is probably the most important aspect for all third parties 
| that want to implement or use the Open XML specification. Unfortunately the 
| Ballot Resolution Meeting cannot discuss these aspects because only technical 
| and editorial issues would get resolved.   
| [...]
| When you have a patent which covers Open XML and you refuse to license it, 
| the standard process gets stalled. Large companies in the standardization 
| process are reluctant to use that nuke option. Given the ambush that the 
| software patent practice means today it is quite possible that Open XML 
| infringes a patent and all parties eventually have an obligation to license 
| it.     


Patent threat looms large over OOXML

,----[ Quote ]
| "If OOXML goes through as an ISO standard, the IT industry, government and 
| business will encumbered with a 6000-page specification peppered with 
| potential patent liabilities" said NZOSS President Don Christie.  
| "Patent threats have already been used to spread doubt amongst organisations 
| keen to take advantage of the benefits of open source. No one knows whether 
| such claims have any merit, but it is calculated to deter the development and 
| use of open and alternative toolsets."   


Cyberlaw OOXML Seminar 14 December

,----[ Quote ]
| However, this raises the issue - what assurance does a developer have that 
| such a large specification is not the subject of third party patent claims?  
| The pedigree of the specification is certainly no reason for hope, Microsoft 
| has been the target of third party patent claims for some time now including 
| some high profile losses in patent suits. The fact that the specification has 
| been developed behind closed doors and on a fast track means that there has 
| been no adequate opportunity to evaluate the likelihood of third party patent 
| claims against the specifications. The sheer size of the document suggests 
| there will be at least a couple hiding in there somewhere.       


ISO warned about possible patent violations of DIS29500 (aka OOXML)

,----[ Quote ]
| I have just send the following email to ISO members (you can find some of 
| their email addresses on the INCTIS website) to warn them about the possible  
| patent ambush... 


EC probes OOXML standards-setting process

,----[ Quote ]
| A spokesman for the European Commissioner for Competition, Neelie Kroes, told 
| The Register that regulators were continuing to scrutinise interoperability 
| issues related to Microsoft’s products following complaints from the 
| Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) group.   
| As part of that process, the EC formally contacted a number of national 
| standards bodies, including the Norwegian Standards Institute (NSI), 
| requesting more details about possible irregularities in the OOXML 
| standardisation process.   
| [...]
| “It must be stressed that it is not the Commission's intention to influence 
| the outcome of this process, but the Commission considers it essential to 
| ensure that European competition law is not violated in the course of the 
| standard setting process,” he said in an email to El Reg.   
| In January the EC began formal anti-trust probes against Microsoft in two 
| cases where it was alleged that the multinational firm had abused its strong 
| market position. As part of the investigation into the first case, the 
| Commission said that it would scrutinise OOXML on the grounds that the 
| specification doesn't work with those of competitors.    


Could an Appeal Derail OOXML?

,----[ Quote ]
| Meanwhile, the normal ISO process means that OOXML will not become an 
| official standard until at least the two-month waiting period runs out. 


Martin Bryan: we are getting “standardization by corporation”

,----[ Quote ]
| A November informative report of Martin Bryan, Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 
| WG1 highlights the fallout of the ECMA-376 fast-track process for ISO. He 
| says he is 'glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible'  
| [...]
| In what is an astonishingly outspoken report, Martin Bryan, Convenor, ISO/IEC 
| JTC1/SC34 WG1 has given us insight into the total mess that Microsoft/ECMA 
| have caused during their scandalous, underhand and unremitting attempts to 
| get - what is a very poorly written specification {i.e. DIS 29500 aka OOXML, 
| AR} - approved as an ISO standard. …    


Dysfunctional ISO - Courtesy of Microsoft


Microsoft accused of stacking ISO committee

,----[ Quote
| In a memo sent following his last meeting as head of the working group on 
| WG1, which is handling Microsoft’s application to make the Word format an ISO 
| standard as ECMA 376, outgoing Governor Martin Bryan (above), an expert on 
| SGML and XML, accused the company of stacking his group.   


Corrupt countries were more likely to support the OOXML document format

,----[ Quote ]
| Is this just a random coincidence? The median of the CPI index of the above 
| mentioned 70 countries is 3.95. Of the most corrupted half (CPI index less 
| than 3.95) 23 or 77% voted for approval (approval or approval with comments) 
| and 7 or 23% for disapproval; 5 abstained. Of the least corrupted half (CPI 
| index more than 3.95) 13 or 54% voted for approval and 11 or 46% voted for 
| disapproval; 11 abstained - see the table below.      


Microsoft accused of more OOXML standards fiddling 

,----[ Quote ]
| However the 11 new countries are refusing to say how they will vote. These 
| include Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Jamaica, Lebanon, Malta, Pakistan, 
| Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela. Most people seem to think 
| that these have been put there by Vole to make sure the standard gets pushed 
| through.    

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