Fabless processor company Allwinner Technology Co. Ltd. (Zhuhai, China) has been accused of violating the GNU General Public License (GPL) under which Linux is distributed.
The alleged violations are within the software development kits that support the writing of software for some of Allwinner's 32-bit system-chips, according to Linux-Sunxi, a community of open-source developers that has formed around the Allwinner SoCs. The Linux kernel is at the heart of the Android operating system, and therefore a significant factor in the tablet computer market which has been a key part of Allwinner's business to date.
Google has had enough of its long-running legal battle with Oracle over whether application programming interfaces (API)s can be copyrighted. The search giant has asked the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to bypass further battles in lower courts and address the API copyright issue once and for all. SCOTUS, in return, is soliciting the Obama administration for its view of the case before moving forward.
The litigation surrounding Android continued this year, with significant developments in the patent litigation between Apple Computer, Inc. (Apple) and Samsung Electronics, Inc. (Samsung) and the copyright litigation over the Java APIs between Oracle Corporation (Oracle) and Google, Inc. (Google). Apple and Samsung have agreed to end patent disputes in nine countries, but they will continue the litigation in the US. As I stated last year, the Rockstar Consortium was a wild card in this dispute. However, the Rockstar Consortium settled its litigation with Google this year and sold off its patents, so it will no longer be a risk to the Android ecosystem.
The copyright litigation regarding the copyrightability of the Java APIs was brought back to life by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) decision which overturned the District Court decision. The District Court had found that Google was not liable for copyright infringement for its admitted copying of the Java APIs: the court found that the Java APIs were either not copyrightable or their use by Google was protected by various defenses to copyright. The CAFC overturned both the decision and the analysis and remanded the case to the District Court for a review of the fair use defense raised by Google. Subsequently, Google filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. The impact of a finding that Google was liable for copyright infringement in this case would have a dramatic effect on Android and, depending on the reasoning, would have a ripple effect across the interpretation of the scope of the “copyleft” terms of the GPL family of licenses which use APIs.
This is the latest installment of our Licensing and Compliance Lab's series on free software developers who choose GNU licenses for their works.
In this edition, we conducted an email-based interview with Aaron Wolf, co-founder of Snowdrift.coop, a web platform coordinating patronage specifically for freely-licensed works. Aaron Wolf is a music teacher by trade who got involved in the free software movement in 2012 building on his earlier interest in free culture and cooperative economics.
Boies, along with three attorneys representing the States, brought Microsoft to it’s knees — or so it seemed at the time.
On November 5, 1999, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson found that Windows dominance on the PC made the company a monopoly and that the company had taken illegal actions against Apple, Java, Netscape, Lotus Notes, RealNetworks, Linux, and others in order to maintain that monopoly. He ordered Microsoft broken in two, with one company producing Windows and another handling all other Microsoft software.
As we all know, Judge Jackson’s solution was never implemented.
Although an appeals court upheld the verdict against Redmond, the breakup of the company was overturned and sent back to the lower court for a review by a new judge. Two years later, in September, 2001, under the Bush Administration, the DOJ announced that it was no longer seeking the breakup of Microsoft, and in November reached a settlement which California, Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia and Massachusetts opposed.
The settlement basically required Microsoft to share its APIs and appoint a three person panel that would have complete access to Microsoft’s systems, records, and source code for five years. The settlement didn’t require Microsoft to change any code or stop the company from tying additional software with Windows. Additionally, the DOJ did not require Microsoft to change any of its code.
And just like that, the Rockstar Consortium's lawsuit campaign against Android is over. The patent holding group (backed by Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson, Microsoft and Sony) has sold all of its commonly held patents to clearinghouse RPX for $900 million, or a fraction of the $4.5 billion the total patent pool was worth a few years ago. Rockstar will accordingly drop the lawsuits that it still had left, including those leveled against HTC, LG and Samsung. Don't worry that RPX will promptly turn around and sue someone else, either. It already has a deal to license those patents for defensive purposes to a group of 30-plus companies, including Google and Cisco, while the Rockstar companies get to keep their licenses.
Public administrations in the EU are hindering competition by asking for specific brands and products when procuring software solutions, says OpenForum Europe, an organisation campaigning for an open, competitive ICT market. “No progress has been made in recent years. In fact the practice of referring to brand names in public procurement has become more widespread”, OFE says.
Co-opetition is a part of open source. The Open Invention Network model allows companies to decide where they will compete and where they will collaborate, explained OIN CEO Keith Bergelt. As open source evolved, "we had to create channels for collaboration. Otherwise, we would have hundreds of entities spending billions of dollars on the same technology."
IBM has had a win in its long court battle with SCO over just who owns Unix and, by extension, whether Linux is an unauthorised clone.
Some quick and simplified history: SCO – short for The Santa Cruz Operation – was a software company that offered a version of Unix for x86 chippery. When Linux came along in the late 90s and started turning into a business, SCO more or less sank and it attacked both Novell and IBM for their role in helping to spread Linus Torvalds' brainchild. At stake was whether those who distribute and profit from Linux should share some of their bounty with SCO. If a court had found in SCO's favour, it would have been bad news for Linux.
The Novell suit ran for about six years, but SCO lost. After that, SCO endured all manner of financial strife, but managed to crawl from the crypt more than once. Last year, SCO managed to secure approval to re-open the case against IBM.
Also: ENOUGH! Says Nuffer
The General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2) continues to be the most widely used and most important license for free and open source software. Black Duck Software estimates that 16 billion lines of code are licensed under GPLv2. Despite its importance, the GPLv2 has been the subject of very few court decisions, and virtually all of the most important terms of the GPLv2 have not been interpreted by courts.
Via James Bessen, we learn of how a patent trolling operation by StreamScale has resulted in an open source project completely shutting down, despite the fact that the patent in question (US Patent 8,683,296 for an "Accelerated erasure coding system and method") is almost certainly ineligible for patent protection as an abstract idea, following the Supreme Court's Alice ruling and plenty of prior art. Erasure codes are used regularly today in cloud computing data storage and are considered to be rather important. Not surprisingly, companies and lawyers are starting to pop out of the woodwork to claim patents on key pieces. I won't pretend to understand the fundamental details of erasure codes, but the link above provides all the details. It goes through the specific claims in the patents, breaking down what they actually say (basically an erasure code on a computer using SIMD instructions), and how that's clearly an abstract idea and thus not patent-eligible.