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Litigious Times in Android World

Litigious Times in Android World

"Personally I hope the lawsuits help stop Android, and then maybe MeeGo or WebOS (both run by FOSS-friendly companies) will become dominant," said Slashdot blogger hairyfeet. "Because anyone who has tried to update Android on a Motorola or any of the other TiVo-tricked devices knows freedom of code means nothing if the code can't be used without permission."

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
03/31/11 5:00 AM PT

There's nothing like a splashy success to make the lawyers start crawling out of the woodwork, and that's just what we've been seeing in spades with regard to Android over the past few weeks or so.

Just recently it was the hullabaloo over Android's licensing and headers, of course, and now it's starting to look like the litigious follies will never end.

Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble and the manufacturers of its Android-based Nook e-readers, for example, and we've also seen Apple turn green over the use of the term "app store" in Amazon's new Android marketplace.

That, mind you, is on top of Apple's battle with Microsoft over the very same claim.

With so much legal activity going on, Linux Girl couldn't help but wonder: Is this "Be Kind to Lawyers" month, or is there more to it than that? As per usual, Linux bloggers had no shortage of thoughts on the matter.

'These Reek of Desperation'

"Apple has always been a rather litigious company, but these new lawsuits from Microsoft just reek of desperation caused by their floundering smartphone market share," consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack began.

"Suing over a patent on displaying a page before the background loads -- are they nuts? I'm sure I remember Netscape doing that long before IE came around," Mack asserted.

"I don't think that patent will even survive the lawsuit, and I don't know who to be more annoyed with," he added -- "the patent office, for being dumb enough to approve that patent, or Microsoft, for applying for it even though they should have known better."

'The World Does Not Care'

Indeed, "Apple and M$ will do everything they can to tax or eliminate competition," blogger Robert Pogson suggested. "That is how they gained their power and maintained power."

Fortunately, however, "the world does not care," Pogson asserted. "The world wants small, cheap computers, and Android/Linux on ARM will provide those. The world has discovered that the world can create its own IT and does not have to send money into a black hole to get it."

Software patents, in fact, "are largely invalid, and that should trickle down from SCOTUS sooner or later," he predicted.

'The Courts Should Slap Them'

"The particular patents cited by M$ are bogus, reflecting technology I have seen decades earlier," Pogson opined, echoing Mack.

Apple, meanwhile, "is all about branding, and the courts should slap them for trying to claim generic terms for trademarks," he added. "The courts should have done that for that other OS from M$ long ago."

Bottom line? "The two dinosaurs, M$ and Apple, are devoid of innovation and seek to maintain the status quo in-house and outside," Pogson concluded. "They are trying to preserve their cash-cows by harming competition."

In the end, though, "it won't wash," he predicted. "The world is onto their tricks."

'Wolf in Sheep's Clothing'

"Tricks" are just what Slashdot blogger hairyfeet suspects Google is guilty of, in fact.

"FOSS advocates should look at Google as the wolf in sheep's clothing, as they have made sure that ZERO GPL v3 is allowed anywhere near Android," hairyfeet explained. "Why? The answer is simple: it is so the OEMs can 'TiVo trick' you out of the four freedoms, which is the ONLY thing that separates GPL from BSD.

"Personally I hope the lawsuits help stop Android, and then maybe MeeGo or WebOS (both run by FOSS-friendly companies) will become dominant," hairyfeet said. "Because anyone who has tried to update Android on a Motorola or any of the other TiVo-tricked devices knows freedom of code means nothing if the code can't be used without permission."

'They Would Likely Lose'

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, predicted a settlement in Microsoft's case over the Nook e-readers.

"I suspect Microsoft doesn't go after Google because they would likely lose," Travers told Linux Girl. "Instead, they will go through a lot of pre-trial stuff to try to get well-positioned and then work out a settlement.

"I almost wish Google would sue Microsoft over the issue -- I think they clearly would have standing to do so -- but I realize that patent lawsuits are a crapshoot, and that is likely why they don't," Travers explained. "Similarly, even if Microsoft prevails on half the patent claims against Google, they would still possibly come out at a net positional loss."

'Apple Should Know Better'

As for Apple's "app store" quibble, "App Store is no more a valid trademark than Windows is....... It's completely generic," Travers pointed out. "I predict that this is settled by Apple paying Amazon to let the matter drop -- either that or the trademark will be ruled generic and invalid."

In any case, "Apple should know better than to create trademarks like this, but they have a history of grabbing other people's trademarks," Travers concluded.

"Apple needs better vetting of their trademarks by in-house counsel," he added. Meanwhile, "I hope Amazon's legal team can stop laughing long enough to effectively defend against this lawsuit."


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