Makers of GNOME, the free desktop environment, sued by infamous patent troll

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/26/makers-of-gnome-the-free-desk.html

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I look forward to this going very badly for him.

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I’ve taken a look at the patent.
That such a generally worded, obvious patent could be granted is baffling, even more so if it’s a recent one. I thought such trash was over and done with YEARS ago.

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Is GNOME a thing you can sue?

Is he one of “those” Rothschilds, the drippingly rich Euro-banker ones? Or just your average garden-variety Rothschild?

The (software) patent system has really gotten out of hand. My guess is it will be the main reason China will eat the world economically, because they decided to just largely ignore patents, and will probably become only more brash in ignoring them as the world gets more and more economically dependent on China.

I’m not really against the original idea of patents (grant an inventor a time-limited monopoly on his/her invention to offset development cost and thus promote innovation), but it looks like the various patent offices around the world are either grossly incompetent or corrupt (whynotboth.gif). Also, the running time of a patent should be way shorter. Especially in software, where you don’t need to build large factories, 5 years should be the absolute maximum. (Though I can understand the distincion between hard- and software is blurry I still think we , as humanity, could devise a better system than the minefield we have today).

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Patents are not supposed to be “obvious”, but in this context “obvious” means “obvious to a person with an IQ of 70”. In addition, the patent office derives at least part of its funding from granting patents rather than refusing them, so there is an incentive to grant iffy patents and let the courts sort it out afterwards.

If you’re a patent troll, you want the people you sue to do the reasonable thing and settle to pay you license fees rather than litigate very expensively to perhaps get the patent invalidated (which is always a toss-up). You want to go after small or medium-size businesses first because (a) they are even less in a position to litigate, and (b) having won a few cases already makes it easier to win more cases. You don’t want to sue the likes of IBM or Google first, even though they have lots of money, because when their legal departments are done with you, all that is left of you will be a greasy smear at the bottom of a huge smouldering crater, and you no longer get to sue smaller outfits that would be easier to intimidate. Also it’s important to drop your law suit at the first sign that things might be going against you in court, since the very last thing you want is for some court to invalidate your patent and make all your law suits moot.

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The blatant pointlessness of shaking down a nonprofit open-source software project is the best part! It shows how patent lawsuits and all the externalized costs they generate in the courts are an automated form-letter process. No human has to pay much attention at all until a target has already paid more to defend themselves that a settlement would have cost them.

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Nope. If anything, I expect the office has been defunded and is trying to keep up with limited resources. Or they don’t care. It won’t be over until capitalism is no longer a thing that can be monkeyed with to favor certain people over others.

There must be at least a dozen other Linux desktop environments. I wonder if there’s really anything special about GNOME or if it’s just the first one Rothschild became aware of. In particular MATE is just a fork of the previous version of GNOME. He’ll be playing whack-a-mole for a while.

It comes down to features in the photo manager. Any piece of software that looks like it matches the patent may have gotten nastygrams. You only hear about the ones that not only fight back, but go public.

It’s one thing to patent troll a corporation who will handle this with the advice of legal council, it’s entirely different to go after a group if tech wizards who might not care about legal council and are very good at figuring out how the internet works. Its as smart of a move as walking into a boxing club and randomly throwing hay makers.

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The other thing is that GNOME has powerful friends with big legal departments. If you’re looking for easy marks, then a nonprofit free-software project whose developers are funded by the likes of Google and IBM may not be the most advisable target to go after.

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The GNOME Foundation is a nonprofit organization, with presumably some assets.

GNOME Buisness Plan:

  • Phase 1: Spoil any user experience

  • Phase 2: ?

  • Phase 3: Profit!

Well… kind of non-profit.

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