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Archive for March, 2008

OOXML final tally to come…

The final vote will be tallied today, but by most counts, Microsoft got enough votes for OOXML to pass. Until the official report, we have plenty of articles to read about how things went on Friday, and quite a few people in agreement that OOXML standard will tarnish ISO.

Groklaw covers what it calls “irregularities” in the voting process in Germany, Norway, and Croatia: » Read more

Ed Brill: Where have all the emails gone?

Where have all the emails gone?

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the US Congressional hearings related to e-mail retention at the White House. The House oversight committee hearing was the latest chapter in a saga of technical ineptitude, political intrigue, and hidden agendas. It wasn’t entirely surprising to see politicians (and competitors) try to point fingers elsewhere, anything to try to explain why a potential five million e-mails are lost…and those are just the ones that passed through the official White House e-mail system.

Directly compare ODF and OOXML

Rob Weir has a great objective comparison of ODF and OOXML. He created word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics, each in OOXML and ODF formats. He presents a table comparing how each of the formats treated the very simple request for red, right-aligned text. Weir concludes:

The results speak for themselves.

What is the engineering justification for this horror? I have no doubt that this accurately reflects the internals of Microsoft Office, and shows how these three applications have been developed by three different, isolated teams. But is this a suitable foundation for an International Standard? Does this represent a reasonable engineering judgment? ODF uses the W3C’s XSL-FO vocabulary for text styling, and uses this vocabulary consistently. OOXML’s representation, on the other hand, appear incompatible with any deliberate design methodology.

Microsoft files complaint on OOXML vote

More shenanigans.

Open Source India: Microsoft files complaint on OOXML vote to apex office and Ministry of Consumer Affairs

I am just amazed and shocked by the depths to which Microsoft is willing to descend. I have had the privilege of representing Red Hat and the Indian open source community on the LITD 15 committee and have attended almost all the meetings convened on OOXML over the last one year. I would therefore like to place on record my appreciation for the Bureau of Indian Standards and Mrs. Neeta Verma for the transparency and openness with which they conducted an exceptionally difficult task. The manner in which they conducted the proceedings has done India proud and is in stark contrast to the controversies surrounding committees reviewing OOXML in other countries.

Open Source India: India votes NO for OOXML

Open Source India: India votes NO for OOXML

After a colossal amount of debate and discussion over the last one year, India has finally voted NO for OOXML. Today the committee was asked “Should India change its September 2007 No vote into Yes?”

13 members voted No
5 members (including Microsoft, of course) voted Yes.
1 member abstained
3 did not attend

Read More About It

Arthur C. Clarke, dead at 90.

Shadowman and his minions are sorely sad to lose one of our role models, who said things like this, and better, pretty much all the time:

“If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run–and often in the short one–the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.” – Arthur C. Clarke

The Costs and Benefits of Patents to Innovators

Interesting. They don’t address software patents exclusively, but it illuminates the growing gap between the intent and purpose of patent law and the reality of it.

Patent Law Blog (Patently-O): The Costs and Benefits of Patents to Innovators

We conclude with three important notes. First, patents do provide profits for their owners, so it makes sense for firms to get them. But taking the effect of other firms’ patents into account, including the risk of litigation, the average public firm outside the chemical and pharmaceutical industries would be better off if patents did not exist. Second, our best evidence relates to the eighties and nineties, but the evidence we have for this decade suggests that the patent tax has grown with the continued growth of patent lawsuits. We find no offsetting evidence that patents have become substantially more valuable in this century. Third, we find that small publicly traded firms get small positive R&D incentives from patents. This is also very likely to be true for small, non-publicly traded firms and non-profit inventors.

Then they fight you…

This is a real shame. Patent Troll Tracker was a great blog that did most of my work for me. Quite a loss.

The Prior Art

The Daily Journal’s Tuesday edition (not linkable) reports that Troll Tracker author Rick Frenkel, and his employer Cisco, have been sued for defamation by two East Texas attorneys who are players in that district’s patent litigation scene, Eric Albritton and T. John Ward, Jr.

John “Johnny” Ward, Jr. is a Texas lawyer who has filed a large number of patent infringement lawsuits in recent years. Between January and mid-October of 2007, his name was attached to 54 separate lawsuits by my count; in all but four, he represented the plaintiff. He is also, as I reported in October, the son of Judge T. John Ward, the judge who is largely responsible for making the Eastern District of Texas a hotspot for patent litigation.

There’s a lot more on this, here.

Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise: No Assurance for GPL

Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise: No Assurance for GPL – Software Freedom Law Center

There has been much discussion in the free software community and in the press about the inadequacy of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) as a standard, including good analysis of some of the shortcomings of Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise (OSP), a promise that is supposed to protect projects from patent risk. Nonetheless, following the close of the ISO-BRM meeting in Geneva, SFLC’s clients and colleagues have continued to express uncertainty as to whether the OSP would adequately apply to implementations licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). In response to these requests for clarification, we publicly conclude that the OSP provides no assurance to GPL developers and that it is unsafe to rely upon the OSP for any free software implementation, whether under the GPL or another free software license.

Read the full paper here.

Lawyering Up

Red Hat Puts More Muscle On Its Legal Staff — Linux — InformationWeek

Red Hat is beefing up its legal staff with two appointments to strengthen its hand in patent disputes and open source licensing issues.

Company spokesman on Wednesday declined to comment on whether Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)’s claims in early and mid-2007 that its patents cover parts of Linux had anything to do with the expansion.

“We are helping pave the way for open standards and changes in the IP regime needed for the future,” responded Robert Tiller, VP and assistant general counsel for IP, one of the new hires at Red Hat’s legal department. “We feel a responsibility to lead these efforts and to encourage projects that support open, multi-vendor standards,” he wrote in an email response.

Red Hat announced Wednesday that it was adding Tiller and Richard Fontana, a former associate of Eben Moglen at the Software Freedom Law Center, to its legal staff. Fontana will be Red Hat’s open source licensing and patent counsel.

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