The patents in question, if they are proved valid, have far reaching applications. This will be bigger than the SCO Caldera Unix thing ever was.
- The patents include: [web-copy-pasted From Ars article above]
- Nos. 9,143,801 and 8,964,849, relating to "significance maps" for coding video data;
- No. 8,116,739, describing methods of displaying messages;
- No. 8,886,212, describing tracking location of mobile devices;
- No. 8,688,439, relating to speech decoding and compression;
- No.7,440,561, describing integrating wireless phones into a PBX network;
- No. 8,554,218, describing call routing methods; and
- No. 7,372,961, a method of generating a cryptographicpublic key.
So, how does this impact all of us?
First, they've already signed a cross licensing deal with Cisco. Cisco's paying them a license fee as well. What does Cisco get out of it? That last patent is against OpenSSL, specifically on the generation of X.509 certificates and certain cryptographic methods. (How? I thought that business methods weren't patent-able?). So, that includes certificate based VPNs, self-signed HTTPS certificates, and things like that found on the router. Since the method of generation appears to be patented, even work-alike implementations, e.g. LibreSSL, are probably in danger of lawsuits. So, for free, Cisco gets to single-handedly raise the cost of home and small business router appliances, and quite-possibly squeeze some of the smaller ones out of business. Not to mention punishing open firmware router implementations at the same time, such as SmoothWall, DD-WRT, and OpenWRT.
If history serves as any guide, Microsoft will be the next to pony up (Just like they did with SCO Unix). Microsoft would benefit greatly from this agreement. They'll get to squeeze the phone market and the Open Source ecosystem all at the same time. They'll probably cross-license with RIM, and make sure that WinMo is covered. Then they'd go to the phone manufacturers and sell it for less than they'd have to pay RIM for each phone with the infringing OpenSSL bits and Android installed. Google has already shown they've no interest in shielding their partners from patent litigation. RIM and Microsoft will likely start small, with Alcatel and Blu, and work their way up to HTC and Samsung. Similarly, MS will probably ask RIM to provide Linux licenses (which they will pay for their Azure instances), so they can attempt to force Google and Amazon to do the same.
It's not quite the end of the world though. Linux and open source have beaten overly broad patents before. We may be entering a period of long technological stagnation, while we wait to see what happens with all this.