DecoderPro software and... KAM Industries?!?

Apologies in advance for the multiple postings, but this is potentially a serious issue.
Many of you have probably seen the review in the November 2004 Model
Railroader magazine of the "DecoderPro" software, part of a suite of programs known as the Jave Model Railroad Interface (JMRI) designed to make control of a DCC Model Railroad simpler for the average modeler.
"DecoderPro" is an open source program that works with most DCC systems and computers, and available FREE OF CHARGE at http://jmri.sf.net .
This software is the work of a group of fellow model rails and is constantly under development, revision, and improvement. We make it available for all, in the hope that it will make the hobby more enjoyable and rewarding for all.
It has recently come to our attention that one Mr. Matt Katzer, of KAM Industries, has registered the domain "DecoderPro.com". Mr. Katzer is NOT a member of the JMRI developers group and has made no contribution to developing the software or documentation. Initially it seemed unimportant, as DecoderPro is actually only part of the software suite. However, when asked about the reason for registering that particular domain name, Mr. Katzer's reply in message 5299 found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/loconet_hackers/ was in part as follows:
--begin quote--
Date: Fri Oct 15, 2004 12:47 pm Subject: Domain names
Hi Thomas..
We own a lot of domains, we buy them for business reasons.
If I decide that to released a licensed version of an open source development effort, what better place to have it then the name of the development effort?
--end quote--
It completely escapes me why, for "business reasons", Mr. Katzer would think it necessary or even desireable to register a domain name for a product that is FREE, and that he has no stake in developing. Yes, Mr. Katzer can distribute the software, as can anyone else. He can even charge for it if he likes, though why anyone would pay him for it when they can download it free of charge is far from obvious.
The timing of this is odd, as well... just after DecoderPro has been reviewed in a major model railroading magazine.
If you have the same kind of questions that I do, then ask Mr. Katzer just what his intentions are towards software he does not own, and why he thinks it is necessary to control that particular domain.
Joe Ellis
--

Joe Ellis

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Just a question about decoderpro, will you be making a pocket pc and symbian version? Thanks.

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wrote:

If they'll run Java and have some kind of serial or USB port, it should work now.
You might have to DL it to another windows computer, unzip it, then port it over.
--

Joe Ellis

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The main developer of the program has already contacted an attorney* (he had no choice and was really forced to by Mr. Matt Katzer, of KAM). A fund will be set up to fight this attempted takeover of a _free_ software program. I believe the group would also like additional legal help if needed, free, whatever the proper name for that is! Remember this is software given to the model railroading community for free. No one is making a penny on this and the contributors have donated many, many free hours for the enjoyment of the hobby.
*Our first step is to register at least "DecoderPro", and probably also "JMRI" and "PanelPro" as trademarks. I'm going to have to kick off a small fundraising drive because the US Patent and Trademark Office has a trademark filing fee of $335 per name.
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Joe Ellis wrote:

It sounds like someone in the JRMI/DecoderPro group needs to place this domain name under contest. There are ways to force this.
Howard
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domain name under contest. There are ways to force this.< This does need to be done but here's the problem. JMRI is an all volunteer group that spends hours of it's time "free" to give to Model Railroaders a really neat "free" product. The group now is donating money to try and fight this usurper however with a project like this as opposed to a business there is no money pot or staff attorneys for that matter.
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In blithered:

Methinks you're misinterpreting his "business" reasons, they are quite simply to get you to pay him to release the domain name. Put the name(s) under contest.
--
UR SHGb02+14 &ICMFP
If at first you don't succeed,
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Couldn't agree more, had that happen to me -- chap in Korea bought up 1,000's of domain names - one was my business name.
Tim Holmes Tallahassee Florida
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News Groups wrote:

Tim, I'm afraid it's more serious than that. Matt Katzer of KAM Industries apparently stated his intentions when he posted this in the Loconet Hacker's Yahoo Group, regarding his ownership of the DecoderPro.com domain name:
At 9:47 AM -0700 10/15/04, kam_loconet wrote:

Sounds to me like he's trying to move in on DecoderPro itself.
Stevert
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Good reason to get a domain name like "freejmri.org" or "therealjmri.org" or ... Let the pirate sit on his money.
Paul
--
In order to return good value to our shareholders, the light at the end
of the tunnel has been outsourced to a country with no ability to power
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Joe Ellis wrote:-

Why not, it worked for Bill Gates. He essentially stole computer languages which were open source, modiified them slightly to work with specific platforms (Commodore, Apple, Atari, etc) then sued anyone who tried to recopy them.
(kim)
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I wouldn't worry about the name unless you have plans on using it for a website address. The nitwit just bought a name that he thought would possibly net him a few grand for the resale. Let him just sit on that name and frustrate himself that it isn't selling. Go and use several variations of your name in the Who/Where directory and you will probably find that several of the variations of your name are there and no website is attached to the address.
-- Why isn't there an Ozone Hole at the NORTH Pole?
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Joe,
Thankyou for your post. As you will be aware, I am one of the many in the loconet_hackers group who contributed to the debate about KAM and his unethical business practices. For the benefit of those on this list who are not members of the loconet_hackers Yahoo group, the group primarily discusses the application of loconet application and the JMRI/DecoderPro project in a very constructive manner.
Matt Katzer of KAM Industries is a US manufacturer of a number of computer software products which control model railway layout largely through DCC systems. Mr Katzer patented his system a few years ago and ever since, it has caused problems for other companies manufacturing similar software. It has been a problem because Mr Katzer failed to ensure that there weren't other organisations doing the same thing prior to his application and the USPTO approved his application without proper investigation either, something which the USPTO has a reputation for. Mr Katzer's work is nothing new. His techniques are widely used throughout the computer software industry and he did NOT invent them. He has claimed ownership of widely used techniques such as queues, multi-threading and asynchronous programming.
Mr Katzer has sent out a number of cease/desist letters claiming patent infringements and of particular concern is the fact that (I am told) he has also sent the same letter to the importers of similar products from non-US companies. That is _really_ unethical bahaviour.
Mr Katzer is himself a member of the loconet_hackers group. A very large number of people in the group have basically turned on him and have given him an absolute pasting and public dressing down. There is no doubt that the majority of the group completely disapprove of KAM, his patents and his unethical business practices.
It appears to me that it all started when KAM started asking technical questions about some hardware system. Someone cottoned on and made the comment that he was obtaining free information from the group, only to build it into his product and the wrap it up in patents and sell it. Then everyone started commenting about what they thought about KAM and his patents.
Something which is really concerning is the DecoderPro/JMRI/SourceForge project as Joe has eluded to. Someone went and did some digging and found that KAM is the registered internic owner of the internet domain name 'decoderpro'. When this information was published in the group, there was an absolute vociferous backlash against KAM to the point where several people stated that they were going to boycot his products, encourage everyone they know to do the same and write to all the MRR magazines and advise the editors of KAM's unethical business practices. KAM has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with DecoderPro. It is not a KAM product name and is completely unrelated to any of his products, yet he has registered the name. The group concluded that it was a deliberate attempt by KAM to control the market and restrict the DecoderPro/JMRI project because KAM sees it as competition. He made a statement about being risk averse and generally buying domain names as a business exercise. Absolute rubbish! Yes, companies do buy domain names in the hope that they can sell them for profit at a later date, but Why would one deliberately buy the domain name of a competitor product ? The unethical business practices being exhibited are unbelievable!
Please be aware that KAM has advertised his products as an NMRA standard (proposed or otherwise) for some time. I am advised by the NMRA that discussions on the subject broke down several years ago and that as far as the NMRA is concerned, it has been a dead subject ever since. KAM has continued with misleading advertising which surmises NMRA approval. I note that in the last week or so, this information appears to have disappeared from his web site.
I believe that KAM has obtained patents in the hope that in the future, there will be wholescale use of PC's controlling model railway layouts and he wants to tie up the whole industry for himself when that day comes. Personally, I believe that the industry is an extreme niche of an already small niche. While I am an advocate of such control systems, I do not believe that Railway modellers are going to control their layouts in this way due to the general large scale aversion that I have observed in the hobby towards PCs and Microsoft. While MRR control will tend towards DCC, I believe that most DCC users will remain just that: DCC users. KAM's product is not the only product and there are certainly far better alternatives available.
Joe, good luck with your efforts - I wish you well. Best regards to all,
Graham Plowman
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Graham
I have to agree that this is shocking behaviour from KAM. As others have said, the first stage would be to contest the domain registration. It would seem the case is fairly clear-cut.
I disagree on your assessment of the future use of computers in the model railway world. A high percentage of modellers at the moment are 40 or older so the majority didn't grow up with computers. As you move down through the age-groups (who will eventually dominate the hobby), the level of familiarity with computers increases. I think Mr Katz's assessment is correct. This will be a growth market, especially as the price of suitable computer hardware decreases. An earlyer question about the use of PDAs with DecoderPro is a sign of where this will go...not with large desktop computers, but with PDAs and Tablet-style machines - the only part which will be in doubt is the use of RS232 which is already disapearing from PCs.
Adrian
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You know, the simplest, cheapest solution to all of this is to rename Decoder Pro. Perhaps Decoder Pro II or Decoder Programmer would do it.
I'd register the domain name before the new name is public knowledge, tho.
-Gerry
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On Thu, 28 Oct 2004 04:54:48 GMT, "Gerry Leone"

No, I don't think rolling over for Matt Katzer is the thing to do at all...
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Interesting thread..
I agree that a simple name change could solve the problem. Take steps to register and protect the new name and keep developing great software.
I also agree that PC use will increase. I only entered the Hobby in the past 6 months, and it was DCC and computer controll that attracted me.
Toronto
wrote:

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