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The Courts Government Microsoft Sun Microsystems News

MS-Sun Agreement Leaves Opening For OO.org Suits 407

Posted by timothy
from the on-what-basis-is-unclear dept.
newentiti writes "We all know Microsoft paid $900,000,000.00 to Sun and they also signed a LIMITED PATENT COVENANT AND STAND-STILL AGREEMENT. The agreement basically states that Microsoft will not sue Sun for any patents for the next 10 years and vice versa. What's really interesting is that according to this story the agreement had a special provision that lets Microsoft sue anybody, including Sun, over OpenOffice.org. I wonder what Microsoft had in mind?"
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MS-Sun Agreement Leaves Opening For OO.org Suits

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  • by netcrusher88 (743318) <netcrusher88.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:11PM (#10257682)
    Maybe Microsoft wants to sue them for the "Office" part? Appearently they thought they could sue Lindows for the "indows" part...
    • Nah...They want to sue them for the "Micro" part...so we'll have Sun Systems when it's all said and done. :)
    • by johnnyb (4816) <jonathan@bartlettpublishing.com> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:17PM (#10257738) Homepage
      I honestly think that this was just because Sun doesn't necessarily have a say in what goes into OpenOffice.org. Without this, the open-source world could simply just stick any technology into the OpenOffice.org codebase, and viola, Microsoft can't sue for infringement. I'm not a fan of software patents, but I think this really does make sense from a legal viewpoint, and is not necessarily an underhanded legal move by Microsoft.
    • by MikeMacK (788889) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:18PM (#10257749)
      No, I think it's the "Open" part that bugs them the most.
    • Nope. If Micro$oft is alone in any suits, they're just "being Microsoft". If someone else is with them, "it must have merit".

      Microsoft has started drafting talent they think can teach them the mindset of OS. Unfortunately, Microsoft is so set in their ways WRT capitalism (to an extreme) they don't know how to deal with things which aren't done for the [sole] purpose of money. They seriously do not know. They've tried to employ the overused FUD by making the suits think ownership is an issue because so
      • by Reteo Varala (743) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <alarav.oeter>> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @02:36PM (#10258536) Homepage
        Actually, there's a very apt quote from the movie the American President:

        "I'd been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob spends so much time and energy shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong, Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it; Bob's problem is that he can't sell it. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections."

        Replace Bob Rumson with Microsoft, and you have a clear match.
  • Objective (Score:3, Funny)

    by Scoria (264473) <slashmail&initialized,org> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:11PM (#10257684) Homepage
    I wonder what Microsoft had in mind?

    Why, global domination, of course!
  • Perhaps... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mr Guy (547690) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:11PM (#10257685) Journal
    including Sun, over OpenOffice.org. I wonder what Microsoft had in mind?"

    I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say, perhaps, suing?
    • by Moth7 (699815)
      Major cock-up on the MS legal team's part - unless they wish to sue for inclusion of patented technology in a defunct product. No, I'm not trolling, it's just that the agreement mentions "Open Office" and not "OpenOffice.org" (the name OO.org had to take for trademark reasons). Unless their ambiguous wording ("the product developed by Sun and generally known as Open Office") would hold up in a court of law, they really have no-one to sue - unless they want to litigate against the product which got to the n
    • Hardly "funny"... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ites (600337) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:57PM (#10258175) Journal
      Insightful, yes.

      Microsoft make money from exactly TWO products. Windows, and MSOffice.

      Windows is under fierce attack from internet malware on the consumer desktop, and Linux in the enterprise. MSOffice is being eroded by the unbreakable OOo.

      I said this a while ago when Microsoft and Sun announced their happy settlement: the goal is to squash OOo. SCO and Lindows demonstrated that lawsuits are not just about recovering damages: the mere threat of litigation is enough to kill a product.

      OOo will not survive a SCO. It's not got enough grip yet. Microsoft must realize this.

      So: they will use a stick and a carrot. The stick: lawsuits against prominent OOo developers for patent infringement. The carrot: MSOffice for Linux. I predict within the next 6 months, since every day that OOo is free makes it harder for MS to squash it.

      And then... patents to make sure no-one can ever write a free office application again.

      "Illegal software" is going to take on a whole new meaning by this time next year.
      • by sterno (16320) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @03:20PM (#10259040) Homepage
        So: they will use a stick and a carrot. The stick: lawsuits against prominent OOo developers for patent infringement. The carrot: MSOffice for Linux. I predict within the next 6 months, since every day that OOo is free makes it harder for MS to squash it.

        MS Office for Linux is not going to happen. Microsoft's power comes through control of the desktop platform. If they ran office on Linux, a lot of people would lose their only reason for sticking with Windows. Besides, the vast majority of people using OOo are using it on Windows, not Linux.

        Sure their desktop is under assault from Internet malware but has this eroded their market share in the slightest? No. As long as the applications people want to run only run on Windows then Microsoft will continute to dominate the market. I hate Windows but I run it at home because the games I play don't run on Linux. As for Malware, I'm behind a firewall, and I don't use IE or Outlook so what do I care.
      • My USian friend... (Score:4, Informative)

        by hummassa (157160) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @03:34PM (#10259205) Homepage Journal
        Some countries' laws (like my own) FORBID patenting of software. We will welcome OOo developers down here and treat them like kings, for our Large government is using more and more.
  • by Dav3K (618318) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:12PM (#10257693)
    Please notice that items like Star Office ARE included in the agreement, so I don't think this belies any patent cases against end-users. The biggest difference between Star Office and Open Office is that one is under the control of Sun, and one is not (or at least less-so). Therefore, Sun would obviously not want to be held responsible for things beyond it's control, such as outside coders blatantly putting in patented/copywrited material into Open Office.
    • by Roadkills-R-Us (122219) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:23PM (#10257813) Homepage
      Part of the analysis reads:

      The rest states that Sun has to give Microsoft legal aid in bringing lawsuits against users of Open Office. Also, Microsoft will pay Sun a confidential sum for its troubles for providing that legal aid.

      So, MS can sue Sun for using OO, and require Sun to help MS sue Sun, but then MS has to pay Sun for such aid???

      That series of stories could be almost as entertaining as te SCO Follies!
      • I actually quite like a comment posted on the story that goes :

        Perhaps that is why the proper name is OpenOffice.org. To quote:
        Because of trademark issues, OpenOffice.org must insist that all public communications refer to the project and software as "OpenOffice.org" or "OpenOffice.org 1.0," and not "OpenOffice" or "Open Office."
        Perhaps the Sun lawyers pulled a fast one over Microsoft!

        Indeed... the quote comes from here [openoffice.org], and it looks like it's been posted there more than a year ago. So technically

    • The agreement is not about copyright as far as I can see. That's also quite logical, otherwise Sun would be allowed to pirate all the Microsoft software it wanted. Patents and copyright are two completely different and unrelated things. The point of the covenant is exactly to allow the companies to use each other's patent portfolio's, so whether it would be done blatantly or not is irrelevant as well.

      The fact is simply that for some reason, Open Office was not included in the covenant (either because Micro
      • The fact is simply that for some reason, Open Office was not included in the covenant (either because Microsoft insisted on this for some reason, because Sun didn't care enough for some reason or a combination of the two).

        The "reason" is fairly simple. Sun doesn't own OpenOffice.org. Therefore, they have no right to make any decisions for them or sign any contracts on their behalf. OpenOffice.org originally came from Star Office at the point at which it was released open source, but OOo was completely in

    • by parcel (145162)
      The way I understand it (after RTFA) is that Sun would have been protected from responsibility for OpenOffice only if it had been written into the agreement. So, by not including OpenOffice in the agreement, Sun could (theoretically) be held responsible for OpenOffice.

      I can't think of any other reason for this exclusion to be made other than Microsoft planning legal action against someone related to OpenOffice. It seems very odd to me that an OpenOffice clause would be written into this agreement with Su
  • by donscarletti (569232) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:12PM (#10257696)
    It could simply be that Microsoft does not trust the open source community not to flagrantly disregard all microsoft patents when modifying OO.o if they were given immunity from civil action.

    That said, I this is Microsoft and their legal actions have rarely been that benign in the past.

    • Could Be (Score:2, Interesting)

      by michael.teter (811516)
      Could be that MS does fear that OO will blatantly "steal" patented MS Office technology.

      Or it could be that MS has intent to sue OO after MS receives a patent for something novel (like using a Tab key to jump between items) and then chooses to sue OO for _stealing_ their critical technology.

      Sadly, I'm thinking it's the latter.
    • That said, I this is Microsoft and their legal actions have rarely been that benign in the past.

      You seem to be confusing them with some other company like SCO or something. I don't like microsoft and its products, but MS doesn't just go around suing everyone. Instead they tend to do whatever they want and then try to defend it later in court, after they have a market behind them. Kneejerk Microsoft bashing at its finest.
    • While that is true, and is one of the more sensible explanations provided so far on here, it still doesn't quite answer all the questions. Wouldn't Microsoft want to avoid all Open source projects from Sun disregarding their patents?

      More importantly though, this path of thinking brings up some disturbing ideas in my head about ways GPLed projects could be controlled. Example: Suppose a company decides to start a GPL/BSD/etc. licensed project and this company has many software patents, and/or a cross-licens
      • NO! The GPL expressly prohibits distributing code that is encumbered with a patent. If GPL code is released with something under a software patent, then the use of that patent must be allowed where ever that code goes.
    • It could simply be that Microsoft does not trust the open source community not to flagrantly disregard all microsoft patents....

      As a general rule-of-thumb, this is already true of most FOSS developers. Let developers concentrate on technology, let the lawyers concentrate on patents.

      Well, its true except for the "flagrant" part, as I'm pretty sure most FOSS developers don't know about patents in their relevant products.
    • "...Microsoft does not trust the open source community not to flagrantly disregard all microsoft patents when modifying OO.o..."

      They don't have need to rely on trust, they can see the code. LGPL, remember?

  • by Serveert (102805) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:12PM (#10257698)
    They want to leave any dirty trick open just in case.
  • Sec Doc (Score:3, Informative)

    by mlmitton (610008) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:13PM (#10257705)
    Here's the original SEC document: http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/709519/00011931 2504155723/dex10109.htm
  • Holy #$#@$ (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:13PM (#10257712)
    visa versa

    Jesus Christ. How hard is it to use simpler terms if you don't know that the *complex* ones mean? Lets atleast try to keep it a little professional editors. Please.
    • Re:Holy #$#@$ (Score:5, Informative)

      by OrangeTide (124937) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:31PM (#10257902) Homepage Journal
      What is up with people saying 'visa versa' rather than 'vice versa' (pronounced VICE-uh VERSE-uh, but I hear no -uh on VICE more often, which I think is okay)

      vice/vix is latin for position. I don't think visa is anything in latin, or if it is I don't think it would make sense.

      No dictionary lists 'visa versa' or 'visa verse'. Most of them list 'vice versa'. I wish I knew why so many people say/spell 'visa'. (I'm guessing they say "vice-uh", and think it's spelled 'visa'. but in english visa would be 'vee-za')

      Here's a hint to everyone. Whenever you use a word or phrase, even a simple one you've used since you were a child. Look up it's meaning. It only takes a few minutes and you can use language more effectively if you have a more precise idea of a word's meaning. If you do this consistently, when you go to look up "visa versa" and find it's not there you'd realize the mistake. :)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @02:15PM (#10258336)
      visa versa

      Jesus Christ. How hard is it to use simpler terms if you don't know that the *complex* ones mean? Lets atleast try to keep it a little professional editors. Please.


      OpenOffice.org software download: free

      Patent agreement between Sun and Microsoft: $900,000,000

      Getting flamed by an AC for misspelling "vice": priceless

      There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's visa versa.
  • It is simple - FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:14PM (#10257722) Homepage
    Microsoft is great at spreading FUD. They have a stated goal to rid the desktop world (since they can't compete on a server level) of other OS's. Hence, they wish to have us stop using OO. I personally say, bring it on.

    They can go ahead and sue a non-profit organziation. I wonder what kind of goodwill that'll bring.
    -----
    • Uh, shouldn't any for-profit company want to grab the largest market share they can? Of course they want to be #1. That's good business.

      Their methodology is a different discussion.
      • by zymurgy_cat (627260) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:29PM (#10257883) Homepage
        Uh, shouldn't any for-profit company want to grab the largest market share they can? Of course they want to be #1. That's good business.

        Actually, no. Companies that go for market share often lose sight of the most important thing: profitability. Granted, getting the most market share can lead to economies of scale, but the costs to get that market share (from reduced prices, marketing expenses, etc.) can easily swallow any increase in profits. This is one of the reasons why slashing prices to gain market share almost always results in lower profits.

        Smart, successful companies know when to walk away from market share in order to maintain profitability. Dumb ones blindly go for the "sell at a loss and make it up on volume" mantra.
  • MS Earth (Score:4, Funny)

    by michael path (94586) * on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:15PM (#10257725) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what Microsoft had in mind?

    Rebranding the planet Microsoft Earth [microsoft.com]®
  • Change the name (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BigDish (636009) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:15PM (#10257729)
    IANAL, but it would seem to me if Sun changed the name of OpenOffice, this exemption for MS would no longer apply?
  • Optimism (Score:3, Funny)

    by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:16PM (#10257731) Homepage
    Maybe I'm putting too much faith in Sun, but I'd like to think that if Microsoft sued OO, then Sun would help them out.
    • Re:Optimism (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alsee (515537)
      According to the agreement Sun is required to be on Microsoft's side suing OO.

      Of course Sun is free to hire a second set of lawyers and join the other side of the case attacking itself. Sigh, what a sad sad commentary that that sentence almost makes sense.

      -
  • legal strategy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by belmolis (702863) <billposer&alum,mit,edu> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:18PM (#10257752) Homepage

    Its pretty obvious that Microsoft wants to preserve their right to sue, but I'm surprised that the deal with sun provides an exception. If the two agree that there is a real prospect of Microsoft winning a suit over OpenOffice.org, I would think that Sun would want to be protected and would have held out until Microsoft agreed. And I would think that Microsoft would have agreed, if they really wanted the deal with Sun, perhaps with the likely damages subtracted from Microsoft's payment to Sun. So what this suggests to me is that Microsoft's legal strategy involves a suit in which for some reason it would be difficult to avoid naming Sun as a defendant but in which Sun does not anticipate actually have to pay any significant damages or litigation expenses. I'm not sure how this situation would arise - maybe a situation in which MS has to name everybody initially but would then drop Sun as a defendant after discovery?

    • Its pretty obvious that Microsoft wants to preserve their right to sue, but I'm surprised that the deal with sun provides an exception. If the two agree that there is a real prospect of Microsoft winning a suit over OpenOffice.org, I would think that Sun would want to be protected and would have held out until Microsoft agreed.

      I dunno...

      90% of one BILLION dollars is a lot to play chicken over.

      If the terms are essentially "This agreement doesn't cover Open Office but does cover everything else" I can eas
  • by 4of12 (97621) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:19PM (#10257760) Homepage Journal

    I wonder what Microsoft had in mind?

    No wonder. It's clear that Clippy [missstrict.net] is going to sue erstwhile Office users under the "Alienation of Affection" [equityfeminism.com] provision of the EULA [slashdot.org] you clicked through so quickly under the heated passion [iht.com] of the moment.

  • Could be... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ElGuapoGolf (600734) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:20PM (#10257774) Homepage

    What could happen is this...

    I remember reading that MSFT was going to tie some DRM into future versions of office... only "authorized" people could view documents. You'd, of course, need a MSFT policy server somewhere on your network to make sure you could set these permissions, and view documents, and all that good stuff...

    If OpenOffice decided to reverse engineer this, the loophole lets MSFT sue them.

    Does anyone remember the good old days when you could save your Word 6 doc, open it in WordPefect, and work on it there? Or, hell, when you could save your GeoWrite document, open it it Word Writer, and work on it there? What the hell happened?
    • People wised up and realized that the internet is an evil place. Noone can be trusted. Least of all open source software users and developers. The only way to be secure in one's information is to trust MS and MS alone. Its really the natural evolution of things. Me thinks you doth protest too much.
    • Re:Could be... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by twos (83031)
      You can still do that, for the most part. Just save your documents in Rich Text Format.
  • Server melting... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:20PM (#10257775)
    Quote...
    According to the recently released financial documents to the SEC, besides the 900,000,000.00 being paid to Sun, a LIMITED PATENT COVENANT AND STAND-STILL AGREEMENT was also enacted.

    IV. PROVISIONS RELATING TO OPEN OFFICE

    1. Notwithstanding the other provisions of this Agreement, with respect solely to the product developed by Sun and generally known as Open Office, the Covenants of Section II above and the Releases of Section III above shall apply fully to Sun but shall not apply to Authorized Licensees of Open Office or any other third party. Accordingly, Microsoft shall not be foreclosed by this Agreement from seeking damages from Authorized Licensees of Open Office for copies of Open Office made or acquired prior to the Effective Date of this Agreement. Nor shall Microsoft be foreclosed from seeking any damages from Sun, its Affiliates, Authorized Licensees or any third party for any copies of Open Office made or deployed by a User after the Effective Date.


    So basically, while Microsoft will not sue Sun for any patents for the next 10 years and visa versa (Cross Licensing Agreement). Microsoft can sue anybody, including Sun over Open Office (Sun's Star Office is protected). This is probably as close as Microsoft can legally get to buying Open Office.

    The rest states that Sun has to give Microsoft legal aid in bringing lawsuits against users of Open Office. Also, Microsoft will pay Sun a confidential sum for its troubles for providing that legal aid.


    2. In the event that Microsoft elects to sue or otherwise seek recovery from an Authorized Licensee of Open Office for copies thereof that were made and deployed by a User prior to the Effective Date of this Agreement ("Deployed Copies"), upon request, Microsoft agrees to promptly reimburse Sun for any reimbursable Damages. Sun shall promptly notify Microsoft of any Claim, shall provide Microsoft with the opportunity to take control over and responsibility for the defense and/or settlement of such Claim, and shall reasonably cooperate with Microsoft in litigating the defense of such Claim, including in all discovery and trial preparation efforts. Microsoft will not have any obligation to reimburse Reimbursable Damages unless Sun abides by the foregoing requirements. Microsoft shall also be relieved of its obligation to reimburse Reimbursable Damages if Sun breaches any warranty in Section VII.4. As a condition to accepting control and responsibility for such defense, Microsoft shall acknowledge in writing that such third party claim constitutes a "Claim" and, as such, would give rise to Reimbursable Damages if determined adversely. In the event that Microsoft accepts control and responsibility for such defense, Sun shall be entitled to participate in such defense at its own cost. "Claim" means any claim that Sun is liable to indemnify or otherwise reimburse any Authorized Licensee or third party for damages it has been ordered to pay by final judgment or settlement arising from a claim asserted by Microsoft against such Authorized Licensee or third party that any Deployed Copy of Open Office infringes any patent of Microsoft. "Reimbursable Damages" means the amount of any adverse final judgment awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction, or Microsoft approved settlement, against Sun that is based on the Claim.

    3. The Parties acknowledge that the product currently marketed by Sun as Star Office shall not be affected by this Section IV.


    LIMITED PATENT COVENANT AND STAND-STILL AGREEMENT [sec.gov]
  • FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fmaxwell (249001) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:23PM (#10257802) Homepage Journal
    The most obvious reason to have such an exemption is the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) factor. Microsoft is probably deadly-afraid of small busineses (that will someday be big businesses) standardizing on OO rather than paying a king's ransom for MS Office licenses. By leaving these businesses to wonder if they will be sued or whether OO will disappear due to litigation, some of those businesses will consider ponying up the money for MS Office.
  • by Numen (244707) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:23PM (#10257811)
    Ummm, isn't OpenOfice administered seperate from Sun? In which case why would an agreement with Sun cover OpenOffice?

    One could equally say the agreement left open the possibility of suing people over Linux, or indeed washing machines.

    I doubt Sun wants to enmesh itself as responsible for washing machines anymore that they would OpenOffice... yes I understand where OpenOffice comes from, but ask yourself if you;d want blurry lines if you were Sun.

    Perhaps the spin on the reportage is a little askew. I'm not sure one can infer any intent on Microsofts part.... unless of course MS are planning on suing makers of washing machines.
  • visa versa? (Score:5, Funny)

    by spectrokid (660550) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:24PM (#10257814) Homepage
    Microsoft will not sue Sun for any patents for the next 10 years and visa versa.

    visa versa? is that like the back side of your credit card?

  • by Derf_X (651876) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:25PM (#10257834)
    I RTFA, and it mentions Open Office, not OpenOffice.org, which are actually different things if I'm not mistaken. I wonder if the name difference would stand in court.
  • war of attrition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OklaKid (552472) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:26PM (#10257844)
    they only way to deal with the tyrant of Redmond is a war of attrition...
    no quarter, no mercy, just cut em off completely, send msft to the recycle bin of history forever...
    msft is not to be trusted under any circumstances...
    this has already been done both in my office and at home...
  • Haven't you noticed agreement's effective date - This Limited Patent Covenant and Stand-Still Agreement (the "Agreement") is entered into as of this 1st day of April, 2004 (the "Effective Date") See this url http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/709519/00011931 2504155723/dex10109.htm [sec.gov]
  • Evil.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GreyWolf3000 (468618)
    I think it's possible Microsoft plans on suing individuals who contribute code freely to OpenOffice.org.

    If I'm right, then they can discourage developers from writing code for FOSS software by scaring them away.

  • by CTalkobt (81900) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:31PM (#10257909) Homepage
    Consider that Microsoft may reasonably be looking after their own self-interest. In this case, I think it may be fair for them to try and prevent individuals outside of Sun to incorporate something into OpenOffice that is owned by them. I don't see it as a "pre-emptive" strike but merely a reservation of rights. Sun is still free to utilize what they wish for SunOffice - they just can't distribute it back to the open source community.

    This is not a troll. I don't like Micro$haft but I don't see this as the evil, bad thing everyone else says it is.

    What it will eventually boil down to is, how do they utilize (if they do) this provision?
  • No matter how much you hate the green giant, you have to LOVE this. MS basically said, "We are going to give you 900 million to leave us alone about all this stuff that doesn't matter to us, but we want to be able to sue you for all the stuff that does."

    Also, mod points to the author for 900,000,000 and not just saying 900 million.

  • Visa versa (Score:5, Funny)

    by Espectr0 (577637) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:34PM (#10257942) Journal
    visa versa

    I can see the VISA ad: "Because Microsoft won't take American Express"
  • I wonder what Microsoft had in mind?

    I do not wonder. I am sure Microsoft Collective had in his mind our money they'll never reach anymore.
  • by blackest_k (761565) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:55PM (#10258144) Homepage Journal
    There are two problems with open office,
    1) being the file requester interface it is ugly and scary to a lot of users.

    This is probably the first thing people see and it scares them word is like an old friend, even with clippy, they are familiar with it.

    2) Less than perfect conversion of word documents into and out of OpenOffice.
    word is a defacto standard, people see word compatability as essential since thats what is most commonly used.

    As long as word format import and export is less than perfect Openoffice is always going to be on the losing side.

    Microsoft are well aware the small problems with using anything other than their products keeps their user base. Should OpenOffice finally manage 100% word compatable import and export then there is certain to be a microsoft patient which can be used to hit openoffice and if there isn't they can just change the word document format just enough using incorperating a patented concept and then beat them with a big stick.

    Perhaps the only way to beat this is if openoffice kept its import and export filters as plugins and perfect word format conversion would be an unknown 3rd party written plugin.

    However even this might not be possible with DRM incorperated into Windows XP and Longhorn. Just as media player recognises infringing audio files it is probably no great leap to being able to isolate a patent infringing plugin.
    Windows update will be able to ensure that Microsofts patents can be protected

    Can Microsoft do this almost certainly, will they do this what do you think?
  • by j-turkey (187775) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @02:07PM (#10258277) Homepage

    According to one of the posts in the article [linuxelectrons.com], there is no such product called "Open Office" (4th post down as of 9/15/2004 6:00 GMT). The product mentioned in the agreement (legally speaking) may or may not refer to OpenOffice.org, which is what the news story is referencing. Why can a news story get it wrong and not a legal contract? Because legalese is all about semantics. News stories don't have to be to have a Slashdot discussion.

    The post in question states:

    Because of trademark issues, OpenOffice.org must insist that all public communications refer to the project and software as "OpenOffice.org" or "OpenOffice.org 1.0," and not "OpenOffice" or "Open Office."
    This is stated here [openoffice.org], in the Trademark section (which they claim was last updated 2003-07).

    Did Sun's legal department pull one over on MSFT's legal department? Was it a mistake? Was Oo.o defined earlier and then said "referred to herein as 'Open Office'"? Was the agreement between Sun and Microsoft dated before the official communication of Oo.o? I don't know, but it appears to be pretty clever, and raises some intriguing questions.

    One way or the other, this won't stop me from deploying Oo.o. It's an excellent product, and saves $400 per PC (nearly 40% of the cost of a complete system).

    • by Alsee (515537) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:49PM (#10260480) Homepage
      Did Sun's legal department pull one over on MSFT's legal department? ...referred to herein as 'Open Office'

      No, and you should become very very worried if any judge lets you spend more than 30 seconds arguing it. If he does it's probably because he's already decided to rip your case apart limb by limb and is just looking for an excuse to stomp it into a bloody pulp and shove it down your throat one spoonfull at a time. Chuckle.

      A contract is an agreement of good faith intent. You, me, the judge, everyone at Sun, everyone at Microsoft, and everyone here on Slashdot knows that the item "referred to herein as 'Open Office'" is clear and obvious refference to Sun's OpenOffice.org. Any attempt by Sun to argue that the use of "Open Office" was a trick refference designed to deceive Microsoft would place Sun in a position of bad faith. Every other term and clause in the contract would then likely be interpreted in the light least favorable to Sun.

      For similar reasons, when there is a real and reasonable confusion in the meaning of a contract written by only one side (such as EULA's), those terms are generally interpreted in favor of the person who did not write the contract. You can't write confusing terms and then claim ownership of any car that uses your parking service.

      -
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @02:24PM (#10258425) Homepage
    We know that Sun cannot be sued by Microsoft for patent violations. We know that Sun is looking at buying SUSE Linux.

    When and if Microsoft unleashes its patent war against open source in general, against Linux and OpenOffice in particular, Sun and all customers of Sun will be immune.

    Thus, Sun will be the only company allowed to sell Linux and OpenOffice, aka, StarOffice and will be Linux's sole distributor.

    What does Microsoft get out of the deal? First, Microsoft does NOT want Linux destroyed. It needs to have at least the appearance of competition to keep government regulators off its back. That competition will come from Sun.

    Second, Linux will be greatly hobbled because instead of the entire world working on Linux, there will be only one source with which to compete.

    Basically, Microsoft will destroy Linux but keep the appearance of healthy competition in the marketplace.

    • This isn't gonna work unless the rest of the world, and especially EU will do software patents. MS might be able kill Linux in the US, but it's no good if they can't kill it in the EU, and JP, and BR, and everywhere else. And right now there is a tremendous resistance against it in the EU, and different comittees are overturning each other's decisions. There is huge money in it, and there is a huge fight going on.
      Software patents go like this: the way of obtaining the number 3 by adding 2+1 is hereby patent
    • people making money (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kardar (636122)
      I think that the injustice that is sort of being looked at or thought about here is when an innocent yet enterprising group of individuals comes together and decides to make software, and then a large organization, or an opportunistic organization destroys the effort to their own, perhaps percieved, benefit.

      On the other hand, if such a group of enterprising individuals were to come together for the purposes of turning a profit, it is at least equally likely that they would choose Windows as a platform, and
  • by soullessbastard (596494) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:15PM (#10260170) Homepage Journal
    Disclaimer: I am a Mac OS X community developer for OpenOffice.org and a founding member of NeoOffice [neooffice.org]

    There is one obvious reason for this clause that I can think of off of the top of my head. Microsoft Office XP has a feature by which Office documents can be saved in an XML format. Obviously, this means that the information in the resulting Microsoft Office generated files is not as obfuscated as it is in a binary format (provided key information isn't just base64 encoded into elements). Microsoft knows this feature can negate the lock-in to .doc and other Office formats. So they were clever...

    Microsoft has patented their XML schemas. In order to write software that uses these Microsoft Office XML schemas, you must sign a patent license with Microsoft [microsoft.com].

    Obviously, OOo will want to be able to open these new Microsoft Office XML formatted files similar to its support for the .doc format...but Microsoft has prevented anyone from using their patented schema in a "free as in beer" environment. These clauses in TFA allow Sun a cop-out: Sun can freely write code and use it in OOo that uses the Microsoft Office XML schemas. In the Sun-branded OOo distributions (Linux-x86, Solaris, Solaris-x86, Windows only...they have a Sun logo on the startup screen) Sun is free to use the patented Office schemas as well. Because of this, Sun will most likely contribute the code to work with these schemas into the core source code of OOo.

    Other companies make derivatives of OOo too (Red Hat, Novell/Ximian, BSDMall), individuals like myself, and even just translators non-Sun builds for mainline platforms who don't program at all. The Sun-MS agreement says that Sun's patent licensing for the Office Schemas does not apply to any OOo derivatives or builds that are done outside of Sun. Either all of these companies and individuals need to sign the Patent License Agreement with Sun or else they are open to lawsuits from Microsoft and potentially pay royalties to Microsoft in the future to use their schema.

    It's really another clever way Microsoft has come up with to continue to ensure their file formats remain closely guarded and their own property.

    As to whether a patent of an XML Schema can stand up in court, well, I know I personally as a single developer don't have the kind of money to challenge Microsoft on patent litigation if they sue me as an individual. Unfortunatley I have neither the time nor the skills to scrutinize all of Sun's contributions to OpenOffice.org's source code to see if they use Microsoft's patents in such a way that's legal for them, but not legal for me. I either must take my chances or stop being a non-Sun developer of OpenOffice.org. Unfortunately now any non-Sun entity working on OOo has to make that choice for themselves.

    ed
  • by edward.virtually@pob (6854) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:05AM (#10266350)
    A critical aspect not mentioned in the summary that users should be aware of is mentioned in this [eweek.com] article:

    Not only is Microsoft allowed to sue any company.including Sun.for
    alleged patent violations connected with OpenOffice, but Sun is required to
    provide Microsoft with legal help in bringing such lawsuits against OpenOffice
    users.


    I.E.: When MS asks (and it will), Sun will be giving it their OpenOffice registration database. So unless you want to get sued later, beware of the answers you give when downloading (which you should do now while it's still available).

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