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Microsoft Says Free Software Violates 235 Patents 1217

Posted by Zonk
from the rut-roh-raggy dept.
prostoalex writes "Microsoft told Fortune magazine that various free software products violate at least 235 patents, and it's time to expect users of this software to pay up patent licensing royalties: 'Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez sat down with Fortune recently to map out their strategy for getting FOSS users to pay royalties. Revealing the precise figure for the first time, they state that FOSS infringes on no fewer than 235 Microsoft patents.'"
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Microsoft Says Free Software Violates 235 Patents

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  • by Ritchie70 (860516) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:30PM (#19107621) Journal
    That's real cute, but to me, the more interesting question is, will IBM wade in? They are heavy supporters of FOSS.

    I would guess that Microsoft probably infringes on some number of IBM patents - but then, pretty much everyone does. The thing I don't know is, does Microsoft already hve some patent license agreement (presumably some sort of blanket agreement) with IBM to cover them?
  • Software patents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gumbright (574609) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:30PM (#19107625)
    Doesn't this just serve to show how screwed up the idea of software patents are?
  • no patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:33PM (#19107653) Homepage Journal
    free software violates 235 MS patents?

    Ok just get rid of software patents. Software should've never been permitted to be patented in the first place.
  • by aichpvee (631243) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:35PM (#19107669) Journal
    No, this is what happens when you base your economy on the ownership of ideas, and obvious ones at that, and on a ridiculous unlimited growth model that demands a constant push toward monopoly to ensure that unrealistic and otherwise unattainable growth.
  • Microsoft is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shados (741919) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:36PM (#19107679)
    Of course, it was fairly obvious that free software would infridge on some MS patents: there's so much code from so many people, including people who have no clue what they're doing (don't get me wrong, also a lot from totally brilliant people!), and I doubt maintainers check the source at every checkin to be sure no patent is being messed with...

    However, I always saw it as a way for Microsoft to loosen its illegal monopoly status: by letting free software use some of its patents, its leveling the playing field.

    And now they screwed it up. Countdown before more anti-thrust lawsuits start, 5...4...3...2....
  • So then (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Analog Kid (565327) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:37PM (#19107699)
    Start litigating Microsoft, you're not working in the shareholder's favor by sitting idle and letting these blatant IP violations go unpunished.
  • by avdp (22065) * on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:38PM (#19107703)
    I am sure they are right that a Linux distribution violates at least that many patents from microsoft. The better question is how many of those patent are worth the paper they're printed on. With so many computer companies like Microsoft and IBM patenting every trivialities under the sun, it's near impossible to NOT violate one of their patents. The good news: the supreme just had a ruling that's gonna make it a lot harder for MS to win a patent fight. The bad news: it's gonna take a lot of time and money to go through that battle, and the open source community is going to have to endure a lot of FUD during that time. The one mitigating factor: linux is going through a similar situation right now thanks to SCO, and so open source is now somewhat familiar with the process.
  • Show it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by christurkel (520220) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:38PM (#19107705) Homepage Journal
    If you have evidence, show it. If it's infringing, it'll be removed. But you don't want to. You want to spread FUD to generate $$$.
  • In the article, it explains why Microsoft chose this route: Since FOSS is (nominally, if not practically) written by a loose band of volunteers, and because they don't really sell the software (with some exceptions, but generally mostly they give the software away and sell the support), it is extremely difficult to track them all down and make them pay royalties. It is much easier to just threaten the major corporate users (who are extremely risk averse). To quote Neal Stephenson, "Microsoft is ten times smarter than your average government, a hundred times more aggressive, and bound by no particular rules."

    In the old days, we called this extortion.
  • by aichpvee (631243) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:39PM (#19107713) Journal
    By paying off the governments of the world to impose a $699/year flat tax on every citizen, to be paid directly to microsoft, for a copy of the current version of windows?
  • Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jimmy_B (129296) <slashdot@jimrandom h . o rg> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:40PM (#19107721) Homepage
    The Supreme Court recently ruled that the courts don't get to pretend that patents on obvious things are valid. It is unlikely that /any/ of these 235 patents will hold up in court. Microsoft is just using them to create FUD; they know they won't get any judgements.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:41PM (#19107745) Journal
    that most of these 'patents' that MS owns are general in scope and probably would make all other OS's infringing on their patents anyway, not just free software. I believe it's time to work on making process/software patents unacceptable, especially when they are so broad that no other company could work in the same space. Patents on things like "integrating email client functionality into office apps" is just too broad, and as such can only serve to hamper innovation and business in general.

    When MS can claim to have 235 patents that are violated by F/OSS we need to look closely at why they have that many that can be infringed upon by people so easily... perhaps they are not unobvious at all or too broadly stated to be of use other than to be an offensive tool to use against competitors.
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummelNO@SPAMjohnhummel.net> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:45PM (#19107789) Homepage
    It seems that this is going to be the final "slow bleed" for Microsoft. People aren't buying Vista (in fact, Dell is reoffering XP on systems just to shut up annoyed users). But hey - they have the lawsuits, and they'll be more than happy to pull a SCO and threaten to sue the pants off of people who don't pay off their protection racket.

    Odds are, they'll be smarter about it than SCO - rather then go right for IBM (with tons of dollars to pay lawyers), they'll make "deals" with places like Novell and others so insure that PC tax continues no matter whom the likes of Dell and Gateway and others finally go through.

    The sad thing is, there still isn't a great competitor to Windows. Linux is nice and Ubuntu and other distros have come far, but it seems they lack that final step (like "How do I change my screen resolution?" or other bits that only techies would know). OS X is my preferred OS as a security analyst, but it only runs on one system (I know - Apple sells hardware, blah, blah, blah, but damn - if they make Leopard for *all* X86 systems, they might take over the desktops - I've met plenty of CIO's who want that).

    Either way, Microsoft's plan is to continue to be the "gasoline" of computers: they don't make the computers, but they get paid for every one that's made. Through their threats and strategic lawsuits/threatening of lawsuit, they'll ensure their money for a long time to come.

    Unless, of course, there's enough people who stand up and say "No" and pool together *their* money to help companies fight back....
  • The next round (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PBPanther (47660) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:45PM (#19107791) Homepage
    SCO failed with their patent suit so this is just the next round. Watch for tactics like SCO's where they refused to specify what was infringing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:45PM (#19107797)
    Indeed. If patents are supposed to patent non-obvious ideas, then how do you explain the number of software patent violations when software developers dont look at patents?
  • by Tomy (34647) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:46PM (#19107799)
    You must be talking about Microsoft, because the movement I belong to is about not letting others take my intellectual property and restricting others free use of it in the way in which I intended.

    Microsoft patents that Linux infringes on almost certainly include their patent of file system symlinks, which have been in Unix systems since the seventies, as well as a slew of other very obvious inventions, none of which have been tested in court. Getting a patent granted, as denizens of Slashdot are all too well aware [freepatentsonline.com], seems to be the easy part. Validating those patents in a court of law may be a little more difficult, especially when one of the supporters [ibm.com] of linux, might have a patent portfolio that would push Balmer from chair throwing to crying uncle.

  • Re:Too late (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:49PM (#19107827)
    Seeing as you don't know what any of the 235 patents are, or what any of the free software that allegedly violates them is, it looks like you're just posting to create FUD. You have no idea whether or not these patents are obvious, invalid, or will not hold up in court. You may have like open source software better than Microsoft, but your baseless opinion doesn't magically invalidate all of Microsoft's patents in the eyes of the law.
  • Re:So then (Score:5, Insightful)

    by visualight (468005) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:50PM (#19107839) Homepage
    Seriously, I hope that someone of note DARES microsoft to file a suit against some project. If they had any intention of doing so, they would have, and they wouldn't be giving people this "heads up". Clearly a bluff.
  • by Anomolous Cowturd (190524) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:51PM (#19107855)
    This is what happens when the idea of "Intellectual Property" is taken seriously. It means you can't do something someone else is doing because they have more lawyers than you. It's patently ridiculous.
  • Real hardball (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:53PM (#19107873) Homepage
    We've been joking about world domination and the evil empire for years here. But despite the kidding around, despite our biases, we've never been motivated to go all-out. We can ruin Microsoft. In the terrain of the Internet we hold much of the high ground - the servers, as well as not a few firewall-routers and other essential equipment. Microsoft for years has had no qualms about breaking competitors' functionality. We can cripple Microsoft's functionality in a wide variety of real-time environments - and stay a hair's breath within the law just as they've (almost) done.

    Building stuff that can replace Microsoft's products is one thing - honest competition really. But we've never stooped to Microsoft's own favored methods of dishonest competition. Is Redmond really stupid enough to motivate us to take that step?
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mormop (415983) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:56PM (#19107897)
    FTA:

    "Microsoft counters that it is a matter of principle. "We live in a world where we honor, and support the honoring of, intellectual property," says Ballmer in an interview. FOSS patrons are going to have to "play by the same rules as the rest of the business," he insists. "What's fair is fair."

    Since when? Of all the corporations that have trampled small businesses IP rights Microsoft have to be the biggest shower of shits in existence. Most of their product range is based on other people's ideas and much of that, e.g. IE was ripped from small business with minimal reward to the innovator.

    Basically, name them. Yep, name the infringements. Don't hide behind lawyers and withhold information, BE SPECIFIC!! Many of the IP claims that Microsoft put forward to the EU were minor extensions to existing Open Source software and are no "innovative" enough to justify the high fees requested, equivalent to making an add on to a car and claiming IP over the entire car. If accidental infringment has occured then it's reasonable to allow the FOSS authors the chance to remedy the situation by rewriting code but it's also reasonable to give them access to the information required to perform the task.

    It's a constant embarrassment to me that the toadying twat that runs my country saw fit to give a convicted monopolist and proven unfair player like Gates a knighthood and until Microsoft starts behaving in a reasonable and honest manner Gates, Ballmer and Co. can stick their royalties up their arses where their heads have been for the last twenty years.

    To reiterate, STATE YOUR CLAIMS IN FULL. Stop hiding behind misinformation, partial information and the pathetic, sad bullshit that has for so long been a trademark for Microsoft business practice.

      There, I feel a bit better now.
  • by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:57PM (#19107915) Homepage
    MS violates a goodly portion of the Open Innovation Network patent pool. Sue Linux or a batch of participating FOSS projects and get a goodly portion of their server and other products shut down but good. They flatly don't want to do this. In all honesty they really don't want to be doing this sabre rattling either, but they're being stupid because Vista's NOT doing well for them and costing them dearly.
  • Not relevent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:59PM (#19107923) Journal
    First, free here means free as in freedom, not free as in beer. Many companies have made money from "free software" (e.g., Red Hat), and it's considered perfectly kosher to do so provided you keep to the terms of the licenses.

    Second, patents apply to almost all use, not just to things that are bought and sold - you can't undercut someone else's patents by giving away their inventions for free.

    Third, every company that uses free software (and who doesn't?) does so presumably for commercial advantage.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:59PM (#19107925)

    The Linux graphical user interfaces - essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars are set up - run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more. E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly transgress 68.
    If all these FOSS programs "violate innovation," then it's very likely they're sharing common traits that we consider standard. In order words, if the GUI itself violates patents, then why in the hell have they not sued Apple, or Apple sued the FOSS first?

    Maybe, because Apple and MS have made special a deal. MS protected Apple at the time of its near demise. Apple's OS X is partly based on public support with the incorporation of software that was open source, so the PR in crying foul to FOSS (like MS just did,) would be negative to their unprecedented move to Unix back in 2000. On that last point, since I remember the Apple ads promoting their new *UNIX* roots, Apple didn't get sued on similar grounds by Sun --do they pay SUN? I thought mentioning UNIX when you use a BSD release, instead of Solaris, would have some kind of "lie label" attached. To our dismay, "Linux" was expressly ignored in their ads for OS X, btw.

    Anyway, when a company flat out comes for patent infringement claims on OpenOffice, which has been out for years, and uncontested by other companies, you know there's a claim to be BS'ed somewhere. It's not like they had foresight to let the SCO thing die down, and already know they were going to do the same patent-suits in 2007. Is it?
  • by Tavor (845700) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:01PM (#19107939)
    If Microsoft put as much energy into making a good operating system as they did in planning how to "defeat" open source, they might have a halfway decent product. Sadly, they keep dicking around with crappy models and outdated notions. If M$ released a product which was as interoperable as Linux, as customizable as Linux, as modular as Linux, and as user-supportive as Linux, there would be no pressing need for Linux. Imagine if M$ sold Windows in boxes at a retail store for one base price (for individuals and families,) where you could install updates/optimizations/customizations/etc without having to buy a new OS to get said features. M$ would indeed make more money selling a license in this manner due to sheer popularity. (For comparison, see http://kerneltrap.org/node/8197 [kerneltrap.org] where Linus talks of all the new architectures and stacks available on 2.6.22-RC1) Imagine if users of M$ products could get new, optimized stacks for free. Would that not make you love Windows? Sadly, M$ is committed to charging more and providing less. That's why we have Linux.
  • by bhmit1 (2270) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:03PM (#19107969) Homepage
    Let's get a couple other numbers for completeness.
    1. How many GPL and other licensing violations are there in MS software?
    2. How many patent violations are there within MS software, particularly those patents owned by OSS contributors?
    I'm sure there are violations, and when we've been made aware of the issue, many distributions go out of their way to correct the issue. But as long as we're making accusations, lets get everything out in the open.

    P.S. Pot, the kettle is on line 2, seems to be upset about some "black" comment you made.
  • by thebdj (768618) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:06PM (#19107995) Journal
    IBM announces to that they believe Microsoft is in violation of several thousand of their patents, and it is time for them [Microsoft] to pay up.

    Listen, if MS wants to wind up in an eternal battle with the only company in the US that could probably sue their asses under the table, then by all means, please sue FOSS projects. People may not want to think IBM is some great savior of FOSS, but they are the closest thing to a large money source the movement is going to have. They also have a good deal to lose since they have sort of positioned themselves into this position. We have already seen that Novell doesn't want to have to defend FOSS. (Why do you think they signed that deal with MS?) Red Hat does not have the money to do it. HP has too much to lose since their business is still largely dependent on Windows based PCs. This really leaves you with one company, IBM.

    I believe Microsoft has spread words like this before, and it seems to be a common thing whenever they feel they are losing some degree of steam. (After all, I think we are at the consensus that Vista is a flop, well until they officially force computer manufacturers to switch to Vista full-time, sometime around EOY.) The idea of the software industry and software patents has been the idea of a mutual peace. The industry will probably destroy itself if suits started flying. I also find this odd after the recent SCOTUS ruling in KSR v. Teleflex, which should make patents infinitely easier to overturn on obviousness issues, even some of those old flimsy software ones.
  • Which ones? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:07PM (#19108009) Homepage Journal

    Come on Microsoft, don't pull a SCO. If you think there's a problem, point it out so we can fix it. Tell us what patents, exactly, are infringed and what software, exactly, is infringing.

    Sure, it's a bit risky. Any patents you point out are going to be put under a microscope and the collective knowledge of a very large and lore-rich community will be brought to bear in an exhaustive search for prior art, but if you really think the patents are truly valuable, novel inventions, and that you are really being damaged by their infringement, tell us so we can find a way to avoid infringing.

    If we can't find prior art, and can't find a way to show that the software isn't actually infringing, and can't find a FOSS-friendly company to use its patent portfolio to negotiate a deal, then we'll get busy finding a way to change the software so it doesn't infringe. Actually, given the nature of the community, we'll probably change the software so it doesn't infringe even if we can address the issue another way. We don't like software patents, but we feel quite strongly about making sure that our software is free from any legal encumbrance. Tell us what the problem is and we'll try to fix it.

    But, please, the biggest software company in the world should have at least a *little* dignity. Don't pull a SCO.

  • This is really key. The fight shouldn't be against me, using the software at home, or even a distributor of a collection of compiled programs. It should be -- if we accept that software patents as an idea is even valid -- against the people who wrote it. They are the ones that are infringing Microsoft's patents.

    Microsoft wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to sue "Linux" for violating 235 patents, when in actuality, they should undertake roughly 235 SEPARATE lawsuits against the individual programmers whose code infringes. IT'S NOT LIKE THAT'S A SECRET. Code is always attributed in the free software world.

    And what's with not being specific as to the patents? More SCO-like nonsense. They're afraid of giving people time to "open source" the defense using something like Groklaw to rally around.
  • by White Shade (57215) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:08PM (#19108019)
    It doesn't matter if the patent is "worth" anything, the fact of the matter right now is, if something IS infringing on that patent, it's breaking the law, and until the patent gets revoked or the laws change, that's the way it is. Even if all 235 get struck down, that's still a hell of a lot of judgments, court cases, and legal work to be involved.

    We can't just ignore it because "software patents are wrong". Until the courts agree, we have to live with it.
  • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:09PM (#19108037)

    This is part of Microsoft's new Vista campaign for 2007 and 2008:

    "If you can't innovate... LITIGATE!"

    I RTFA, and I don't see an itemized list of the FOSS packages which they claim infringe, and the relevant patent numbers that are apparently infringed-upon. Until I see an itemized list, I can't properly audit my collection of FOSS to replace or rewrite those referenced packages.

    Until I see an itemized list of FOSS packages and relevant patent numbers, this is all just smoke.

  • by Jugalator (259273) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:10PM (#19108043) Journal
    Well, we'd better blame the software patents in the first place.
    It's time for the US to rid themselves of that law.
  • by rbanffy (584143) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:11PM (#19108053) Homepage Journal
    The question is who has more money for a long legal war.
  • by alshithead (981606) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:14PM (#19108069)
    "My guess is this storm-in-a-teacup is just another way for MS to justify padding the pockets of some of their lawyer cronies and poke sticks at the hornets nest."

    I agree that the lawyers for both sides will profit but you can take off the tinfoil hat regarding MS wanting to line lawyers' pockets.

    Here's the deal as I see it. MS gets to inhibit open source at minimal expense. They already have their own corporate lawyers plus external lawyers from prestigious firms on retainer. A law firm I worked for did lobbying for MS, Bill Gates came to our office. That's just a cost of business for a company the size of MS. The reality is any delay tactic or expense caused to their competition helps their bottom line by delaying the exodus. It really doesn't matter if MS has a legitimate case or not. Even if they lose, they win.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:21PM (#19108135) Homepage Journal
    but if you go read it, you'll see how.

    Ahh, who am I kiddin'? Here's the skinny:

    Microsoft has been approaching Fortune 500's for years now and offering to sell "patent licenses" on any of the software that the companies might be using without one. Basically, it's extortion. "We think you might be running software which utilizes our patented technology without a license, but don't worry, we're not going to sue you, so long as you buy this license from us."

    That takes care of all the big fish.. last year they went after the little fish too, by approaching Novell and making that patent deal you might have heard of. When Redhat crumbles (assuming they haven't already) we'll all be paying a Microsoft tax.
  • by Alphager (957739) <florianhaas.fsfe@org> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:21PM (#19108143) Homepage Journal

    This shows how fearful Microsoft is really starting to get paranoid about the linux desktop revolution. 2007 is *the* year, I don't care what anyone else thinks--I know this to be true because this is the first year I've actually got friends to honestly convert over to free software/OSS software. And they're even talking shit about MS now that they've seen the light! With all the linux populatization going on these days--microsoft is shaking in its boots... The days are quickly approaching when microsoft is bound to become an even more dreary version of GM.
    Hmm, where have i heard/read such rethoric? A, yes, it was Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf:

    After Iraq aborts the invasion that is being carried out by the American and British villains, the USA will no longer be a superpower. Its deterioration will be rapid. I say to those villains who are meeting in Europe, thinking of launching psychological war and brainwashing: wait. Do not be hasty because your disappointment will be huge. You will reap nothing from this aggressive war, which you launched on Iraq, except for disgrace and defeat.
    As much is i would like it to be, 2007 is not the year of Linux on Desktops. Microsoft still makes BILLIONS on the Desktop.
  • by KTheorem (999253) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:27PM (#19108189)
    The question is who has more money for a long legal war.

    Nope, that's not the question. The real question is who has more customers that can be sued for patent infringement.

    Being a consumer in no way protects you against patent infringement lawsuits. So, even if no one has enough money to challenge MicrSoft on the patent issue, many groups have enough money to bully MicroSoft customers until it decides to stop with the patent threats/suits.
  • by Frizzle Fry (149026) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:27PM (#19108201) Homepage
    I think IBM is as big a fan of their own patent stash as of linux and they would not do something that seriously jeopardizes their ability to hoard patents in order to help linux.
  • by golodh (893453) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:28PM (#19108217)
    You may remember Microsoft bankrolling SCO by buying fairly worthless licenses from it at inflated prices.

    Very deniable of course, since Microsoft was only being oh-so careful with other peoples' "Intellectual Property". Nevermind that Microsoft has a long history of being sued for blithely copying other people's code.

    Now the SCO scam really lost altitude ever since judge Kimball ruled that SCO had been able to show "no competent evidence" for copyright infringement, and magistrate judge Wells ruled that, no, SCO cannot bring to trial allegations for which they cannot show specific lines of allegedly infringing Linux code. That case is now really a question of how much time and money Flexner Boies and Schiller are willing to spend on a lost cause (their fees have been capped a long time ago in a sudden display of far-sightedness on part of SCO).

    So does Microsoft do now? Ah yes ... they have been stocking up on patents, of which they seem to have a couple of hundred that were "triggered". By Linux (remember Microsoft's XOR patent and their "not is" patent? With that calibre of patents you can quickly amass a portfolio.)

    Now I think we can all agree that the patents that Microsoft is waving are anything but good-faith results of hard work that they would like to protect. On the contrary ... they even refuse to disclose what patents are allegedly infringed in order to get a maximum "chilling effect". They clearly don't want revenue ... they just want to kill Linux. Not a "good faith" manouver, but who cares? It's "Legal", so they will be able to win in court and then use that to get a national crackdown on all Linux distributions that aren't under the umbrella of firms that they have patent license agreements with.

    And quite regardless of what folk here on Slashdot seem to think ... it doesn't matter what those patents say and whether they can be upheld on appeal. Appeal of patents takes a looong time (years), and in the mean time there are all those nice shiny letters stating "patent awarded", and they happen to have value. Especially when it comes to demanding injunctions to stop the spread of Linux. Microsoft can now argue that it looses money and market-share to free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech Linux because Linux competes with their commercial offerings.

    And it only takes one single patent (out of 235) to be found "infringed" by Linux to make whoever distributes, sells, or uses Linux liable for license fees. License fees which only corporate editions of Linux can pay, but free-as-in-beer distros cannot. Therefore their distribution has to be stopped by way of injunctive relief. And this is precisely what Microsoft wants ... Linux out of the "free as in speech" domain because of the patent infringements, and only corporate opponents which it can cut to shreds with time-honoured tactics. And no more "free as in beer" distributions for the same reason.

    The long and the short of it seems to be that Linux is dead in all countries that allow US style software patents.

    Too bad ... it has been nice knowing you Linux. We will miss you.

    All those who wish to continue to work on and enjoy free-as-in-beer Linux: buy a one-way ticket to a European country of your choice (well ... perhaps better buy an open return in case the EU decides to adopt US-style software patents after all).

  • by LordKazan (558383) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:37PM (#19108269) Homepage Journal
    All it takes is for the first case to make it to SCOTUS and for SCOTUS to agree with Moglin (which i bet they would if it's explained how assinine they are - IE something someone invented 25 years ago is "patented" by microsoft 6 months ago, and now they're suing over it).

    If SCOTUS agrees with Moglin it instantly invalidates all software patents. 235 Motions to dismiss with prejudice from the defendants, and possible countersuits.
  • by garcia (6573) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:38PM (#19108277) Homepage
    This shows how fearful Microsoft is really starting to get paranoid about the linux desktop revolution.

    Please say after me: "Linux is NOT ready to compete with other desktop OSs and won't be anytime soon." Thank you.

    Microsoft watched the SCO deal (and partially funded it) and saw what the FUD accomplished in the short term. They are certainly reeling with the early failure of Vista but they concerned with Linux beating the out. If anything they are worried about their own products beating them out. I guarantee we won't be seeing an extended EOL for XP/2k like we did w/98 after the public backlash.

    Linux is great on the server side and can't be even remotely matched by Microsoft solutions but the desktop (XP and 2k in particular) smoke Linux's solutions.
  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:39PM (#19108293) Homepage

    At the same time, Smith was having Microsoft's lawyers figure out how many of its patents were being infringed by free and open-source software. Gutierrez refuses to identify specific patents or explain how they're being infringed, lest FOSS advocates start filing challenges to them.

    But he does break down the total number allegedly violated - 235 - into categories. He says that the Linux kernel - the deepest layer of the free operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer hardware - violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user interfaces - essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars are set up - run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more. E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly transgress 68.

    Still numbers out of thin air - and the real reason is more likely that the Linux groups would work on rectifying the patent conflicts much to the disadvantage of Microsoft.

    I would count no infringement until Microsoft tells us what we are infringing on. Kind of like me telling you guys on Slashdot you owe me $800, $500 is for my time and the other $300 is for stuff I provided. without offering any proof besides a mention of a lawyer verifying my amount (yep, he said it was $800 too). Hmm, kind of sounds like the RIAA come to think of it....

  • by Gerzel (240421) * <brollyferret&gmail,com> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:43PM (#19108317) Journal
    No. The big problem is not a legal fight between MS and any OSS or other parties over patents. At least if MS is smart.

    The way I see them going it far more insidious. This is publicity. They are hinting that OSS is infringing on their patents and are openly saying that "free software" should pay for the privilege of using said patents. The idea is to get this out into the public sphere, and to make people start to get nervous thinking about "free software" as possible patent infringement or as they would likely put it if this works, pirating.

    The idea is to make people worry about a legal technicality as if they are breaking the law by association. In order to do this MS has to put out several complaints over a period of time, and probably sponsor "education campaigns" to teach kids about copyright and patent infringement.

    They don't need to stop those who are educated in getting OSS, all they have to do is add another worry for people who are non-tech savey who might adopt OSS.
  • You are right... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <`markt' `at' `lynx.bc.ca'> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:44PM (#19108327) Journal

    We could screw them over.

    But not without simultaneously screwing over millions of windows users.

    Which would piss people off with the FOSS community, not MS for breaking standards.

  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:52PM (#19108399) Homepage Journal
    Give it time.

    Eventually Microsoft will decide to "make an example" of one of these Fortune 500 companies that refuses to buy a patent license.

    Sure, most of the patents will be exposed as being crud that isn't worth patenting or just simply isn't being violated as Microsoft claims, but some of it will stick. The court will award Microsoft $X million for the violation and then, guess what? The Fortune 500 company will sue Redhat or Novell or whichever distributor it was that they got the Open Source from. Will it stop there? I don't know. It is very hard to imagine Redhat suing the individual developers. Novell? Well, it's possible I suppose.

    The moment a Fortune 500 sues an individual developer for failing to ensure their code is clear of Microsoft patents is the moment Patent Armageddon has begun.
  • Re:Dell? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Psychor (603391) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:54PM (#19108405) Homepage
    Lets keep things in perspective here. The fact is that no matter how many OSS fans on Slashdot claim Microsoft is up against the ropes, it doesn't make it the true, and in fact their earnings are well up on this period last year. I'm sure Microsoft's motives for claiming they may have patents on Linux are entirely political, and that if they were actually going to bring lawsuits against major players, they'd have done it before making threats about it (which could harm their legal position in any case).

    However, Microsoft is leagues ahead of Linux in the desktop market, and people claiming that Dell selling XP boxes instead of Vista marks the death knell for the company and suchlike is clear Linux fanboyism and propaganda. Whichever of their OSes they're selling, they're still paying Microsoft hefty licensing fees, and that is unlikely to change as long as their OS and office suite is ubiquitous in the corporate world. Microsoft may be deceitful and manipulative, but anyone comparing this to a dying company making a last ditch grab for cash in SCO style is clearly stupid or ill-informed, however much we might wish that to be the case.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob.hotmail@com> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:58PM (#19108439) Journal
    they're being stupid because Vista's NOT doing well for them and costing them dearly.

    Yeah, you get the feel there's some sort of end-game being played out here, but it all started well before it became clear Vista was going to be a dog.

    The thing is, if Microsoft divulges what the FOSS patent breaches actually are, the community will respond promptly, and that particular bullet will have been fired. Until Microsoft's list is actually available, we don't know how much harm they'll be able to do, but there's not much chance they'll be able to inflict fatal damage to FOSS.

    This patent grab is essentially a one-shot hit, and until now, was always more valuable as a FUD threat than an actual tool of coercion. That Microsoft is choosing to use it now is indicative that they believe it's value as FUD has waned, and I suspect that has more to do with the outcome of their their patent proxy SCO's efforts than with Vista's failure.

  • by theolein (316044) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:00PM (#19108461) Journal
    Seriously, write to Fortune magazine and complain about the bias you feel they entertain, by not giving anyone else the chance to offer some refutation to yet another *yawn* Microsoft FUD attack, just like back in 2001 when MS' Craig Mundie was frothing at the mouth and calling Linux a Cancer.

    Better yet, write to every major newspaper and offer your view before they, in their usual utter clueless manner, copy the story verbatim. The BBC, for instance, since they tend to be especially dumb when it comes to parroting the Microsoft party line.

    I don't think this is real because IBM has a lot at stake in Linux and MS almost certainly infringes on many of those. I'm pretty sure that MS also infringes on numerous Apple copyrights and Aplle could do something good for once and shake their own stick at MS.

    Lastly, Microsoft, you should be ashamed at your behaviour. You know why so many countries and institutions are ditching your products for Linux and others? It's because of the way you behave. SCO almost certainly got the idea to sue IBM from you, Microsoft, and if that ever comes out in court, Fatman Ballmer is going to be doing some dancing in court, because IBM also knows this and they won't take it kindly.

    Hope your tube of KY is ready Steve.
  • by ameyer17 (935373) <slashdot@ameyer17.com> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:02PM (#19108479) Homepage
    From TFA:

    (Stallman insists that "GNU/Linux" is the proper name, and he refuses to give interviews to reporters unless they promise to call it that in every reference. In part for that reason, he was not interviewed for this article.)
    Is there any reason they included the reason he wasn't interviewed like that other than to try to make him look like a zealot?
  • Re:Which ones? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quacking duck (607555) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:05PM (#19108487)

    But, please, the biggest software company in the world should have at least a *little* dignity.


    They don't have such dignity, and won't put these patents forward voluntarily.

    Legal and business reasonings aside, the other reason they won't is that Microsoft is like a schoolyard bully--they're big, they make a lot of noise, and may even beat up on weaker parties now and then.

    But like all bullies, they're cowards at heart, and won't do anything that could disrupt power base.
  • Sue the users? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Keith_Beef (166050) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:09PM (#19108513)
    Let's see if I've understood this correctly... Microsoft claims that some piece of free software infringes an MS-held patent. MS identifies me as a user of said software. MS sues me for patent infringement? Let's change the names, to see if this makes any more sense. Let's imagine a purely hypothetical situation involving automobile manufacturers. Toyota claims that certain models of Volkswagen infringe a toyota held patent. I drive one of those VWs. Toyota sues me for patent infringment? Nope. Doesn't make any sense to me... Beef.
  • by symbolset (646467) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:13PM (#19108543) Journal

    Microsoft loses this one not because their enemies have vast resources, but because a world of lilliputians is allied against them.

    235 is specific. There must have been a study. The study is discoverable. Somewhere in the world Microsoft is in court facing discovery every day.

    Therefore we will soon have a list and prior art, non-original and obvious matter will be found for the vast majority of these patents. In a few cases, some projects will work around the issue. Two or three projects will have to be abandonded. Mono will probably be one of them. It will take a few years but it's inevitable that these patents will never be licensed by the OSS community, and Microsoft will never prevail against a single one in a meaningful way. Microsoft will _not_ begin suing end users -- sadly they're not that stupid because the backlash from that would wipe them out for good.

    In short, this headline could read "frantic Microsoft voids 200+ patents". Nothing else new will come of it.

  • by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotage@NosPAm.praecantator.com> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:18PM (#19108583) Homepage
    I'm guessing he's better at English than you are at whatever language he speaks natively.
  • "The idea is to ... make people start to get nervous..."

    So, Microsoft is the new SCO. The result will eventually be the same.

    Adversarial behavior eventually destroys those who engage in it.

    If you want a very good indication of the effect this new rotten behavior by Microsoft will have, just look at the Slashdot comments. People are ready for this after years of considering SCO. The parent comment is an example of this; the parent comment shows complete understanding. The SCO case has prepared us.

    Microsoft has always depended on ignorance. That ignorance is disappearing.
  • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:31PM (#19108715) Journal
    another bad for MS aspect of this would be that that list of 238 patents are very likely vague, broad and full of prior art. With them attacking OSS, a great distributed and well documented (in time line) development community I doubt it would be to hard to invalidate at the very least a large number of those patents.
  • This Slashdot story about "235 patents in free software" reminds me of 205 communists in the State Department [state.gov]: "... in February 1950, an undistinguished, first-term Republican senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, burst into national prominence when, in a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, he held up a piece of paper that he claimed was a list of 205 known communists currently working in the State Department. McCarthy never produced documentation for a single one of his charges, but for the next four years he exploited an issue that he realized had touched a nerve in the American public."

    Microsoft is to software what McCarthy was to politics?
  • Time to pay up? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hdparm (575302) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:01PM (#19108955) Homepage
    Sure. They'll get exactly the same amount that SCO got.

    Fuck you Gates.
  • by EvilSporkMan (648878) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:05PM (#19108987)
    Ah, but they haven't looked at the source code for Microsoft Office (assuming that their actions are above board with respect to *copyright* law); they have only observed its behavior. I would call the method of implementation of a behavior "obvious" if it could be deduced as part of a day's work by a worker in the field from a description of that behavior (construing "a description of that behavior" as a specification for a product). This statement is pretty close to a tautology with software, since the source code of software amounts to a detailed description of its behavior. Thus the argument that software should not be patentable.
  • Silver lining (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonniesmokes (323978) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:20PM (#19109089)
    The thing I see good about this is as follows:

    1. We knew this was going to happen sooner or later.
    2. Its better it happens sooner, Linus was getting impatient with the FSF folks
    and rightly seeing them as paranoid. If it had been a year or so more, the kernel
    might've been forked with some GPL v3 and GPL v2... This forces the FOSS community
    to circle their wagons and get along.
    3. I welcome this challenge, because what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
    MS executives are doing it now to appear like they're working hard because the
    great Redmond machine is running out of steam and they need to keep that stock
    price propped up for a few more years while they sell:

    When was the last time you saw an insider trade of 'buy' MSFT? They have a
    good margin and great revenue, but so did Kodak and Palaroid just a short while back.

    Ideas can last forever, companies don't.

    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:22PM (#19109107)
    "There's basically no theoretical or practical limit to the number of copies you can make of an idea"

    Except that doesn't address the "creation" aspect of a "copy".(1) No original. No copy. Simple as that. The people complaining about the "ownership" of ideas fall under the "copy" side of the equation, and hence have nothing to contribute (by definition).

    "I'm sure you can appreciate how something that everyone can have at effectively no cost has exceptionally limited value as a trade commodity."

    Except that's a false premise. The original "costs", period. All the hand-waving in the world will not change that. "Mass-production" (aka 'copies') allows for that "effectively no cost"* illusion.

    *Even "effectively no cost" is an illusion. From the servers through the wires right down to the plastic discs, there is cost.

    (1) You've also left out the little fact that ideas have to be developed and embodied into a physical form to be useful. So yes there are physical limits. Just carrying it around in your head is of limited practicality.
  • I wonder? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rspress (623984) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:26PM (#19109133) Homepage
    I wonder if Microsoft took into account all the copyrights they have infringed on when coming up with this anwser!

    I would also think that Microsoft winning the Look and Feel lawsuit against Apple will shoot it in the foot when it comes to the FOSS bunch.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:29PM (#19109155) Journal
    I think there are enough companies who have the money to pull it off. The problem is that if they are wrong, they can be in more trouble then they are now. I would suggest creating a fake company in some arena outside the US's reach and then pumping donations to this company for this explicit reason. Then when microsoft puts up, if they do, the company can fold at the end of the legal process only losing their legal costs in the process. I'm confident though that if microsoft does put up, they will do so in a manor of expecting a judgment on the disputed IP. This will place the disputed IP into plain site and any appropriate action can be taken.

    The only real problem I see with using a puppet company like this, is it opens all the other companies up to monopoly and cohesion and stuff like that. It really need to be done independent of an existing company and then have those companies donate the money as if they were donating to any charity. And I believe it is legal even for a company that survives on donation to donates funds to other charities. If the defending company is structured corectly, Lets says it is called "the opensource defense corporation", and it is a charity legal group with the purpose of challenging allegations and legal issues, it can be pulled off rather easily. And if it wins, it can remain a resource for defending other companies.

    And if something like this already exists, then it should get off it's ass and do something.
  • by cHiphead (17854) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:33PM (#19109181)
    Perhaps you forgot how MS padded their early numbers with XP as well? Its smoke and mirrors, if Vista is doing so damn well, why did Dell feel it was necessary to start offering XP again on their business systems? Vista is a no-go for 99% of the larger business clients I work with, the other 1% is 'just in case' someone goes nuts tomorrow morning and decides to do it.

    100% of the small business clients I work with are not adopting Vista. The only place I have seen it show up is in new laptops someone ordered from Dell (with Vista Home Premium, and 512mb-1gb, no less), that were ordered without consulting the IT consultants or in-house team. A handful of clients asked about adopting it simply because it was the 'new' Microsoft 'thing', not aware of the hardware upgrades that would come with it (2k to XP was a matter of getting everyone to 512mb from 128-256 to run good, now its a matter of going from 512mb to 2gb for good performance).

    I wish Vista was just XP SP3, but its not, its XP SP2.6 Smoking Crack. It changes the look and feel of Windows, mainly system settings drastically, even experienced end users have a learning curve and in corporate environments this is a bad thing. Don't even get me started on the replacement of add/remove programs. The bottom line is, if we need a more Mac-like interface, we'd buy Macs and improve centralized management for corporate environments.

    If Microsoft actually pursues any of the claims againts OSS, they are going to get hammered, HARD. IBM notwithstanding, what do you think keeps Google running? OSS has a large field of successful companies that make good money with OSS and will stand up to them, its simply too late to leverage against them.

    The SCO Group is a very sad case, primarily because everything Caldera purchased in regards to legacy Unix was intended to free up a lot of potential patent/etc. issues in Linux for all users/vendors/coders. They reneged on that intention when Ransom Love and anyone that was playing the OSS game at Caldera was kicked to the curb.

    Bring on the comments and criticisms, I fully expect to start moving companies to Vista within a year, but anyone with minimal reasoning ability is hesitant to perform a major rollout to inconsistent underperforming hardware so early in the adoption phase.

    Cheers.
  • by decula03 (1082847) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:36PM (#19109193) Homepage
    From the CNN linked article... "The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft's patents." Funny, Microsoft owns the patents and you guys code it in a higher quality fashion? I'm suitably impressed that the FOSS coders are better at coding STABLE projects than the owner of the patents. GOOD WORK, folks!
  • by Cyberax (705495) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:39PM (#19109213)
    I see it happening only after the global patent war. I don't think that anything less than that can move Congress to revise the patent law.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:46PM (#19109267)
    > The moment a Fortune 500 sues an individual developer for failing to ensure their code is clear of Microsoft patents is the moment Patent Armageddon has begun.

    Bah:

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  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:54PM (#19109329)
    ...they just want to kill Linux. Not a "good faith" manouver, but who cares? It's "Legal", so they will be able to win in court and then use that to get a national crackdown on all Linux distributions that aren't under the umbrella of firms that they have patent license agreements with.

    That national crackdown is EXACTLY what will happen...and sooner rather than later. Microsot will sue some easy and vulnerable target, then get an injunction against distributions of ALL Linux distributions that are not under their licensing umbrella. Then they'll selectively use that to hammer on users. Then it won't be long before the BSA will be scanning for the presence of non-conforming linux during their 'audits' and disgruntled employees will be turning in their employers for having linux somewhere. If you want to buy Linux pre-installed on a pc, it will have to be Novell...and so on.

    People here are underestimating the financial power, the tenacity and the absolute desperation of Microsoft. Microsoft will stop at nothing to keep their monopoly franchise.
  • by eric76 (679787) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:01AM (#19109375)
    I think patents should only be granted for inventions that took very substantial amounts of work to invent and are very nonobvious. If someone comes up with the same invention on their own, then it must not have been so nonobvious.

    Very few software patents would be patentable under such a rule.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:10AM (#19109425)
    The law states that liability for infringement lies with the party who has made, used

    And you call the GP a fool? Your post is not insightful in the least. It's self-contradictory. You should be modded down for such trolling.

    And to be clear, MS is not talking about low-level consumers (such as the individuals using Blackberries).

    They are talking about big companies that have deployed F/OSS in their core business structure... who would fall into that category? There are many examples. One is a small startup named Google.
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:22AM (#19109525) Journal
    No patents do NOT protect ideas. They protect implementations of ideas (i.e. inventions). It is definitely possible to implement an old idea (or a patented idea) in a new (and even innovative way) that isn't under patent. Having said that....

    It would be very difficult to create an alternative to an established idea such as this.
    This is true. Some of these patents will be valid (under US law) and as such will require those that wish to distribute and develop them in the US to remove these infringements and won't be able to implement the ideas without infringing on the patent. Hopefully this will spur OSS projects to develop new and innovative solutions to the problems the patents solve and it will spur creativity and be of benefit to everyone. Hopefully it will encourage OSS developers to stop playing catch up and innovate instead (as some already do).
  • It's true that Vista is not worth it today, but the same was originally true with 98-XP. The newer hardware support will eventually win out, and by that time there will be a some service packs and the hardware requirements won't look so bad.
  • by tupletuple (1015599) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:29AM (#19109571)
    This is MS hearing as I have, that everyday people are curious about Linux/Macs after hearing about what a disaster Vista is becoming. MS just wants to put off people having their geeky nephew put in a Linux desktop in until the air clears, which MS will make sure will not happen anytime soon.
  • by number11 (129686) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:31AM (#19109581)
    An Anonymous Coward said:
    And to be clear, MS is not talking about low-level consumers (such as the individuals using Blackberries).
    They are talking about big companies that have deployed F/OSS in their core business structure...


    I think tactically they wouldn't go after individuals. Not enough payback and too much PR damage. But I am not aware that they have waived the right to do so. They could indeed choose to emulate the RIAA approach. I don't know what they will do. Do you?

    Steve, is that you?
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:39AM (#19109627) Journal
    Its important to ask is Open Innovation Network's patents of the same quality of Microsoft's? Large companies tend to have a habit of patenting everything under the sun because they can afford to and who knows what will help them. Does OIN follow the same practice? Or are they more cautious with what they patent? If they're more cautious (and knowing nothing about them I don't know) then those 30 of those patents might be valid whereas Microsoft's valid patents could be significantly less. So yes, those 37 patents may be of a significant threat to Microsoft, if OIN has the lawyers to enforce them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:47AM (#19109705)
    "If patents are supposed to patent non-obvious ideas"

    Well that's your problem right there. You aren't supposed to be able to patent ideas. Patents are supposed to be for inventions. Not some idea you had about something. This is part of the problem. The patent office hands out patents like they were lollypops at the bank and apparently doesn't know the difference between an idea and an invention.
  • by HermMunster (972336) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:47AM (#19109713)
    This isn't a battle where the parties remain at odds over which patents each other violate. This only plays into Microsoft's hands and allows them to use FUD against the community. With FUD they will keep big corporates from investing in Linux. With the latest near absolute victory against SCO, IBM probably doesn't have much taste to further battle another company like Microsoft. I'm pretty sure IBM will stay mute until it is absolutely necessary to put the foot down and lay into the monkey that is Microsoft by driving it's Mac Truck over it on the freeway.

    Let's bear in mind here that these words from Ballmer are mostly baseless unless they state specifically which patents are violated. You can't claim that you were harmed without telling the parties where they are harming you. If you do you have very little solid ground to stand on. I'm sure any jury deciding damages would mitigate them due to how Microsoft claims problems but tells no one what the problems are or what they need to do to resolve them.

    Let's also bear in mind that Microsoft has lost nearly 100% of its patent lawsuits over the history of their legal affairs. Recent losses are pretty sizable affairs totaling in billions of dollars. Microsoft is also a convicted monopolist in more than one country and they have participated in some very nasty anti-competitive practices which have harmed the consumer (individuals, as well as businesses). By the very nature of this harm they have harmed the development of software and harmed the economy. Granted some of that last sentence is my own conjecture, but there's good cause to believe that if the money they have stockpiled in the banks of a few people had been distributed to a greater number of people that money would have been used to further the economy in more beneficial way.

    Let's also keep in mind that Microsoft lost the lawsuit against a company called Z4 and it was upheld on appeal, regarding the violation of Z4's IP for online activation. In fact, they were found to have participated in numerous acts of misconduct during the trial, as noted by the Judge. He clearly stated in his ruling, when he awarded Z4 an additional $25 million in special damages above and beyond the normal punitive damages, that Microsoft had acted with such misconduct because they felt Z4 was incapable of defending its own IP.

    The IP they stole from Z4 was the technology used to perform the activation of XP over the internet. This equates to essentially stealing the technology which they used to keep you from stealing their software. That's pretty atrocious if you ask me.

    They have consistently operated in a malformed way and to this day they continue to spy on you with their hidden technology called Windows Genuine Advantage Notification. This same technology (and more) is incorporated into Vista. It is being done without the consumer's knowledge and is the equivalent of them coming into your home (because your computer is an extension of your home) in order to search it. No company does this nor should be allowed to do this, and just because it is done in a hidden way makes it no less a violation of your privacy. It's the equivalent of a hidden camera. No one would allow the Police authorities to place a hidden camera in your home and certainly would not agree to do that without the oversight of a court and Judge. This is the equivalent of allowing Walmart to enter your home to search it in order to determine if you have stolen any of their goods just because you are a regular shopper at Walmart.

    So, they are not on the up and up and they should not be trusted in this matter. This commentary from their lead attorney is not being done in good faith and none of these claims have ever been proven in a court of law. Upon a trial with a judge and jury where the facts are laid out and one party prevails we'll see who has the strongest IP, otherwise all of this is just FUD.

    Why is this coming out so hard and so fast at this point? It is because Microsoft Vista is doing
  • I'd say that the GP post was referring to Microsoft.

    This is what happens when you found a movement based on the idea that other people's intellectual property is yours to take as you wish.
    Doesn't that sound like Microsoft to you???

    And the thing is: If they sue some random company over a supposed MS patent in Linux, what happens when that company gets disclosure of all of MS's software and gets someone to go over it looking for patents that they (or someone in the OS movement has)? And then what happens if they find all sorts of embarrassing things in that source code that come out in court?

    The nasty thing (for Microsoft) is that just about anybody who has contributed to the code that Microsoft sues some random user for using can probably ask for standing "because it's my code that they're impugning", and then counter-sue MS over some patent that they have (or have just been assigned by some friend in the OS community).

    We've already seen what's happen(ed,ing) to SCOX over their claims of 'millions of lines' of Linux code, now Microsoft is making similar claims -- and with the SCOTUS just having gutted patents, this seems to me like calling wolf, but everybody knows that, even if the wolf is real, it's lost most of it's teeth and claws and may be on a leash.

  • Dear Microsoft... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday May 14, 2007 @01:21AM (#19109911)
    Dear Microsoft,

    Welcome to being the most hated company on Earth.

    Sincerely,
    The Computing World.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2007 @01:21AM (#19109913)
    More simply from another angle, a corporation is generally viewed under the law as a individual entity, aka an individual. Suing a corp is no different than suing an individual in these matters, and since it's obviously clear corps sue the hell out of each other, I don't see why you couldn't go after actual meat/flesh/human/real individuals in the same manner.

    But what I really wanted to get to--note how wonderfully this really might work out for Linux. We should be SALIVATING at this opportunity. See, it's irrelevant at present who can or can't be sued. Why? Because in both scenarios, MS shoots their legs off (no, not just their foot). It's that bad for them because they have both more customers AND deeper pockets--the result is actually more than additive:

    First, if MS's talk isn't FUD and they actually implement this stupid plan of theirs, new case law will come up to quickly clarify the extent which tier can be sued or both (customer or manufacturer or both).

    If one can sue customers, then (1) MS has the largest customer base presently and worse, (2), just opened up their customer base to counter lawsuits from IBM, Redhat, etc.--and (3) it won't just be open season on Linux, but whoever wants a piece of MS, companies using MS (think Fortune 500 companies and their accumulated wealth).

    (4) In turn, their customers may very well then have a case against MS in civil court (and if limited there, may be protected by certain consumer protection laws), since it was their product that caused you, the consumer/customer, to be sued. IANAL, but usually a EULA is enforced by contract law, and I recall parts of a contracted can be voided and a party held responsible if something in it is found to violate a law (iow, law overrides contracts). (5) Even consumer protection laws may kick in (as well as potentially interesting local laws).

    OTOH, if the case law turns out to be such that you cannot sue customers or must sue a higher tier, well, MS's plan/threats/FUD about suing customers just went down the drain. Customers are safe. MS starts suing larger companies at their own risk in the typical legal battle.
  • by beemishboy (781239) on Monday May 14, 2007 @01:29AM (#19109965)
    The maker of the product is responsible for the patent violation.

    While this is true in the direct sense, the customers of RIM were the ones who were ultimately forced to pay if it came to that - they were the ones who would not have been able to use the service anymore. In this MS versus open source case, potentially, the customers of either side will suffer as a result of this legal wrangling and posturing. Maybe not, maybe it will be a good thing to get this whole fear, uncertainty, and doubt cleared up actually.

    No offense, but in general the customer is always affected by these things to a greater or lesser extent. This was especially true in the case of RIM because it is a service provider, the customer was held hostage to the will of the courts, which was ironic considering that the legal system used RIM's services heavily. They couldn't rule based on that but that's what effect it had.
  • I hope not, McCarthy is only reviled in modern politics and was VERY successful during his day.

    While the guy had absolutely none of the information and was a quack, more recently unclassified documents (such as the Venona papers) indicate that he was more correct than wrong - even if one discounts the disputed parts. While that is pure luck and does nothing to exonerate him (as an old saying goes "even a blind squirrel finds nut sometimes"), I do not want any part to be mostly true.

    I would rather Microsoft be like SCO - just full of shit. I suspect they are - I suspect that they are reading patents overly broad and it will never see anything more than PR. It *may* go to a threat stage, but I doubt a real court case - they do not want patent to be ruled that broad either as they, too, would be in violation of hundreds of patents.

    I do figure that there are some patents infringed - in both cases (Linux and Windows) there are so many patents and the software so large/broad that there is infringement *someplace*. But I do not think it will do either side good to push it - I doubt the OSS side will due to their views on patents and figure MS will not either. While MS very much lives in it's own world (for example, they still see themselves as the "underdog") this is to big a blunder to get a strong ruling on patents. Just talk to reporters, get some articles, spread some FUD and you do harm to OSS projects *only*.
  • by Ravnen (823845) on Monday May 14, 2007 @02:03AM (#19110153)

    Most of microsoft's money is on paper in the value of their stock and furture business.
    No, this is not true. When people speak of Microsoft's $30 bn in cash, this is exactly what it is: cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments that can be directly converted into cash. It has absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft's share price, or with future business.

    Perhaps you're thinking of Bill Gates's wealth of $50 bn or whatever it is. I would expect much of that is made up of Microsoft shares, so a change in the share price would change his net worth, but that's completely separate from Microsoft's enormous cash hoard.

  • No one pays for Microsofts products now how do they expect anyone to pay M$ for the products that aren't theirs in the first place?

    Uh, not sure what planet you're from, but I don't think many companies run pirated and cracked versions of Windows and Office. Whether you bother to shell out a few bucks for a legit copy, or just Bittorrent it, hardly matters. Your retail-box purchase, or lack thereof, is a piddly little nothing compared to the real money, which is in the corporate userbase, and OEM pre-installs.

    You pay for Microsoft every time you go to a store that uses Windows-based POS terminals. You pay for it every time you go to a doctor's office with Windows PCs for running their scheduling. When you order something from a web site that ships goods from a warehouse that uses Windows on the pickers' terminals. Microsoft has insinuated itself into the "cost of doing business," and you pay for it, in fractions of a cent, every time you do anything.

    Oh, and you also pay for them when you pay your taxes (or when your employer pays your taxes for you, because you're not trusted to actually do it), because the U.S. Federal government, like most other countries, is essentially a Microsoft shop through and through.

    You only think that you're not paying for Microsoft's products, and that's exactly how they like it.
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Monday May 14, 2007 @02:25AM (#19110243)
    I would say that anyone who refers to a user as a n00b still isn't ready to evaluate the effectiveness of software for a typical user.
  • by VENONA (902751) on Monday May 14, 2007 @02:33AM (#19110289)
    "When Redhat crumbles (assuming they haven't already) we'll all be paying a Microsoft tax."

    Ever seen Red Hat crumble before? No. So why assume they already have? A generic Red Hat hater? One reason that Slashdotters don't like them is media players. They stay away from murky situations, because they are in a largely corporate market. Now you're seeing *why* they stay away from murky situations. TFA mentions that they've spoken with MS. You'll notice they didn't do a Novell-style deal.

    Did you see them freaking out when Oracle went after them? Nope. The stock tumbled, then recovered once people realized the world wasn't ending.

    Red Hat spends a lot of money on Linux, paying kernel and gcc devs, etc. Perhaps you're angry with them for not shipping codecs. Or for bagging the Red Hat desktop when they were losing money on it. I, personally don't have any such issues--and I was a RH desktop user when they dumped it. I could see where they were coming from.

    Assume they've already buckled? I'd give long odds that you are dead wrong. I suspect that more than a few people are going to discover how tough, and principled, Red Hat is. This is the basis of their business, and unlike Novell, they don't have fools at the helm.

    The silver lining is that I get to buy more stock, cheap. Just like after the Oracle attack. I made a few thousand then, and expect to make a few thousand over this SCO-like insanity, as well. Perhaps I'm wrong. But I'll be putting my money up.

  • Re:Too late (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spitzak (4019) on Monday May 14, 2007 @03:04AM (#19110471) Homepage
    Seeing as you don't know what any of the 235 patents are, you are posting FUD"

    The fact that Microsoft refuses to identify any one of those 235 patents or what piece of Linux is infinging one of them is the FUD.

    You can't say "due to the fact that Microsoft is not releasing any details in order to create FUD, anything YOU say is FUD". That's like a five year old saying "I am rubber, you are glue, anything you say bounces off me and sticks to you". Very very childish.

  • What if I have used the product in good faith? If I have legally acquired and used a product, surely I have the right to expect I'm not doing anything wrong after all?

    Patents don't work that way. You probably will not be found guilty of "willful infringement" in that case, so you won't have to pay treble damages, but apart from that whether or not you knew that you were infringing of a patent is irrelevant. "I didn't know I was infringing" is not a valid defence against patent infringement. That's why some companies offer patent infringement indemnification to their customers. In fact, the US government often requires this via contractual obligations [google.com].

    The only possible safeguard for private persons is that at least in Europe, patents can only be infringed in a commercial environment (so private not for profit use is never an infringement). I don't know whether this is the case in the US as well though.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Monday May 14, 2007 @04:41AM (#19110965)
    Why? What's the business benefit to Microsoft?

    Their biggest strength has always been backward compatability. Granted, it's never 100%, but it's generally better than anyone else's. Maintaining that level of backward compatability while completely migrating to an OS with a wholly different architecture? May be theoretically possible, I wouldn't want to be on the team managing that project though. The only way I can see it being doable for anything less than silly money is including a Vista license and some virtualisation software with the next version.
  • by simong (32944) on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:10AM (#19111127) Homepage
    Seasoned readers may remember that when Netscape forked the code tree for the browser and made it open source, Wang, backed by Microsoft, sued for an alleged patent infringement [mozilla.org]. Mozilla.org put out a call for cases of prior art, received several hundred, and buried the case [mozilla.org]. If Microsoft is stupid enough to go ahead with a case for any of these so-called infringements, the chances are that every one will have prior art or one kind or another. Patents rarely stand up in court with the right amount of expert support.
  • by giorgiofr (887762) on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:11AM (#19111133)
    You are visting an English-speaking board and as such you are expected to speak decent English. I am not a native English speaker but I do the best I can to pass off as one. On an Italian board I'd expect visitors to speak decent Italian. What's wrong with that?
    Besides, PP was innocently making fun of GP and I don't think anybody but you, not even GP himself, was offended by the mockery. Maybe you could try to be a little less PC and have a bit more fun?
  • GPLv3 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BACbKA (534028) on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:21AM (#19111181) Homepage Journal
    RMS has proven himself a visionary once more where some thought he was going too far. The whole GPLv3 thing might seem a bit paranoid in the beginning, not just for Linus, with all this talk about forking off a lot of commercially-backed development --- people took SCO's failure as a governing example and thought that other big players would abide by the status quo, with the patent stockpiling by both sides to be an assurance of mutual peace... Following this new development, however, GPLv3 WILL mature and get adopted much quicker and on a larger scale. You're right on the money saying that now the forks will not likely happen.
  • by HuguesT (84078) on Monday May 14, 2007 @07:18AM (#19111795)
    Clearly this round of sabre rattling is not going to end up in court. For a start MS would find itself in very hot water about these vague patent claims : it would create doubt in Microsoft's ranks and jeopardize the stock value.

    On the other hand, the issue is to create doubt among traditional US corporate structures. Some might be frightened enough to move back to Windows. On the other hand, smart IT shops won't probably care. When Microsoft start suing their own customers RIAA/MPAA style it might be a sign of their own impending doom.

  • by eaman (710548) on Monday May 14, 2007 @08:51AM (#19112531) Homepage

    Thanks for clarification. Thanks god my country (Italy) is not positive as regards software patents as well.

    It seems anyway good to me that a first try to introduce software patents in the UE has been formaly rejected: this sould be important in case Miscrosft (or someone else) is going to push again in this direction.

    As far as I am concerned I will send some money to those fighting for free software in Europe, just in case...

  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Monday May 14, 2007 @09:04AM (#19112663) Homepage Journal

    I think you're trying to score political points rather than objectively analyze the situation both in the 1950s and today.

    Here's the reality. Balmer is probably correct. He may well have pulled the figure out of his ass, but the likelihood is that free software probably contains technologies covered by hundreds, if not thousands, of Microsoft patents. This is not because free software is doing anything wrong, it's simply the reality of programming computers in 2007, and the nature of patents. Patents are routinely granted that, to people in the field, are obvious, or are covering techniques that are inevitably going to be re-invented multiple times by independent entities. The reality of getting a patent these days is that you don't need to be farsighted and smart when it comes to finding the solution to a problem, you just have to be farsighted and smart in identifying the types of problem people will need to solve.

    Did it really matter how many "communists" were in the State department? If McCarthy had been attacking the government for its employment of soviet agents, then there may have been some moral legitimacy in his complaint (notwithstanding the fact that he almost certainly made up his figures and made up his list.) But the mere ideological viewpoints, protected by the First Amendment, of the people doing their jobs in the government, loyally to the US, is immaterial and that's what McCarthy concentrated upon. It was a "problem" in the 1950s because people genuinely were paranoid enough to conflate the two and legal and extra-legal hot-water was entered by anyone who had been unfortunate enough to believe there was a serious problem with Capitalism ten years before and had joined one of the groups that said this.

    Today legal problems enter the fray for any programmer who encounters a problem that Microsoft, or some other group, has encountered before they did and deemed solutions patent-worthy, and who chooses the most obvious solution to that problem. That's the reality of patents. And most people have problems understanding the concepts, that patent infringement is not copying, that patents themselves are increasingly immoral, unjustified, and unsustainable in a society that requires constant progress.

  • by AVee (557523) <slashdot&avee,org> on Monday May 14, 2007 @09:46AM (#19113095) Homepage
    [Insert mod-me-down disclaimer here]

    "People may not want to think IBM is some great savior of FOSS, but they are the closest thing to a large money source the movement is going to have."

    It's sad when you need 'a large money source' to get justice done. But it becomes a really sad thing when people start accepting it as a normal thing.
    Just think about it for a while and wonder in what kind of country you are living.
    Land of the free^H^H^H^Hbig money. Makes me sick.
  • by zerocool^ (112121) on Monday May 14, 2007 @09:51AM (#19113181) Homepage Journal

    Exactly. This is what people just can't wrap their heads around at Microsoft.

    Microsoft has enough CASH ASSETS to draw interest from that - BASED ON THE INTEREST, they could never sell another copy of office or windows or any other product ever again, and continue to pay all non-executive employees at their current payrate until their expected retirement date.

    I mean, that's a boatload of cash.

    ~Wx
  • by golodh (893453) on Monday May 14, 2007 @09:59AM (#19113301)
    Now that I've caught my breath and read your response, and that of PJ on Groklaw (see http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200705132 34519615 [groklaw.net]) I think you may have a point. At least as far as the "corporate" Linux distributions go.

    Now ... all Microsoft needs to do (and is doing) is to demand license fees for the use of their patents. This won't affect Linux'es availability for anyone who's willing to pay for a license. How much opposition do you think this will engender in corporate America? How outworldish is it to try to monetise your patents? I have this sinking feeling that most of the industry will shrug it off with "Well ... we knew they're bastards, but that's why they make such a lot of money.", and simply make sure that their Linux distributions are covered by patent license agreements.

    Google
    Will Google suddenly litigate 150-odd patents (they won't be using the gui or Open Office, just the kernel), or will it consent to pay, say 15$ a copy in licensing fees? Eh? What would you advise Google's CEO if you were in charge of Legal Affairs?

    Novell
    Novell has signed this patent-agreement, so wouldn't automatically be required to oppose Microsoft when MS asserts its patents. And what about Red-Hat? Will they charge the windmills?

    IBM
    And IBM? Will they even be a party in the initial legal battles? I mean ... will Microsoft see it as a winning strategy to get into a court battle with IBM about anything they can sue other much smaller companies for first? I'd be surprised.

    SUN
    And yes, SUN will not take allegations that it's Open Office infringes on Microsoft's patents lying down. But will it take up the cudgels to protect the Linux kernel when it's trying to make a go of Open Solaris? Really?

    The little guys
    Although I will readily admit that "corporate" use of Linux has helped it along enormously, there are still the "purist" and "hobbyist" distributions. I'm guessing that there are hundreds of small specialised tweaked Linux distributions (ranging from Knoppix to firewalls) brought out by individuals and tiny little companies. That's where Linux shines. And that's where you see the oddball experiments and many of the interesting new developments.

    So what are those small guys going to do when they receive a pay-license-fees-or-cease-and-desist nastygram? Their entire assets might just be enough to have a lawyer read the letter and explain to them what it means. My guess is that they will be unable to defend themselves and will quickly fold and withdraw their distros. That alone would be a blow.

    The Kernel repositories
    And then the Kernel repositories. What are the chances that those will have to take down the infringing portions of their code, if asked? Of course I can't say how likely this might be, as I'm not a lawyer. But Denis Crouch is and his response here ( http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2007/05/microsoft_ foss_.html [patentlyo.com]) doesn't completely reassure me that Microsoft won't get anywhere.

    What does Microsoft have to loose really?
    And about other companies giving Micorsoft a hard time ... who likes buying Microsoft? A show of hands please! ... And now, who of you buy Microsoft because it happens to come with the hardware, and it works after a fashion, and you're locked-in anyway?

    Really ... what does Microsoft have to loose from some bad publicity when trying to collect licenses on their patents? Somehow I can't even imagine that it would spark off an anti-trust suit, because all the "corporate" Linux distros aren't affected. Microsoft isn't (formally) trying to siderail an opponent, it's trying to get money for patents they own. Well yes, it's lethal to free-as

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Monday May 14, 2007 @10:58AM (#19114177) Homepage Journal
    If they dare do it, I am sure many people like me, normally apathetic regarding these issues, will work to help any company or individuals singled out by MS.

    I don't know what is MS's budget for this sort of issue, but if they think they can defeat an army of commited people doing things for the love of a product and an idea that has given freedom back to them, then they will have a very rude awakening.

    Go on MS. We dare you. Just try it please.
  • FUD!! FUD!! FUD!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fizzbin (110016) * <7fl8o4rqr2is001@sneakemail.com> on Monday May 14, 2007 @11:49AM (#19115031) Homepage
    This is pure FUD!! This article says nothing about any software other than Linux. THere is nothing about any of the BSDs.

    Given that actually attacking Linux is equivalent to attacking IBM, it's clear that Microsoft's objective is merely to spread FUD and scare away corporate users from Linux. Microsoft is not dumb enough (unlike Caldera/SCO) to take IBM to court, who have deep enough pockets to fight it out legally.

    Microsoft is scared of Linux, as it is not scared of the BSDs, because the GNU GPL keps Linux from being absorbed and co-opted (otherwise known as "Embrace and Extend") by Microsoft.
  • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 14, 2007 @11:53AM (#19115105) Homepage Journal
    Did they? I thought it just made everyone switch to PNG.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:49PM (#19116093) Journal
    Not only has Microsoft ignored a significant shift in national intellectual property law (per recent Supreme court decisions)

    Ignored a shift in IP law? By asserting their patents are infringed? I don't think the Supreme Court said you can't infringe a patent anymore.


    As I understand it, the Supreme Court eliminated the Federal Circuit's bogus requirement that a prior art showing be a description of EXACTLY the claim to be rendered invalid.

    As this percolates through the case law it should put teeth back into "obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art". This implies both the end of the flood of bogus patents on all aspects of computing and the invalidation of the bulk of those currently in the "stack of barganing chips" portfolios of companies such as Microsoft, as soon as any attempt is made to actually ENFORCE them.

    With the value of the asset about to vanish, acquiring more bogus patents about to become extremely hard, and the bulk of the patents ready to self-destruct if challenged, it make sense for Microsoft to stop sitting on them and use them in a FUD campaign while the count is at its peak.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:49PM (#19116097) Homepage
    OTOH. IBM has been doing pure basic research and filing real patents, on physical inventions, since before Bill blackmailed his first customer. Infact, it was a prior DoJ anti-trust action that allowed Microsoft to exist in it's current form to begin with.
  • So what ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PermanentMarker (916408) on Monday May 14, 2007 @03:50PM (#19119773) Homepage Journal
    I'm just wondering why MS is pointing this up in front.
    People at home who change their OS (as a normal graduated linux user would do) how can that be stopped ?. What is someone writes down in code true type fonts acka windows quality, and say this is the code I provide it here a number, people cannot patent numbers the post would be legal. And basicly computer code is numbers.

    Mainly i wondr why MS does this, probaply its not targeted to people who would do just that generate a treutype font or something else based on code (numbers) or alternative numbers (as alternative math) Math itself cannot be copyrighted (only kept secret as for encryption). So who they are targeting, perhaps the large deploys of linux, i can imagine that MS would visit a company who had hundreds of linux machine with violating code?

    But whatif a company would also say this program is just a long number, like there are thousends of numbers, the numbers here happen to control a device working with numbers called a CPU, it's math device build for numbers working with other devices who work based on numbers. Together they hafe a function who ends up similair on display like the numbers and math you used. I just wonder where patents can define numbers as somthing that can be owned.

    Probaply the only method to realy get it right is to create an encrypted operating system, no opensource at all, only protected by math itself. But then we get european style courts.

    Well probaply the whole thinkg is a big joke for how long we will use current style PC's i think their design is outdated.. but it's just a matter of time before i386 design will make place for new designs, based on the knowledge of these days. Remember it wouldnt be the apolo to be the first choise to fly someone to mars.

  • by Dick Wilder (1086699) on Monday May 14, 2007 @03:55PM (#19119881)
    The article quotes Linus Torvalds as saying he is not worried about proprietary software because while the "FSF considers proprietary software to be something evil and immoral" he just doesn't care about it. Well, that's refreshing. It is what I believe Roger Parloff was getting at earlier in the article when he talks about businesses working out non-GPL licenses that that accommodate to the proprietary sector.

    It is in that same vein that Microsoft has worked out licenses with customers and the agreement last year with Novell.

    Richard Stallman once referred to a study - that was done by Open Source Risk Management - that the Linux kernel infringed more than the 235 patents cited in the Fortune article. So, patents on Linux is not new. What is new is a statement that Microsoft has identified 235 patents in its patent portfolio that cover free and open source software.

    The statements by Ballmer and Smith are not a call to a war on patents. Stallman and Moglen seem to be the ones calling for that. Rather, Ballmer and Smith talk about licensing and not patent infringement actions. I suppose that that is one of the reasons for not naming specific patents and specific products covered by them - to avoid being dragged into court where they don't want to be on declaratory judgment actions.

    It is true that recent Supreme Court decisions have pared back patentability of inventions and infringement actions - but I think that is an evolutionary and not radical alteration. There is also the peer to patent project of NYU. Really, all of this is good if it means weeding out good patents from bad. But none of this goes to the true desire of the FSF - to eliminate patent protection for software. In GPLv3, FSF makes their disdain for patents on computer software clear. But rather than taking the issue to the only party that can do something about it - the US Congress - FSF is more inclined to take it to the streets and fan the flames to ignite the "tinderbox" that Moglen referred to in the article. They would apparently welcome it. But it is cooperation and not conflagration that Microsoft is interested in.

    No, we cannot all be friends - but we need not put our friends, customers, and software users in a cross fire, which is precisely what the GPLv3 does.

    So, I am not worried about proprietary software or patents. I am not worried about how many patents Richard Stallman or Brad Smith thinks cover Linux. I am worried about the combatants on the anti-patent side of the aisle that do not take the issue on directly but who actively seek confrontation instead.
  • by WilliamSChips (793741) <full.infinity@g m a i l . c om> on Monday May 14, 2007 @03:59PM (#19119971) Journal
    Luckily, GNU/Linux starts with a G.
  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Monday May 14, 2007 @04:45PM (#19120831)
    I imagine that many of these ideas were developed independently, but that doesn't mean there will always be prior art. For example:

    Linux Timeline for developing "Feature X"
    Spring 2001: Think of Feature X
    Summer 2001: Release initial code for Feature X
    Fall 2001: Test and debug
    Winter 2001: Release Feature X

    Windows Timeline for developing "Feature X"
    Spring 2001: Think of Feature X
    Spring 2001: Patent Feature X
    2003-2004: Hack away at Feature X
    2005: Release Feature X

    In this case, Microsoft holds the patent, but only due to their speedy legal department. Thus showing, once again, how stupid software patents are.

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