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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 LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:27PM (#19107601) Homepage Journal
    Ladies and gentlemen, we have tonight a bout between two of the worlds greatest software idealogists.

    In the Blue corner weighing in at 289 pounds we have Monkey Boy Ballmer, his speciality move: The chair.
    In the Red corner, weighing in at 432 pounds we have the one and only R.M.S, speciality move, being R.M.S.

    Who will win this epic battle?
    • 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?
      • 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.
        • 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 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 Don Negro (1069) * on Monday May 14, 2007 @02:32AM (#19110283)
              If Microsoft starts sueing IBMs customers, then IBM will go to war, just like they did against SCO. IBM Legal aren't know as The Nazgul for no reason.

              If this comes to blows, IBM will have to a) provide non-infringing replacements, or b) indemnify their customers and go to the mattresses with their unparalleled patent arsenal. My guess is the MS just bit off more than they can chew. There are some rules you never break, and getting into a patent battle with IBM is right up there with starting a land war in Asia.
              • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Monday May 14, 2007 @04:30AM (#19110901)
                It was already stated that Microsoft uses a good number of IBM-patented things. Currently they seem to have some sort of agreement (such as a blanket license), but if Microsoft really starts bullying IBM customers IBM might pull out the blanket agreement (if they can) and start bullying Microsoft (or its customers, depending on what's possible). IBM might be able to undo "Noboy Ever Got Fired For Buying Microsoft" and that's bad PR on a scale even Microsoft should fear.

                I'd like to see IBM lean on Microsoft and point out that patent warfare is a multiplayer game. If Microsoft isn't out to raise the bar on corporate stupidity that should silence them quite fast.


                By the way, notice something? Who just entered a patent agreement with Microsoft and thus can't participate in this fight? Right, Novell. For some reason I like that corp less and less...
        • 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.
          • by DrYak (748999) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:14PM (#19108551) Homepage
            Their problem is that they can't just keep braging that there are "238 patent violations in various OSS". The SCO case has proven how much staying vague about the actual violations is useful.

            Microsoft, for credibility will have to produce a detailled list of said patent violations (and eventually a list of specific OSS application that they think are infringing).

            And this, my friends, is a double edged sword.
            On one hand, it will show that Microsoft HAS tangible proof that OSS are inferior because no company can be held responsible for patents infringement, and that patent lawyers will go after the users. ...BUT...
            On another hand, such a list, and maybe a couple of days of work distributed across the whole community is everything needed to circumvent said patent and implement it either with a slightly different approach (see marching cubes vs. tetrahedron in 3D), using more generalised version (arithmetic coding vs. range coding in compression), or simply recycle some very old code in place - code who's age is a proof of prior art.

            And suddenly, all this MS PR stunt is moot.
            Just imagine :
            This week press titles "Microsoft says OSS dangerous because patent mine field", "New microsoft sponsored studies proves TCO to by higher for OSS because of patent fees", "Microsoft to go after individual users MAFIAA style".
            Next week press titles "238 patches and upgrades on Debian and Ubuntu repositories", "OSDL sponsored study proves that OSS has the highest reaction time in terms of patch release", "RMS & Linus to give speech about strengths of OSS development ; Ballmer responds throwing chairs".
            • 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.
            • by scoove (71173) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:07PM (#19108997)
              What a serious strategic error this is, even if its only a PR trial balloon. Not only has Microsoft ignored a significant shift in national intellectual property law (per recent Supreme court decisions) and pretended the collapse of SCO litigation was irrelevant, but Microsoft once again presumes all commerce is predicated on U.S. intellectual property law.

              Faced with serious issues in Australia, China, nearly every emerging market and even much of the EU, Microsoft wants to play "us vs. them" with open source? Even much of the Fortune 500 has been investing significantly into Linux (such as the corporation I work for, which is one of the larger global financial companies). Our company didn't take previous patent trolls lightly, and Microsoft's reliability issues don't give it a reliable foundation on which to make life any more difficult for us.

              In an era of unprecedented foreign confiscation of pharmaceutical intellectual property, can Microsoft be this utterly ignorant and stupid? Does Microsoft not realize it has zero leverage outside the U.S., facing serious penalties in the EU for its disregard for their law and even worse conditions elsewhere? Does it really believe it can force Brazil, China, Mexico, India, Malaysia, emerging Eastern Europe, Russia and countless other markets to pay excessive royalties for a bunch of questionable patents it had its attorneys sneak through? The only certain outcome is that U.S. intellectual property law will be even further ignored and real issues like drug patent confiscations more common.

              Apparently SCO was only the warm-up act. This certainly is going to be an interesting train wreck for us to watch if they venture down this path.

              *scoove*
            • by _KiTA_ (241027) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:31PM (#19109165) Homepage
              Next week press titles "238 patches and upgrades on Debian and Ubuntu repositories", "OSDL sponsored study proves that OSS has the highest reaction time in terms of patch release", "RMS & Linus to give speech about strengths of OSS development ; Ballmer responds throwing chairs".

              You're forgetting some other important ones:

              "Linus Torvals demands to see proof of Linux patent violations." "All of Europe calls for a ban on Software Patents, again." "IBM claims Windows violates 15,302 IBM Patents, demands reasonable fee of $1 per patent per copy of Windows sold."
          • "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.
            • 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?
              • by gwait (179005) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:15AM (#19109469)
                Actually, this is a great way to fight back,
                start referring to Balmer as the new McCarthy, paint them with that nasty brush, it's a PR nightmare if it catches hold.
                Emphasize the chair tossing, all the nasty things MS has done to the competitors over the years, what politician/lawmaker would want to be identified with the new McCarthy?

                Say, Apple OSX has BSD unix under the hood, but I bet they don't go after apple with this smear campaign.
                Much easier scare small businesses out of using linux.

                Oh, and Hah!, to the novell people who claim they didn't sell out.
        • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@nOsPAm.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 OmegaBlac (752432) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:14PM (#19108071)

        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?
        FTA:

        Furthermore, FOSS has powerful corporate patrons and allies. In 2005, six of them - IBM (Charts, Fortune 500), Sony, Philips, Novell, Red Hat (Charts) and NEC - set up the Open Invention Network to acquire a portfolio of patents that might pose problems for companies like Microsoft, which are known to pose a patent threat to Linux.
        Microsoft has more than IBM to worry about. I'm sure if Microsoft attempts anything, the OIN will retaliate big time.
      • 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 tomhath (637240) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:18PM (#19108587)
        does Microsoft already hve some patent license agreement (presumably some sort of blanket agreement) with IBM to cover them

        Yes and No. When I worked for a big corporation (not IBM) we had an agreement with MS; we could use their patents, they could use ours. But Microsoft made it clear in the agreement that if we used open source software the cross-licensing didn't apply.
    • by southpolesammy (150094) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:05PM (#19107991) Journal
      And in the Big Blue corner, weighing in at 800 lbs and wearing the obligatory monkey suit...
  • by msauve (701917) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:27PM (#19107605)
    Microsoft, fuck you!
  • 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?
    • 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?
    • Re:Software patents (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spykemail (983593) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:50PM (#19107843) Homepage
      Absolutely, and ultimately Microsoft is screwed either way. Either they attack FOSS and lose, or they don't attack and FOSS they lose anyway. There's no way they can win this fight - no matter how many lawsuits they file and how many open source projects they try to attack.

      If FOSS were somehow limited to the US, maybe they could hire enough lawyers to mount an offensive. But with the extremely strong chunks of the community around the world they literally have no chance. At best they can just fuck things up and make themselves look even more "evil" than they already do.
  • by The Monster (227884) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:31PM (#19107629) Homepage

    Moglen contends that software is a mathematical algorithm and, as such, not patentable. (The Supreme Court has never expressly ruled on the question.)
    If MS has the cajones to file any patent suits, maybe Moglen or his successor can raise that issue.
    • by mangu (126918) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:41PM (#19107743)
      If MS has the cajones to file any patent suits


      A cajón is a big box (the aumentative of caja). A cojón is a testicle. Maybe that's the word you were looking for?

      • by The Monster (227884) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:02PM (#19107953) Homepage
        I had seen the spelling 'cajones' on furniture, and had imputed that it meant 'drawers'. Gracias por la explicación. So the question is not whether one has cajones, but whether there are cojones in the cajones.
        • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday May 14, 2007 @01:01AM (#19109809) Homepage Journal

          I had seen the spelling 'cajones' on furniture, and had imputed that it meant 'drawers'.

          Both are right. "Cajón" is the augmented form of "caja", which is box, so it literally means "large box". However, spanish speakers don't really use it that way, if they want to describe a large box they'd say "caja grande", the word "cajón" is really only used for medium to large drawers. Small drawers, like those on a jewelry box or some such, are called by the diminutive form "cajita".

          The various modifier suffixes that can be placed on nouns is one of the coolest features of spanish, IMO. -ón (big), -ote (even bigger), -ito (small, cute, precise), -ejo (big and ugly) ... and others that I can't think of at the moment. You can make nice words like "cojoncitos" and "cojonejos", and there are thousands of really awful puns that can be constructed by noting that one word with a suffix sounds the same (or close to the same) as another word. Spanish is a great language.

  • by ecklesweb (713901) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:31PM (#19107639)
    If I'm a licensee of a software package, particularly under the GPL, since when do I pay royalties and not the licensor?
    • by CRC'99 (96526) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:34PM (#19107661) Homepage

      If I'm a licensee of a software package, particularly under the GPL, since when do I pay royalties and not the licensor?


      And an even more interesting connection, how do they intend to collect these said royalties?
      • by The_Sledge (1049070) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:03PM (#19107967)
        I would expect we all send MS a check for $0.01, really. The administrative headache will be the stuff of legend, and I imagine MS will have to create a whole new department and employ an extra 1,000 people for mail handling and admin processing.
      • 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 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.

    • 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 Dunkirk (238653) <david@davidkrider. c o m> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:08PM (#19108013) Homepage
      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.
  • 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.
  • 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....
  • Deja Vu? (Score:5, Funny)

    by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:36PM (#19107681) Journal
    Tell Mr. Balmer he is welcome to a portion of the $699 Linux IP license I paid SCO. I hear they sold lots and lots of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:37PM (#19107697)
    Here's what the interview should have been:

    Microsoft: It's a fact that Linux and free software infringe hundreds of our patents.

    Journalist: Which ones?

    Microsoft: Well, the kernel violates 60, the GUI violates...

    Journalist (interrupting): which 60? Where is the list?

    Microsoft: I'm not prepared to disclose that at this time.

    Journalist: Well this is a big fucking waste of my time, isn't it?

    Journalist: I went through this same dance with Darl McBride. Call me when you have something to say, bye
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 $$$.
  • Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jimmy_B (129296) <slashdot@ j i mrandomh.org> 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.
    • 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.
  • Shows you the fear (Score:4, Interesting)

    by microsoft_hater (1101657) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @08:40PM (#19107729)
    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. A question for those more knowledgeable than me on this subject--was microsoft not behind the whole SCO debacle? Perhaps they've now taken their proxy war public. They're pathetic.
    • by Alphager (957739) <`florianhaas' `at' `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 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.
  • 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....
    • by Anomolous Cowturd (190524) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:03PM (#19107981)
      Catch up man. In Ubuntu you change your screen resolution by clicking the System->Preferences->Screen Resoultion menu option and choosing your new resolution from the dialog that pops up. There *are* bits that only techies would know, but the "common use" stuff is getting easier every day.

      Ubuntu is *definitely* easy enough for a n00b if it comes pre-installed and fully configured.
  • ...infringment on 1) use of numbers 2) use of words, punctuation, sentences... 3) use of algebra sum(A1:A22) 4) excessive problems with operating systems and applications -- I can prove my mental condition is much worse having used MS products and so on...

    And our lawyers will work pro bono because so many of them hate MS too.
  • 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?
    • by smchris (464899) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:17PM (#19108105)
      Speak for yourself. I was never _joking_ about the evil empire. I helped support a department revolt in the 90s against Word on our campus that at least left WordPerfect the "acceptable co-installed alternative" for another couple years. Felt that strongly that Word was a piece of crap.

      I assume this is FUD mostly directed at Red Hat because it isn't like they are going to seize the international corporate headquarters of Debian or Slackware. What would they propose to stop the kudzu-like growth of the really free distributions? Take down notices on source servers? Set up servers to try to catch people using linux browsers?

    • You are right... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . 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.


  • Last paragraph
    "
    If push comes to shove, would Microsoft sue its customers for royalties, the way the record industry has?

    "That's not a bridge we've crossed," says CEO Ballmer, "and not a bridge I want to cross today on the phone with you."
    "

    Tech company sue it's own customers?
  • 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 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.
  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dirtside (91468) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:01PM (#19107945) Journal
    Not that it's at all unexpected, coming from Fortune--a bastion of support for giant corporations--but man, is that article biased. I love the photos on the right: A picture of Steve Ballmer, wearing a suit, looking harmless, and captioned "The patent owner", followed by a picture of Richard Stallman, looking like an Al Qaeda member, captioned "The patent hater". Maybe this is just a coincidence but I like how they refer to RMS specifically as "Richard Matthew Stallman," which makes him sound like a presidential assassin or serial killer. Like there's another Richard Stallman we might get him confused with if they didn't use his middle name? :)

    Later the article manages to imply that there's only one license that all FOSS projects use. You get three guesses which license it is, and the first two don't count.

    Does anyone know where we can find out the 235 patents that MS claims are infringed? TFA didn't give any examples.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday May 13, 2007 @09:40PM (#19108295) Homepage Journal
      Did you read the whole article? Or did you get bored after looking at the pictures?

      It presents both sides of the argument fairly to me. It has plenty of praise for RMS on page 2. It clearly states that Microsoft's actions are unsound and likely to result in harm to the software industry on page 3.

      All in all, I think the article is pretty balanced.

      A picture of Steve Ballmer, wearing a suit, looking harmless,

      Oh, and your idea of harmless and mine are clearly different. He looks ready to explode in that picture.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 Myria (562655) on Monday May 14, 2007 @01:42AM (#19110049)
    (This is completely bogus, but is an interesting thought experiment.)

    What if Microsoft's direct goal were not harming Linux, but rather destroying the software patent system? Obviously, Microsoft would love for Linux to disappear, but they could be thinking much deeper. Microsoft has argued for patent reform before when they lost $521000000 to Eolas. Clearly appeal to Congress and the courts has not worked.

    By creating complete chaos in the software industry, these legal threats could force changes to the laws to avoid a breakdown.
  • Nothing to see here (Score:5, Informative)

    by TekPolitik (147802) on Monday May 14, 2007 @08:55PM (#19124197) Journal

    ...(Microsoft SVP and general counsel) 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.

    Apparently Smith didn't pay much attention in his equity classes in law school (not surprising since most people find equity boring and difficult - I on the other hand topped my year so :-P to Smith). This behaviour is going to give rise to a proprietary estoppel against Microsoft, and he has now publicly stated the hardest things a defendant would have to prove to get the estoppel. This is just about rule #1 of equity - if you know somebody is violating your property rights, and you let them expend time, effort and resources building something in violation of those rights without them having knowledge of the breach of your rights, the courts will not let you enforce your rights against those people or anybody who claims through them.

    It would be a different matter if Microsoft had no knowledge of the breach, but having investigated it and found the breach, if they don't tell the projects affected what the alleged breach is in fairly short order, they are not going to be able to enforce their rights at all.

    Even if he did not pay a lot of attention in his equity classes it seems unlikely Smith would not have some awareness of this. This suggests to me that Microsoft have no intention whatsoever of using the patents to pursue open source projects or even users who are building businesses based around open source products. If they did intend to do this, they would give specific notice. This leaves them with only intimidation as a strategy for exploiting their patents against open source.

    It is a shame we have no examples of another company that turned to using unspecified intellectual property violations as an intimidation strategy against open source. Such an example might give us an indication of the ultimate result.

"Never ascribe to malice that which is caused by greed and ignorance." -- Cal Keegan

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