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Software Patents

Through the Patent Looking Glass with Microsoft 187

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the innovate-don't-litigate dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "By now you've probably read more than you want to about Microsoft's announcement that it owns 235 patents underlying leading open source software, including many opinions about whether Microsoft's new assertions do, or don't, represent a real threat to Linux, OpenOffice, and other OSS. To get to the bottom of the issue, though, you have to take a deep dive into how patent cross licensing works these days. When you do, you realize that patents don't mean what they used to, and have far more defensive than offensive value in the marketplace today. It also becomes apparent that it really doesn't matter whether Microsoft has valid patents or not, because so many other companies do as well. Today, what companies worry about isn't asserting their patents against other companies, but maintaining their freedom of activity. In this case, the open source community can simply ride the coattails of the major vendors, because Microsoft doesn't hold enough cards to win the hand, much less the game." Relatedly The Register is reporting that the author of the main report being used by Microsoft to support their patent claims has come out against Microsoft's interpretation of his work and Jonathan Schwartz gives some free advice to the overly litigious.
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Through the Patent Looking Glass with Microsoft

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  • by toby (759) * on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @12:31PM (#19147985) Homepage Journal
    Back in November 2004, Dan Ravicher complained to Steven Vaughan-Nichols [eweek.com] that Ballmer had misread his patent study, so I'm not sure that this is 'new' news.

    That Register link is dead (although even Google News indexed the article. wtf?) But many articles are repeating Ravicher's old remarks: Ravicher says his report proves the opposite of Microsoft's claims [itbusinessedge.com], The author of that report disowned Ballmer's remarks [out-law.com], etc.
    • Back in November 2004, Dan Ravicher complained to Steven Vaughan-Nichols that Ballmer had misread his patent study, so I'm not sure that this is 'new' news.

      This looks recent to me. I journaled [slashdot.org] the interesting parts of the Register article. The statements were presented as recent and are identical to those running in the stories you point to:

      Dan Ravicher, says that is not what the report said, and that it did not claim that open source software faces legal problems. "Open source faces no more, if no

    • M$ : FUD or fact (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PatentMagus (1083289)
      Looking at the timing, a couple of countries recently announced a push for open standards and open software for government use. Then there is the wide adoption of OSS in some coutries like India, China, ... Huge huge threat to M$ short term strategy. I think their long term plan is to embrace and extend OSS though. Now, defensive patenting is a valid strategy for companies but doesn't work against trolls. You can't tell a troll that they are infringing your patent (except in rare cases). Having your o
    • Microsoft's Unwinnable War on Linux and Open Source [roughlydrafted.com]
      Microsoft, threatened by the encroachment of competition from open source, has long waged a detached propaganda war against free software and in particular Linux, but has recently escalated its conflict into a full blown attack. Here's what's happening, and why it will greatly accelerate the company's undoing.
  • Seems like they sued El Register too! http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/16/ravicher_m icrosoft_oss_patent/ [theregister.co.uk] 404! How far are they going now! The sky is falling the sky is falling
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @12:38PM (#19148081) Journal
    The resounding reply from all corners has been either 'so?' or 'They have nothing, and won't have or they would have already shown it'. What's more, Linus more or less dismissed the claims as nothing more than FUD. There are claims that this FUD is being used to help bolster MS's Q2 sales of Vista.

    Nothing but conjecture abounds as MS is doing a SCO and not saying what they have, nor why they want to even mention it. Yet others claim that the Linux vouchers MS is touting actually makes them a Linux distributor and thus subject to the GPL.

    The whole thing should pan out to be a very interesting chapter in tech history.

    Someone let me know when there is real news on this topic
    • by ClosedSource (238333) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @12:51PM (#19148261)
      "What's more, Linus more or less dismissed the claims as nothing more than FUD."

      But I thought Linus made a point of not investigating possible patent problems with Linux so that he couldn't be accused of deliberately violating them. If he hasn't looked into the patents, how could he possibly know that MS's claims are FUD?

      Of course, no matter what he might actually believe, Linus is obviously going to call it FUD just as Gates will obviously say it isn't. You're not going to get an unbiased response from people who have so much to gain or lose, so why bother to ask? It's like asking a politician "Do you think you can win?". You already know what the answer will be.
      • You don't have to know MS's patent portfolio to know that -- yes -- F/OSS violates some of them. No program longer than about 1000 lines is likely to be "clean" in this sense.

        The reason it's called FUD is not necessarily 'cause it's false: it's because Microsoft is *unlikely to actually do any of the things they are threatening.
      • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:08PM (#19148513) Homepage

        But I thought Linus made a point of not investigating possible patent problems with Linux so that he couldn't be accused of deliberately violating them. If he hasn't looked into the patents, how could he possibly know that MS's claims are FUD?

        That's an easy one. If they weren't just FUD, Microsoft would detail the patents and the infringement. This is directly analogous to the SCO case, where rather than showing which code was copied they just claimed that a bunch was.

        If you're truly being harmed by someone's infringement, you have a legal duty to let them know as soon as possible so that they have the opportunity to quit infringing. If, on the other hand, you're using FUD to muddy the waters...

        • ...which should be, if it isn't, illegal in itself. To disparage someone's reputation by saying they are willfully infringing, then refusing to file court documents to stop the infringement (not even a cease and desist letter to Linus from what I've read in the press) sure smells like defamation and slander.

          It may not be, but that's what it smells like, and I think that smell test is closer to the mark than Ballmer's assessment of how much this whole parade of SCOmanship will help Microsoft's bottom line.
        • The point is what special insight does Linus have based on his leadership of Linux? If he hasn't investigated the patents, the answer is none. So he has the same opinion as all the "right-thinkers" have at Slashdot and others who are pro-FOSS, so why ask him?
          • The point is what special insight does Linus have based on his leadership of Linux? If he hasn't investigated the patents, the answer is none. So he has the same opinion as all the "right-thinkers" have at Slashdot and others who are pro-FOSS, so why ask him?

            Because he's Linus Torvalds, the guy that Linux is named after?

            • As I've said he has no special insight since he hasn't studyed the patents and his answer is entirely predictable.
              • As I've said he has no special insight since he hasn't studyed the patents and his answer is entirely predictable.

                And MS doesn't have any special insight either as they haven't studied it either. While it's wrong for Linus to say Linux doesn't violate say patents without studying whether it does or not it's also wrong for MS to declare Linux does again without studying it themself. What linus may of said that would of been better was "identify what patents Linux violates. Put up or shut up." He could

                • "And MS doesn't have any special insight either as they haven't studied it either"

                  Nobody asked for MS's opinion, they just announced it. As far as what they have or have not studied, who knows?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            It's not really about asking Linus or wanting his opinion. What is important is that the lead developer of the supposedly infringing product has come out and stated "prove it". At this point, until MS puts up or shuts up, it's his word against theirs. If MS can create uncertainty with their claims in the business community then it's nice to see Linus counter that with some uncertainty about MS's claims.

            • No, it's absolutely not "his word against theirs" unless he's examined MS patents. The problem with patents is that you can violate them quite easily without trying to. You can't "give your word" concerning facts you haven't investigated.
              • by bit01 (644603)

                No, it's absolutely not "his word against theirs" unless he's examined MS patents.

                Nonsense, your zealotry is showing. Until M$ identifies the patents concerned and independent third parties can judge them it is exactly his word against their's.

                M$ probably contravenes some of the Open Invention Network [openinventionnetwork.com]'s patents. Most real-world software contravenes the idiotic patents currently being released. It's all hot air without examining the individual patents.

                ---

                Monopolies = Industrial feudalism

          • by Ravnen (823845)
            It's probably good public relations, and that's about all. Linus Torvalds is a genial, broadly respected representative of Linux developers, and people listen to what he says (or read what he writes). A rather blunt statement of this kind might also stop the more outlandish FOSS supporters (I'll refrain from mentioning any specific names) weighing in further with their, shall we say, counterproductive hyperbole.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But I thought Linus made a point of not investigating possible patent problems with Linux so that he couldn't be accused of deliberately violating them. If he hasn't looked into the patents, how could he possibly know that MS's claims are FUD?

        If you had read any of the articles, you'd know that the justification Linus provided for his opinion was not dependent on knowing which patents Microsoft held. He said he thought it was FUD because if they had a legitimate patent that FOSS couldn't work around the

        • "That is insulting to Linus and a good fraction of the human race."

          People we don't know get insulted daily on Slashdot and at least half of us have been guilty of it here. I'm glad that the thought of someone as clearly innocent, gentle, and honest as Linus being unfairly accused of having any bias in favor of the OS that made him famous has motivated you to pledge to never insult or question the honesty of anyone without absolute proof even if they work in Redmond.
      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:14PM (#19148591) Homepage Journal
        Easy. Microsoft is claiming 240+ plus patents are infringing on Windows.
        Later they claim less than 50 are in the Linux kernel with the other in the GUI and OpenOffice.
        That right there is FUD since OpenOffice isn't part of Linux and frankly more people use OpenOffice on Windows than on Linux.
        Also Linux doesn't have a GUI. Gnome and KDE are not part of Linux and run on other OSs as well as Linux.

        Finally they refuse to what patents are infringing but say the will show them to known Linux users and some distro makers.

        Well I am a Linux users which is no known. Show them to me.
        Microsoft will not show them because they want to use them to bet money from companies that use Linux or sell Linux. If they show them then they would bet challenged or written around.

        That is FUD.
        • It's the framebuffer device. Ok, it's not much of a GUI, but it is graphical (makes nice penguin pics at boot time) and it is used as a user interface. So there. At a stretch, you could also include KGI on much the same grounds, although it is provided as a distinct patch and not rolled into the main kernel.

          It is perfectly true that X11 is not a part of Linux - although most of it is old enough to be considered prior art with respect to any patents Microsoft may have, so it wouldn't even matter if it was.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)
            I would love to know what patents you could have on a framebuffer! I think the AppleII, Commodore64, and Atari400/800 are all proof of prior art on that one. Plus wouldn't that be in the count of Kernel violations. I still say it is misleading fud but I would bet you do also.
      • You haven't read what Torvalds said, have you?

        • You haven't really made a counter-argument, have you?
          • Would there be any point in offering a counter-argument? If you haven't read what Torvalds said, if you don't feel the need to read what he said in order to discuss it, and most notably of all if you don't feel the need to read what he said in order to characterize it, you're too formidable a debater for any merely sensible person.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I know for sure, one of the patents (more or less) is how FAT stored long file names. For those not too clear on what that actually is, FAT long filenames are stored in regular "folder entry" structs with volume ID, read-only, system, and hidden attribute bits set, preceeding the initial entry for up to 20 entries (260 byte file name). Example:

        LFNStruct|LFNStruct|LFNStruct|LFNStruct|LFNStruct | LFNStruct|Normal File Entry

        Now Microsoft can, to a certain degree, claim this is "innovative" for the simple fac
        • by sconeu (64226)
          I have NEVER seen another implementation of long file names in FAT.

          There were several of them, prior to Win95. They tended to keep a database in a regular 8.3 file, and patch DOS to lookup that way.

      • by Shadowlore (10860)
        Actually a lot of politicians I've seen will say they don't think they can win.
  • $699 (Score:4, Funny)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @12:38PM (#19148093) Homepage Journal
    The queue starts here folks, please have your $699 ready and don't shove.
  • With business down and customers leaving, we had more than a few choices at our disposal. We were invited by one company to sue the beneficiaries of open source. We declined. We could join another and sue our customers. That seemed suicidal. We were offered the choice to scuttle Solaris, and resell someone else's operating system. We declined.

    It seems like Jonathan Schwartz is alluding to Microsoft and SCO here, but he seems to be referencing a third company as well. Any ideas?

  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @12:40PM (#19148123)
    "Today, what companies worry about isn't asserting their patents against other companies, but maintaining their freedom of activity."

    Last year IBM sued Amazon over IBM patents and it had nothing to do with "maintaining freedom". The whole theory of defensive patents is just an excuse for patent-mongers like IBM to continue to restrict competition.
    • by kebes (861706)
      I think you're right that the article somewhat overstates its case. It claims that patents exist now purely to allow companies to keep doing business, rather than as means to stop others from stealing your novel ideas. The article says:

      In this sense, then, the chief value of patents is to preserve your flexibility. Sophisticated companies now largely take this view. They have patents so that other companies can't stop them from doing what they want to do, not so that they can stop other companies from doing

      • by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:03PM (#19148451) Homepage

        "there is almost no difference between this "everyone has defensive patents" world, and the "no one has any patents at all" world. In both cases, companies that hold a bunch of patents are free to operate as they see fit"

        See the important difference. It's the *thousands of companies who don't hold a bunch of patents. They are not free to operate as they see fit in the former case, and in fact live in a Damoclean situation where their continued survival is dependent on being below the radar of the patent oligarchy. In the latter case, they are free to operate as they see fit.

        Or did you have some plan for providing these defensive patents to "everyone"?

        • by kebes (861706)

          Or did you have some plan for providing these defensive patents to "everyone"?
          No. Indeed I agree with you, and that's why in my last few sentences of my post, I supported the case for removing defensive patents entirely. This would improve efficiency for companies that currently waste resources on defensive patents, and level the playing field for smaller companies who currently, as you point out, exist only when they don't anger the "big boys."
        • by retro128 (318602)
          Or did you have some plan for providing these defensive patents to "everyone"?

          It's already being done. [openinventionnetwork.com]
      • by dmeranda (120061) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:19PM (#19148655) Homepage

        There is no such thing as a defensive patent; that just does not make any sense at all. The whole point of a patent is offensive; it is a restriction placed upon the rest of humanity that they may not do something. It does not matter whether anybody gets sued, the mere existence of the patent has already done the most harm. Suing someone is just looting the body after you've already killed them.

        And it is not just a software-only issue, patents are just as dangerous in many other fields. For a much deeper understanding of how patents are harmful, please read Against Intellectual Monopoly by by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine. http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/again stnew.htm [dklevine.com]

        This is quite a long read, but it is very important.

        • by PCM2 (4486)

          There is no such thing as a defensive patent; that just does not make any sense at all.

          It does make some degree of sense. If I suspect that Company A might assert a patent against me, I might make sure that I'm holding some patents that I'm pretty sure I can assert against Company A. In the event that Company A decides to take the route of the courts, I can then make it clear that I won't go down without a fight -- I will defend myself -- including making sure that, even if their patent suit is success

        • by Chris Burke (6130)
          There is no such thing as a defensive patent; that just does not make any sense at all.

          No, it does make sense. Even though by nature a patent is designed as an offensive weapon, it is perfectly possible to use them strategically as a form of defense and nothing more, and for some companies this is the most desireable way of using them.

          Say, just to pick a random example from nowhere, that you make microprocessors. You come up with a bunch of clever ideas designing such a microprocessor, but those ideas are
      • by nanosquid (1074949) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @04:07PM (#19151415)
        So, in that context, there is almost no difference between this "everyone has defensive patents" world, and the "no one has any patents at all" world

        There's a huge difference.

        Existing companies with big portfolios and cross licensing agreements have a nice oligopoly, whereas new entrants have a really hard time to enter the market.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Last year IBM sued Amazon over IBM patents and it had nothing to do with "maintaining freedom". The whole theory of defensive patents is just an excuse for patent-mongers like IBM to continue to restrict competition.

      Amazon is the holder of the hopefully soon-to-be-invalidated so-called "one-click patent", and they have sued multiple companies for no good reason (including under that particular patent) so I can't feel bad about people suing Amazon for patent violation.

      Who has IBM gone after without provoca

      • Who has IBM gone after without provocation?
        Everybody?

        IBM makes more than $2B of revenue per year from patent licensing.
        It's such a burden on the industry that it is commonly referred to as "The IBM Tax." [google.com]
      • "Who has IBM gone after without provocation?"

        Amazon, as I've said. Amazon has never threatened IBM over the "one-click patent" and IBM has little reason to care about it since selling to consumers isn't really their business.

        Your belief is based on an even more unlikely theory than defensive patents: that IBM is going to be the defender of the world by suing MS if it tries to enforce any software patent. IBM may be a boring company but the one thing they do very well is not allowing emotions to cloud their
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Amazon, as I've said. Amazon has never threatened IBM over the "one-click patent" and IBM has little reason to care about it since selling to consumers isn't really their business.

          Surely some of IBM Global Services' customers have been threatened over it. I would be very surprised if they hadn't responded. Of course they didn't threaten IBM, IBM could eat Amazon for breakfast and follow them up with B&N for lunch.

          Your belief is based on an even more unlikely theory than defensive patents: that IBM is

          • "Surely some of IBM Global Services' customers have been threatened over it."

            The problem with that theory is that IBM's suit against Amazon won't have any effect on the "one-click patent". If you're going to threaten somebody, you have to tell them what you want.

            "It has nothing to do with revenge. Sun is languishing because before they managed to finally bring out Niagara, they spent years with an antiquated architecture (in terms of performance) and actually ended up scrapping a sparc architecture project
        • Yes, but you still haven't shown that IBM got those patents for the purpose of deriving revenue from them.


      • So many companies that its impossible to count. One of them being Sun - there is a very interesting article describing how its done.

        They basically do it like a a mafia outfit offering 'protection' .

    • You're mixing up two things.

      First, software patents are arguably bad. But we can't blame Microsoft or any other company over that. As long as software patents exist, companies need to get them.

      Second, software patents are being abused. That's something we can blame Microsoft for because they are abusing software patents. What they should do is (1) only file software patents on ideas that are clearly new, and (2) deal in a straightforward and open way with infringement that comes to their attention

      I have
      • I'm not "mixing up" anything. I haven't blamed IBM, Amazon, or MS. I'm just saying that the primary reason for obtaining a patent isn't defensive and IBM's actions support my conclusion.
        • Well, to bring it to a point: the reason big companies have large patent portfolios is for cross licensing agreements. That is what people mean by "defensive patent": they can be used to force other companies not to assert patents by threatening to assert your own patents.

          But once these patent portfolios have been created, companies have no reason not to recover part of the enormous costs by trying to get licensing fees.

  • is the report by Ravicher titled 'Open Source Risk Management', thats mentioned here [theinq.net], then this is slander.
  • .... Of a poker player who is the short stack at the table taking what chips s/he has left and going "all in" with any two cards and hoping for the best. I suspect that barring a minor miracle, the outcome is going to be that they're going to loose all their chips (not to mention any credibility they have left).
    • Even short stacked, unless they're going heads up or get stuck being the blind, a good poker player will generally wait until they have two decent cards.
    • Of a poker player who is the short stack at the table taking what chips s/he has left and going "all in" with any two cards and hoping for the best. I suspect that barring a minor miracle, the outcome is going to be that they're going to loose all their chips (not to mention any credibility they have left).

      Um, you can hate on M$ all you want, but if we're using poker as an analogy, M$ is still sitting behind a motherfucking huge stack of chips (with a big checkbook ready to buy more). A better analogy might be that M$ is annoyed at the recent success of some of the smaller players in the game, and rather than try and beat them by playing poker, has decided that maybe they can hire some goons to break the other guys' kneecaps and put them out of the game.

    • by masdog (794316)
      That's a bad analogy, even for slashdot. I've seen that move quite a few times. I call it the I QUIT move because, well, thats what a player, especially one is overestimates their own card playing abilities, when they get frustrated and want to leave the game.
  • by ushering05401 (1086795) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:06PM (#19148471) Journal
    After digesting this issue for a couple days I have come up with this...

    Intentionally or not, Microsoft has trained corporate America to wait until the first service pack or two before adopting their new operating systems. The new hardware specs for Vista will provide a further incentive for companies to delay the 'upgrade.'

    Microsoft has come up with a short-term pump-up for Vista that was briefly referenced in another thread here and was supported by a friend of mine who is in CS @ a local university... students recieving free installs are being run through an e-commerce application with the price fields zeroed... which means they are being counted as sales. I wonder how many other individuals are recieving free licenses through this method for corporate evaluation etc...

    Microsoft then releases public attacks to slow corporate adoption of competing products. In 9-12 months the market will naturally have reduced the overhead for upgrading to Vista and Microsoft will have time to release some major patches.

    Profit!!!

    Vista is not the only product they are using delaying tactics with. In 4th Qtr '06 MS dropped Virtual Machine licenses from $499 for corporate to $99 after announcing the delay of Viridian, their new upgrade.

    Sad thing is... these tactics will probably work. Good thing is Microsoft does not appear to have a winning legal strategy. Not that they need one, but we probably won't be seeing C&D notices out of this.

    I hope this is all that's behind this.

    Regards.
    • by Dan Ost (415913)
      These tactics will work to some extent, at least in the short term, but the market is, I think, wising up to how this game is played. Even the media has started asking questions rather than just regurgitating Microsoft's press releases.
  • by blindd0t (855876)
    Have we ruled out the possibility that Novell could be working with Microsoft on this as a marketing campaign? Consider that "oh it's scary that we use Linux, but if we really need it let's use Novell because that's safe for us" could be precisely what M$ and Novell want you to think. I'll be the first to admit I know nothing of Novell's business practices, but business is business, and sometimes that means people play extraordinarily dirty. Honestly, I would absolutely love to be proven that this is wro
  • Groupthink? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hemogoblin (982564) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:18PM (#19148631)
    Ever since MS made that announcement about the 250 some patents that Linux supposedly infringes on, there have been a number of articles on Slashdot pointing out the flaws in MS's argument. In addition, almost every single comment I've read essentially parrots TFA or previous articles. While I'm not pro-MS by any means, it would be nice if someone could find an article that argues from the other point of view. Essentially, I think we should really try to have a debate on the issue, rather than just continuing the groupthink.

    Keep in mind that I don't personally agree with MS's argument. I just think we'd all benefit from being open minded and having an actual debate on the topic. This applies to all topics we cover, but this one struck me as particularly obvious.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by unapersson (38207)
      It's not really possible as there is not enough information for the other side. MS is holding all the cards to their chest. Such an article would need to list all those patents and that simply isn't going to happen. It's also very hard to defend the old, "you're infringing our IP but we won't tell you what" approach they're taking. The pro-MS comments I have seen have been inflammatory nonsense and I doubt if you'll get much else until Microsoft shift from its protection racket stance.
    • You can not debate a subject when the asserting side refuses to provide the details.

      Imagine if I accused you of doing something bad, possibly illegal. You can't defend yourself because you don't know exactly what it is you are to have done.

      Imagine going to court and being told the prosecutor is requesting you be tossed in jail for 4 years. Why? Well he doesn't want to disclose that part. Not even the details of the alleged crime, you aren't even told what crime it was.

      Would that be openminded?

      Microsoft has
    • There's nothing to say in favor of Microsoft other than "Well, sure, if they have valid patents which Linux developers cannot implement around, then Microsoft need only get an injunction from a court against distribution of Linux." Microsoft hasn't done that, so everybody is saying "This is FUD until we see the patent numbers and you point us to the infringing code."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nuzak (959558)
      What is the other point of view? That Linux infringes on some patents? It almost certainly does, as does any program bigger than "hello world" (heck, the C prelude probably infringes on patents too, so I'm not too sure about that). Or is it in defense of Microsoft making vague legal claims while deliberately withholding the substance of the accusation?

      The world is round. And despite the twisted dialectic that modern journalism would lead you to subscribe to, there is no other side to that story.
    • Just because there is an issue does not mean there are two sides to be debated. Microsoft has made unsubstantiated claims. There is no "other" side to argue and there is way to have a debate. If Microsoft was to publish a list of patents upon which they believe OSS is infringing a debate would be possible. As of now someone defending Microsoft can say 1) Microsoft has a lot of patents so Linux/OpenOffice/OSS MUST be infringing and 2) Because Microsoft said so.

      There is no argument and there is no oth
  • by rimcrazy (146022) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:18PM (#19148633)
    This is simply good marketing coupled with an opportunity when OSS is finally in a position where real money is finally being made. I've worked in semiconductors for over 30 years. In that business if you start a new company, if you are not a direct threat to the big guys....they all just simply sit back and wait until you are finally making some money. Once that happens the lawyers from Intel, TI, IBM, etc., etc. etc. all line up at your door. They come in and say "Gee, we think you are violating our patents. Tell you what, we've decided the stack you violate is 8' high. Now, we can litigate each one...............or for today only, we will offer you this screaming deal of 30K/inch plus a royalty of 0.05% on every product you make........hell, we will even throw in a set of Ginsu Knives with the deal cause we are such nice guys!"

    The have enough clout in the marketplace to make you look bad with their FUD. They can shut you down. This is simply legal extortion plain and simple. Tony Soprano would be proud.
  • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:23PM (#19148735) Homepage Journal
    The point of the MS announcement was to promulgate the theory that end users would either be required to pay compensatory damages to MS, or the products would no longer be allowed to exist, thus disrupting business.

    I believe that this historical attack on customers has been uniquely confined to the software industry, that is until the RIAA got a hold of the business model. For example, If I buy, in good faith, an unlicensed book, The author or his or her agent does not come after me and demand triple compensation. OTOH, if I, as a business, in goo faith properly license all my software, and conduct full due diligence to insure that no unlicensed software is installed, I can still be held in great financial liability. At one time such laws were used to stem the frankly rampant use of unlicensed software, but over the past 10 years the main objective was to allow vendors to spy on customers and make sure that competitors software is not being used.

    So this MS tactic is just an extension of previously United States certified monopolistic behavior. At first it was OSS was more expensive to integrate with MS software. Then it was OSS was unreliable when used with MS software. Now it is 'you have to pay MS either way, so why bother.' The funny thing is that no one is saying Zune and MS music are a dead end because of the patent disputes. No one is saying that MS users are going to have to relicense Windows due to the patent disputes. Is MS Windows and Vista going to pulled from the shelves and will every MS user have to upgrade their PC to remove the offending technology? Somehow I think that MS Will survive these patent disputes, and so will OSS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by masdog (794316)
      The funny thing is that no one is saying Zune and MS music are a dead end because of the patent disputes. No one is saying that MS users are going to have to relicense Windows due to the patent disputes. Is MS Windows and Vista going to pulled from the shelves and will every MS user have to upgrade their PC to remove the offending technology? Somehow I think that MS Will survive these patent disputes, and so will OSS.

      That's because no major player has threatened Microsoft with their patent portfolio yet
  • A lot of colleges/universities also file defensive patents. The reason you file these kind of patents is incase of a situation like with the telephone. Someone else has the same/similar idea and beats you to the patent office...suddenly your on the other end of a cease and desist or worse. By not filing for patents you are risking lots of problems down the road. I understand this.

    The flip side though is once someone realizes that, "HEY XYZ is using my patent! I could make money from licensing!" those p
  • by phrostie (121428)
    Balmer: but,,,,,
    Gates: I always got what i paid for
  • by Flying pig (925874) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:51PM (#19149133)
    We claim:
    • 1. A tubular structure made of various proteins
    • 2. A sponge-like structure between the inner and outer walls of the tube
    • 3. Means to introduce liquid under pressure into the sponge-like structure, and other means for removing the liquid
    • 4. A means to attach the said tubular structure to the lower abdomen of a male human being
    • 5. A means to connect the plumbing system described in Claim 3 to the interior plumbing of the human being
    • 6. Means to cause the tubular structure to oscillate and expand on demand.
    It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that this invention will be of inestimable use to chief executive officers wishing to lay claim to exclusive access of their products to various markets.
  • Everything (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheUnseenthings (1083421) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @02:01PM (#19149287)
    Everything that can be invented has been invented.
    Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. patent office, 1899

    Edit: Everything that can be invented infringes on a existing patient, 2007
  • Solution (Score:3, Funny)

    by venicebeach (702856) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @02:11PM (#19149453) Homepage Journal
    Clearly the solution to this whole situation is to have Microsoft play tic-tac-toe over and over again....
  • by sectionboy (930605) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @02:29PM (#19149813)
    We all know how broken the current patent system is, especially the 'software patent' evil. Can we use wiki-like system to undermine it? Create a wiki for everybody to record something new, no matter how small/useless it might look like, and dedicate it to public domain. With properly managed time stamps, it can be a collection of all 'prior art'. (It's just like doing something oppsite to wikipedia, which stresses so much on unoriginality.)
    • by PPH (736903)
      Its not a bad idea, but I don't think it will help. Not unless you can force patent examiners to consult the Wiki prior to granting a patent. Or adopt the system used in some other countries, where patent applications are published and a system of public comment is used whereby experts in the field might identify problems with the application.

      One of the major problems with the US patent system is that Congress has throttled funding for examiners while at the same time twisting the arm of the USPTO to gran

  • This Microsoft FUD campaign really needs to be challenged, IMHO. I am an attorney, and I don't think that Microsoft has valid patent claims against me personally, and I am using Edgy Ubuntu and Mepis 6.5 and SuSE 10.0 and SuSE 10.2. The Mepis 6.5 SuSE 10.2 I am using in my law practice; and the Edgy and SuSE 10.0 I am using to make a film about Microsoft's anticipated loss of market share due to the growing popularity of FOSS. The film is called the Digital Tipping Point, so you would think that if Microsoft has a desire to shut up anyone, I would be among them. At any rate, I have created a list of people who would like to be sued by Microsoft. Please feel free to sign up. The more the merrier! It's a wiki page. Here is the tinyURL:

    http://tinyurl.com/2wlemy [tinyurl.com]

    Here is the full page:

    http://digitaltippingpoint.com/wiki/index.php?titl e=Sue_me_first%2C_Microsoft [digitaltippingpoint.com]
  • Yeah, MS is pulling a fast one, we all know that. But - it is working, at least right now. And tomorrow, the mainstream media will have forgotten. Today, the headlines are "Microsoft: Everything just stolen" and a Linux penguin in the article. Tomorrow, we will not read "Microsoft's patent claims debunked". We'll read about what celebrity goes to jail, which senator was found dead with a whore or that intelligent design is being discussed in the educational board of Backwater City.

    It's a short-term victory.
  • and they don't license it, either.
  • by Tom (822)
    Just an idea: Why not have someone who has a bunch of code in any of the mentioned projects sue MS for libel, slander, whatever? Truth is a defense, so they'll have to lose that case or put the evidence on the table.

    IANAL, but maybe someone who is can comment.
  • "With business down and customers leaving, we had more than a few choices at our disposal. We were invited by one company to sue the beneficiaries of open source. We declined. We could join another and sue our customers. That seemed suicidal."

    Gee, I wonder who those companies would've been?

    Interesting bit of writing by Jonathan. However, I do wish it would read more like "don't even try it MS, or else", instead of a friendly warning that it'd be a poor business decision. But I guess they are partners and
  • Linus: Fine, you've agreed to a meeting, and you know what this is about.

    BillG: Yup. So what are we guys gonna do. Maybe a little contract where each Linux user owes us $20 for patent license?

    Linus: Oh yea, this is exactly what I had in mind! I like your sense of humor. No, I'm here to ask which line of code violates which patent. And get this fixed.

    BillG: I'm not telling.

    Linus: Oh yea? Ok. File kernel.c. Does line 1 infringe?

    BillG: No. And I told you, I'm not telling!

    Linus: Does line 2 infringe?

    BillG: No.

    L

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