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Microsoft Too Busy To Name Linux Patents? 236

Posted by Zonk
from the that's-awful-busy dept.
bob_dinosaur writes "According to The Register, Microsoft's Patent Attorney Jim Markwith told the Open Source Business Conference that the reason they hadn't named the supposedly infringing patents was that it would be 'administratively impossible to keep up' with the list. 'According to Ramji, the executive tasked with the difficult job of straddling Microsoft's growing support for open source in server and tools, and aggressive and unpredictable statements from management on patents, made a jaw dropping attempt to explain away the Forbes article. "The reason we disclosed that, is because there was a request for transparency following the Novell deal Iast November. This was a response to that transparency," Ramji said. It was at that point the OSBC audience erupted.'" That transparency apparently extends to multiple levels. ZDNet is reporting that Novell will share the details of its agreement with Microsoft sometime in the near future.
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Microsoft Too Busy To Name Linux Patents?

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  • by symbolic (11752) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:58PM (#19258811)
    Try physically impossible. You can't list what isn't there.
    • by bedonnant (958404) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:03PM (#19258893)
      it seems suspicious that they can count them, yet cannot identify them. "yes, 235 of them, but we have no idea which ones, and where they are. it would be too difficult to find out." yeah right.
      • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xmsnet . n l> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:27PM (#19259267)
        Maybe it started like this:

        NOOOOoooobody expects the Ballmer Inquisition! Our chief weapon is patent nr 1,563,245...1,563,245 and 934,189...934,189 and 1,563,245.... Our two weapons are 934,189 and 1,563,245...and 2,100,003.... Our *three* weapons are patents nr 934,189, 1,563,245, and 2,100,003...and 2,100,004.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such patents as 934,189, 1,563,245.... I'll come in again.
      • by Tuoqui (1091447)
        You know why that is? They made the number up! Quick someone patent the number 235 before they use it in a lawsuit!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by jstretch78 (1102633)
        Its not suspicious at all, I do the same thing with the tasks assigned to me in the bug tracker.
    • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:08PM (#19258977)

      Try physically impossible. You can't list what isn't there.

      Linux and other Open Source software projects almost unquestionably transgress patents owned both by Microsoft and others. This is not the real issue. The real question is, are these patents defensible? Or would they fall due to "prior art" or other well known / common patent flaws? And, if Microsoft and other patent holders revealed OSS patent transgression, would there be practical work arounds? Probably many of the patents would fail if challenged.

      One reason Microsoft and other patent holders might not want to reveal the specific patents is that the OSS movement will challenge them rather than licene them, while many commercial groups will be inclined to do the opposite, license them and pay the patent holders a fee.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        So this would be a case of "Ignore the man behind the curtain?"
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:28PM (#19259277)
        It's funny, because that figure has three significant figures. They didn't say "over 200" or "about 230" but that there were 235 patents.

        So, the only way to count them was to have a list. A list they could very easily share with us if they wanted to. Of course, as everyone else has said, we'd code around them, challenge their validity, etc. And no, it wouldn't matter if the list wasn't 100% correct. It'd just be useful to say that, hey, we really don't infringe that one, but whatever, while fixing all the ones we might infringe upon with OSS.

        Of course, that's exactly what they don't want us to do. They don't want us to stop their FUD. And therein lies the problem: promissory estoppel (they promised not to sue), laches (they knew about the infringement and did nothing), unfair competition and anti-trust actions, as well as a whole host of other things you'd see a real lawyer argue if they actually tried to bring a patent infringement suit. Of course, IANAL, so get one if you ever want to make claims like those in court.

        BTW, you know why I think they gave that promise not to sue? To keep any of us from bringing a declaratory judgment action against them. I seem to recall that case law is mixed on that point, but it gives them some wiggle room to avoid having anyone bring a lawsuit over this. I wouldn't be overly surprised if Red Hat or someone had their lawyers send a nasty letter to Microsoft over this and they realized that they had to cover some ass and pump out a little more PR as a smokescreen to hide their backpedaling on this issue.

        Don't get me wrong, they'll probably still use the FUD they've created as another way to strong-arm vendors, but I bet they'll do it a little more quietly and they'll do it to people they already have some hold on.
        • by russ1337 (938915)
          Wow. That was well written and I think you articulated the major points nicely.

          As you point out, for them to say 235 it sounds like they have a list. How do we get to see it? Threaten M$ with litigation of some form even though they promised not to sue but it is still impacting on your business.... makes for a pretty tight spot.

          Someone needs to leak that list.
        • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:08PM (#19261057) Homepage
          The number 235 didn't come from any Microsoft internal research or MS funded research. It came from an independent research paper that examined patent vulnerability of various software. Microsoft saw the paper and decided to run with it, saying that the paper proved that "Linux violates 235 of Microsoft's patents".

          Then the paper's author spoke out, saying that MS was misrepresenting the results. First, it was 235 potential infringements, in part because none of those 235 patents had been tested in court and could be invalid. Second, these were not all Microsoft's patents.

          Frankly I think he was far too kind. Microsoft turns "potential" into "actual", and "235 patents" into "235 of our patents". That's not "misrepresenting", that's fucking lying, especially when it comes to implicitly claiming ownership of patents which are not theirs.

          Oh yeah, and thirdly the author said that Linux was not atypical compared to closed source software in how many patents it potentially violated. The fact is, and one of the conclusions of the study, was that software patents are such a minefield that pretty much every piece of software potentially violates some.

          This was all on /., I think about a week ago. I'll let someone else dig up the link for some karma.

          By the way, this probably means that the best source for finding out which patents Linux hypothetically violates would come from the original paper.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by div_2n (525075)
        Even better is the fact that there are a mountain of patents* that could (and would) be used to assault Microsoft back to the stone age if they fired a shot at Linux and/or OSS. There are a large number of companies that stand to lost considerably if Microsoft wins any sort of patent war on Linux and OSS.

        *The real kind of mountain and not the Darl McBride version of a mountain.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HermMunster (972336)
        No, the real question is whether Microsoft will get away with extorting patents out of others with these indefensible patent lies.

        Microsoft has been stealing IP, and now some very important cases are over and they find themselves on the loosing end of the stick. They still need to steal the patents to keep up since they are not innovative themselves. What they were doing is outright stealing patents and hoping they'd be able to win in court.

        Patents cross-licensing are like a web that criss-crosses the glo
    • by Reverend528 (585549) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:14PM (#19259081) Homepage

      You can't list what isn't there.
      Sure I can:
      • Unicorns
      • Fairies
      • Leprechauns
      • Valid Software Patents
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:14PM (#19259093) Homepage Journal
      This announcement seems almost like a tailor-made response to my . But I'm not presumptuous enough to believe that Smith even *read* my e-mail to him or the posting on Slashdot, since the coward hasn't bothered to reply. But I'm going to pretend and treat it like one with an open reply

      "Most people who are familiar with patents know it's not standard operating procedure to list the patents," Markwith said. "The response of that would be administratively impossible to keep up with."


      Dear Messrs. Smith and Markwirth,

      Right. It's not standard operating procedure to list the patents when you are claiming patent infringement in order to use it as a weapon. You declared war on the Free and Open Source Software Movements, you're the ones pointing the gun, so c'mon. It's time to put up or shut up. Sue the community, sue Red Hat, sue Linus, sue the Mozilla Foundation, the Free Software Foundation, and sue Sun. Sue IBM. Sue me! Maybe my little project violates your patents! Let's have it! SUE US!

      Stop this cowardly spreading of FUD. I declare that the Emperor has no clothes. Take us to court. You know we'd sue you if you violated the GPL, so let's have it.

      Or do you, as I said before, are you afraid? What is it? Fear that you'd have all of your patents thrown out of court? Or maybe you fear that the industry would turn against you? No, I think it's all those things, but most of all it's that your bluff would be called and you'd have to stop spreading FUD. You know you can do more to damage Linux's reputation by sullying its good name with lies and innuendo about patents that are either obviously invalid or non-existant.

      We have a saying where I come from: "Don't let your mouth write any checks that your ass can't cash!"

      Put up or shut up. Sue us!

    • by erroneus (253617)
      There is an impossibly long list of things that Microsoft says is impossible to do... most of those have been done. People have done some pretty impossible things like removing MSIE from the OS, shrinking WindowsXP down to Win95 size and all sort of interesting impossible things.

      Now if Microsoft said that listing the bugs in the OS was administratively impossible, I would believe that. But they are citing a very specific number of infringement and had the count broken down into specific areas with specifi
    • No, no, no...

      Microsoft will get around to filling out the list when Ballmer's done with his dance classes. He's planning on announcing the patent list during an interperetive dance session at one of their conferences. To be honest, he's still smarting over the whole "monkeyboy" thing, and intends to show everybody that he CAN dance. Bill is, as ever, supportive.

      It's about priorities, people!
    • by artgeeq (969931)
      Couldn't they let the rest of us know about SOME of the patents? How is that administratively impossible for the biggest software corporation?

      If it is impossible, then doesn't it seem like there is something really wrong here? Isn't a patent supposed to be tangible enough to warrant a claim or some sort? Then, how can it be impossible to list what the patent violations ars?

      One more possinle naive question: didn't Linux borrow heavily from UNIX, much more so than from anything Microsoft has done? And didn't
  • Hwhat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adambomb (118938) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:59PM (#19258821) Journal

    'administratively impossible to keep up' with the list
    And yet it was NOT administratively impossible for them to verify that said patents were being infringed upon? Does ANYONE actually think that makes any sense whatsoever? Any patent lawyers or business people well versed with such situations able to clarify this? Or is it the idiocy it appears to be.

    I realize that there would be a lot of paperwork involved in defending those patents once groups start having to verify with MS as to specific infringements, but isnt this overhead a cost of doing business concerning protecting your IP? Can companies infringing on patents that companies refuse to disclose information for even be considered to be infringing?

    Ignorance of the law may not be a defense, but being told that you CANT know what the law is sure seems different. Mind boggling, unless i'm missing something key.

    Perspectives are necessary, someone point out what i'm missing.
    • Re:Hwhat? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by frodo from middle ea (602941) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:12PM (#19259055) Homepage
      What's wrong here, is that Microsoft thinks that IT bosses, are all PHBs and it would be very easy to spread FUD amongst them.

      When I started as a developer 10 years ago, may be this was the case, my bosses then had absolutely no clue what programming was all about (I am not talking about a specific programming language, or paradigm, just programming or software engineering in general)).

      These were the type of people, who felt the sand under their feet, slipping away every time there were concerns regarding the technology they were managing. And the reason was obvious, they DIDN'T KNOW about the technology they were managing.

      But now it's a very very different world, people who were senior programmers then, are now managers, and as such are in much better shape to judge the technologies they work with.

      So in retrospect, Microsoft may have had luck in these kind of FUD tactics, 10 years ago, but that won't work now. Sure there will be some, who will fold and pay up, but then most of the competent people in the industry that I know, are saying...."Hang on a minute,, there is something very fishy about these claims"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Adambomb (118938) *
        You know, that makes more sense of microsofts actions in the past 5-7 years than any other opinion i've seen.

        Danke.
      • by g2devi (898503) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:09PM (#19260021)
        Microsoft is in violation of 100,000 patents that I own, but I'm too busy to document even a single patent.

        And naming even a single patent would be just spreading FUD because, as I've said, I'm too busy now innovating to sue at this moment. If the infringing code could be rewritten, I'd say something because I know Microsoft respects IP and I don't want people violating my IP unintentionally. But since the code it can't be rewritten without using my IP, so I'm actually doing Microsoft a favour by keeping quiet.

        But tell you what, since I know even mentioning Microsoft's violation can cause uncertainty, I'll license each of my patents to Microsoft for the low low price of 1 dollar per patent, payable once every month. As stated, I'm too busy to sue anyone using Microsoft products at the moment, so Microsoft customers are safe...for now. But who knows what will happen to people who by unlicensed Microsoft projects in the future.
      • Re:Hwhat? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Petrushka (815171) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:05PM (#19260991)
        Your assessment may be completely correct, but I'd suggest their tactic may be more viable than you think: that is to say, that it doesn't matter whether their FUD persuades the PHBs or not. The real prize, it seems to me, is persuading companies' legal teams.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's kind of a Heisenberg thing: the more you know about which products are infringing the patents, the less you know about which patents are being infringed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Savage-Rabbit (308260)

      And yet it was NOT administratively impossible for them to verify that said patents were being infringed upon? Does ANYONE actually think that makes any sense whatsoever?
      The beauty of is that FUD, it doesn't have to make sense once you stop to think and do some research. FUD just has to be plausible enough at first glance to scare the uninformed. Microsoft's excuses don't have to make sense either, who cares now that the damage is done?
    • Re:Hwhat? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:23PM (#19259223)
      As far as I can tell you're not missing anything. Patents aren't like trademarks in that you have to defend them to keep them. If in some parallel universe Microsoft said, "Linux, you're infringing on the following patents:... but we're not going to sue you today," it would in no way impair their ability to sue whomever they wanted the next day. In fact it would strengthen future cases, because they could point to the notification and make arguments about willful infringement and treble damages.

      What has (probably) happened here is some MS patent office guy essentially did a freedom to operate study as if he were representing Linux, he copied too many people in on the email with the findings which probably said something like, "We find that Linux could be infringing on as many as 325 Microsoft patents, however, the validity of these patents with regard to obviousness and/or prior art is debatable."

      Basically another poster nailed it, when he said that the reason that microsoft isn't naming patents is so that they can license them to other "infringing" commercial entities. Had they named them, even without a suit, a slew of legal arguments contradicting Microsoft's position would be forthcoming shortly and commercial entities would have the option to use the OS legal arguments instead of feeding the beast.
      • by Adambomb (118938) *
        So let me get this straight.

        Microsoft is orchestrating all of this so that they can sell licenses without disclosing WHAT is being licensed.

        Sounds like buying an insurance policy where it covers nothing...and wouldnt that be illegal? or are they insulated by the fact that they can "come up with" the information at any time if necessary in court?
      • by compro01 (777531)
        "Linux, you're infringing on the following patents:... but we're not going to sue you today," it would in no way impair their ability to sue whomever they wanted the next day. In fact it would strengthen future cases, because they could point to the notification and make arguments about willful infringement and treble damages.

        i was sure that they had to decide to sue or not sue as soon as they discovered the infringement. otherwise, i'm sure that would be some form of inappropriate behaviour related to wai
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by JimNTonik (1097185)
      If they provided a number of patent infringements, they've already listed them internally. It's clear at this point that their intention was never to actually act on these patents.
    • by killjoe (766577)
      Hello I am from microsoft and I am a liar.
  • by grub (11606)

    Microsoft patents attorney Jim Markwith told OSBC it would be "impossible" for Redmond's bureaucrats to respond to the volume of responses that would result from disclosure.

    Do they really believe they'd have less work to do if they acted on their threats to deal with it in the courtroom? MS is just trying to keep the FUD of "using teh Linux may get you sued!!!11```" alive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:59PM (#19258829)
    Not the list. There's a big difference.
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <.akaimbatman. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:01PM (#19258851) Homepage Journal
    Let me fix that for you:

    Microsoft Too Busy Backpedaling To Name Linux Patents?
  • What a bunch of crap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:01PM (#19258855)
    Microsoft is too busy to figure out the list of infringing patens eh? then how did they count the exact number of infringing patents? if this number didn't come out of a countable list, perhaps, just perhaps, they must be pulling it out of their collective arse...
    • And if they're making up patent infringement claims, does that count as a form of libel? Could they be sued (the American answer for everything =)) to put up or shut up? Would it be worthwhile to pursue such a course?
    • Microsoft is too busy to figure out the list of infringing patens eh? then how did they count the exact number of infringing patents?
      Easy.

      SELECT COUNT(*) FROM patents WHERE infringing_os="linux';

  • by Das Auge (597142) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:03PM (#19258889)
    It's just that, when using the bloated Word with the equally bloated Vista, they're going to need a year or two to get the list completed.
    • by Brad1138 (590148) *
      I believe the problem is they have the list, about 2 meg in size, on 1 vista machine and they are still waiting for it to transfer [slashdot.org] to one they can print from.
      • by jd (1658)
        Two meg? You sure? Given the file overheads, it would need to be a very short list.
  • by nizo (81281) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:03PM (#19258895) Homepage Journal
    Could someone claim in court that they thought it would be ok to violate Microsoft's patents, since they apparently have announced that they don't plan on enforcing some of their patents? And are there time limits on enforcement after a company knows of infringers, or does the ability to enforce them never expire? If there is a time limit, that could seriously bite them later too.


    p.s. How about just the top five then? Certainly that won't take too long, right?

    • Could someone claim in court that they thought it would be ok to violate Microsoft's patents, since they apparently have announced that they don't plan on enforcing some of their patents?

      You can selectively enforce a patent. You may not selectively enforce a trademark.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      I'm pretty sure that in the US, it would be no more than 20 years....
  • by Catiline (186878) <akrumbach@gmail.com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:03PM (#19258897) Homepage Journal
    Actually, despite what so many other people may think, I for one say Microsoft is 100% right in their reasoning: this list might be just too hard to administer.

    After all, how many hours do you think it would take for the open source software to re-write their code to work around a patent after it was added? The effort of removing patent after patent is just more than Microsoft could ever bear.&lt/sarcasm>
    • by kihjin (866070)
      While I agree with you in most cases, Microsoft has quantified just how many of their patents FOSS infringes upon.

      Either they know exactly which patents are involved, or they pulled the number 235 out of some dark and smelly place.
    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      I know 225 ways in which you are incorrect. But it's too difficult to administer the post them all. :-)
  • They must be too busy innovating and creating new patents. ;-)
  • they claim that there isnt enough time to list off how much was infringed which then brings up the point that they waited way too long to make their charges even if they were actually correct [unlikely to begin with] which also means that they likely would have waited past what is considered timely. you couldnt do this to any person under the law [RIAA for example] so why should a company be able to do this? there has to be something illegal about this whole thing.
  • Typical Failure. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twitter (104583) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:09PM (#19259013) Homepage Journal

    Impossible and contradictory tasks, answers depend on who you ask, infighting, these are the hallmarks of a company in trouble. Vista took too long to develop, does not work and is not selling. Office is being escaped by real standards based productivity apps which can no longer be fought off. Those are their flagships and their money makers. GPL 3 prevents them form stealing free software, so they will soon have to compete honestly. Not only won't they be able to grow as promissed, their revenues will collapse.

    This is good because M$ is an enemy of free software and has made trouble for everyone else far too long.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dedazo (737510)

      Vista does not work and is not selling. Office is being escaped by real standards based productivity

      Personal value judgements that do not reflect reality, no matter how much you repeat them. "Vista does not work and is not selling" has apparently become the rallying cry of people who are frustrated at the opposite.

      GPL 3 prevents them form stealing free software

      I fail to see how the world will change vis-a-vis Microsoft and free software the day after the new version of the GPL is released. They couldn'

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Belial6 (794905)

        They couldn't "steal" it before and won't be able to after,


        I don't know about today, but if you go back to a DOS 6.0 disk and do a search for the ascii string "COPYRIGHT STACKER INC" with a hex editor, I'm pretty sure that the before part of that statement isn't true.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Crazy Taco (1083423)

      Vista took too long to develop, does not work and is not selling.

      Whoa whoa whoa. Where are you getting all this? Yeah, Vista took a long time to develop, I'll give you that. But where do you come off immediately following that up by saying it doesn't work? I haven't had one crash or error since I started using it months ago (right after it came out). It works perfectly, and it has some great internal improvements (WPF, WCF, WF) that developers love and that will let us make better programs. And saying it

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by codemachine (245871)

        Office 2007 is actually crushing everything else. It is making people excited about an office suite again (which is pretty amazing, actually).

        I have yet to encounter anyone who was excited about Office 2007. Most people don't want to relearn a new interface, and quite frankly, had everything they needed already in Office 97. What I do see is a lot of converts to OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice. The rest choose Office 2003 or earlier, or MS Office for Mac.

        Even in the universities where every version is free, people are often choosing the older versions. I would have to think you'd have to be a huge MS fanboy or an astroturfer to actually be exci

      • Office 2007 is actually crushing everything else. It is making people excited about an office suite again (which is pretty amazing, actually).

        Yes, cursing is an expression of excitement. Witness Fanboy Mossberg's reaction [allthingsd.com] and judge for yourself:

        In my own tests, I was cursing the program for weeks because I couldnt find familiar functions and commands, even though Microsoft provides lots of help and guidance.

        Wouldn't it be a better idea to spend those weeks learning something like Open Office on GNU/

        • by dedazo (737510)
          Oh LOLZ, he said "crushing" but in true "I know you are but what am I" fashion we're supposed to think it's "cursing". But you forgot to quote the article fully:

          After months of working with the Ribbon and other new features of Office, I believe they are an improvement. They replace years of confusing accretions with a logical layout of commands and functions. They add easy and elegant new options for making documents look good. And they make it much simpler to find many of the 1,500 commands that Office of

    • by zappepcs (820751)
      Let me try to correct what you have said:

      This is good because M$ is an enemy of free software and has made trouble for everyone else far too long.

      I'm reasonably certain that if you ask Borland, Digital Research, Novell of the 80-90s, Wordstar, Wordperfect, Paradox coders, and hundreds of other people that worked for not-free software companies they would tell you that MS is the enemy of *anyone* who is not Microsoft.... including Windows end users.

      The simple fact is that MS did not perceive F/OSS software as a threat until it was too late. Once Linux liberated the kernel the "fat lady" started warming up for

      • by dedazo (737510)

        The simple fact is that MS did not perceive F/OSS software as a threat until it was too late

        That's funny, Eric Raymond told me in Halloween of 1998 that Microsoft looked at Linux as a core threat. How are they noticing it late again?

        The reality is that Microsoft simply did not worry about free software until it started gaining traction with corporations. When IBM and Novell and Sony And Apple and so on get behind something you can bet good money MS will be looking closely. Before that it simply was not

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:45PM (#19260617) Homepage Journal
      "Vista took too long to develop, does not work and is not selling."
      Yes, no, and well sort of yes and sort of no.
      Vista isn't selling like 95 or XP did when people where really excited about this new wonderful version. People are using it and more will when DX-10 games are out and are considered must have.
      Vista works. It does work. It isn't really any better for 99% of all end users than XP and rankly it is still a down grade for many. It runs needs more memory and electricity to do the same job as XP does. It isn't a great value that is for sure.

      "Office is being escaped by real standards based productivity apps which can no longer be fought off. "
      Not really. While I do use OO.org what is killing Office sales is Office. Office 2000 and Office 2003 does everything that you need an office suite to do. Office has been good enough for years now and here is the real dirty secret that Microsoft hates. Software doesn't wear out. Why do you think Microsoft really wants to go with the software as a service model?
      XP is what is hurting Vista and Office is that is hurting Office. The old versions of both are good enough. Frankly for most people you don't need a computer every 3 years unless your a gamer so those are now good enough as well so fewer sales of new systems with Vista.
      OO.org has started to make a dent with Governments because they hate the idea of their documents being controlled by a single source vendor. Which frankly is a brilliant idea IMHO. But what we are seeing is a mature market where the software is good enough to not rush to upgrade.

      Just to be fair here is the ugly truth for Open Source. OO.org isn't better than Office. It is good enough and free. I keep hoping that someday OO.org will be better than Office but it just isn't yet. What it is is good enough, has an open document format, and free.
      • I just wanted to give you a hearty "Well Said!", as I haven't any mod points to give you.

        Despite all the hype, linux and open office are mere blips on the radar. Sure, they're growing stronger, but they are years away from causing Microsoft any real headaches. Right now, their biggest competition is themselves.
  • If you read the actual report that the magic number came from you will see that Microsoft only holds about 11% of the 235 'unchalenged' patents that linux 'possibly' infringes on.
  • to find the infringing code.

  • You have a patent attorney, who is too busy working on protecting your patents to tell you which patents are being infringing upon? I'd love to see that stand up in court, I have a feeling it would look a lot like the Gonzo testimony.

    "Sir, I don't recall being at the meeting where the number of infringing patents was discussed..."

    -Rick
  • Let me be the first to say "Horse shit!".
  • Poor Ramji (Score:5, Funny)

    by uradu (10768) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:28PM (#19259281)
    > [...] Ramji, the executive tasked with the difficult job of straddling
    > Microsoft's growing support for open source in server and tools,
    > and aggressive and unpredictable statements from management on patents [...]

    They should hire Tony Snow, he can do that on mere brain stem functionality.
  • by RichMan (8097) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:28PM (#19259293)
    At some future time Microsoft will press an existing patent against someone. The first defence will be Estoppel [wikipedia.org]. Microsoft is once company that cannot claim it did not have the resources to defend itself. If Microsoft fails to defend at this point, especially after making the pubclic claims it is effectively estopped from raising those claims in the future.

    IANAL but I like to try on the hat
  • It would be a good start if they could even name just one patent infringed upon. Just one.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:40PM (#19259477) Homepage

    My dog ate the patent list.


    That's actually more believable.

  • Microsoft cited administrative overhead for not detailing the 235 Microsoft patents its chief legal counsel recently told Forbes exist in Linux and open source.

    This is true! An extra 235 patents to monitor would overload their workforce that is already concentrating on the 235,000 bugs located in the first release of Vista! (May I say 135,000 of those deal with using Vista as a gaming platform)
  • by niceone (992278) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:40PM (#19259497) Journal
    ...Microsoft's Patent Attorney explained that the reason they hadn't named the supposedly infringing patents was that "we know what the U in FUD stands for".
  • The way MS phrased their statement (and previous statements) is stupid and doesn't make a lot of sense. They made it sound like they had a list of patents, and now say they don't. However, the statement I think they were trying to say is, "We have so many patents that we know that some open source software somewhere must be infringing on something we've patented." Then they tried to clarify that they haven't actually made a list of them all because, "it would take way too much administrative time to find ou

  • If I remember correctly, if you don't protect your trademark and prevent people from using your name as a generic term (Kleenex, Google, Band-Aid), you lose your rights to it as a trademark. It becomes the general term instead and is no longer protected. (That's the short version. I'm sure there's a lot more to it than that since laws are so specific.)

    Is this also the case with patents? If they don't sue, do they lose the rights to them?
  • by wrook (134116) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:05PM (#19259943) Homepage
    Sigh... There is a bit of a misrepresentation of what was said. The MS lawyer actually said, "'Most people who are familiar with patents know it's not standard operating procedure to list the patents,' Markwith said. 'The response of that would be administratively impossible to keep up with.'"

    This is significantly different than "it would be 'administratively impossible to keep up' with the list."

    I agree with the lawyer that the response to revealing the patents would be enormous and probably too difficult to keep up with. There would be all kinds of questions like "*How* does it infringe?", "Will this change help?", "What about this prior art?", etc, etc. There are thousands of Linux/GNU/whatever developers who are implicitly implicated by their accusations. Many of these are associated with large organizations which have teams of lawyers themselves. There are probably only a few lawyers dealing with this issue at MS. Thus, it *would* be administratively impossible to handle the response.

    My feeling is that if you don't want to deal with the response, then shut up. But I guess they don't agree. But it is an interesting comment none-the-less.

    BTW, I'm not being sarcastic in this post, but it's pretty difficult to tell given the absurdity of the issue.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:05PM (#19259945)
    Do not try and list the patents... that's impossible.
    Instead only try to realize the truth... There is no list.
  • I can't bother to care.

    Guess we're even.
  • I'm not a lawyer, and I technically don't know jack about anything, but it sounds to me like Microsoft is inadvertantly laying the grounds for Linux's eventual Laches defense. [wikipedia.org] If I'm right, this apparently wouldn't completely protect Linux et al from lawsuit, but it would certainly mitigate the potential damages.

    I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but I'm honestly just sick and tired of companies using threats of litigation as a weapon in the press, rather than using the courts to solve their problems.

  • It's FUD. It doesn't matter if it doesn't make any sense. It's meant to scare the PHBs, that's it. A rational argument is the incorrect response to this bullshit. Any other industry they would have been buried under lawsuits for wrongful interference, but our industry has colluding software empires with their own bullshit patents and a bunch of nerds playing the wrong game. This aint about truth, its about perception, leverage and power. Some one needs to kick them in the teeth with steel toes.
  • We're an entirely Linux/OS X shop here, however.

    If MS/BSA ever decides to try an audit us, my response isn't going to be, "We don't use MS products, period."

    My response is going to be, "It would be administratively impossible for us to list the software packages in use throughout our company."

    Then, when they kick the doors in, and find not a spec of MS software, our lawyers will have a nice round of settlement discussions with their lawyers.
    • by PitaBred (632671)
      What company is it? I'll call in an anonymous tip ;)
    • by mrsam (12205)
      Not that you'd really want to do such a thing, *wink* *wink *nudge* *nudge*, but you might just get your wish if there was an anonymous phone call to BSA's piracy hotline, supposedly from a disgruntled ex-employee, who does not want to give his name, claiming that you've pirated everything from XP, to Office, to Photoshop.
  • Who knows? Maybe this is the first indication that the cost and workload of software patents are of no real benefit to anybody, even Microsoft.

    I keep dreaming the States will wake up and do away with software and busines method patents. Might prove handy in stopping the European Union doing something stupid (again) and listening to the patent lawyers on the whole subject, which has seemed imminent for a painfully long period now.
  • I dislike Microsoft as much as the next person, but answer me this:

    REGARDLESS of how shady their buisness practices are, why is it OK for companies to infringe upon Microsoft patents but NOT ok for Microsoft to infringe upon other companies patents?

    • Strawman argument. Most people here want software patents abolished in general. Yes, that includes the ones Microsoft are infringing upon.
      • Double strawman (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rewt66 (738525)
        It's not just that we dislike software patents in general (though we do). We also dislike FUD, and we dislike lies.

        Microsoft says that Linux infringes on a bunch of Microsoft's patents, but they won't tell us which ones. There's no attempt to present an issue and get it cleared up. There's only an attempt to tar Linux as publicly as possible with the "patent infringer" brush while providing nothing concrete that can be refuted. That's FUD.

        Microsoft says that it can't tell us what the patents are that Li
  • Red Scare (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KC1P (907742)
    Didn't Joe McCarthy use the exact same tactic in the 1950s? Claim you have a list but then don't let anyone see it? Worked out great for him, he's one of the most beloved figures in US history! Where'd I put my my "Tailgunner Joe" T-shirt...
  • to hire Lawyers to review the patents for them that have been violated. I mean why should Microsoft employees do it, if they are too busy putting spyware and backdoors into the next Vista service pack and finding a new way to shut out Vista pirates as well as invalidate legal copies of Vista so they can have false positives to force the sale of more Vista licenses?

    Microsoft gave us a number, 235, that means somebody either counted them or pulled them out of their rear-end in some FUD attack against Linux an
  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:12PM (#19261115)
    So let me see here...

    Before:
    Nobody knew how many patents they may hold
    Nobody knew if they would use them
    Nobody knew if they would hold up in court

    After:
    It is obvious they can't do anything
    They have more or less agreed not to sue anyone
    If they don't name the patents soon you an use it as a defence

    So essentially they have just managed to clear Linux from the FUD surrounding their patent portfolio, make it obvious to business around the world they don't have the balls to do shit with it, and pretty much offered everyone a great defence against their entire patent portfolio. I mean... wow, just wow. I knew the FUD against Linux would go away soon, but that Microsoft would do it themselves without even entering the courtroom... wow. I guess the Vista slogan was right after all...

  • They claimed to be "too busy" to continue publishing the M3 number last April.

    The story should have been on the front page of every newspaper, and should have immediately triggered
    a global dollar-crisis, but instead the world believed Bernanke, and here we are today.

    Go for it Microsoft. Because apparently we're living in an era populated with unquestioning sheep.

    (I know, I know...it couldn't have been more offtopic... but this post gave me some deja vu.
    Don't mod me down -- people really do need to wiki "M3"
  • by segfault_0 (181690) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:48PM (#19261677)
    Im sorry, its administratively impossible for me to keep track of all the bullshit coming out of Redmond.

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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