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Microsoft Too Busy To Name Linux Patents? 236

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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  • What a bunch of crap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:01PM (#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...
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:03PM (#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?

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:08PM (#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:Hwhat? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by frodo from middle ea ( 602941 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:12PM (#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"

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:14PM (#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!

  • Re:Hwhat? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Adambomb ( 118938 ) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:14PM (#19259095) Journal
    You know, that makes more sense of microsofts actions in the past 5-7 years than any other opinion i've seen.

  • Re:Hwhat? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AndersOSU ( 873247 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:23PM (#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.
  • Re:Typical Failure. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:30PM (#19259323) Journal

    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't "steal" it before and won't be able to after, with or without patent FUD or dodgy alliances with Novell. This is an empty "M$ fails it" argument that means absolutely nothing.

  • by g2devi ( 898503 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:09PM (#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.
  • 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 BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:12PM (#19261115)
    So let me see here...

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

    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...
  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @10:11PM (#19264057) Journal
    Maybe it is time to search the patent database, pull out any Patents tied to Microsoft and list them on the web. Let people vote up or down the patents that could conflict with current standard and try to identify them ourselves instead of waiting...

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"