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Microsoft Taking Heat For Patent Stance 226

Posted by kdawson
from the what-balance-sheet-liability? dept.
Yesterday Novell released a statement disavowing Steve Ballmer's claim that Linux infringes Microsoft's IP. Linux-watch.com reports that Microsoft quickly responded with a statement of its own that softened, but did not entirely back away from, Ballmer's claim (but the article offers no link to such a statement). xtaski writes, "Everyone took notice when Ballmer spewed forth FUD about Microsoft and Linux IP. Now CIOs are asking just what did Ballmer think he was doing? They are not fooled — but rather, a little angry. ComputerWorld covers the news including one CIO who says 'There were some applications I had been thinking about moving to a Microsoft platform, but this has now totally alienated me from Microsoft.'" And an anonymous reader points us to the statement by the Open Invention Network — whose investors include IBM, Novell, Sony, Red Hat, Philips and NEC — on the Microsoft-Novell agreement. From the statement: "OIN continues to support the Linux community's ability to collaborate and innovate. Through the accumulation of patents that may be used to shield the Linux environment, including users of Linux software, OIN has obviated the need for offers of protection from others."
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Microsoft Taking Heat For Patent Stance

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  • by filenavigator (944290) * on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:11PM (#16943226) Homepage
    It is interesting to see that they are starting to posture themselves in this way now. For all these years they really have not gone after anyone for patent violations - maybe that was because the going was good. Now that they have implemented all of their fancy piracy protection they need to keep others from providing alternative solutions that really are easier for a paying customer to use.

    Kinda reminds me of communist Russia and their fences and guns keeping their people from leaving the country.


    http://www.windows-admin-tools.com [windows-admin-tools.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Kinda reminds me of communist Russia and their fences and guns keeping their people from leaving the country.''

      In SOVIET RUSSIA, coutry abandons YOU!

      Sorry, couldn't resist.
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      Kinda makes you wonder what would happen if lots of people bought a few thousand stocks in Microsoft, went to the annual meeting and demanded that Microsoft immediately enforce their patents.. after all, Microsoft currently claims their patent portfolio as an "asset". How about making that asset pay already?

      Oh, what? You can't?

      • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:05PM (#16944414)
        It's still an asset, in exactly the same sense that the USA & USSR nuclear arsenals were assets. You have to have them, but you don't want to have to use them. Patent portfilios for the Microsoft/IBM/Oracle/Sun/HP crowd (or Intel/AMD/nVidia/ATI for that matter) have become exactly the same kind of "Mutually Assured Desctruction" scenario. The only way that OSS really plays into this is to give Ballmer some FUD ammo. Just ignore him - he can't pull the trigger, because everyone else would pull the trigger on him.
        • It's still an asset, in exactly the same sense that the USA & USSR nuclear arsenals were assets. You have to have them, but you don't want to have to use them.

          I would change that to 'You have to have them, but you can't ever use them.', but essentially, yes. Microsoft will keep accumulating patents and keep threatening people with them. The only time Microsoft will ever be in a position to press the trigger is when they either control or are allied with pretty much every big giant- Sony, IBM, HP, Sun, N

        • by oohshiny (998054) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:22AM (#16945854)
          Patent portfilios for the Microsoft/IBM/Oracle/Sun/HP crowd (or Intel/AMD/nVidia/ATI for that matter) have become exactly the same kind of "Mutually Assured Desctruction" scenario.

          Actually, that's not all they are: they are also barriers to entry, because small, commercial, closed-source competitors find it hard to enter a market in this situation. That's not what the patent system was supposed to do. And, sooner or later, it may lead to some serious scrutiny by the DOJ.

          Nevertheless, it may work to the advantage of open source, since it means that new software companies may find it advantageous to figure out open source models for software that they would otherwise have released under a proprietary license.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ridcully (121813)
      Well, the SCO gambit seems to have failed. So I guess they have to take more direct action.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JPriest (547211)
        Yes, but the fact that the SCO thing failed has only reinforced the credibility of Linux. Linux was the best example MS gave in defending the right to keep their monopoly, even if they were to win a court case against "Linux", it would land them back in another anti-trust case and in the crosshairs of the EU. A legal attack on Linux is a lose-lose situation for them, so all they can really do is make empty accusations and hope nobody calls them on it.

        Additionally, if these statements could be shown to be d

        • by sg_oneill (159032) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:43PM (#16945180)
          Other than the complete baloney of SCO's claim, part of the stunning failure of SCO has been in part due to the sheer genius of the GPL mk II.

          Something Just dawned on me regarding GPL mk III. Lets say it got into the kernel.... And microsoft are busy distributing SuSe Linux.... Wouldn't that mean that by implication Microsoft disclaim the right to sue over Patents hypothetically violated by linux? Or hell, is that already covered in version II?

          The implication of III "fixing" that would be that yet again whilst everyone is throwing rocks at our communitys favorite beardo, said beardo has yet again got it right.

          viva liberation!
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          i dont get it. are you saying java is nice or that you don't like anal sex?
    • "...posture themselves in this way now. For all these years they really have not gone after anyone for patent violations ..."

      You know, that makes me wonder if we are seeing the difference between Gates at the helm and Balmer at the helm.

      While all my knowledge of balmer is superficial, he just scares me. Looking at the monkey boy video and looking at his face, he really seems psychotic.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mysticgoat (582871) *

        While all my knowledge of balmer is superficial, he just scares me.

        Well, he is the only CEO of a major company who is also a potty-mouthed chair-throwing monkey dancer who threatens to kill his business opponents.

        Other than that, he might be mostly harmless.

        On a more serious vein: isn't it about time for the Microsoft Corporation to evaluate whether their current CEO might be a hindrance to continued profitability, rather than some kind of weird unmeasurable asset?

    • I think it's pretty well established that Microsoft has a huge heatsink when it comes to "taking heat". I don't see anything aside from a few big vendors or government agencies that could apply measurable pressure to change Microsoft's behavior.

      I think you're right about Microsoft. It looks like another move to prolong their OS dominance. However, I wonder if the IP landscape is different now than it was back then too. I know IP has been used for decades to secure market share, but I wonder if it's gettin

    • What might be more interesting is the way that all these other companies are beginning to posture themselves around openness, Free patents, and some kind of IP commons. Maybe it's starting to become obvious to them just how destructive and costly these policies of using arsenals of patents to protect themselves and destroy rivals are. Vastly greater profits are possible with an intellectual commons from which everyone can benefit. It destabilizes the winner-takes-all dynamic, and allows a more diverse an
    • Does anyone know *specifically* what Microsoft's $348 million *actually* purchased?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ronanbear (924575)
        Copies of SuSe and support that Microsoft can sell to it's customers as part of total solutions. Microsoft will also get a proportion of Novells sales of SuSe for the next 5 years. If SuSe sells well it could (but is unlikely to) be profitable for Microsoft.

        The deal is supposed to be about interoperability. Microsoft has a couple of standards that they would like to see adopted wider. .NET is a major one at the moment. I'll bet they'd rather Mono be the open source alternative (once embraced it can be exten
    • by nickos (91443) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:50AM (#16946892)
      Time to roll out this classic quote from the man himself:

      "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete stand-still today. The solution ... is patent exchanges ... and patenting as much as we can. ... A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors." -- Bill Gates, 1991
  • It'll never happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:17PM (#16943310) Journal
    Everyone is infringing on everyone else's patents (if only in the most technical of senses).

    The Windows vs Linux battle is a perfect example of mutually assured destruction.

    Nobody will win if the lawsuits start flying back and forth. It wouldn't even be good for business.

    If MS really thinks there are patent issues, then MS should either try to work out cross licensing deals that benefit or have the offending IP removed. Anything else is just FUD.
    • by peragrin (659227)
      Well Maybe the BSD will finally stop dying. It's the only good thing i can think of. That and people will finally be able to own a computer and not worry about such things as drivers, memory leaks, and poorly desgined UI's
    • by imemyself (757318)
      Exactly. MS does not want to piss of IBM as far as patents go. I'm sure IBM could make life rather difficult for MS if they were to get involved with in a patent war. On the bright side, if something like that happened, we might actually see some sanity come to the way patents are given out (or not have software patents all together - they're already "protected" by copyright).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canuck57 (662392)

      If MS really thinks there are patent issues, then MS should either try to work out cross licensing deals that benefit or have the offending IP removed. Anything else is just FUD.

      First, Microsoft has "invented" nothing we use today. Have they?

      I would suspect, even a California judge would have to find in Linux and FOSS favor with regards to patents. Take for example the tabbed Firefox browser with a close button on the top right? How long do you think it will be before Microsoft files a patent on it, t

  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:17PM (#16943314) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if this is one of the first moves that Microsoft is making to back away from the agreement, or rather ... to back away from their original intentions (whatever they may have been).
  • possible goals here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kevintron (1024817)
    These vague claims of "infringement" have certainly led to heavy discussion of Microsoft's deal with Novell. Ballmer has always been good at generating free publicity for Microsoft, and has never been too worried about whether Linux users liked him or not.

    But that's just one possible goal here. It's also possible the resulting discussions will be closely watched by Redmond's intellectual property lawyers. Perhaps they hope to learn of new potential legal vulnerabilities they hadn't previously considered.
  • wow... (Score:4, Funny)

    by crankshot999 (975406) <signupaccount987@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:24PM (#16943400)
    Microsoft is now so rich that they are trying to get rid of their money by trying (and soon enough failing) to sue linux.
  • by Tiger Smile (78220) <james AT dornan DOT com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:28PM (#16943446) Homepage
    When Linux started throwing chairs around the office like a spoiled child denied, then it crossed the patent line! Balmer is not amused!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:29PM (#16943472)
    There is a legal doctrine known as "unclean hands". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unclean_hands [wikipedia.org] It means that a plaintiff who behaves in a certain way can not get certain legal remedies. The most they can expect is actual damages. What actual damage (other than loss of a sale) does it do to Microsoft if my use of Linux violates one of their patents? Almost none.

    Any plaintiff has a duty to mitigate damages. A plaintiff who does not mitigate damages is coming to the court with unclean hands. Microsoft also has the problem that it is convicted on antitrust charges.

    If Microsoft wanted to sue someone for violating one of its patents by using Linux, it should have done so a long time ago. All it has now is the weapon of every bully; intimidation.

    On a side note, every time I have heard a company talk about monetizing its IP, it has nothing left. SCO is the classic case of that.
    • Tell that to NTP, the company that successfully sued RIM, the makers of the Blackberry. They had an idea, and "squatted" on it. No, wait, they probably PATENTED the idea, squatted on it, waiting for someone else to bring it to market and be successful, then they probably tried to extort RIM, and, failing that, took it to the courts, and made out like bandits. It was basically a software patent. Latest estimates on how this will shake out put the award at one (1) BILLION dollars. So, yeah, they had nothing l
      • by HiThere (15173) *
        And to cap the joke, NTP doesn't appear to have had a valid patent to complain about. That must have left all their lawyers rolling on the floor.
    • I don't know; if you can prove that an actual sale was lost because somebody ripped off your product, I'd call that pretty significant damage. We're not talking about *potential* sales, but actually having sales abruptly drop off because somebody stole somebody else's idea. I'm not advocating the "I haven't actually implemented it, but I've THOUGHT about it," style of idea, of course.
  • Emotionalism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:30PM (#16943482)
    one CIO who says 'There were some applications I had been thinking about moving to a Microsoft platform, but this has now totally alienated me from Microsoft.'"
    Should someone who makes technology decisions based on his emotional reaction to Steve Balmer's FUD really be a CIO?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by theLOUDroom (556455)
      Should someone who makes technology decisions based on his emotional reaction to Steve Balmer's FUD really be a CIO?

      Who says it's emotional?
      You can look at the "benefit" that is being reaped from this deal with Microsoft and say: "Do I really want my company to be assosciated with these guys? Can I trust them?"

      Of course a decent CIO should know that you can't trust Microsoft at all. this should be obvious from all the charred, burned-out corpses of former Microsoft "partners" littering the IT landsc
      • by 0racle (667029)

        Who says it's emotional?

        He's not looking at the platform on its technical merits but on the hot air spit out by someone who's job is to spew hot air. It would be like choosing to run or not choosing to run Linux based on Linus statement that he thinks the BSD's are programed by morons. It has nothing to do with the ability of the platform

        Of course a decent CIO should know that you can't trust Microsoft at all. this should be obvious from all the charred, burned-out corpses of former Microsoft "partners" l

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by iluvcapra (782887)
          He's not looking at the platform on its technical merits but on the hot air spit out by someone who's job is to spew hot air

          Allow me to fix this for your...

          He's not looking at the platform on its technical merits but at the threat of litigation posed by someone who's job is to administer the fortune of the largest software company on Earth.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mysticgoat (582871) *

          ...hot air spit out by someone who's job is to spew hot air.

          WTF???

          You, sir, are confusing the role of the Chief Executive Officer with that of a dispensible shill.

          CEOs should be rarely seen, and heard even less often. Any CIO should seriously question the stability of a possible vendor when that vendor's CEO is acting out of character. It raises serious questions about whether the vendor is making sound strategic decisions, and will be able to support its product throughout its expected service life.

        • He's not looking at the platform on its technical merits but on the hot air spit out by someone who's job is to spew hot air.

          You would think that based on Ballmer's actions, but he's actually supposed to be running the company, not throwing chairs around and shooting his mouth off.

          like choosing to run or not choosing to run Linux based on Linus statement

          This is a horrible analogy. With free software, there is no one guy who gets to distribute the software. If Linus becomes a total idiot, the commu
    • Re:Emotionalism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tsm_sf (545316) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:47PM (#16943666) Journal
      It's not an "is this the best software package for our company right now" issue, it's an "is this vendor likely to fuck us over in the future" issue.
    • So you're saying that it's somehow a ... good idea to make long-term contracts with companies that are run by unstable lunatics like Ballmer? With companies that sic the BSA on their customers and sue them? That are circling the drain?

      If anything, Steve Ballmer's behaviour is a great reason to avoid Microsoft. No one wants to be near a giant in its death throes. Would you go to the local cornerstore if you knew it was run by a paranoid schizophrenic that might put a couple of rounds of buckshot in you

    • Should someone who makes technology decisions based on his emotional reaction to Steve Balmer's FUD really be a CIO?

      Should someone as fucking emotionally reactive (and foul-mouthed) as Steve Ballmer really be a CEO?

      Microsoft is in need of some big changes if it is going to survive the transition to Vista.

  • by Josh Lindenmuth (1029922) <joshlindenmuth&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:30PM (#16943486) Journal
    Many CIO's probably did not realize the theoretical risks of using Linux prior to Ballmer's statement. I know I didn't. Unfortunately Ballmer was right to a degree ... and while CIO's and other tech professionals can deny the validity of his statement, it will be a matter for the courts to decide at some point.

    Since most companies that use Linux typically have at least some Windows machines, Microsoft's perceived threat to either sue or enforce licenses for all Linux users was highly alienating and rather disrespectful of their customer base. 'What was he thinking' is right. A smart company woudn't form a half Billion dollar agreement then tell the target client base of the agreement that they're gonna be sued ... but then again, that's Microsoft's M.O. A monopoly in today's global regulatory environment takes an immensely powerful, and often ruthless, legal team. This is just Microsoft rattling that (hopefully unusable) saber ...
    • by MoralHazard (447833) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:54PM (#16943750)
      while CIO's and other tech professionals can deny the validity of his statement, it will be a matter for the courts to decide at some point.

      In theory... but in theory, Microsoft could patent swinging sideways on a tire swing and start suing kids on playgrounds. And kindergarden teachers can deny the validity of that statement, but it will be a matter for the courts to decide at some point.

      Balmer is posturing. Microsoft's lawyers have assuredly already told the big hothead that there is slim to none chance that Microsoft could possibly win any such lawsuit. Why do we know that? Because they haven't sued anybody.

      If MS thought it could have won such a lawsuit, it would have sued years ago, before or during the height of the SCO fiasco, when the public's perception that Linux might contain compromising intellectual property was strongest. They didn't, though, for all of their talk and FUD and veiled threats.

      Think of what a successful MS lawsuit would have done to Linux market penetration, too. Even an unsuccessful, or settled lawsuit that dragged on long enough, would have sent CIOs and execs running scared from Linux... Right into the arms of Windows.

      Even Balmer listens to his lawyers.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:27PM (#16944068)
        Think of what a successful MS lawsuit would have done to Linux market penetration, too. Even an unsuccessful, or settled lawsuit that dragged on long enough, would have sent CIOs and execs running scared from Linux... Right into the arms of Windows.

        The primary reason that didn't and won't happen is that one of the backers of Linux also happens to be the largest patent holder in the entire software sector (IBM). If Microsoft wants to bring a handful of patents to the war, IBM can roll out the machine guns. I guarantee you Microsoft and most other companies are infringing on one IBM patent or another.
      • by Shados (741919)

        Think of what a successful MS lawsuit would have done to Linux market penetration, too

        Actualy, that is the reason why Microsoft is NOT going to sue. They probably can sue, and win. But at what cost? They are a convicted monopoly. From a legal point of view, that is horrible for them. The best choice, economicaly speaking for them, is to keep Linux around, the same way they helped keep Macs around back then. What I'm getting at is, let say they sue for Linux, and let say they win. Big freagin woohoo. 2 day

        • by dch24 (904899)
          The scary thing is, since Microsoft was formed, we've seen significant changes in the largest democracy (that is, largest population -- I mean the U.S. -- no offense to my Aussie friends) that I never thought would happen.

          What I'm getting at is this: Microsoft can spread FUD for as long as they like. They're a monopoly, and a lot of their customers will still buy Windows boxen for years, even if they did start firing off patent lawsuits. Microsoft could weather IBM's patent lawsuits if it turns out anythi
    • by avdp (22065) *
      Well, I have news for you... That's the theoretical risk of using any software in a society where software patents for trivialities are handed out like hot cakes. It only takes one NTP-like(1) company on a nothing-to-loose suicide quest to have the balls to say Company X - I am going to sue you because you use Microsoft Office which has some of our patented technologies in it. Regardless of the merit of the case, and regardless of whether Microsoft might come and help you - it's going to cost you time a
    • This is the third of your posts today that while having read half of it I was about to disagree with, when you turned the direction of your post completely around and made some insightful observations. Stop confusing me, man! ;)
    • Is there such a thing as a legal team that isn't ruthless?

      Seriously though, this is so true. The bigger an animal, the worse its death throes. It's not surprising that companies want to avoid being close to that. And a half-billion dollar contract is pretty fucking close.

      I'll bet that Microsoft will pull something out of the bag and wind up a functional company again, but right now they're circling the drain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:34PM (#16943524)
    At the company I work for, we've been using a mix of SuSE Linux (pre-Novell SuSE), FreeBSD, and Windows 2000 for years now. There's been some interest in upgrading some of the systems. It was suggested that the SuSE systems be upgraded to SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, and that the Windows 2000 systems be moved to Windows Server 2003.

    Several days ago I had to submit a report to management regarding these proposed transitions. Put simply, I had to recommend against the use of the offerings from Novell and Microsoft. I don't feel that these companies are worth dealing with. Instead of putting money towards the development and improvement of their products, they've gotten themselves involved in this stupid deal. I'm sure a number of contract lawyers made quite a bit off of this arrangement. And for us, we don't need the uncertainty this deal brings.

    I had to recommend that we migrate much of our corporate network to FreeBSD, with Solaris or Debian Linux being my second choices. Thankfully, we write most of our Windows software in-house using wxWidgets for the GUI and PostgreSQL as the relational database of choice, so the transition should go fairly well.

    • by canuck57 (662392)

      I had to recommend that we migrate much of our corporate network to FreeBSD, with Solaris or Debian Linux being my second choices. Thankfully, we write most of our Windows software in-house using wxWidgets for the GUI and PostgreSQL as the relational database of choice, so the transition should go fairly well.

      Your well set to be free of M$ and Oracle. Well done.

  • that are in Microsoft's portfolio.. but 1) exactly which patents are these Microsoft? and 2) What are you gunna do about it? Nothin', that's what.
    • by Gorshkov (932507) <admgorshkov.yahoo@com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:58PM (#16943788)
      There's no doubt that Linux violates patents that are in Microsoft's portfolio
      Actually, I think there's a shitload and a half of doubt. Especially that nobody's ever seen or given evidence of a *single* microsoft violation - and precious few violations of any sort. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I'm not willing to SAY that there's never been one. Because as soon as I do, somebody's gonna post links pointing to them :-)
      • by HiThere (15173) *
        Didn't MS get a patent on adding two numbers together in basic? I think Gambas violates that.
    • 3) Are those patents actually valid? Or will they vanish when exposed to prior art?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by RobertLTux (260313)
        i would think its more of a burn to ash kind of thing like when Blade runs his sword through a vampire (or any of his other silver weapons)
    • by jlarocco (851450)

      Escuse me? I'd be a lot more worried about closed source software being in violation of Microsoft's patents than anything open source. Open source projects are usually pretty careful about this kind of thing.

      Anyone can view the source, so if there are violations, the patent holder doesn't even have to get a court order to check.

      Second, quite a few closed source companies feel threatened by open source software. It's cheaper, and the quality is usually "good enough", or better than closed soure alt

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:48PM (#16943682)
    Keep your matches away when he talks.
  • If you use ANY non-trivial piece of software, you are likely violating someone's patent in the USA. With open source software, if a patent violation is discovered (and it is not fundamental to computing), the code can quickly be rewritten to work differently. With non-open software, I doubt the re-writing could be done as quickly, and you would remain in violation longer.
    • What happens if you discover that you've been infringing a patent for 6months+ and millions of people have downloaded the product? A commercial company would be able to just retroactively licence the IP and absorb the cost. Naturally you can't do that with OSS so legally speaking the makers are breaking the law as are all of its users. Releasing a patch that fixes it only prevents future charges being brought against you or lessens the infringement.

      With OSS, as there is no option to purchase a licence you

      • By the same token, if some corporate whistle blower were to come forward, and show that Microsoft has used even one small piece of GPL'ed code in it's Windows product, the entire product would then be bound by the GPL, and their entire monopoly would collapse. Given the number of times that MS has been caught committing acts of copyright violation in, or in the production of their OS, this does not seem to be completely unrealistic. This would put MS in major trouble and it'd send huge ripples throughout
        • by BeBoxer (14448) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:41PM (#16945172)
          if some corporate whistle blower were to come forward, and show that Microsoft has used even one small piece of GPL'ed code in it's Windows product, the entire product would then be bound by the GPL

          False. This is actually a little bit of M$ FUD which you have somehow bought into. If Microsoft was found to have infringing GPL code in Windows, one option would be to GPL all of Windows. The other, more likely option, would be to simply remove the offending code. The exact same think any open source project would do if it was found to have infringing code found in it.

          The idea that companies need to be afraid of having their closed source application forced open because some GPL code slipped in is one of the FUD meme's the Microsoft throws around to try and limit open source adoption. The reality is that the only companies that get screwed by the GPL are the ones who insist on trying to distribute GPL binaries without source knowingly even after they've been asked not to.
  • they list Novell as part of the OIN, but any patents that Novell has filed are now void because they have signed a promise not to sue.
  • ...They are not fooled -- but rather, a little angry. ComputerWorld covers the news including one CIO who says 'There were some applications I had been thinking about moving to a Microsoft platform, but this has now totally alienated me from Microsoft...(emphasis mine)

    I guess it is also safe to say that there are those that have been totally alienated from Linux and are contemplating to moving to the Microsoft platform.

    • People who are 'totally alienated' from Linux were never really linux users. No one who ever really understands would ever 'go back' to Microsoft once they've actually fully understood anything else.
  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:20PM (#16944008) Homepage

    Prof. Eben Moglen says that GPLv3 will prevent a user's loss of freedom [theregister.co.uk] in light of the details of the Novell-Microsoft deal. He also takes the open source movement's lack of focus on user's freedom to task by ignoring "the politics" of the situation, leaving it ripe for being moved closer to what proprietors want.

  • That Steve forgot to take his anti-psychotic medications that day.
    Massive PR Damage - Undone!
    Problem - Solved!
  • It isn't that hard for someone to write a shell script that, oh say, spidered the USPTO for every patent microsoft has ever filed. I know for a fact that it is very possible, and out of the about 2000 of 5000 patents that I've seen downloaded from the database so far, I've seen some very frightening results. We're not simply talking patents on code, here people. It gets much much worse. Downright fucking scary even.

    I'd gladly post the link to the USPTO for you all to see for yourselves, but I've been sw
  • And the way they've been executing on the corporate level the last few years they'd probably screw it up anyway. MSFT is way overdue for a change at the top. The only reason he's been able to hang on for so long is that, up to now, MSFT has been able to paper their mistakes with money. But that margin will get squeezed going forward. And if the OEM's start offering a choice, they'll go downhill in a hurry.

    It's going to take something big to get Steveo booted out of there, something massively bad. He's

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:56PM (#16944318) Journal
    In any battle where goliath is predicted to fall, there has to be a point where the goliath tries to fight harder, and dirtier than before. MS has nothing to lose by 'seeming' to be more open and more F/OSS friendly, and they have everything to gain, including hearts and minds.

    The problem is that when it comes to patents, everyone, including the USPTO is looking at them more skeptically. Look at what the final outcome of this could or should be; MS looks better than before the situation, or MS gains credit with people who pay real money for MS products. MS currently doesn't have too many worries about home users switching to Linux. Its businesses and governments and educational institutions that MS has to keep on board the MS wagon. By acting open, or F/OSS friendly, they get to keep customers that were wavering... that can be billions of dollars per year. By actually pulling this off, they do more than keep money, they harm their competition in terms of market share. Every battle is not won simply on brute force, but often on preventing such force from being brought to bear against you.

    The trouble here is that nobody on /. or any blog has a clue what was really said in the boardrooms, on guessing based on historically valid impressions. The end value of any of this posturing is that one side or the other will seem more valid, more honest, more useful for doing business with...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      The problem is that when it comes to patents, everyone, including the USPTO is looking at them more skeptically.

      The USPTO is running as fast as they can, in an attempt to keep up with the stream of incoming patent applications.

      The USPTO has neither the time, nor the manpower to do a good job of "looking at them more skeptically".

      God help them if they actually had to go back and do a review in order try and catch all the 'bad' patents that they've approved.

  • by tclark (140640) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:53PM (#16944820) Homepage
    It looks like Microsoft is infringing on their "using bogus lawsuit threats to spread FUD" patent.
  • The missing link (Score:2, Informative)

    by clarkn0va (807617)
    Portions of Microsoft's response quoted on groklaw [groklaw.net] and David Berlind's blog. [zdnet.com]
  • by surfdaddy (930829) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:23PM (#16945042)
    Microsoft has dropped to a new low. What of substance has Microsoft invented anytime lately? Perhaps the XBox. They've been riding their early entry into the PC market for 20 years. Their software is nothing great, and their entire growth M.O. is to shut out competition by virtue of their monopoly on the Windows OS. They are scared shitless that Linux is going to eventually kill much of their business.

    Microsoft did this to Netscape. They tried to kill Apple years ago and only let Apple survive to prove that they were not monopolists. They funded SCO through a back door third company in their lawsuit against Linux. Now that that has failed, Microsoft is going directly against Linux. In the meantime, very little innovation has been realized from the massive profits that the company generates. Contrast with Apple. They first popularized the GUI. The 3.5 inch floppy. SCSI. PDA (Newton). Built-in networking. Hyperlinking. MP3 player with integrated software on the computer/synchronization paradigm. And they've translated their entire operating system and hardware line into a new technical architecture in less than half the time Microsoft has needed to upgrade their piss poor OS to a newer resource hogging OS with few significantly newer features.

    What is so funny is that Microsoft coming out with the Zune! They see Apple with a big new music market. Microsoft wants a piece of this action! And they are going to fail, because Apple has a huge ecosystem of hardware, software, accessories, and ever car makers putting iPod interfaces in! Did you see that even the airlines are working on iPod interfaces for power, audio, and video in their airplanes?! Hahaha to Microsoft - Apple is doing the same thing to Microsoft that Microsoft has done to them in the PC OS! And I'm glad!

    So I'm not usually highly emotional about these things, but Microsoft is scum! Microsoft - up yours!

  • by oohshiny (998054) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:52PM (#16945252)
    If Microsoft had anything substantial and usable, they'd have sued by now, but they probably have figured out that that's pointless. Many of their patents are probably invalid or unenforceable, or even have prior art in open source software.

    Furthermore, FOSS developers try hard to avoid infringing on people's patents, and Microsoft's patents are scrutinized, so the number of infringing software packages is likely small. In the few cases where Microsoft might have a valid patent claim against a piece of FOSS and could actually identify someone to sue, it would be hard for them to be able to claim willful infringement or get any real damages, and the infringing code would be removed instantaneously, making the case fall apart.

    If Microsoft actually believes they have IP that's being violated, they should stop bluffing and start asserting it in court. That way, they can get what they deserve, and they create certainty for everybody else. Of course, certainty is the last thing they want.
  • How many times has MS been guilty of patent infringing?
  • All this talk about M$ intellectual property being used in Linux. I just wonder how many developers, with prior Unix development experience, Microsoft has hired that have used Unix code / derivatives inside M$ products. ;-)
  • All these statements and counter statements, claims and counter claims has thrown everything into confusion. They have taken FUD to new hieghts. Suddenly risk averse CIOs will be thinking twice or three times about open source solutions, even if this 'Much Ado About Nothing'.
  • Ballmer is rich and is crazy. Put up or shut up Steve.

    Still this does not change the position of the people that I know in the FOSS that the deal with Microsoft and Novell is a cover-up for lawsuits and is meant to split and alienate the linux community.
  • by greg_barton (5551) * <[moc.oohay] [ta] [notrab_gerg]> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:21AM (#16945840) Homepage Journal
    It's time to fight FUD with FUD.

    According to the Vista EULA, if you develop code on the Vista platform, MS can claim IP rights to that code.

    Is that true?

    Dunno... It's just what some lawyer friend told me...
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:29AM (#16946520) Homepage
    As I read this article I wondered WTF? What do Microsoft patent claims have to do with Novell? Does Novell own Linux now or something? Being largely ignorant of the business aspects of the Linux world, I went to Linux.com looking for news and found this reassuring statement:

    Who Owns Linux?
    Linux is not owned by anyone. One misconception many first-time Linux.com readers have is that this site, Linux.com, is similar to Microsoft.com, which is owned and controlled by the company that produces the Windows operating system.

    Not so!

    No one company or individual "owns" Linux, which was developed, and is still being improved, by thousands of corporate-supported and volunteer programmers all over the world. Not even Linus Torvalds, who started the Linux ball rolling in 1991, "owns" Linux.

    (However, the trademark "Linux" is owned by Linus Torvalds, so if you call something "Linux" it had better be Linux, not something else.)


    I still don't understand why Novell and Microsoft are swapping millions of dollars back and forth and how it relates to Ballmer's IP claims, but as long as apt-get doesn't start asking me for license codes I'm happy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by raynet (51803)

      I still don't understand why Novell and Microsoft are swapping millions of dollars back and forth and how it relates to Ballmer's IP claims, but as long as apt-get doesn't start asking me for license codes I'm happy.

      Actually it would be quite handy if apt-get did ask for license codes.. for proprietary software. It could even offer option to buy software or install trial version. It would be handy if one could just add 'proprietary' or 'commercial' to sources.list after 'contrib' and 'non-free', no need

    • by Bent Mind (853241) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:48AM (#16947154)
      No one company or individual "owns" Linux

      This is correct. In the past, Microsoft has tried to define Linux as Red Hat, and failed for this reason. The whole point of this patent deal (at least from Microsoft's POV) is to narrow the definition of Linux. If successful, the deal would separate Linux into legal and illegal groups of Microsoft's choosing. If Linux can be limited to a few corporate entities, then it becomes much easier to turn on those limited number of groups and exterminate, or reign in, Linux.

      I don't think that Microsoft wants to completely exterminate Linux at this point. Linux is a highly visible competitor that Microsoft can use in defense of Monopoly claims. However, Microsoft can't keep it under their thumb with such a broad definition.

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