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User Journal

Journal Journal: Steve Ballmer, infringement claims, and an open letter

Here recently on /., there was a news item about an open letter to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, essentially calling Microsoft out on their claims that Linux infringes several patents that Microsoft claims to own. I like the idea; in fact I think it's vitally important that if there is a question of trademark, patent, or copyright infringement in Linux or other OSS/Free Software that it be identified and resolved. After reading the letter, though, I thought it was poorly written, with grammar errors and otherwise unprofessional. So, I crafted my own:

Dear Mr. Ballmer

As I am sure you are aware, having yourself made some claims, Microsoft is publicly and loudly accusing the Linux community and developers of having violated Microsoft patents in implementing certain software functionality. As we are seeing in the very public SCO v. IBM lawsuit, it is absolutely impossible to accurately examine these claims without specific information regarding 1) the patents involved, 2) the specific location within the Linux and Microsoft-owned software that implements the patents in question, and 3) the manner in which the alleged infringement occurs.

These are vitally important because the Linux community specifically, and the Free and/or Open Source software (F/OSS) community in general, respect ownership issues and would prefer to implement functionality in community software without the burdens involved in these disputes. In order to resolve them, you and your company must come forward with exact claims, claims which can be verified as to ownership (including prior art), applicability, and implementation, both in your software and in any software you claim violates your ownership rights.

So here is your challenge: show us which patent, trademark, or copyright is alleged to have been violated; show us what code we have alleged to infringe with; show us your implementation of that patent, trademark, or copyright so that we can be certain 1) that we have removed our infringing code, if necessary, and 2) that you have actually implemented your claims in the way claimed.

Upon receiving the specifics of your claim, the community will immediately get to work to validate your claims, and if your claims appear to have merit, to identify and remove infringing code in the Linux and other F/OSS projects.

I suspect, however, that Microsoft is content to continue to lob lies, half-truths, and obfuscation at the media and non-technical persons in businesses all over the United States, and will refuse to abide by these very simple, and truly necessary, requirements. If you choose this path, however, recognize that we will use your unwillingness to work in good faith to resolve these differences as an implicit agreement that your claims are invalid, and that you bring them up solely as unfounded marketing hyperbole and not as valid reasons for businesses to purchase your products instead of using Linux or F/OSS. In this case, you also implicitly agree that we can use your unwillingness as a bullet point for our own uses, such as pointing out the danger any business assumes as a result of doing business with Microsoft: Microsoft may be point-blank lying, and about anything at all.

The choice is yours, Mr. Ballmer. Choose carefully.

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