11.21.06

David Kaefer: “Patents are Hard to Understand.”

Posted in FUD, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Windows at 3:38 am by Shane Coyle

Computerworld is running a story including a few quotes from David Kaefer, MS GM of IP Licensing (page 2 of the article):

Asked whether Microsoft would consider revealing what parts of Linux allegedly violated the company’s intellectual property so that open-source developers could throw out the offending code, Kaefer demurred, saying it would not be “very productive.”

“Patents are hard to understand. You have to have a certain level of expertise to understand the scope. And there are legitimate questions about patent quality,” he said. “The reality is that you’d have to look at thousands of patents and thousands of products. To focus on every single one would be prohibitive.”

“Legitimate questions about patent quality”, what does that mean exactly? And how can the community’s earnest desire to respect MS intellectual property rights not be productive?

Apparently, Patents are indeed very hard to understand, but no more so than this deal. I thought that Novell said this wasn’t about patents to them, they are making no admission of latent violations, and that the deal was indemnifying Novell’s customers and not Novell, and therefore is GPL compliant. Microsoft sees the deal much differently, as we have already learned, and now we see more into MS’ perspective:

“Steve’s comments are a perspective we do have at Microsoft,” said Dave Kaefer, Microsoft’s general manager for intellectual property licensing. He said latent patent violations — and agreements to indemnify each other against them — are common.

“Where we compete with some company with similar technology, it is common for there to be overlap,” Kaefer said. “It’s not because one is a good party and the other is a bad party, it’s because we have both created a lot of value.”

Kaefer confirmed that the two companies shared their respective patent portfolios with each other before signing the deal, though he said that was also a typical business practice. “We said ‘This is what we got.’ Both companies were aware of what each other has,” Kaefer said.

Neither he nor Dragoon would say how extensive the patent review was, nor whether it turned up any possible violations of Microsoft patents in the Linux source code.

So, anyone out there want to spin this as not a cross-license agreement between Novell and MS directly?

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