As Shane pointed out, suddenly, Microsoft claims that it wants a weaker patents system. It’s natrual to just assume that lawsuits such as this were the cause.
Alcatel-Lucent said in a court filing that $1.5 billion is not enough to properly compensate it for Microsoft Corp.’s infringement of two digital audio patents.
A look at the following article reveals another insight and perspective:
Other patent experts have suggested Microsoft’s patent complaints don’t make a lot of sense from a legal standpoint. The complaints, while possibly driving some customers away from open-source software, may make Microsoft the target of lawsuits from open-source developers seeking to prove they have not infringed, some patent experts have said.
Could Microsoft prepare for a public relations stunt? Perhaps assertion exclusions, just like Blackboard’s, for the sake of some bogus ‘good will’? In a sense, they already did this with ODF just a couple of days ago.
Ed Burnette takes things a little further and describes a hypothetical scenario.
But what if I told you that Windows, Vista, Office, and other software from Microsoft violate 532 patents? Would that make you any less likely to use Microsoft software? What if I claimed the following alleged violations:
- Windows core operating system: 132
- .NET framework: 91
- Windows/Vista GUI: 83
- Microsoft Office: 159
- Other: 67
Things would become interesting if the patent troll finally got trolled. It has deep pockets, but it does not have developers’ mercy. Moreover, its big portfolio might turn out to be a total waste of paper.
Thanks to a patent system that went overboard issuing patents, which the Supreme Court in its recent KSR ruling brings to a screeching halt, many previously issued patents aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Nearly half of all patents that were brought to trial under the old patent system’s definition of obviousness were thrown out. If you apply KSR’s standard of nonobviousness, as the highest court says you must, how many patents would survive? What, you think Microsoft’s patent on IS NOT is not obvious? So the threat isn’t as big as it might appear.
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Andy from the Standards Blog raises an interesting question. With Microsoft rattling its patents sabre in front of OpenOffice.org, what would be the impact on OpenDocument format (ODF)? They recent delivered a self-serving approval statement that was in fact flaunting their lockin. And with many unnamed patents that they brag about, would there be dangers (if any)?
But there is a second point to note, and this one is more revealing, I think. For the first time (that I’m aware of), Microsoft started talking in the Fortune piece about a specific number of patents — 45 — that it claims OpenOffice (and presumably any other implementation of ODF) would infringe. So on the one hand, Microsoft is saying “Nice standard you’ve got there,” while on the other hand, warning “Implement it if you dare, but only for a price.”
Bear in mind that Microsoft’s cash cow is in great danger. 20% of The Register’s readers, for example, already use OpenOffice.
We had an overwhelming response to our reader poll in this area with over 4,800 of you participating, so thanks to those who took the time.
The only competition at the moment is from open source office suites, OpenOffice in particular, which around one in five Reg readers are personally using.
Also consider Google’s explosive growth with a Web-based Office suite.
Google’s newly released online productivity suite Google Apps has already replaced Microsoft Office at more than 100,000 small to medium enterprises and has been deployed at two of the largest companies in the world, according to the search leader’s enterprise product boss.
Lastly, just look at the numbers OpenOffice.org was raving about last year.
Simon’s official response explained the business rationale behind offering support for OpenOffice.org: “OpenOffice.org has become phenomenally successful, Sun alone has shipped more than 70 million copies of OpenOffice.org 2.0,” he said. “Out there, there are maybe 100 million copies of OpenOffice.org. It would be senseless to ignore that opportunity.”
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“Interoperability tax” is a term worth introducing. It is, after all, why Microsoft faces a lot of scrutiny in Europe. Applications and platforms need to be able to communicate owing to some standard protocols. A startup should not need to apply for a mortgage only to be allowed to communicate with another piece of software. The recent claims made by Microsoft complicate things even further, as the following article explains.
Microsoft’s bold patent claims against Linux could complicate the company’s efforts to get along better with the open-source community and develop more interoperable products.
Essentially, Microsoft wants money for interoperability. The nerve of this can only be tolerated in a world where lockin is a privilege, not a dirty little trick. Have a look at the following. Not only might Microsoft deny file/printer access from other platforms, but virtualisation becomes a concern as well.
The company [Microsoft] is working with Novell to tie the Viridian and XenSource hypercall APIs, but don’t hold your breath waiting for interoperability with other Linux vendors.
He also stated Microsoft is working closely with Novell to map its Viridian hypercall API with the XenSource hypercall API, in order to facilitate interoperability. He also implied recent developments by other unnamed Linux engineers and vendors may be making it difficult for Viridian to offer similar interoperability with other builds.
They still refuse to embrace open APIs and want to license proprietary technology instead, for lockin and ‘innovation tax’. This could be another trick for pressusing customers to embrace ‘taxable’ Linux distributions, such as SUSE.
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Microsoft to Linux Distributors: The Clock is Ticking
We have just caught this new article from InfoWorld and the headline says it all:
“Microsoft won’t sue over Linux, for now”
What does the “for now” mean? It means that Microsoft wishes to imply that there’s some inevitability. It means that Microsoft tries to brag a degree of mercy. These words come from one of Microsoft’s most controversial figures, possibly the heir of Martin Taylor, who quit Microsoft last year. As usual, they try to put a positive spin.
Microsoft has made a lot of effort to extend an olive branch to the open-source community…
Let us suppose that one such “olive branch” includes the deal with Novell, which was followed by aggressive threats and demands. It was clearly self serving.
The open source world still yawn at Microsoft’s claims. They chose not to get close to their enemies, but to anger them instead. Here is the reaction from one prominent open source company (Asterisk):
“Obviously I track everything they do, but because they are so late to the voice market, there’s nothing (in the Microsoft volley at open source) that concerns us,” Bill added.
This new cartoon very well reflects on the way many of us feel.
Last but not least, have a look at the ’235 more reasons to love open source’ t-shirt. It shows you the reaction of another open source company. “A collective yawn” best describes the situation, but the media is abuzz with FUD.
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Joining a large number of developers and companies, Google has just expressed its satisfaction with the latest GPLv3 draft.
[Chris Dibona:] The latest revision [of GPLv3] is actually pretty good.
Among others who feel similarly, you might as well include kernel hackers such as Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox. Why was there a scare in the first place? Partly because of brutal attacks from Microsoft lobbyists. Microsoft has already acknowledged that it was GPLv3 that broke the camel’s back and led to its recent onslaught. Microsoft is running out of time, so it’s desparate to secure more Novell-like deals (AKA death knells). The Register has more to add.
According to the comments, reproduced by the Seattle PI, it seems the act of purchasing Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) using certificates that have been distributed by Microsoft will trigger protection for the community from potential prosecution by Microsoft over alleged violations of its IP in Linux and open source.
In other words, Microsoft will be helping undermine its own agreement not to sue customers of Novell, signed last November.
Eben Moglen talks about the licence in this newly-published interview, of which the first part is finally available.
Moglen discusses how the GPL3 relates to different segments of the community, and ponders the structure of the Linux kernel project and how a hypothetical license change might apply.
Within months, Novell’s deal with Microsoft (and its implications) might be history. Yet another evil scheme, which was intended to be an SCO surrogate, will bite the dust.
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Yesterday’s new article on interoperability reminds us of the importance of open and free communication, which is based on established industry standards. Novell is mentioned therein in one particular context.
Microsoft also is cooperating with Linux distributor Novell on a number of sales, marketing, and technical fronts.
Will Microsoft’s saber rattling over Linux patents derail such [interoperability] efforts?
As Shane pointed out, Red Hat does the right thing by demanding the use of free & open protocols, not deals. One must play by the rules of industry as a whole, rather than be subjected to the rules of one reigning vendor.
Consider how Microsoft uses its deal with Novell to squeeze Novell into its own agenda, even optimising things like virtualisation to its own platform, with its own programming frameworks. Zend is probablya victim of the same type of tactics.
Zend is investing in a number of open source projects like Framework aimed at furthering the strength of the PHP technology and its thriving community, as well as collaboration with other software developers such as Microsoft.
The gist of the story is that an Open Source company is being encouraged by Microsoft to improve the performance of their products for Windows, at the expense of Linux. This collaboration, which began in October/November last year, is intended to make Linux servers less attractive to PHP developers. This is not new. Mozilla and Xen are fine examples of the same issue.
Returning to focus on Novell, the company has had a negative impact on Europe’s battles with Microsoft. These are the battles that have gone on for years. They are about refusal to permit free access to Microsoft’s proprietary protocols. Novell was bent the ‘Microsoft way’ to make open protocols less attractive and for the EU harder to win their case (and to change Microsoft’s monopolistic ways).
The Mono/Silverlight situation leads to similar concerns. It (mis)leads Web developers to the illusion that Linux — regardless of the distribution — will be able to access this proprietary and heavily patent-encumbered technology, which is disguised as “Open Source” Novell makes it seem like Linux is converging with Windows based on proprietary, Windows-specific foundations. In case you lack context, here is a quote from one of the most recent articles.
Miguel de Icaza has led the Mono Project, which implements Microsoft’s .NET development platform on Linux and Unix-like platforms, since it was announced in 2001. In that time de Icaza’s enthusiasm for the project has remained fervent.
Discourage the use of Silverlight. Do not let the Net become .NET. As the following two articles stress, it’s Microsoft’s attempt to hijack the Web. Sadly, at present, Novell is helping Microsoft reach that goal.
An industry coalition that has represented competitors of Microsoft in European markets before the European Commission stepped up its public relations offensive this morning, this time accusing Microsoft of scheming to upset HTML’s place in the fabric of the Internet with XAML, an XML-based layout lexicon for network applications.
Software manufacturers, citing 2004 European Commission finding, contend the operating system violates server laws in Europe.
“Vista is the first step of Microsoft’s strategy to extend its market dominance to the Internet,” the ECIS statement said.
It said Microsoft’s XAML markup language was “positioned to replace HTML,” the industry standard for publishing documents on the Internet.
Microsoft’s own language would be dependent on Windows, and discriminatory against rival systems such as Linux, the group says.
They said a so-called “open XML” platform file format, known as OOXML, is designed to run seamlessly only on the Microsoft Office platform.
Addendum: The CNN link is now broken. Here is a a similar story.
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It turns out that Microsoft not only refuses to be specific about so-called infridngements which it counted, but it also refuses to say how these were counted. This leads some to wondering if alleged patents violations were ever truly counted. Was anything at all counted properly? Was it possibly bogus? SJVN weighs in and asks “how dumb does Microsoft think we are?”:
You can’t make this stuff up. Top Microsoft blogger Mary Jo Foley asked, “What kinds of tools/processes did Microsoft use to determine which open-source code allegedly infringes on Microsoft’s patents?” Their answer: “No further details are available at this time.”
Does this remind you of anything? Other than SCO, there is another analogy which Tim O’Reilly, SJVN and even the following blog gleefully mention.
Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin made a speech in Wheeling, W. Va., in which he said he had a list of 205 names of State Department employees “that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party.”
Is Microsoft playing the same game? Has it taken a lesson from sad history and (yet again) decided to equate us to communists? Of course not. That’s just far-fetched, but it has a certain value of hilarity.
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Building legal shields that your foe can see might have a negative effect on your rival’s morale. Having got the confirmed support from OIN, the Linux Foundation, and a several others, the Free Software Foundation enters the scene as well.
Following the attacks earlier this week by Microsoft on the free software movement the Free Software Foundation has set up a new activist wing to fight back.
Microsoft no longer seems motivated to sue. Most would argue it never intended to and, in fact, this has been confirmed by a spokesman/executive of theirs. Yesterday, a field expert argued that Microsoft’s assault is nothing more than an attempt to pressure vendors into Novell-type deals, maybe even collecting ‘innovation tax’, Capone style!
Microsoft’s recent Linux patent violation tirade, courtesy of reporting done by Fortune magazine, might have all the markers of an SCO trial repeat, but IP attorney John Rabena doesn’t think it will end up that way.
Instead, Microsoft is probably jockeying for position to generate more Novell-type agreements with the bigger Linux players, said Rabena, an intellectual property attorney based in the Washington, D.C., offices of Sughrue Mion.
Bear in mind that Microsoft not only uses Novell as precedence. Recently, it mentioned Samsung and Fuji-Xerox as well. We must not let them build a little ‘portfolio’. GPLv3 will put an end to this (either way).
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