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05.19.07

Patent Trolling Versus the US Economy

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 12:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Let’s remind ourselves that the “be very afraid tours” can be effective. I have just heard from a friend whose company mentioned the “balance-sheet liability” remark from Steve Ballmer and then weighed it as a factor in decision making. Matt Asay opines that this tactic of intimidation may only be the beginning.

Apparently, as my friend suggested, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Maybe Gates, when he finally leaves, can set up a patent troll system of his own.

This would be unsurprising. For a long time I have argued that Bill Gates’ charity endeavours will be used for political manipulations around the world. He has already been able to change laws on DRM circumvention outside the United States, maybe even the validity of software patents. More than once in the past, a charitable contribution was accompanies by a Microsoft deal that barred adoption of Linux (a case of buying a country’s loyalty). This does, however, bring up many other concerns. Among them you have the impact of software developers, to whom software patents are discriminatory and predatory. They elevate the entry point and they offer no peace of mind. Have a look at this repetition of an argument we have made before.

Zemlin was more blunt, calling Microsoft’s “posturing” as “empty threats from a scared giant whose monopoly is being challenged.”

[...]

However, Merriam said that while larger companies are less likely to worry about Microsoft’s threats, some startups might be afraid that the company could sink their businesses by suing for patents, and may consider moving offshore to escape possible litigation.

Software development, whether Microsoft will admit this or not, benefits tremendously from sharing, which is something that patents sometimes prevent. This results in smaller innovative value, harming technology and science.

Now good software has always been written by good software developers without regard for how they share it. There is a discipline to developing good software involving inspection, source code management, build automation, test automation, and facilities to encourage discussion and decision making. We all know what we should do to develop good software, but good software developers know of no other way.

Free software and patents do not mix. Any attempt to introduce a tax-saturated software development ecosystem is an attempt to destroy what Microsoft is unable to compete against. Any such attempt would result in Free software development going overseas. From there, a thriving set of projects will evolve and then battle America. Rather than Free software having its seeds grow in America, it may be driven elsewhere. Given the inevitability of Free software, Microsoft sends tomorrow’s software industry en route to oblivion. But only in America.

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