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Breaking Down ‘Patent Fronts’ Against Linux

Posted in FUD, GNOME, GNU/Linux, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Mono, Open XML, Patents, Protocol, Samba at 6:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A shallow glance in the news yesterday brought up a set of interesting articles. They very well show that the patent-fueled fight against Linux comes not from a single front, but from several. In order to understand the threat better, here is an explanation about 3 such fronts (among more), accompanies by short fragments of text from the news.

OOXML/Mono (Document Exchange, Programming)

Yesterday we mentioned Mono again. We raised some concerns about GNOME’s stance on OOXML and we continue to be worried about the direction taken with Mono, which we were told is not as tightly-integrated with GNOME as we had feared. An open letter that addressed GNOME’s policies reached the front page of Slashdot and stimulated the following new article.

What is Miguel de Icaza’s latest game? His obsession with tailgating everything that Microsoft develops – and trying to impress the company by producing Linux equivalents – now seems to be spreading to others as well.

“There is another way and we have covered the alternative routes many times before.”The article takes somewhat of an ad hominem approach, but the fact remains that one person’s vision will guide the project’s direction as long as there is no vocal and practical resistance. There are two issues to consider here.

First, putting aside the impracticality of incorporating OOXML support into GNOME and forgetting about the GNOME Foundation’s controversial stance on OOXML, there is a serious patent issue that is being ignored. A territory of software patents is being approached and since GNOME has become a de facto desktop in Novell’s products, there are reasons to pause and think.

Secondly, Mono, among other pieces of the stack that mimic Microsoft’s technology, bring great patent issues to mind. There is another way and we have covered the alternative routes many times before.

Europe/Samba (Communication Protocols)

In Europe, an agreement made with Microsoft contained some Samba/GPL 'poison'. This is likely to have been no coincidence or an accident. The main conflict lies within the fact that software patents are part of the agreement (yes, software patents… in Europe!). This puts in jeopardy the role of Linux in the server room.

European businesses that have thus far shied away from Linux might not be more inclined to go open source as a result of the restrictions imposed by the commission.

“Out Portfolio is Bigger Than Your Portfolio”

Another development worth mentioning is the news about Microsoft buying assets from a Thai company.

Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash., software giant, said it agreed to acquire software, intellectual property and other assets from Global Care Solutions, a closely held Bangkok developer of health-information systems.

Mind the bits about intellectual property and by all means remember that Microsoft likes to boast its large collection of patents. Rarely does it list specific infringement though. Patents are merely a tool to gain awe and then terrorise using the power scale, not the power of an actual bite.

Microsoft is likely to continue to praise “intellectual property” and mock everyone which it claims does not honour it. It’s a fight which is based on perceived moral grounds.

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