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Impressed by OpenOffice, Bill Gates Schemes to Use Software Patents Against It

Posted in Bill Gates, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OpenOffice, Patents at 6:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”

Bill Gates (when Microsoft was smaller)

THE sheer hypocrisy rears its ugly head. Bill Gates applied to Open/StarOffice the same strategy (and hypocrisy) that he applies to GNU/Linux. Having realised that Microsoft faces competitive pressure from more affordable products, he reaches out for his software patents cabinet. It’s a complete change compared to the company’s philosophy as reflected in the quote above. Nowadays, as Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps points it, “other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio.”

Eric Rudder, a manager whose role we witnessed in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], brings up the following article from CNET to inform Bill Gates:

Software maker Star Division said today that it is offering the latest version of its desktop application suite for free download off its corporate Web site.

StarOffice 5.0 Personal Edition is a productivity package which runs on Windows 95, 98, NT, Solaris, Linux, O/S 2, and Java, and consists of word processing, spreadsheet, graphic design, presentation, database front-end, HTML editing, mail, event calendar, and formula editing applications.

Here is the reply from Gates, as seen in Exhibit px04023 (1998) [PDF]. This was sent to Jon DeVann, Steven Sinofsky, and Bill Neukom, with a carbon copy going to John Mason.

From: Bill Gates
Sent: Monday, December 07 1998 8:28 PM
To: Jon DeVann; Steven Sinofsky; Bill Neukom (LCA)
Cc: John Mason (LCA)
Subject: FW: free desktop suite from star

Importance: Low

Attorney client privileged

An Interesting development…

At some point we will have to consider the patents they violate.

I am unclear of what their business strategy is with the free version. It is a good product developed by a surprisingly lean team of people.

What led to this patent fetish after denouncing patents when Microsoft was a small company? And again, Gates used the same strategy against GNU/Linux, as other memos from Comes vs Microsoft have shown. It continues to this date because Steve Ballmer says the darnest things, e.g. “People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.”

This is merely the tip of the Comes vs Microsoft iceberg. It’s an unexplored treasure trove which appeared only briefly before Microsoft paid a fortune to make it vanish (in 2007). There’s plenty more where that came from.

The exhibit is added below, in full.

Appendix: Comes vs. Microsoft – exhibit px04023, as text

From: Bill Gates
Sent: Monday, December 07 1998 8:28 PM
To: Jon DeVann; Steven Sinofsky; Bill Neukom (LCA)
Cc: John Mason (LCA)
Subject: FW: free desktop suite from star

Importance: Low

Attorney client privileged

An Interesting development…

At some point we will have to consider the patents they violate.

I am unclear of what their business strategy is with the free version. It is a good product developed by a surprisingly lean team of people.

—Original Message—

From: Eric Rudder
Sent: Monday, December 07 1998 1:55 PM
To: Bill Gates
Subject: free desktop suite from star

Subject: free desktop suite from star

Star offers desktop suite for free

it’s scary the corel’s code is potentially in play too … if i were oracle or sun, i’d think abt either supporting star, or picking up a snapshot of corel really cheaply, and offering at an insanely low price.


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  1. twitter said,

    February 10, 2009 at 11:02 am


    Looks like he failed to use patents against OO and had to play format and patent games with OOXML. Their previous failure does not bode well for their current efforts but their failure to gain traction with OOXML makes this a moot point. The best and most natural thing that can happen is for people to use ODF instead of M$’s disfunctional non standards.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 10, 2009 at 11:17 am


    They actually signed a related patent deal with Sun and in May 2007 they threatened OOo in public, using mythical software patents they refuse to specify.

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