Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Takes Stage Centre in the Year of the Patent Trolls (2007)

In one older post we appended an extensive list of poor Microsoft patents. It happens to include one which made the front page of Slashdot approximately a year ago and has just been brought back to light.

From my read of a Microsoft Patent application just published today, technology is being proposed that will make it impossible for users who download multimedia files to play these files unless advertising messages inserted within these files are viewed.


It isn't hard to see that some consumer-hostile methods are seen as patentable, never mind how trivial they may also be.

In other news, in this stormy sea of patent lawsuits, which are clearly on the rise, Microsoft remains among the top targets.

Defendants Sued The Most, October-December 2007 (through December 18)

1. Microsoft (12) 2t. Apple (7) 2t. HP (7)

[...]

Defendants Sued The Most, 2006-2007 (through December 18)

1. Microsoft (43) 2. Verizon (29) 3t. Target (28)

[...]


You probably get the picture. Although Microsoft contended in the early 90s that software patents are just a weapon for monopolists, it is presently caught committing those same sins it spoke once about -- sins from which it suffers as well. There are no winners in these situations, except for lawyers. The biggest sufferers are small businesses, assuming the large ones choose [cre 625 not to behave like gentlemen]. Yes, that's a reference to May's incidents. It's about that jar of worms Microsoft decided to open. InternetNews has published an annual summary that includes a concise roundup of these events.

Patents, Patents and Microsoft

The GPL version 3 process was strongly influenced by Microsoft and its patents. While Microsoft has argued for years that Linux may infringe on Microsoft's intellectual property, it was in 2007 that Microsoft gave the infringements a number. Microsoft alleged that Open Source software infringed on some 235 of its patents. Steve Ballmer himself beat the patent drum telling people that Red Hat and others have an obligation to pay up.

Some did pay up.

Xandros, Linspire and TurboLinux all signed up for Microsoft's patent protection plan. The risk associated with patent infringement were all cited by IDC as a barrier to adoption for Linux.

At no time during 2007 did Microsoft actually name any of the patents. Some Microsoft executives did talk about interoperability and the need to build an IP licensing bridge with open source.

Microsoft itself crossed the bridge in 2007, the bridge to Open Source licensing. In October, Microsoft's Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL) were blessed by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) as bona fide Open Source licenses.

Microsoft though wasn't the only company in 2007 to allege patent infringement in Open Source code. Patent holding firm IP Innovation alleged that Novell and Microsoft infringed on its intellectual property. IP Innovations has since stated that its legal challenge is not a challenge against Open Source itself.


As the old saying goes, "it was a very good year" -- for patent trolls.

Sellout

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