Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft's Latest Mischiefs Justify Need to Watch the Patent Trolls

Steve Ballmer license
Image from Wikimedia



Summary: Lessons that can be learned from Microsoft's latest patent strategy and hostile indoctrination that it spreads to shops across the nation

MICROSOFT has attempted to have patent trolls attack GNU/Linux, according to reputable sources including OIN, the Linux Foundation, and even Red Hat's legal staff. We covered this in [1, 2, 3, 4]. With Acacia in mind, it is possible that Microsoft did something similar before, and very successfully so. Here is what Glyn Moody thinks:



This is truly bizarre. Why would Microsoft unload a bunch of “Linux-focused patents” - stuff you would think it would fondle lovingly as it ruminated endlessly on the damage they might do in terms of FUD, if nothing else. But no, not only does Microsoft sell them, but they end up in positively the worse place possible, from Microsoft's point of view: a Linux-friendly bunch with the avowed aim of keeping such patents safely locked away.


Michael from the OSI (and from Red Hat) wrote about it last night, remarking in conclusion that:

I have long believed that software patents are like landmines, devices that have unpredictable destructive power, and a threat to innovators who often cannot know of their existence until the damage has been done. This latest chapter in the story tells me that they are more dangerous than ever, and that it is more urgent than ever to mount a serious campaign to disarm them all, before it is too late. If we can elect a government that believes that "open source is the best form of civic participation", then we can surely find the political will to make open source (and free software) innovation 100% legal. There are many places to make your voices heard. In the USA, you can start with End Software Patents. In Europe, No Software Patents!. And there are many others. It may seem like a bother, but sometimes political action is needed to enjoy necessary freedoms.


Microsoft lobbyists are directly opposing these initiatives using AstroTurf techniques. Will IBM help support the likes of FFII or will it carry on lobbying to keep software patents in tact by lying about Free software?

...a recent nugget buried in IBM's amicus brief for the Bilski case takes a novel slant on the issue. Big Blue told the US Supreme Court that software patent lockdowns are actually the secret to open source's success.


Any remarks, Bob? Will IBM make a public retraction like it typically does after such blunders?

Here is another new gem:

DRM Company: If You Think Patents Are Bad, You're Un-American



In our recent discussion about another bad idea for a new type of DRM that will surely fail, Steve R. pointed us to an article in Forbes about Intertrust, the DRM company, who apparently is cooking up yet another DRM scheme. But, unlike the system we talked about in the original post -- where the guy noted that the concept had to be widely adopted as a standard, and not protected, Intertrust goes on and on and on about how it's got a ton of DRM patents to protect this new DRM scheme. This isn't a surprise. Intertrust's entire business model was based on suing Microsoft for patent infringement.


We shall carry on watching Microsoft-tied patent trolls and their satellites. Microsoft vehemently hates GNU/Linux and it is actively attacking, although it may require some leaks and analysis to show. How low has Microsoft sunk? To quote DesktopLinux:

Clearly, Microsoft has increasingly been spreading fear, uncertainty, or doubt (FUD) about Linux, as it has about Apple's Mac OS X in its recent "Laptop Hunters" TV ads. Last month, Dell Computer took it upon itself to stand up and refute Microsoft statements about high Linux netbook returns, saying that Dell's Linux returns were roughly equivalent to those for Windows-based netbooks. Canonical has also questioned Microsoft's statements about netbook returns. Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence suggests that Microsoft has been increasing its pressures on both PC vendors and retailers to steer clear of Linux netbooks.

Microsoft appears to be taking Linux seriously, despite the fact that by some counts Linux represents only a single percentage of the overall PC market (others place it higher, but not by much). In an SEC filing posted this summer, Microsoft added Linux distro vendors Canonical and Red Hat to its list of perceived competitors for Microsoft's Client division.


Microsoft has been suffering financially for over a year. It's largely because of GNU/Linux and other GPL-licensed software [1, 2]. But Microsoft will not compete; as history teaches, Microsoft will try to just squash the competition in all sort of nefarious ways.

"On the same day that CA blasted SCO, Open Source evangelist Eric Raymond revealed a leaked email from SCO's strategic consultant Mike Anderer to their management. The email details how, surprise surprise, Microsoft has arranged virtually all of SCO's financing, hiding behind intermediaries like Baystar Capital."

--Bruce Perens

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