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Microsoft Offers More Filesystem Patent Traps (While Suing Over Them Again), Red Hat's Rob Tiller Speaks

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Summary: Microsoft keeps using filesystems to extort money out of Linux users and Red Hat explains its latest amicus brief in Bilski

WE ARE STILL preparing a post about Microsoft's patent lawsuit against Motorola, which ought to serve as a wakeup call to Mono and Moonlight boosters. The short story is that Microsoft is suing Linux again and filesystems seem to be at the core of it.



Coincidentally (or not), it was only days ago that Tuxera made it into the news again, offering a Microsoft-taxed (owing to software patents) filesystem module for Android and Linux. Here is the press release and some press coverage. Tuxera -- or Tax-era as we sometimes call it -- is helping Microsoft put a patent tax on Android and Linux, the #1 competition. We'll shortly write about Microsoft's latest patent attack on Linux, which shows that Microsoft is losing.

Do not let Microsoft spin the words of the EFF to make itself look good or make it seem as though EFF is sympathetic towards Microsoft (to which it's only a case of resolving i4i-like trouble).

What we need now is elimination of mathematical barriers that are imposed by USPTO/ITC/US courts. Red Hat has filed a submission against software patents in the USPTO [1, 2] and Rob Tiller has just said more about it:

When the Supreme Court decided the Bilski case, it didn't speak directly to the issue of software patents. But the Bilski majority emphasized that abstract ideas are not patentable, and recognized that allowing patents for abstract ideas could hinder innovation. Thus there's still room for discussion of the legal standard for when, if ever, there should be patents on software.

The Patent and Trademark Office is on the front line of the issue, since it has the duty of deciding whether to grant patent applications. Whatever interpretation of Bilski it adopts, its decision will affect the patent landscape. It was good, then, to see that this summer the PTO invited public comments on its proposed interpretation of the Bilski case.

This is an issue that Red Hat has been involved in, having previously submitted an amicus brief in Bilski. Earlier this week, Red Hat responded to the PTO's request and submitted an understanding of Bilski that would mitigate some of the harm caused by poor quality software patents.


The "quality" should not matter. All software patents are of low quality because they are an aspiration to lower the quality of software in the market, not improve it. Phrases like "poor quality software patents" are what we're accustomed to hearing from OIN, which is not trying to simply end all software patents. Maybe Tiller just abstains from a strongly-worded article/amicus brief and maybe it's just his background as a lawyer that makes him act this way (software patents are a basis of his career). Either way, the only solution is the total ending of software patents.

“What we [Novell and Microsoft] agreed, which is true, is we'll continue to try to grow Windows share at the expense of Linux. That's kind of our job. But to the degree that people are going to deploy Linux, we want Suse Linux to have the highest percent share of that, because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft. And we took a quota, you could say, to help them sell so much Suse Linux. That's part of the deal. We are willing to do the same deal with Red Hat and other Linux distributors, it's not an exclusive thing. But after a few years of working on this problem, Novell actually saw the business opportunity, because there's so many customers who say, 'Hey look, we don't want problems. We don't want any intellectual property problem or anything else. There's just a variety of workloads where we, today, feel like we want to run Linux. Please help us Microsoft and please work with the distributors to solve this problem, don't come try to license this individually.' So customer push drove us to where we got.”

--Steve Ballmer



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