10.02.07

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Businesses Haven’t Software Patent Risk But They Have Fear After Novell Sellout

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Interview, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, OpenOffice at 9:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gauging delusion and reality

There is this couple of interesting new surveys and they reveal facts which are only slightly conflicting. The first one suggests that proprietary software is perceived as equally ‘risky’ compared to open source software.

Interesting, neither open source nor proprietary software score well on “IP protection.” Either they’re both equally good or they’re both equally bad. Either way, they don’t seem to offer distinct advantages, one over the other, according to the customers surveyed.

This is reassuring to know, but have a look at this other new survey.

A concerned 40% of respondents were uneasy that open source software would leave them vulnerable to censure or litigation from commercial software vendors crying patent or trademark infringement.

These fears are unfounded, according to Andrew Katz, a solicitor at UK law firm Moorcrofts, as US patents do not apply under UK law.

“The UK is in a fantastic position. The chances of coming across patent infringement is vastly less,” Katz told delegates at a London open source event earlier this month.

This indicates that perception is unaligned with reality. This truly means that FUD has had an effect and that people’s mis/understanding and fear of the issue is exaggerated. Just recall what Microsoft did to OpenOffice.org 5 month ago, as the following new article from Microsoft’s own press reminds us.

[Q:] The Microsoft patent imbroglio earlier this year largely targeted the Linux developer community, but OpenOffice.org fell into the crosshairs as well. Is there any impact on your group?

[A:] Looked at from the other side of the Atlantic, nothing in the U.S. patent arena surprises me anymore. The bottom line for OpenOffice.org is that we know where our code has come from. All our code is open source for anyone to inspect; we have nothing to hide. If someone believes we have to stop coding because they have a patent on how developers click a mouse, then that’s fine by me — I’m afraid I’ve been in the IT industry too long to worry unduly about FUD.

“To Microsoft, FUD is all about economics. Apparently, it is to Novell as well.”When Microsoft struck with that FUD back in May (you can ‘thank’ Novell for this), OpenOffice.org developers described the move by Microsoft as a “desperate act” and hit back hard at Microsoft.

The take-home message here is that real risk of software patents (mind the fact that “intellectual property” is not patents) is very low, but to some people, the perceived risk has been affected by FUD. This needs to be corrected.

To Microsoft, FUD is all about economics. Apparently, it is to Novell as well.

Related old article:

Microsoft/Novell agreement may exclude patent protection for Wine, OpenOffice

This means that Microsoft can still sue individual SUSE Linux customers who are using products designed to replicate Microsoft products and that also infringe on Microsoft’s patents.

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