04.16.09

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Coverage of Microsoft’s Pathetic Patent Attacks on GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, TomTom at 7:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The art of attacking Linux while denying aggressive behaviour

Firey chili
Gentle bluntness

Summary: Microsoft’s legal department — not technical departments — takes on the company’s #1 threat

I

DG HAS JUST provided another reason to bury software patents. A Boston University professor argues that software patents are a recipe for litigation, not friendly compliance, maybe because it’s impossible to know whose program intersects with which ones. It is very different from parallel/identical revelations in the natural sciences. Here is the relevant portion caught by Digital Majority:

For all that, patents are weak protection. “Software patents are four times more likely to be litigated than patents covering an industry for which patents work relatively well, chemical processes,” says Michael Meurer, professor of law at Boston University.

But it’s not just a problem for the software vendors. IT professionals have felt the FUD created by patent squabbles between IT vendors. Microsoft caused quite a stir two years ago with its patent-based threats against users of Linux (albeit no lawsuits ever materialized).

This neglects to mention Microsoft's lawsuit against TomTom, which is currently being discussed in a SFLC audiocast:

Bradley and Karen discuss the settlement of the Microsoft/TomTom law suit and the implications for the software freedom community.

[...]

This show was released on Tuesday 14 April 2009; its running time is 00:34:36.

[...]

# Bradley and Karen were in San Francisco attending the Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit (00:46)
# “Producer Dan” is Dan Lynch of half baked media. (01:10)
# Bradley mentioned Nehru jackets, notably worn by Ricardo Montalbán as Khan in Star Trek. (01:23)
# On 30 March 2009, Microsoft and TomTom settled their patent dispute. (2:30)
# Bradley mentioned two articles on 29 December 2008 and on 29 January 2009 in SD Times where he and Sam Ramji debated Microsoft’s policies toward the FLOSS community. (04:20)
# Karen and Bradley talk about Microsoft’s historic patent threats against Linux. Bradley refers to Microsoft’s assertions just 16 months before its aggression with TomTom. (4:29)
# Bradley mentions that many agree that Microsoft’s FAT file patent should not be considered a valid patent. (6:30)

In light of all this bullying from Microsoft comes another analysis of Microsoft's Linux Foundation invasion.

Most of the pummeling sent Microsoft’s way amounts to two complaints levied against them constantly in the past: 1) you can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth about open source and open standards, and 2) stop using patents as a cudgel to keep other people in line.

[...]

Complaint #2 keeps coming back into the limelight, pretty much whenever the words “Microsoft”, “patent” or “intellectual property” (pick any two) are breathed in the same sentence. My feelings about software patents have been deeply mixed for a long time, trending towards negative. The more I see of how little protection they actually afford, and how much of a hassle they end up being for everyone involved — including the very people who are supposed to benefit from them — the less I’m convinced they need to be defended so aggressively. They create more problems than they solve, even though in the short run it looks like you’re winning.

There is some further discussion in OS News.

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