The Guardian blogs - May 14, 2007\n[URL]http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/technology/archives/2007/05/14/microsoft_takes_on_the_free_world.html[/URL]\n\n\nMicrosoft takes on the free world\n\nBy Jack Schofield\n\n/ Business/ Lunatic Tendencies/ Microsoft/ Open source\n\nGreat headline (above) in Fortune magazine, where an article suggests that\nMicrosoft is threatening a sort of patent Armageddon. The story says:\n\nMicrosoft General Counsel Brad Smith and licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez\nsat down with Fortune recently to map out their strategy for getting FOSS\n[free/open source software] users to pay royalties. Revealing the precise\nfigure for the first time, they state that FOSS infringes on no fewer than\n235 Microsoft patents.\n\nFortune compares the situation to MAD, the threat of "mutually assured\ndestruction" during the cold war. As soon as one side uses nukes, everyone\nloses.\n\nThe warhead-rattling is probably Microsoft creating FUD (an IBM invention\nfor Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) to discourage risk-averse large companies\nfrom using Linux, or at least using a Microsoft-approved version from\nNovell. It doesn't really matter unless Microsoft lists the patents and\nlaunches some lawsuits.\n\nOn the other hand, Microsoft's lawyers may have an exaggerated idea of the\npower of patents, given the billions that the company has recently had to\npay out to patent trolls. Remember, lawyers aren't obliged to act\nsensibly, just legally. Since the US software patent system is an\ninherently bad idea, its patents are granted incompetently, and the court\nprocesses are farcical, it's pretty much a lottery. Microsoft's lawyers\nmight be willing to try a few random bets to see if they win anything -\-\nthough the PR damage would, I expect, far outweigh any cash gains. And\nit's not as though Microsoft needs the money.\n\nIt will be interesting to see what IBM does, since it is even more heavily\ninvested in owning the patent landscape than Microsoft, a latecomer to the\ngame. IBM makes well over 90% of its income from proprietary systems, but\nit does talk up its support for open source. (As well as saving on\nprogramming costs, it is a great way of accumulating customers that can be\nupgraded from Linux to AIX, or to "hosted Linux" on proprietary\nmainframes.) However, IBM's patent-based strategy means it can't ship its\nown Linux distro, which would technically be easy enough to do.\n\nIBM has a stated strategy of collecting money for its intellectual\nproperty, and recently extracted a bundle of cash from Amazon. The IBM\nannouncement says:\n\n Dan Cerutti, IBM's General Manager of Software Intellectual Property,\nsaid: "At IBM, we place a high value on our IP assets and believe this\nagreement substantiates the value of our portfolio. We're pleased this\nmatter has been resolved through negotiation and licensing. We look\nforward to a more productive relationship with Amazon in the future."\n\nGiven that its cash hoard makes it such an attractive target, Microsoft\nmight well benefit from the destruction of the US software patent system,\nif that happened to be the outcome. (No, I don't think it's a\nMachiavellian plot.) It would certainly be better for Microsoft than it\nwould for IBM.\n\n ***\n\nSeattle Post-Intelligencer - May 14, 2007\n[URL]http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/115329.asp[/URL]\n\nAssessing Microsoft's open-source patent claims\n\nby Todd Bishop\n\nAfter suggesting previously that Linux violated its patents, Microsoft got\nmore specific over the weekend, asserting in a Fortune magazine article\nthat it and other open-source programs violate 235 of the company's\npatents. However, Microsoft is stopping short of saying that it will\npursue claims against Linux users. And the company's specificity only goes\nso far. From the article:\n\n [Microsoft's Horacio] Gutierrez refuses to identify specific patents\nor explain how they're being infringed, lest FOSS advocates start filing\nchallenges to them.\n\n But he does break down the total number allegedly violated - 235 -\ninto categories. He says that the Linux kernel - the deepest layer of the\nfree operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer\nhardware - violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user\ninterfaces - essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars\nare set up - run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of\nprograms, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more.\nE-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly\ntransgress 68.\n\nAs Mary Jo Foley notes, background material distributed to the media by\nMicrosoft's public relations firm says that the company was motivated in\npart by proposed changes in the General Public License (GPL) that are\nintended to counter Microsoft's intellectual-property deal with Novell.[QUOTE]\nFrom that background material:[/QUOTE]\n\n Microsoft is discussing the patent issue even more directly now, with\nspecifics about patent numbers and areas of infringement, in response to\ncontinued industry question and concern over the GPLv3's adoption.\nUnfortunately, for customers, the Free Software Foundation's efforts with\nGPLv3 while not harming existing contracts can harm the desired\ninteroperability and open exchange that we have increasingly seen between\nproprietary and open source over the past several years.\n\nIn response, some people are challenging Microsoft to get more specific.\nWrites Larry Augustin: "If Microsoft believes that Free and Open Source\nSoftware violates any of their patents, let them put those patents forward\nnow, in the light of day, where we can all evaluate them on their merits.\nIf not, then stop trying to bully customers into paying royalties to use\nOpen Source. It's time for Microsoft to put up or shut up."\n\nAnd Groklaw, for one, isn't worried: "In short, I took it that the Novell\ndeal isn't working out as well as they thought, and maybe customers aren't\nclamoring for those vouchers, and it is harder to find customers than they\nexpected, and now GPLv3 ruined their dreams of wealth from that sort of a\ndeal, so it's FUD time!"\n\nDwight Davis, an industry analyst at Ovum Summit, said via phone this\nmorning that this clearly marks "a major shift in how Microsoft is dealing\nwith Linux."\n\nHe said he doesn't see Microsoft going so far as to sue businesses that\nuse Linux, many of whom are also its own customers. But the saber-rattling\ncould cause big companies to look again at the software they use and\ncalculate their potential exposure. And in the short run, it could be a\nboon for Novell, because of Microsoft's covenant under that deal to\nrefrain from suing companies that use Novell's Suse Linux.\n\n"It's a risky strategy for Microsoft," Davis said. "It obviously has\ncalculated that the down side it faces is severe enough that it's worth\nalienating a lot of open-source developers and a lot of customers who have\nembraced open source over the years."