John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

FOSS Users to Microsoft: We May Infringe on Your IP, But YOU Infringe on Our Patience

ballmereviltongue.jpgIt’s been a year since Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer first claimed the Linux operating system infringes on Microsoft’s intellectual property and six months since the company’s general counsel, Brad Smith, and vice president of intellectual property and licensing, Horacio Gutierrez, told Fortune magazine that Linux and other open-source software projects between them violate 235 Microsoft patents.

Such anti-Linux declarations being biannual, it’s clear we were about due for another one, which Ballmer dutifully provided last week at a company event in the United Kingdom.

… Our battle is not sort of business model to business model. Our battle is product to product, Windows versus Linux, Office versus OpenOffice.
The only other thing I would say that is probably germane is, we spend a lot of money, the rest of the commercial industry spends a lot of money on R&D. We’ve spent a lot of money licensing patents, when people come to us and say, ‘Hey, this commercial piece of software violates our patent, our intellectual property,’ we’ll either get a court judgment or we’ll pay a big check. And we are going to–I think it is important that the open-source products also have an obligation to participate in the same way in the intellectual property regime.

“That’s why we’ve done the deal we have with Novell, where not only are we working on technical interoperability between Linux and Windows, but we’ve also made sure that we could provide the appropriate, for the appropriate fee, Novell customers to also get essentially the right to use our patented intellectual property. And I think it’s great the way Novell stepped up to kind of say intellectual property matters. People who use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to eventually compensate us.”

So according to Ballmer, if you’re a Red Hat customer you may have an “undisclosed balance-sheet liability” to deal with in the near future. And if you’re not, you probably want to stay away from free software entirely. Because, as Groklaw’s Pamela Jones suggests, Microsoft apparently plans to eradicate it.

Ballmer “has just clearly outlined how Microsoft intends to extinguish Linux as we know it,” Jones writes. “Microsoft knows full well that in any intellectual-property regime based on software patents, particularly when used as weapons against innovation to protect and reward the old, no one can compete with Microsoft. They have all the money. FOSS is written by individuals who don’t have a pile of gold under the bed to go to court and get a court judgment or pay ‘a big check.’ Ballmer of course knows that. So this is the anticompetitive plan, under the guise of everyone having to play by the same rules.”


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