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Ballmer Suggests Linux Distros Will Soon Have to Pay Up 520

Posted by Zonk
from the oh-good-more-smack-talk dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Via Groklaw comes comments from Microsoft's Steve Ballmer at a UK event, in which the company once again threatens Linux distributions that haven't signed up with their program. '"People who use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us," Ballmer said last week ... Ballmer praised Novell at the UK event for valuing intellectual property, and suggested that open source vendors will be forced to strike similar deals with other patent holders. He predicted that firms like Eolas will soon come after open source vendors or users. Microsoft paid $521m to settle a patent claim by Eolas in August.'"
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Ballmer Suggests Linux Distros Will Soon Have to Pay Up

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  • by ubrgeek (679399) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:34AM (#20909857)
    I couldn't tell from the article, but which intellectual property is MS saying open source solutions are infringing on? Or am I misunderstanding the issue?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by j35ter (895427)
      RTFA!!!
      It says *Balmer* made the statement. Why do you think there might be any truth in his saying ? :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ahhh, gotcha.

        A chair throwing patent.
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:38AM (#20909903)
      I couldn't tell from the article, but which intellectual property is MS saying open source solutions are infringing on?

            Not just from the article. They refuse to say, have been asked to spell it out, and continue to threaten without making any specific claim. After a while you just learn to tune them out.
      • by Jerry (6400) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:59AM (#20910105)
        They refuse to say, have been asked to spell it out, and continue to threaten without making any specific claim.

        Which is exactly why they are, by now, UNENFORCEABLE.

        The IP laws require that when an IP owner notices an infringement they have an obligation to notify the infringer of the exact nature of the infringement in order to allow them to mitigate the damages by removing the infringement. Failure to do that will render any subsequent claims for damage moot.
        • by dpilot (134227) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:06AM (#20910191) Homepage Journal
          Amusing thought...

          With patent infringement, there's "accidental infringement" and "willful infringement," with treble damages on the latter, because of evil intent.

          At the moment, the Linux camp is milling around saying, "Patents, what patents? Show us the patents!" and it can be pretty well "documented" with press releases and blogs. Seems to me that it would be pretty darned hard to show any sort of evil intent.

          But there are also laws against frivolous lawsuits, SLAPP, and such. Seems to me that threatening IP action without specifics, without opportunity to mitigate, especially when the threatenee has been asking for those specifics, ought to go a long way to landing the threatener in that "bad lawsuit" camp.
          • by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:28AM (#20910451)
            Just posing a couple questions here...

            Don't these kinds of threats put MS in legal jeopardy? Couldn't Linux companies sue MS claiming that Balmer's statements are harming their business, especially in light of the fact that MS refuses to identify these patents? I would think that this situation could cause more problems with the EU.

            The DOJ of course is completely hopeless at this point, but other countries can still offer some relief.
            • by fork_daemon (1122915) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:17AM (#20911051) Journal

              Don't these kinds of threats put MS in legal jeopardy? Couldn't Linux companies sue MS claiming that Balmer's statements are harming their business, especially in light of the fact that MS refuses to identify these patents? I would think that this situation could cause more problems with the EU.

              The DOJ of course is completely hopeless at this point, but other countries can still offer some relief.
              In my opinion, Companies like RedHat, IBM and the members of the OIN should counter sue MS for trying to threaten their customers without giving any proof to their claims. Everyone has been saying this from ever. If Linux infringes the patents, tell us which one. We'll redesign our code accordingly. If they do not tell what patents are being infringed, then there is nothing we can do to find out that. Windows code is not open. Linux is. Everyone is free to look at the code. It is more likely, MS infringed on GPL and other opensources Licenses by copying code from Linux to be used by them. Their code is binary. No source to check. How are we to know what they got in there?
            • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:25AM (#20911165)
              The patents are a meaningless threat in the EU at this time, as software patents are currently not legal or enforceable across the EU. Given that, the EU antitrust court is unlikely to do anything with regards such threats that are pretty much only relevent within the US. Fraid you're stuck with needing the DOJ to instigate antitrust proceedings. I share your lack of belief that the DOJ will actually do anything.
              • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2&gdargaud,net> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:20PM (#20918449) Homepage
                Last months I was at a meeting for european Linux admins and a guest speaker was a patent expert. Apparently he must have missed a memo because he started his pitch with "we are looking for experts such as yourself to come work with us on software patents as they are going to happen in Europe soon"... Amusing mayhem ensued. But what striked me most are two things:
                • out of 80 admins only 3 were vocal about the issues surrounding software patents. Okay, we were very vocal. But the others didn't seem to have a clue.
                • the next day the guy came up to us 3 specifically with a $trong recruiting pitch, saying that since we already knew the subject we had to come and work with him as there would be now way to avoid software patents anyway. I countered by saying that when China will decide that any patent is meaningless, then all bets would be off. But he countered that one by saying that China is the fastest growing market for patents on the planet...

                Interesting discussion anyway, even though I find the mix of lack of morality and the excess of $ deeply disturbing. Call me an idealist and cry me a river.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Courageous (228506)
              Don't these kinds of threats put MS in legal jeopardy? Couldn't Linux companies sue MS claiming that Balmer's statements are harming their business,...

              It would seem to me to be a variation of Slander of Title, but whether or not a "variation" counts here I do not know.

              C//
            • by nomadic (141991) <.nomadicworld. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @11:23AM (#20912019) Homepage
              Couldn't Linux companies sue MS claiming that Balmer's statements are harming their business, especially in light of the fact that MS refuses to identify these patents?

              In a lot of jurisdictions there's a civil claim for "tortious interference with business relationships", which I think this may fall under.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by s4m7 (519684)

              Couldn't Linux companies sue MS claiming that Balmer's statements are harming their business

              Sure. Show me the Linux company with a warchest that makes it worthwhile to pursue action against Microsoft's legal juggernaut. Even the theoretical maximum damages you could claim aren't worth the substantial risk of losing. If Microsoft has just one patent that's being infringed by just one Linux company, their claims are "valid" and your suit tanks. Meanwhile you've exposed yourself to counterclaims, and risk creating a lot of work and headache for the entire open source community. Nobody really wan

              • by JWW (79176) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @12:09PM (#20912781)
                There is only one company out there that champions Linux that could withstand this onslaught.

                IBM

                They also happen to be one of the few companies in the world that could effectively retaliate.

                Look for it to go down something like this....

                1) Microsoft threatens a Linux company, lets say.... Red Hat.
                2) IBM buys controlling interest in Red Hat.

                now it then becomes either.

                Microsoft backs off this patent bullshit.

                or

                Global Thermonuclear Patent War.

                Also, the amount of ill will generated by Microsoft should they choose to go after users directly instead of Linux companies. If they ever came after me looking for money because I downloaded Ubuntu. I would go from reluctant use of MS products to incredibly vocal sworn enemy of absolutely everything Microsoft really quickly.
          • by Chemicalscum (525689) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:02AM (#20910865) Journal
            It seems to me that these statements by Ballmer are a clear Lanham Act violation under Section 43(a)(1)(B) which can be used when false or misleading statements are alleged to have hurt a business.

            Except since Ballmer was speaking in London it is not clear if US law applies here - maybe thats why he made his statement there. Turn up the FUD escape the legal consequences.

            • Slander? (Score:5, Informative)

              by twoshortplanks (124523) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:51AM (#20911525) Homepage
              The law of slander in the UK is such that you can sue someone who makes statements that cause harm to you or your company. While truth remains a defense against slander, in the UK the onus of proof is on the person who made the statements.

              For example, if I said in a public forum in the UK "Your company conducts illegal acts" I could be sued for loss of reputation (which has a monetary value) unless I could prove what I said was true. The company suing me would not be required to prove that it did not conduct illegal acts - the fact that I couldn't prove it did would be considered damning enough.

              Slander (and libel) have 'fair comment' clauses, but a particular allegation such as IP infringement would not exercise them.

              (Nope, not a lawyer, but like the rest of the internet, I play one on Slashdot)
          • SCO all over again? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:17AM (#20911049) Homepage Journal
            At the moment, the Linux camp is milling around saying, "Patents, what patents? Show us the patents!" and it can be pretty well "documented" with press releases and blogs. Seems to me that it would be pretty darned hard to show any sort of evil intent.

            This just reminds me of the whole SCO case (which was meant to be a front for Microsoft anyhow). We will threaten you without any evidence and hope that you are too scared to stand on your own. Does this not sound like Mafia tactics? Shouldn't this be illegal, if it isn't already?
          • by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:37AM (#20911319) Journal
            However Linus has stated publicaly and in emails to developers that they should not seek out patent filings due to tripple damages of willful infringement. THis can be used to show Linus had willful intent to steal the ideas of Microsoft and of course their lawyers will say the fact that he said this after SCO sued for patent infringement showed foreseeable harm since they were all aware they could be sued again. sigh

            It will not be good for Linus in court.

            Also free developers can not afford attorneys and an injuction to halt linux development could also be a real possibility. THe good news is IBM and Redhat could file a friend of the court and let linus continue on the kernel tree on of their serves since they have the resources to fight MS.

            However many corporations have anti gnu and linux policies in their IT deparments. Several banks already ban it thanks to SCO and something like this from MS will scare many CIO's to steer clear of it to avoid getting fired in case they open their employers to liability. "Just pick windows, its the safe bet!"

            What shocks me is that this is legal.
            • by XenoPhage (242134) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @11:04AM (#20911703) Homepage

              What shocks me is that this is legal.
              Why should this shock you? If there's no law against it, it's usually because no one has taken the issue to court. We're talking about a multi-billion dollar corporation, known for using strong-arm tactics, threatening what amounts to a bunch of independent developers who probably have enough trouble ensuring that there's food on the table and a roof over their head.

              Think of it this way, the big corporation has money to burn on this issue and can easily wait out the small developer. It's extremely likely that the small developer, who can't afford a high powered lawyer, will run out of legal funds very rapidly and have to give up on the case. Microsoft isn't after money, at least not directly. They're much more interested in halting the development of an OS that, over time, has the potential to crush their business.

              The sad part is that they can halt Linux growth just as quickly, and just as effectively, by never actually taking this to court. They're already off to an amazing start with the "IP deals" they've made with various vendors. The fact that some vendors are making deals with Microsoft is enough for all the PHBs throughout the world to sit up and take notice. While Linux may be the better alternative in many cases, PHBs will definitely err on the side of caution and try to "protect" the business by staying out of the murky waters. Better to deploy Windows and have receipts and licenses to prove it, than to deploy Linux and get sued later.

              Regardless, I find it in bad taste. Instead of working to make a better OS, Microsoft is resorting to FUD. It's like the bully at school. He's big and mean looking, and you don't know if he can kick your ass or not. You're smarter, dress better, and will go farther in life, but he still scares you. Do you really want to stand up to him and hope you can deal with him? Or do you just hand over your lunch money and hope he goes away?
              • by Risen888 (306092) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @11:55AM (#20912529)
                Topic drift alert...

                The sad part is that they can halt Linux growth just as quickly, and just as effectively, by never actually taking this to court. They're already off to an amazing start with the "IP deals" they've made with various vendors. ... PHBs will definitely err on the side of caution and try to "protect" the business by staying out of the murky waters. Better to deploy Windows and have receipts and licenses to prove it, than to deploy Linux and get sued later.


                While I agree with your analysis, I don't think it proves your point (about halting Linux growth). FTR, I'm talking about the desktop here. Linux owns the server space, MSFT's hardly even a relevant player, that's not going to change. Money talks, and while MSFT's got a lot of it, so does IBM. So does Sun. So do lots of other very large and well-regarded companies. Shit, I'm drifting away from my already drifted point! Which is this:

                The great big boulder that will be desktop Linux will never start rolling with business. Regardless of lawsuits, IP deals, FUD, or counter-FUD. Not gonna happen. There will always be an excuse somewhere up the corporate ladder to "play it safe" and stay with Windows. Whenever someone tries a "from the top down" push for Linux, MSFT buys them off or scares business away from them, and that's not going to change anytime soon either. Linux on the desktop, therefore, must come from the ground up. Which is good, and inevitable. That's how Free Software works. That's how Free Software has always worked, and it works well, and even though it's slow, it's a steady growth. The Linux userbase grows every year, while MSFT has nowhere else to go. It'll happen. Not only will it happen, basic economics dictates that it must happen.

                Patience, grasshopper.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by gstoddart (321705)

              However Linus has stated publicaly and in emails to developers that they should not seek out patent filings due to tripple damages of willful infringement. THis can be used to show Linus had willful intent to steal the ideas of Microsoft and of course their lawyers will say the fact that he said this after SCO sued for patent infringement showed foreseeable harm since they were all aware they could be sued again.

              It can also be used to show that Linus made it a point of implementing the ideas that a skilled

      • by arkham6 (24514) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:31AM (#20910485)
        This translates to:

        We don't have anything specific yet,but we are busy digging through the source looking for infringing content. As soon as we get something even semi legit we will show you. Until then, we will make idle threats.
    • by germ!nation (764234) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:40AM (#20909925)
      If SCO has taught us anything it's that you don't have to tell anyone the details, even the judge.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jaxoreth (208176)

      which intellectual property is MS saying open source solutions are infringing on?
      The ones in the flying pink teapot the size of a refrigerator.
    • Well not software patents in the UK.... they are supposed to be non enforcible.
    • but which intellectual property is MS saying open source solutions are infringing on?

      Let's make it simple.. Take a lot of code and patent a few ideas. Someone else does the same. In review as your code gets complicated, you may very well have used someone else's IP in your implimentation. Often in a patent dispute regarding code, the countersuit results in a cross license agreement. IBM and others have war chests full of patents to protect FOSS against attacks.

      MS hints at an attack as part of the FUD ca
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CodeShark (17400)
        The problem is that most of the PHB's [wikipedia.org] in the world is that they won't see your comment, and those that have Red Hat Linux on the table for consideration may see the innaccurate statements and accept as real and shift their purchasing $$ to another company, say, Novell's Linux or if Ballmer's wet dreams come true --an MS platform.

        What it points out is that for the giant in Redmond, business is business, and the truth doesn't matter. Microsoft also has a nickname (Microsloth) for much of their own IP -- it's

    • by Linker3000 (626634) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:41AM (#20910611) Journal
      Dunno, but I note that at least one M$ product infringes my Patent #911112999:

      "A method of arranging for the decimal value 65535, and calculations resulting therein, to be consistently rendered as 100000 so as to confuse the shit out of those persons performing the calculation"
    • OOXML (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jafoc (1151405) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:11AM (#20910987) Homepage
      I'm not authorized by Ballmer to speak about what he may have had in mind, if anything, but Microsoft claims that their OOXML file format which they're (despite the initial failure) still trying to get approved as an international standard can be used "on Linux" (this claim was made in the standardization committe on this matter in Switzerland, of which I am a member) and they are offering (unacceptable) terms and conditions for using their patents on this "standard".

      Microsoft hasn't honored my numerous requests to provide a list of the patent numbers is question even though I demonstrated that the ISO/IEC directives say clearly that patents should be disclosed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Billly Gates (198444)
        Don't forget mono either and of course patents for true type fonts. If gnome becomes a liability because Miguel thought .NET was so cool I will be quite pissed and switch to KDE. I have had a feeling mono and the upcoming silvermoon is just a way to trojan horse all the linux distros with ms IP and Miguel might be in on it.

  • by mikesd81 (518581) <`mikesd1' `at' `verizon.net'> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:34AM (#20909859) Homepage
    It seems that Microsoft is becoming more and more like a little kid every day. I just don't understand how in any normal world they can stay in business. All they do is spit out the same FUD every chance they get. It's like the boy who called wolf.
    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:39AM (#20910573) Journal

      No, not because of linux on the desktop, not even of linux on the server. What it is scared of that with 95% of the desktop it still does NOT control the market. Oh it controls consumers but consumers are fickle. Consumers will buy whatever is cool at the moment. iPhone? Not MS software. iPod not MS software. Mobile phones not MS software. Media centers not MS software. Cars not MS software. Biggest selling console not MS software.

      MS has had very little success getting its software onto something else then the PC despite the fact that many would claim that to Joe Public computing IS microsoft. Just how then do you explain that so few choose their phone to have a windows version? Why does the Zune not sell?

      And all the while that pesky opensource remains there, undefeated, unwilling to adopt, making small gains perhaps but never just giving up like it is supposed too.

      No linux on the desktop ain't going to happen anytime soon, but that is not what MS is really afraid off, it doesn't fear that it is going to loose 95% of the desktop market, but that that market itself will stop growing or even shrink.

      Is that likely? Don't matter, what matters is what MS thinks. They been pushing the end of the desktop of ages (and then claiming it will outlive everything) so they worry when they don't see themselves being the software supplier of choice in this new market.

      Take google, is google ran its servers on windows as it should (in MS view) do you really think Ballmer would be throwing any chairs? No, it is the realisation that MS one way or another is NOT making a penny out of google (well a few thousand desktop sales perhaps but who cares about that).

      None of the mobile phone companies have yet properly chosen Windows as the one and only OS and just keep on insisting on experimenting with software that does not make MS any money.

      Nintendo? Do you really think MS was pleased when they included opera as the browser? Do you realize just what this means? Several MILLION people will see for the first time in their live a NEW browser. MS does not like this, it does not survive well when people have a choice, especially when this choice is the default and just works out of the box. That ain't how MS works.

      It gets worse, not just are individual consumers learning there are choices and not choosing MS as their software supplier, companies like IBM, HP, Dell are showing that they are far from the loyal lapdogs MS thought they were. Oh the revolution ain't there yet, it may never happen, but if you are a despot and you hear a voice shouting OFF WITH HIS HEAD and you see your "loyal" guards knod in agreement, it is time to worry.

      If you think a company like IBM would not relish a change to see MS humbled, you do not understand human nature.

      Then their are countries, China is a huge unexplored market, it should buy MS software NOT mess around with linux even if it is just sales tactics. That is not how MS works, it doesn't compete, it dominates. The old example of Munich must be mentioned, for the first time in decades MS was faced with a counter proposal and they reacted instantly by not just lowering the price but by the way of free training and more effectly making MS pay munich to deploy windows. Still no takers. You know you are in trouble when you can't PAY people to use your software.

      No, the revolution won't come in 2007 or 2008. Most likely it will never come, it is already here. When was the last time you came across an IE only website? How many years have you been able to file your taxes from Linux/Mac? (Holland several years now) Java programs are finally getting traction, just look at P2P.

      AMD opens it graphics cards to opensource, a thing many said was impossible, Intel already heavily supports opensource drivers for its hardware. Are there any giant PC makers left that do not sell Linux no matter how obscurely? Lots of hardware makers now mention linux in their support list.

      Oh, it is all small stuff, but it is there and MS is scared

  • Pay you for what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FredDC (1048502) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:36AM (#20909881)
    I use Linux, in part because I didn't want to give you any money anymore, so could you please explain to me why you think I owe you money?

    Because I generally don't give money to someone, simply because they tell me I should. I know, it's insane, but I need a reason...
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      And if you're paying with your share holder's money, then you are criminally incompetent.

    • by Dunbal (464142) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:13AM (#20910301)
      I use Linux, in part because I didn't want to give you any money anymore, so could you please explain to me why you think I owe you money?

      Microsoft: Well, you own a computer, don't you?
    • by mysticgoat (582871) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:53AM (#20910749) Homepage Journal

      I use Linux, in part because I didn't want to give you any money anymore, so could you please explain to me why you think I owe you money?

      This quote from Ballmer [groklaw.net] that is posted on Groklaw under the section "[Update 2]", appears to be the Microsoft explanation:

      Because our battle is not sort of business model to business model. Our battle is product to product, Windows versus Linux, Office versus OpenOffice.

      But he doesn't stop there. He immediately continues by directly contradicting himself, and talking about the differences in the FOSS and Microsoft business models:

      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 propery, 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.

      In other words, FOSS should be required to use the same wastefully expensive business model that Microsoft uses.

      I don't think he gets FOSS. I am beginning to wonder if his commitment to the traditional corporate culture of 1982 is so great that he truly cannot see that FOSS is based on an entirely different cultural platform. FOSS is a kind of gift economy where those involved are saying "Hey, since it doesn't cost me to share what I'm doing, I'll gladly share it with everyone, and I expect others to give something back to all of us, too." Where traditional capitalist cultures like Ballmer's see product improvement as a way of getting a bigger slice of the pie, FOSS focuses on making the entire pie bigger so everyone gets a larger slice.

      To those who are less culturally advanced, the clear successes of FOSS must seem to be magic. Apache, Blender, Firefox, and the others must all seem to have been created out of empty aether, and to be without any solid foundations. Clark's observation about advanced technology seemingly also applies to business models: if they are significantly advanced, their mechanisms of operation will seem to be magic to the businessmen of twenty-five years ago who haven't bothered to keep up.

  • Yeah, but.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:37AM (#20909891) Homepage Journal
    Eolas actually told them what patent they were supposedly infringing.

    Anyway, let it be said *again*. If you pay Microsoft, or anyone, for a license to "unspecified patents" then you are an *idiot* and I hope you get sued by your share holders.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bert64 (520050)
      Microsoft are infringing upon my unspecified patents too, you have an obligation to compensate me...

      Mr Ballmer, if your listening, i would like $504,000,000 as-well please, you do have to respect unspecified intellectual property remember.
  • hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Enoxice (993945) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:39AM (#20909911) Journal
    The real life equivalent of the AI meeting with the player every turn to say "we demand tribute for our patience" and demanding gold and technology. Too bad I can't have my usual response: a full-out attack, leaving their names to the annals of history! muahaha!

    I don't play too much CivII, do I?

    • by QuantumG (50515)
      The AIs are only interested in chance. Just offer them an even game and they won't be able to refuse. Much cheaper than a court case.

      I don't watch too much S:AAAB [wikipedia.org], do I?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Jaxoreth (208176)

      The real life equivalent of the AI meeting with the player every turn to say "we demand tribute for our patience" and demanding gold and technology.
      So would this be the standard AI, or the neurotic [slashdot.org] one?
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:40AM (#20909929)
    Suddenly, I like Ballmer a little less. Possibly, the Linux foundation's www.patentscommon.org [patentscommon.org] will harness those feelings; it is after all supported by HP, Ericsson, Nokia, Novell, IBM, RedHat, and ... Microsoft... WTF?!
  • come get us. with something other than empty threats of course.
  • They must love FUD (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anarke_Incarnate (733529) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:42AM (#20909945)
    They keep throwing Novell's name around. Novell has publicly denounced MS' claims about this. http://en.opensuse.org/FAQ:Novell-MS [opensuse.org]
  • He could be right... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jennifer York (1021509) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:43AM (#20909963) Homepage
    Ballmer may be right in that some Open Source Software infringes on their patents. I'd be surprised if it were otherwise; they are giving out patents on single click purchasing [stanford.edu], and even the simple check box [slashdot.org]

    Microsoft is unlikely to enforce it's patents, but what should scare us are the other Patent Houses where their business model is based on litigation [google.com]. They are the dangerous ones...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by yuna49 (905461)
      The various posters here who say "show us the patents, we'll code around them," obviously don't understand the situation as well as you do.

      Let's take a hypothetical (and false) case as an example. Suppose the original coders of the NCSA Mosaic browser (the predecessor of Netscape and essentially all graphical web browsers) decided to patent the back and forward navigation arrows as a "device to permit navigation of network-delivered content" or some such patentese. The only way to avoid infringing this pa
  • by SkunkPussy (85271) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:45AM (#20909985) Journal
    My guess is that any of Microsoft's patents could be coded-around trivially - therefore their patents, once revealed, have no value. Their only value is as a bargaining tool (cudgel).
  • Stage three (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dexter77 (442723) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:48AM (#20910019)
    "First they ignore you,
    then they laugh at you,
    then they fight you,
    then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi

    I see we're on stage three now.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:52AM (#20910041)
    Isn't there a law to force Ballmer to put up or shut up? Is it possible to go to court to have him clear the air instead of damaging Linux's progress? lawyers please clarify.
  • Linux's Retaliation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:59AM (#20910115)
    Is there any way we can really sock Microsoft in the Jaw on this? Like, can an organization or Alliance of some kind pre-emptively sue MS to say "You cannot repeatedly make threats that we infringe on your whatever simply because you want to scare people?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      That's called defamation suits and if Red Hat was really mentioned, they could sue Ballmer. I'm sure the EFF would be willing to help. The thing is, Red Hat isn't really a litigatous bastard and I believe they are right. Just ignore these crackpot claims, continue to make business decisions based on facts. Businessmen may not be less technically-savvy than IT engineers but I bet that they are more able to recognize a racket/scam when they see one. And this one is pretty obvious.
  • I'll pay up! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:01AM (#20910133)
    As soon as Microsoft pay's up to Xerox for windows. BSD for the Tcp/IP stack. Berkley for nslookup.exe.

    and so on and so on. MOST of microsofts products are based on others Intellectual property and violates at least 60-80 patents somewhere.

    Hey microsoft. as soo as you are clean I'll come clean. No, I dont consider clean your legal wiggling bullcrap. 100% legit.

    as soon as they pay up
  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JeremyGNJ (1102465) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:24AM (#20910421)
    It will be interesting to see their next step.

    Phase 1 was "state the fact about patent infringement".
    Phase 2 is now "explain that since the VENDOR wont pay for patents, then the customers will be on the line" Phase 3 ???

    Microsoft will eventually HAVE to file a suit or someone will file a suit against them for scare tactics of some sort. I'm sure the Microsoft lawyers understand this, which means they must have a phase 3 in mind. Who will be the first target? And in which court?

    Sometimes I think Microsoft can't lose this battle. If their first suit really tests patent law and then win...well then they start the major money collection, and Linux suffers a hit for it's users having legitimate concerns of legality. However if the patent claims are denied...the Microsoft basically has the green light to use the patents owned by countless others. Because of their size and bankroll, they can implement such technologies much quicker than most companies, and they will pull ahead on many fronts.
  • What for ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joebert (946227) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:25AM (#20910429) Homepage

    He predicted that firms like Eolas will soon come after open source vendors or users.

    Why would they do that ? They went after Microsoft because Microsoft could actually afford to pay.
  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:37AM (#20910553) Homepage

    He predicted that firms like Eolas will soon come after open source vendors or users. Microsoft paid $521m to settle a patent claim by Eolas in August.

    Sounds like maybe MS lawyers are whispering in Eolas' ear to goad them into being the next SCO...

    Why sue your competition and waste money on legal fees when you can con others to do it for you.

  • by Synn (6288) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:09AM (#20910955)
    For Ubuntu and Debian, I'd recommend they just give Microsoft 5% of all the profit they make off selling Linux to customers.
  • by mrjb (547783) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:16AM (#20911039)
    Let me get this straight. What Balmer is saying is "People who use [Linux] [...] have an obligation to compensate [Microsoft]". Yes, I deliberately left out the intellectual property bits to show how ridiculous it sounds. It's like saying people who eat at Burger King have an obligation to compensate McDonalds. No, they don't. Just because you think you invented the One and Only Burger and some people made a choice for the competition, that doesn't mean that those people owe you ANYTHING.
  • Sue who? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:37AM (#20911315) Homepage
    Consider MS's frustration. It would like to sue someone to set an example and get new revenue sources in line. But who? Red Hat would be an obvious deep pocket. But where is the infringement located in the distro? Unless it's something so fundamental that there's no way to code around it, it will be coded around soon after MS reveals it. If it's a key functionality for some businesses (say, Samba) that MS can get Red Hat to withdraw from the distro, that package will simply move offshore. If MS starts suing large corporate customers for something like Samba that interoperates with MS tech, it will be suing its own customers - so do they solve this by dropping their key servers, or by finally moving their desktops and the Exchange-y stuff they run on Windows over to *nix to avoid the problem?

    And if it is something so fundamental to the core of Linux it can't be coded around, the odds are long that MS's patent will be found invalid, since virtually all that stuff was invented for *nix before MS ever existed.

    So if MS sues, in most any scenario *nix (both Linux and most probably Sun) wins. This is such a sure thing we should consider doing all we can to provoke MS to sue - except that we'd hate having some of our best minds preoccupied for a few years with the court battles.
  • by thejuggler (610249) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:55AM (#20911581) Homepage Journal
    I missed the press release. When did Darl McBride start working for Microsoft? Maybe he do for Microsoft everything he did for SCO!
  • Back on their word (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @12:02PM (#20912639) Homepage Journal
    Wasn't it about a year or so ago that Microsoft claimed their patents were just for 'defensive reasons' and they promised that they wouldn't on the offensive with them and start suing linux vendors? 'not to worry' they said...

    So who here actually believed them anyway?

    Time to start hoarding source code people. Phase 2 of the war has started.
  • by HermMunster (972336) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:36PM (#20914191)
    Ballmer knows he has no chance in hell of ever getting anything from this. The whole situation has been analyzed and recently the OIN told Ballmer to put up or shut up, so Ballmer is just saying this because he seems to get of sexually over all the attention he gets every time he opens his butthole about Linux.

    He knows he's just farting into the wind and he's simply doing it to stink things up and hoping that he isn't standing there when he lets one go and the wind changes.

    He's a fruitcake and he has no idea how shitty it makes him look. When the shit hits the fan then we'll seem something more than Ballmer jerking off in front of the fan with his mouth open.
  • by golodh (893453) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @01:44PM (#20914369)
    This isn't the first time that Mr. Ballmer makes unsubstantiated allegations on the subject of supposedly infringed Microsoft patents. The last time he shut up after awhile.

    Interestingly, and following SCO's proven tactics in the matter, he stubbornly refuses to say *what* patents are allegedly violated.

    Of course Mr. Ballmer admits that he doesn't expect to see a huge revenue stream from licensing agreements (he named the Novell agreement), but that isn't the point you see.

    The point is that "free as in speech" and "free as in beer" are threatening Microsoft's business model. If only he could somehow get rid of the "free as in beer", and with it the "free as in speech", he would turn Linux into just another commercial offering. And that's something he knows how to compete with. By fair means or foul (just see the recent EU verdict against Microsoft and judge Jackson's findings of fact in the DOJ-Microsoft case a few years ago for what those "foul means" amount to).

    It's also important to realise that no solution that consists of Linux simply dropping any code (assuming any Linux code were to be found to infringe on Microsoft's patents) can be acceptable to Mr. Ballmer.

    With that in mind it's easy to understand why Mr. Ballmer really *cannot* list the patents he wishes to receive "just compensation" for. It's because he does not want to give Linux any opportunity to remove any offending code (assuming there is any). He does not want any compensation either.

    He just wants to make Linux non-free because that's how he can get rid of it.

"The vast majority of successful major crimes against property are perpetrated by individuals abusing positions of trust." -- Lawrence Dalzell

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