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Microsoft Patents Software Linux

Torvalds Says Microsoft is Bluffing on Patents 157

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the summon-the-patent-attorneys-from-their-crypts dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft's aggressive defense of its intellectual property, which includes claims that Linux violates a number of its patents, is nothing more than "a marketing thing," according to Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel. "They have been sued for patents by other people, but I don't think they've — not that I've gone through any huge amount of law cases — but I don't think they've generally used patents as a weapon," Torvalds said. "But they're perfectly happy to use anything at all as fear, uncertainty and doubt in the marketplace, and patents is just one thing where they say, 'Hey, isn't this convenient? We can use this as a PR force.'""
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Torvalds Says Microsoft is Bluffing on Patents

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  • by houghi (78078) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:16AM (#22291220)
    FUD used for marketing
    News at 11
    • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:30AM (#22292748) Homepage
      In the end it doesn't matter if it's a bluff or not, because Microsoft will never reveal anything either way. It's the FUD they want, not the money.
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by farrellj (563) *
        I guess MS is as sure of their IP as SCO was!

        And it will be fun with the obvious happens to MS too!

        ttyl
      • by Kyojin (672334) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:03PM (#22297490)

        In the end it doesn't matter if it's a bluff or not, because Microsoft will never reveal anything either way. It's the FUD they want, not the money.
        Of course it matters! If it isn't a bluff, or at least they believe they can convince the courts that it isn't a bluff, Microsoft will choose to go down whichever path they believe will make them the most profit.

        Currently they believe that an increasing Linux market share will hurt their bottom line. It will. A lot. Not only does that mean customers are not buying windows, those same customers will not buy Office, Exchange server licenses, Sharepoint server licenses and so forth.

        Once the world calls microsoft out on the patent front, if they believe they have a case they will come after corporations. This is much more expensive than a FUD campaign and won't get them as much money per license. Courts may eventually decide to force companies to buy licenses for ms software for which an amount of code violating ms patents is present in Linux. They could decide to force companies to pay a license fee for as much as Windows Vista Ultimate, but this would not cover the additional software that these companies may have bought from microsoft. The courts will probably also decide that if there is any source code in Linux that violates MS patents, it's probably from windows XP which costs less than half as much as vista.

        All in all, FUD is currently far more valuable to ms than court decisions on patents. FUD is cheaper and more effective. Court cases may work once the FUD stops working.
        • by igb (28052)

          Currently they believe that an increasing Linux market share will hurt their bottom line. It will. A lot. Not only does that mean customers are not buying windows, those same customers will not buy Office, Exchange server licenses, Sharepoint server licenses and so forth.

          If the backend drifted towards Unix-alikes, Exchange and Sharepoint are category killers and would be fine businesses ported to Linux or Solaris. We're MS-free in the backend (Cyrus plus Oracle Collaboration Suite) but we're painfully a

        • by bytesex (112972)
          Yeah, but the FUD *definitely* stops working once the court cases stop working.
    • by Fred_A (10934) <`fred' `at' `fredshome.org'> on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:54AM (#22293216) Homepage
      Yes, Linux is playing captain Obvious here for most of the /. crowd. However the story will hopefully be picked up by a few more mainstream outlets where it will help counterbalance the FUD a little. I expect that this is the point, it wasn't meant to get people in the LUGs talking.

      As posters below rightfully point out, IBM wouldn't be neck deep in Linux if it was that encumbered.
  • by Kristoph (242780) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:18AM (#22291260)
    Microsoft does not use their patents as a weapon because their revenue continues to surge despite the increase in the popularity of Linux.

    If/when Linux becomes a significant threat to growth, you can be sure Microsoft will use all tools at its disposal, including parents, aggressively.

    ]{
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:26AM (#22291442)

      If/when Linux becomes a significant threat to growth, you can be sure Microsoft will use all tools at its disposal, including parents, aggressively.
      If Ballmer brought his parents, there could be trouble.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:30AM (#22291500)
      "you can be sure Microsoft will use all tools at its disposal, including parents, aggressively."

      Yep, they'll get the parents to kick the linux kids out of the basements, forcing them to get real jobs. Once that is done, linux goes away and the rest of us can get back to real unix

      Now, get out of my yard, you young whippersnappers.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:36AM (#22291628)
      However, they do not operate in a vacuum. Linux adoption is already way higher in Europe than the USA. Europe has been a bigger market than the USA for some time now (sorry if that bruises egos, but it's true). If microsoft too-aggressively attacks linux, the already-somewhat-frosty climate towards software patents in europe gets much worse, there's even more clear+present evidence for the likes of the FFII, FSF Europe and the european green and pirate parties to use to push for patent system reform or outright abolition. Personally, I think all techies I know in microsoft would welcome the abolition of patents, but the suits are another matter, and the techies aren't in charge in microsoft (microsoft would probably have disappeared a long time ago if they were, of course).

      • by rbanffy (584143) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:56PM (#22298430) Homepage Journal
        "I think all techies I know in microsoft would welcome the abolition of patents"

        In fact, a complete abolition of patents would benefit large companies and penalize small R&D outfits (and patent trolls, but nobody feels sympathy towards them).

        Patents do protect the small inventor who comes up with something from being ripped off by a bigger outfit that learns what he is doing and is capable of bringing the product to a larger market than the original inventor. As ineffective they are - try suing a Chinese manufacturer - they are the only protection small inventors have.

        The real problem is not the patent system. It's good and it works properly. What is desperately needed is a way to prevent the issue or, if needed, invalidate bad patents. The process of invalidating a patent should be very simple if someone can produce prior art or demonstrate the patent is obvious to anyone skilled in the art.

        The problem with _software_patents_, which is what we are really discussing here, is that neither a computer program nor a business process is a machine - both are ideas and ideas should not be patentable. A software patent is the very textbook example of a bad patent.

        These days, people find clever ways to phrase an idea and receive a patent for it.

        This, and only this, has to stop. The patent offices should be held liable for any bad patents they issue.

        Actually, I can't imagine why they wouldn't.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      MS is not known for under-playing its hand. Whatever they have in the arsenal, they use. What they don't have, they pretend to have. Linus is right. When you combine all of the talking with a lack of specificity , not to mention a complete lack of action, the evidence points straight to marketing.
    • Lack of timeliness is a genuine defense. A patent holder can't simply pick a convenient moment.
  • Linus writes kernels- actually, a single kernel. He does not write text books, news articles, or legal documents. His guess is as good as yours or mine as to what Microsoft's intentions are.

    Wait, scratch that. Mine is better- I am not an engineer.

    The patents involve Xenix. Look it up sometime, it may seem oddly familiar.

    However, I believe he's right in saying linux is not in any danger. It isn't- the only companies that might get pricked by these patents are commercial enterprises who are profiteering off o
    • Right. When a company makes money, Microsoft wants it... the company, that is.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:43AM (#22291786) Homepage Journal
      I do tend to agree with you about the value of Linus' opinion in this matter. I do think he is correct for the simple reason that IBM is pushing Linux. When it comes to patent's IBM pretty much is the expert. Microsoft's patents are more valuable to them as a treat than if they where used. The have seen the SCO case and the last thing they want is for there patents to be tossed out as obvious. It would weaken them and could bring down the EU on them.
      It is far better to let them hang out in the dark and be an unknown threat than to be show as a paper tiger in court.
      Of course if they get pushed into a corner then all bets are off.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        The danger with patent infringement accusations isn't with the fact that these patents might exist, or that they may stand up in court, but that they can use the accusations to scare away potential customers of competing products. If somebody was considering Linux, and then read that Linux infringed on patents owned by MS, they may think twice about going to Linux. Companies do this all the time, and not just in the computer industry. My dad works in the chemical industry. Some companies get patents on m
        • by Martz (861209)
          Why should a customer be scared that a company they bought software from is infringing on one or more patents?

          The customer didn't do any wrong, they licensed the software in good faith. Worst case scenario would be that the software becomes obsolete and the customer has to licence something else. The customer didn't infringe on the patent, the software company does. There may even be ways to recoup these costs given that the software company didn't have the rights to make the sales in the first place.

          Now in
          • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday February 04, 2008 @01:14PM (#22294334) Homepage
            It is dangerous to the customer for exactly the reasons you state. Let's take an example. Let's say that Oracle has a patent on some database technology and says that MS is infringing on the technology. Now, some company wants to use SQL server. So the Oracle rep goes and tells them, that it's not a good idea, because who knows, they could be forced to pull their product off the market in a year's time. Sure the company itself probably wouldn't be held liable, but they would have all their data stuck in a program which the vendor can no longer legally support. Better off just going with Oracle so you don't have to worry about these patent issues popping up. In the future. Maybe the company will go with SQL server anyway. But it could mean a few more sales if it makes people think twice about going with SQL Server. It's pure FUD, but since when could customer's purchasing decisions not be influenced by FUD.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by initialE (758110)
              Interesting, your comment. It makes me think why people would laugh off the numerous patents that Microsoft are already infringing, and take seriously the patents that linux is supposedly infringing. Apparently it's more a matter of gut feeling and assurance than it is of law. Nobody believes a big company like Microsoft can be forced to pull a product, but it is somehow believable that Linux itself could be withdrawn from the market.
    • by Tony (765) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:54AM (#22291988) Journal
      The patents involve Xenix. Look it up sometime, it may seem oddly familiar.

      That's funny-- the patent lifetime is 20 years in the US. Since Microsoft sold it's derivative of AT&T's Unix to SCO[1] in 1987, it seems unlikely that the patents involve Xenix in any way.

      Microsoft didn't really do any real research on Xenix. It was a pretty straight-forward 16-bit port of the AT&T source code, with lots of BSD code thrown in for flavor. This was a big deal mostly because they were getting Unix code to run on standard microprocessors. Once that was done, they licensed Xenix to SCO and a bunch of other companies, who ported it to their own platforms. Most of this was done in the early 80s. Back then, Microsoft wasn't applying for too many patents. And, since this was a port of existing code, there was little opportunity for "worthy" patents. If there were, they would've been granted over twenty years ago, and so would have expired by now.

      Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it: it's extremely unlikely these patent threats involve Microsoft's port of AT&T's UNIX.

      [1] SCO as in, "Santa Cruz Operation," not as in "We used to be Caldera, but wanted to confuse people into thinking we're Santa Cruz Operation."
      • I believe Xenix was the first real "friendly" unix. It took some magic to get something like unix running on ultra low-end x86/pc hardware, so they are owed some credit. I don't think these patents are any danger to linux, as a whole- but I think Microsoft may have some random patents it could theoretically pull out of a hat and cause brief legal controversy. It's bad PR, though.
      • The only innovation that I'd heard of coming from Xenix was that it was the first to have console virtual terminals, but I'm not sure if this is true. Aside from that the only thing I could think of that they might have claimed to have invented with Xenix would have been something Intel or IBM PC specific, since Xenix did run on these, though it did so in 16 bit mode. Other stuff from Xenix would have belonged to AT&T, but yeah, it's all too old, and I doubt that MS would have been silly enough to make
    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:55AM (#22291992)
      Someone with mod points mark this fool down.

      Linus actually *reads* the kernel code, and is aware of how the code arrived in the Linux kernel. And while Linus is not an author of law texts, he's certainly had to review and deal with copyright and patent law previously in the Linux kernel.

      And oh, yes, if you're referring to the SCO lawsuits, go over to www.groklaw.net. The lawsuits were funded by Microsoft "partnership" deals with SCO and other Microsoft partners, and have fallen through because Novell actually owns the UNIX code in question. SCO is now in bankruptcy and delisted (or being delisted) from the NASDAQ after wasting years on a frivolous lawsuit instead of actually doing work.
      • How would Linus even know if some random contributor submitted Xenix code? Linus doesn't deal with any legal issues- the major linux co's do. What linus does does not garner law suits. He writes a kernel.

        I won't go to some random open source zealot site for my information on the patents. I am fairly certain SCO does have some grounds for having created random things like virtual terminals, a friendly install process, and laying much of the groundwork for Unix on the 386 architecture. I just don't think thes
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      Question:

      You said the only companies that might get pricked by these patents are commercial enterprises who are profiteering off of peoples' open source work. (see: the companies that Microsoft has signed patent treaties with)

      Profiteering is defined as: To make excessive profits on goods in short supply

      But how can a company 'profiteer' from an open source product when said product is freely available for them, or anyone else to make money from, with the full consent of its creators?

      All they have to do is a
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Vellmont (569020)

      He does not write text books, news articles, or legal documents. His guess is as good as yours or mine as to what Microsoft's intentions are.

      Yah.. he's only the single guy most familiar with the thing Microsoft says it has patents on. So he sure doesn't know anything more than you or I about it.

      The patents involve Xenix. Look it up sometime, it may seem oddly familiar.

      I'm unaware of Microsoft giving out any information about WHAT these patents are. The stories I've read are all about Balmer blowing a lot
  • by wpegden (931091) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:21AM (#22291314)
    but when it comes to politics (and this is politics), Linus Torvalds always seems naive to me.
    • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:38AM (#22291688)
      He may be sort of right about this in that Microsoft probably won't want to fight because as soon as they reveal specifically what code infringes which patents the code will be removed, or prior art found. This has a potential of becoming a "McLibel" with poor programmers visibly stamped on by a multi-billion dollar company .... but with thousands of helpers in the background finding prior art, preparing cases that the patent is obvious etc. It could severely dent Microsoft's war-chest that is much more effectively used against commercial companies.
    • by baffled (1034554) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:23AM (#22292630)
      Agreed. Isn't Linus publicly taunting Microsoft to prove him wrong?
      • by babbling (952366) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:46AM (#22293058)
        He wants them to prove him wrong. Can you imagine the scenario where Microsoft has filed suit against Linus Torvalds for his work on the kernel? There's a lot of big companies (IBM, Sun, Nokia, Google, Red Hat, Oracle) that have a lot of money invested in this kernel. There's a couple of organisations (SFLC, OIN) that have been founded to pretty much retaliate against any such situation. Then there's the legal ambiguity about whether Microsoft can even use their patents to attack Free Software now, since they may be party to GPLv3. [fsf.org]

        Pretty much every big company probably has some servers running Linux. Big financial companies together probably have hundreds/thousands of Linux servers. Those companies are Microsoft customers, and will not be happy if Microsoft starts taking legal action. Microsoft's threats are just part of their annual "be very afraid" tour. [youtube.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by masdog (794316)

          Then there's the legal ambiguity about whether Microsoft can even use their patents to attack Free Software now, since they may be party to GPLv3.

          And then there was the Doctrine of Laches and US Patent Law. Microsoft may not be able to file suit because they've announced that they know about the infringement but haven't revealed what it is. IIRC, patent law requires the party that knows about the infringement to disclose it in good faith so the infringing party can attempt to work around it.

  • by JeepFanatic (993244) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:23AM (#22291378)
    Is Taco trying to completely set /. into a total flamewar? Two political topics, MS vs Google, and now a Linux vs Microsoft article?
    • Having a "Linux vs Microsoft" argument for the millionth time might seem like beating a dead, rotting corpse of a horse, but it's a very fun horse to beat :)
      • Fun until you realize that the argument is a giant distraction. Time spent fretting about "Linux" (a kernel project) vs Microsoft (a full-on company with products in pretty much every category) really only functions as life support for a dying FUD-pony.
    • by mhall119 (1035984) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:46AM (#22291832) Homepage Journal
      Well at least we've settled the fact that Gnome and Vim are better than KDE and Emacs.
    • by joeslugg (8092)
      I say, let the fires rage and the blood spill!

      C++ vs. Java!
      Perl vs. Python!
      vi vs. Emacs!
      BASH vs. csh!
      Gnome vs. KDE!
      Linux vs. *BSD!
      Torvalds vs. Stallman!
      Free Software vs. Open Source!
      Soviet Russia vs. Our new flavor-of-the-month overlords!
      Not Enough Options vs. CowboyNeal!
      Steps 1 & 2 vs. Step 3: PROFIT!
      Dogs vs. Cats!
      Ketchup vs. Mustard!
      Peanut Butter vs. Jelly!

      ARRGGHHH!!

      TACOpalypse now!
      Repent! KARMAgeddon is at hand!!
    • Does this mean we should soon expect a Google vs. Linux championship deathmatch article?
    • by pizzach (1011925)

      Is Taco trying to completely set /. into a total flamewar? Two political topics, MS vs Google, and now a Linux vs Microsoft article?
      Well yeah. Having you seen the slashdot brand warpaint adverts at the top of the page?
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:25AM (#22291406) Homepage Journal
    I've never understood how a programmer/direction manager/geek like Torvalds could raise so much interest over his opinion, but I do understand the draw to him. I rarely agree with what he says, but in this case it is truly spot on.

    Microsoft is in trouble, and it has nothing to do with "anti-monopoly" legislation, or corporate badgering, or any of the sort. Microsoft is in trouble. This is defensive posturing in hopes of the market taking note and taking action by putting Microsoft ahead of the pack that has overtaken it.

    For years we had geeks here call for Microsoft's abolishment, but lonely me with a few other market economy believers have said that Microsoft will fall from grace as IBM, Compaq, and GM had -- because they lost their competitive edge. The future is not in desktop software, that Microsoft heralded in with great accomplishment. Microsoft tore us out of the client-server picture, and now we're heading back there. They don't understand the situation, and their "Desktop first" mentality makes it near impossible to turn around.

    Why they care about Linux is beyond me, though. The backend platform is slowly becoming useless as the protocols for integrating features-on-the-screen are quickly becoming irrelevant as the idea of hardware abstraction is truly coming to be. I remember when Microsoft's NT was released, with their first attempt at a hardware abstraction layer. I held out high hopes for it, but it was a failure, pure and simple. Today, though, we ARE hardware abstract in the processes most important to many of us: HTML, PHP, SQL, and the rest have become their own important entities, regardless of what is behind them.

    Lately I am finding myself moving away from the desktop, more and more. Other than graphics design and CAD, I am almost entirely performing my computing duties in client-server mode. I've moved to Google Docs (buggy, but SO convenient since I have no need for a hard drive or memory stick), Google Mail for Domains, my blogs for newsletter dispersal (Wordpress) and phpBB for group comms. The underlying software and hardware is irrelevant to me as all my servers run different OS and hardware combos.

    Microsoft is screwed, plain and simple, but I don't think any Linux providers are in better shape. The more I delve into relatively open source code (Wiki, WP, PHPBB, etc), the more I am amazed at what the masses can do to create better code for the reasons important to me. As I produce these low or no cost apps to my clients (not Linux, mind you), I am able to charge more for saving them the downtime and bugs and glitches and software costs. I can't wait for more server farms to become available as those costs will come down more, so my customers won't even need much of their own hardware.

    In 1984, when I first connected my Hayes 300 baud modem, I would never have believed we'd return to the client-server days. I remember the reason for logging onto a BBS was to get stuff to my desktop; the idea of using it as a form of communication AND laboring was foreign to me, even when I ran my own BBS. Now, I can't imagine downloading anything when I can conveniently edit it, print it ("to PDF"), and distribute it almost entirely online.
    • by caluml (551744)
      I agree with that. I don't really care about CPU types, or machine code. I just care that the platform acts like the platform I expect. It's just something with an IP stack and some storage to me. I don't care if it's big or little endian, 64 bit, or 32 bit. Some people love to get down and dirty with their coding - I on the other hand have moved into Java. Sure, it's not entirely Write once, run anywhere, but it doesn't take much to change it around.
      • by majorme (515104)

        I don't really care about CPU types
        I am pretty sure you DO care about raw CPU power though which is someone else's trouble right? Not yours. But I know you are just trolling.
    • Hmm, I'm running Windows 2003 virtual machines for a couple of small companies on my Linux servers. The users use their off the shelf Windows XP laptops to connect and do all their work on the server through RDP. It is more convenient for them, since it allows them to move around the city - they can run their apps from home, from a client's conference room or from their own offices and the management and nursing of the Windows VMs is done at my place.

      Effectively it is the 1980s all over again.
    • by domatic (1128127)
      The hardware may be abstracted as you say but something has to drive it and something has to host all those wonderful databases and scripting languages. The OS proper may matter less and less to the end user but it will still damn well matter to those who maintain the servers. It will have to be robust, it will have to handle many sorts of loads, and it will have to scale. No, in your picture the "server" in client/server is still going to very much matter.
    • "Lately I am finding myself moving away from the desktop, more and more. Other than graphics design and CAD, I am almost entirely performing my computing duties in client-server mode. I've moved to Google Docs (buggy, but SO convenient since I have no need for a hard drive or memory stick), Google Mail for Domains, my blogs for newsletter dispersal (Wordpress) and phpBB for group comms. The underlying software and hardware is irrelevant to me as all my servers run different OS and hardware combos."

      that righ
    • You've pretty much answered it yourself. For the spaces that MS plays in, or would like to play in, the actual OS kernel is becoming less and less important (though deep OS stuff is still very important for other parts of the industry). Increaingly, the kernel is hidden under some middleware or other that hides the kernel.

      But.... MS have screwed up just about every attempt to diversify, even though they would love to. Gate's "visionary" keynotes of the last few years have all been about services etc that ha

    • by cecom (698048)

      I've never understood how a programmer/direction manager/geek like Torvalds could raise so much interest over his opinion

      It is simple really. Unlike 99% of the population and 99.9999999% of the people who waste their time on Slashdot (me included), Linus Torvalds has actually created something :-) Actions do speak louder than words and also help underscore them. It is very reasonable and practical to pay attention to the opinions of somebody who has proven himself as able to make good choices and deliver

    • Agreed.

      A year ago, the small business where I work was all client-side, and therefore predominantly MS. We used Access for our database needs, Outlook for e-mail, frontpage for the website, etc.

      When I was brought on board to do the IT, the first thing I did was build a new website based on a phpwebsite, a php/sql based content management system. While we are still in transition because the content needs to be verified (two of the three languages on the site are still made in front page), I expect th
  • I wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by s1d (1185389) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:32AM (#22291540) Homepage Journal
    Who's gonna be the new SCO?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Torodung (31985)
      The SCO case was intelligence gathering. I don't believe SCO ever intended to win that case. They just wanted the legal discovery. If you want to find exhaustive information about a company's IP profile, the best way to do so is to sue them in a broad IP case. Breaking into their headquarters is risky and stupid.

      Why else do you suppose Novell paid their indemnification money so quickly?

      --
      Toro
      • by Dan Ost (415913)

        Why else do you suppose Novell paid their indemnification money so quickly?
        Funny, I seem to remember Microsoft paying Novell, not the other way around.
  • Legal injunction (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:33AM (#22291568) Homepage
    Can't one of the many Linux organisations try and get a legal injunction barring Microsoft from claiming patents in Linux? A sort of defamation lawsuit?

    This whole MS-patent crap is going to keep lingering over Linux' head, and MS is happy to leave it at that. If Linux community wants to get rid of it, they are the ones that have to take action.
    • by legirons (809082) on Monday February 04, 2008 @02:52PM (#22296096)
      "Can't one of the many Linux organisations try and get a legal injunction barring Microsoft from claiming patents in Linux? A sort of defamation lawsuit?"

      Wasn't that why MS are being much quieter about patents in places like germany, where you can get into trouble for making legal threats and not being able to follow them up?
    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      I don't think you can get an injunction. However, when someone claims patent infringement by a product, I believe there's a legal procedure the maker of that product can follow to basically demand that the claimant identify the specific patents or acknowledge there is no infringement. And if that procedure's followed, the claimant has to identify the patents. If they don't then the maker can hold the claimant to that silence, preventing the claimant from asserting any patents they didn't identify in respons

  • And the BitKeeper license is not going to be a problem, right? Because they've never screwed over an open source project before, so they clearly won't start now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This will be the BitKeeper that was replaced by Git ...?

      So no it won't be a problem ?
      • I think you misunderstood his point. The point was that Linus assured everyone at the time that the proprietary license BitKeeper was provided under wasn't going to be an issue.

        And it wasn't, until one of the programmers who made GNU/Linux viable in the first place by reverse engineering the SMB protocols, Tridge, tried to reverse engineer BitKeeper to try to create a free software version, something he had every right to do given he wasn't bound by the license. And BitKeeper Inc. threw a hissy fit, and

        • by LionMage (318500)

          And it wasn't, until one of the programmers who made GNU/Linux viable in the first place by reverse engineering the SMB protocols, Tridge, tried to reverse engineer BitKeeper to try to create a free software version, something he had every right to do given he wasn't bound by the license.

          Just one point of clarification: Tridge wasn't creating a free software version of BitKeeper, he was creating a tool to extract code out of the BitKeeper repository, thereby "freeing" the code. (In the sense that you neede

          • The point is that BitKeeper code was never part of Linux (Kernel or larger software) it was never reverse engineered and then made part of any official part of Linux

            It was used to manage the source of the Kernel and Tridge wrote a utility to extract the kernel source without a BitKeeper licence, this is not illegal, but Bitkeeper and Linus complained it was not ethical? ....and all this is academic since Git is opensource and is now used instead of BitKeeper
  • Scared animal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:37AM (#22291650) Homepage
    Anyone else get the feeling from Microsoft lately that they are acting like a cornered and scared animal?

    I'm not saying Microsoft is on it's way out or anything, but I think in the past couple of years they have finally realized "hey...if we aren't careful, we WILL become a moot point in this industry." Scared animals always make uncalculated and rash decisions.
    • by Torodung (31985)
      They are a scared and cornered 700-lb (318-kg) gorilla. Such animals never go quietly. That's because you can't stab them in the back, or use stealth to take them down.

      Microsoft will not go quietly if they have cause to remain in this defensive posture. Bank on it.

      --
      Toro
    • by Helix666 (1148203)
      Anyone else think that they've started acting like that since Ballmer took over?

      But, yes, their actions seem more and more desperate as the days go by. (Well, it seems like it to me...)
      • by init100 (915886)

        He has a valid reason to be desperate. His operating system is no longer on 98% of the world's desktops, just around 90%. And his browser does no longer have a >95% market share, but rather 50-75% (depending on survey and country). In his eyes, such numbers are probably a disaster. He isn't content until there is no one human in the world using a software product that his company didn't make.

  • by alteran (70039) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:39AM (#22291706)
    The way patents work in much of the business world is that big companies cross-license their patent portfolios, essentially promising not to sue each other for all the moronic patents each other holds (I'm oversimplifying a little, but you get the idea). This is pretty effective for them.

    I wonder if open-source should look into the same thing.

    Even lacking a cross-licensing agreement, the fact that EFF would have a portfolio of moronic patents to smack people back with might give companies trying to sue open source pause, because they would know a big counter-suit was coming.

    It would take the teeth out of MS's patent claims. The only companies this doesn't work against are patent trolls.

    Obviously, the licensing on the patents should be such that they are freely available for use unless a company sues an open source product. Perhaps patents are not licensable in this way, but a far as I can tell, you can license stuff in any crazy way you want, just about.

    Yes, patents are evil, but until they go away, open source would do well to be able to wield the same weapon as everybody else. Obviously, open source would need somebody with deep pockets to file the patents, but I think it's worth pursuing.
    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      I haven't checked, but I seem to recall that IBM promised not to use any of their patents against open source software. I wonder, then, if it's possible to get IBM to consider looking at anyone who starts suing open source users for use of the plaintiff's patents to see if the plaintiff might be infringing on an IBM patent (of which, I hear, there are a few).

      IBM probably wouldn't even need to actually do anything. Just have their lawyers say, "Hmm, I wonder if you're infringing on our patents." I doubt

    • by init100 (915886)

      In essence, you are proposing that someone found a patent pool for FOSS. How fortunate that such a patent pool already exists. It is called the Open Invention Network, OIN.

  • 2007 called. They want their story [slashdot.org] back.
    Oh, yeah, Linus is (still) right...
  • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:42AM (#22291746) Journal
    Ballmer: Linus Skyvalds, I am your father.

    Skyvalds: Noooooooooooooooo!

  • by Torodung (31985) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:56AM (#22292006) Journal
    Microsoft's corporate leadership used to speak out against patents. This was when they were getting sued, and patents were a ticking bomb in their "embrace, extend, extinguish" tactics. Patents kept them from being able to "borrow" from successful innovators to improve their product line with impunity.

    So, after a few losses, they took to using their capital reserves to purchase such companies outright while they were small, as their success and huge capital reserves made them a lawsuit target. This was a necessary change in policy that came with the success of having all that captial to poach. It's why their getting rid of some of that capital: It exposes them to larger judgments.

    Those days are over. Linus would be right in the 90's, but no longer.

    Now Microsoft is in a bunker mentality, using patents to defend a near monopoly in market share. They have completely changed their tune, because what they now need to do is slow down inevitable attrition of that market share. In much of their market, there is no where else to go, and no way to grow revenue except by raising prices. Witness the pricing on Windows Vista.

    Don't think for a second that they won't sue. They've already got expert patent firms on retainer from defending themselves. Certainly, they started the ball rolling with SCO, but that was just testing the waters. They will pursue this to their greatest possible advantage, regardless of whether the claims are reasonable, because they're already paying the lawyers.

    If you consider a multi-million dollar lawsuit for marketing purposes "just marketing," then you've never defended yourself in a court of law.

    Linus is wrong. He's thinking about the "hungry" Microsoft of the 90's. We're in the chair chucking, f-ing burying, Ballmer days now, and Microsoft is no longer an upstart. They run the desktop software industry, like the mafia ran Chicago. There's no reason, save the massive loss of judicial mind-share in various anti-trust cases, that they can't pursue legal options regarding their rapidly growing patent portfolio. Microsoft is, among other things, becoming a patent troll, and there's no reason to believe that they can't buy something actionable, if they don't already have it.

    SCO was just an unsuccessful test case. Look out.

    --
    Toro
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Samster33 (1197779)
      I'm thinking that IBM and many other FOSS friendly companies probably hold a huge number of software patents as well. Perhaps (and this is just a theory) Microsoft knows that if they actually did anything more specific than spread FUD, there would be a patent war to end all patent wars.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Torodung (31985)
        Very astute. That sort of patent M.A.D. is taught in patent law classes as a reason why patent laws work. It is a basic belief that large producers, specifically manufacturers, have not and would not sue each other for exactly that reason.

        Unfortunately, this only works when there are hard assets at hand, and therefore plants to close and equipment that must lie dormant while a suit is pending.

        That disincentive is much smaller when all you are producing is ideas, because the manufacturing hit is much lower.
  • IMHO Microsoft's "defense" of it's patents (if any) has been anything but aggressive. Yes, they've made a lot of hot air in the media about how Linux might infringe some unknown patents they claim to hold. But if they were being aggressive, they wouldn't be making such a nebulous claim. They'd be sending letters demanding royalties and quoting patent numbers, and filing infringement cases when violators refused to pay. They haven't. They haven't even mentioned a single patent number they claim Linux infring

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by domatic (1128127)

      They'd be sending letters demanding royalties and quoting patent numbers, and filing infringement cases when violators refused to pay. They haven't.

      They're doing something much smarter. They're approaching Linux distros and companies that use Linux in their products and making slimy threats behind closed doors. SCO taught them that a loud public strategy like the one you mention arouses both the community and targets better able to defend themselves. And what do you know, that defense reaction turned o

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by init100 (915886)

      IMHO Microsoft's "defense" of it's patents (if any) has been anything but aggressive.

      I disagree. Aggressiveness is not a black or white situation, it is a continuous line with many shades of gray. The completely non-aggressive stance would be to just keep patents as a defensive weapon in case you are sued, and otherwise be silent about it. The completely aggressive stance would be to launch all-out patent wars against anyone remotely suspected of infringing even one of those patents. Microsoft is somewhere in between, making loud claims about infringement, but not taking any legal action.

  • I think I have seen this before, maybe a few months ago....seems like Deja Vu
  • No, I don't know which patents, there are simply too many of them out there. But given the shear number of patents approved for so many stupid things, odds are pretty high (I'd guess 99%) that Linux infringes on at least a few of them. And the odds aren't all that bad the MS is behind a few of those patents.

    In the same measure, I'd guess that 99% of the US population has violated at least one law in the past year. And a fair number of you violated a few laws just going to work this morning.

    So the most li
  • ...get an overwhelming refreshing feeling after reading a torvalds interview?...
  • Isn't Bill Gates big into poker?
  • Linus seems to get it, but here's a better (and funny) analysis by Eben Moglen [youtube.com].
  • For years, people arguing against software patents have said that because of numerous, ridiculous, patents held by companies such as Microsoft, it is almost impossible to do anything significant without infringing. We need to reform the patent law, or projects like Linux will be impossible, yadda yadda yadda.

    So now when Microsoft says that they have patents and they think Linux infringes, suddenly we don't think they have any patents that cover parts of Linux? They are bluffing? It is just FUD to advanc

  • Ever seen a movie with somebody entering a shop and telling the manager he needs protection?
    "Protection from what?" "Fires" "There are never been fires here" "There might be" "Are you a fireman or do you know somebody setting fires here?" "None of them" "So, why do I need your protection?" "To be sure there are no fires."
    Substitute fires with legal action and you get a clearer idea of what this is all about, even if MS might be looking at it in a different way.
  • The proof of the fact that MS is not going to sue anyone over linux patents is this:

    They have not sued Google. MS hates Google, they want to destroy them, they are doing everything in their power to destroy them, if MS had valid patent claims against Linux they would be using them, actively, forcefully, against Google. Google without Linux is well... does it even exist?!? I guess they could move to a BSD?

    Anyway, the point is, MS is spending billions in R&D to try to catch google in search and online
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles,jones&zen,co,uk> on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:23PM (#22297892)
    It's not Microsoft, it's barmy Ballmer who keeps sounding off about patents. He needs to chill.

    There are patents Microsoft has which Linux may infringe on, but if tested many of these will be written off as prior art and if Microsoft has extracted money from others over these patents then the would have to return the money.

    I don't think it's possible to write an OS without infringing on patents. There's a difference between coincidences and blatant copying.

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten

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