Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Patents Linux Your Rights Online

Microsoft Letting Patents Move To Linux Firms 228

Posted by kdawson
from the didn't-need-'em-anyway dept.
mnmlst notes a Wall Street Journal story (picked up at Total Telecom) on the move of some patents originally held by Microsoft to the Open Invention Network, where they will join a portfolio whose purpose is to inoculate open source companies against patent trolls. OIN is near a deal to buy 22 patents from another patent-protective group, Allied Security Trust, whose members include Verizon, Cisco, and HP. AST won the patents in a private auction Microsoft put on earlier. An AST executive says that "Microsoft presented the patents to potential bidders in its auction as relating to Linux." While OIN's acquisition of the patents will act to protect the Linux community, AST, by contrast, exists to protect only its corporate members, not the community as a whole. But by selling the patents to OIN, they are cooperating in the protection of Linux. And by allowing the patents to go to AST in the first place, Microsoft may (the article implies) be signaling at least their lack of active intent to disrupt the Linux marketplace.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Letting Patents Move To Linux Firms

Comments Filter:
  • Explain this to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by assemblerex (1275164) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:42PM (#29361539)
    why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??
    • by williamhb (758070) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @12:03AM (#29361717) Journal

      why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??

      Not quite. Saving Apple was (presumably) to help stave off the anti-trust suits against Microsoft by preserving a weak but "potentially credible" competitor. Helping Linux seems much more straightforward: Linux's overlap with Windows is much smaller than its overlap with HP, IBP, and Sun/Oracle. So, Microsoft might well help Linux to weaken HP, IBM, and Sun/Oracle, reckoning that Linux is unlikely itself ever to be a credible threat to Microsoft's own sales. Which (Linux-cheerleading aside) is an understandable assessment as most commercial purchasers tend to run different software on Linux machines than on Windows machines, and it is more often the software decision that drives the hardware purchase (rather than the other way around). So, Microsoft doesn't primarily need to "compete Windows with Linux", they need to "compete SQL-Server with Oracle", "Exchange with Lotus Notes", "IIS with Apache and JBoss", etc.

      • by node 3 (115640) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:39AM (#29362309)

        Not quite. Saving Apple was (presumably) to help stave off the anti-trust suits against Microsoft by preserving a weak but "potentially credible" competitor.

        There was no "save Apple" moment.

        When MS invested millions of dollars in Apple, Apple had billions of dollars in the bank. The investment was merely a part of a settlement between Apple and MS that ended the lawsuits Apple had against MS, and for Microsoft's part, they had to buy some Apple stock and promise to keep selling Office for a number of years.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Eh, Apple's "billions of dollars in the bank" was basically Enron accounting, and that was reflected in the stock price. The Microsoft "investment" provided a serious boost for Apple in their times of dire need, and there is no need to pathetically try to rewrite history.

          Unless you are one of those late 90s-era melon-headed downsies mac zealots who actually believed Apple was not in serious financial conditions. In that case a shithouse OS like MacOS 8 is exactly what you deserved.

          • by node 3 (115640) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:10AM (#29362739)

            Eh, Apple's "billions of dollars in the bank" was basically Enron accounting, and that was reflected in the stock price.

            Um, no. It was actual cash on hand.

            The Microsoft "investment" provided a serious boost for Apple in their times of dire need, and there is no need to pathetically try to rewrite history.

            The boost wasn't the cash. It wasn't even, directly, the deal with Microsoft.

            The deal with Microsoft was the result of a change in direction for Apple. At most, it was a "vote of confidence" from MS, especially the commitment to continue to provide MS Office.

            No, the boost was Jobs' redirection of Apple which appeared to be increasingly rudderless at the 90s wore on.

            Unless you are one of those late 90s-era melon-headed downsies mac zealots who actually believed Apple was not in serious financial conditions. In that case a shithouse OS like MacOS 8 is exactly what you deserved.

            Apple wasn't hurting for cash, they were hurting for direction. MS's $150 million had essentially zero direct effect for Apple financially.

          • by jonbryce (703250)

            If you are arguing about whether cash in the bank exists or not, this is Parmalat accounting, not Enron accounting - ie showing forged bank statements to the auditors. I am pretty sure that wasn't happening, and apart from the possibility of forged bank statements, cash generally isn't something you can argue with.

        • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:15AM (#29362477) Homepage Journal

          When MS invested millions of dollars in Apple, Apple had billions of dollars in the bank. The investment was merely a part of a settlement between Apple and MS that ended the lawsuits Apple had against MS, and for Microsoft's part, they had to buy some Apple stock and promise to keep selling Office for a number of years.

          You're mostly correct. When MS invested in Apple, they had a little over a billion dollars in cash available. The bigger problem was that their market share and stock price had been tumbling for years (1997-1998 was a huge low point, the lowest in some 10 years). Apple wasn't in tremendous financial trouble just yet, but they were worried about the direction things were going, and (as Apple should know better than anyone) public perception of a company's performance is just as important as the real numbers.

          The $150 million was really a drop in the bucket. What was more important was that they paid Apple that via purchasing stock which they weren't allowed to sell for 3 years. As you said, they also agreed to continue writing and selling Office for the Mac. They agreed to collaborate on Java to ensure interoperability. Best of all was the agreement to make IE the default browser on the Mac! ;)

          Basically, it was Microsoft showing faith in the Apple platform that "saved Apple". Yes, they are competitors, but as Steve Jobs said, "We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose, and for Microsoft to win, Apple has to lose." Considering Microsoft is a publicly-owned company, their motives were obviously more than just being buddy-buddy with Apple. That's not really the point, however.

          This video is pretty neat [youtube.com] to watch now (some 12 years later). It's Jobs announcing the new partnership with Microsoft and the reation of the audience (imagine what it would be like now).

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mdwh2 (535323)

            I remember those days - Mac users would brag about "Think Different" due to not running Windows, and then run a whole suite of Microsoft products such as Office, Internet Explorer etc...

            (Although I see that now, "Think Different" is replaced with "Get an iSomething to be like everyone else"...)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jandersen (462034)

        Linux's overlap with Windows is much smaller than its overlap with HP, IBP, and Sun/Oracle.

        This may be a large part of their considerations, although helping your enemy's enemies is a strategy that has backfired many times in the past. Another part of it is likely that they want to be seen as not so much of a threat by the growing crowd of FOSS users; by betting so heavily on the corporate world, Microsoft have managed to push away a large part of the people who are going to be important and influential decision makers in the future: the students, who can't afford to pay for an expensive OS, MS O

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mysidia (191772)

      It's not a given that MS wants to do everything possible to destroy Linux, at least not immediately.

      Having a (bad) competitor can be better than not having one at all, as it's a useful tool to deny having a monopoly. They can use this as an example to show to the EU commissisions in order to prove they're not trying to stop Linux from competing.

      Linux can help MS... it can get companies that are still using proprietary UNIX such as HP-UX, AIX on SPARCs or Itaniums to switch to Xeon over time. Adopting

      • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:11AM (#29362119) Journal

        It may also be the first shot in an attempt to embrace and extend, too. After all, there's quite a lot of rather nice technology in Linux. Apt-get and the open source infrastructure is a heck of an improvement over Microsoft's "Add or remove programs" feature, in my opinion, to say nothing of the dog. Just one example.

        I wonder if future convergence will ever reach a point where I'll be writing this on my favorite (yet to be developed) operating system, an outgrowth of some mixture of a number of them.

        Or maybe I'll just chuck it all and go back to VMS.

        • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:01AM (#29362411)

          "Apt-get and the open source infrastructure is a heck of an improvement over Microsoft's "Add or remove programs" feature, in my opinion, to say nothing of the dog. Just one example."

          There are always alternatives, it's just that some don't "feel" like MS stuff enough, so they fall by the wayside. I think this is the biggest hurdle that Linux has to leap before it can gain any serious traction on MS. Until it "feels" more like Windows, etc. the vast majority of average users out there won't use it.

          Case in point, your example.

          I use a program called Revo Uninstaller instead of MS's "Add/Remove Application" software. It is far more useful, actually uninstalls things and is free. It runs an application's built in uninstaller, then goes back afterwards and searches for leftover registry entries and files. It then allows you to manually remove them.

          It is so accurate and downright honest about it, I actually use it to test an application for "trustworthyness". I will install an app, then immediately uninstall it with Revo and take note of how much the applications uninstaller left behind. You'd be amazed at how much crap some apps leave behind, most intentionally. Adobe is the worst. I uninstalled one of their apps (reader, I think) and the entire program was still on my hard drive. The Adobe uninstaller straight up fucking lied to me.

          It must work because attempting to uninstall Adobe Flash Player gives you a message that says Adobe refuses to uninstall while Revo is running. Essentially, they want to leave shit on your HD and they KNOW Revo will subvert this.

          Sounds great, right? So why doesn't everyone use it?

          Simple. It doesn't "feel" like the "Add/Remove" app that people are used to. It is hard to convince people that the application they are using doesn't do what they want it to once they have been using it long enough, even if you have the evidence right on the screen in front of them. Some sort of mental block, I suppose. I don't understand it, but I certainly recognize it when I see it.
           

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by houghi (78078)

            I can only talk about openSUSE as that is what I know best. I assume the same will be available in some sort on other distributions.

            The big difference with Add/Remove and the way Linux works is that Linux distributions work with Repositories. e.g. if I want to install slrn, I go to http://software.opensuse.org/search [opensuse.org] and do the search there and click on "One-Click Install". That will add the needed repositories if they are not yet available.

            If I want to remove a program, I go to the openSUSE version of Add/

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anachragnome (1008495)

              I understand how installing apps on Linux works.

              My point is that it is different from how it is done on Windows and that the "feel" of this difference is what drives typical Windows users away from Linux, among other differences.

              Fear of the unknown, maybe, or maybe something like putting on somebody else's underwear. It just don't feel right, so they don't do it.

              Humans are creatures of habit, and Linux developers need to take that into account.

            • by polar red (215081)

              bring back the HD to the same state it was before

              isn't that the only way to prevent clutter on your HD, wouldn't this be the ONLY way to prevent a necessary 'format' in the long run ?

              • by ais523 (1172701)

                At least apt/.deb (used by Debian and Ubuntu) has two sorts of uninstall options; a normal uninstall leaves things like customised configuration files behind (so you can reinstall the program again and it goes back to the same state), and a 'purge' removes everything related to the program's package itself, which is the sort of uninstall you to bring the HD back to its original state. (If you want to go all the way back, you'd also delete dependencies of the program which weren't in use by anything else, wh

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by symbolset (646467)

            There are always alternatives, it's just that some don't "feel" like MS stuff enough, so they fall by the wayside.

            I'm not a patent lawyer but I should think an "Add/remove" programs feature that actually adds programs is sufficiently innovative in the Windows world to merit patent protection.

            • You have a very good point.

              Has ANYONE used the "Add/Remove" function in Windows to INSTALL something? I never thought of that. I certainly haven't, as pretty much everything installs itself or makes the appropriate installer app calls automatically.

              Does it even WORK in that sense?

              I just looked around Revo for an option to install something, and it ain't there. Why would it be?

              • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                by symbolset (646467)
                Ok, to be fair it really is possible to add programs with the add/remove programs feature of Windows. It's also horrifically expensive and complex, but it is, in a limited sense, possible.
                • by ais523 (1172701)
                  I have done so, with one of my own programs; it simply looked on the floppy drive (this was back in the Windows 95/98 days) for a file called something like install.exe or setup.exe, then ran it. I wonder if this was in case people bought a program that came with floppy disks but no install instructions, and Microsoft imagined that the first reaction of the customer was "I know, I'll use add/remove programs"? (I also vaguely wonder if that trick still works nowadays, with XP/Vista/7? Presumably it would loo
              • Terminal Services requires the facilities to properly install certain apps.

            • In hindsight, I do know that Revo has what is called "Hunter Mode". It is basically a sub-routine that runs in the background watching for things that INSTALL in the background, screams bloody murder when it sees it, and puts the install on hold until you respond. Supposed to help prevent toolbar shit and the like from installing.

              At least that is how I think it works. I've never used it, personally.

          • by jonbryce (703250)

            If you apt-get install something, it will most likely pull down a load of dependencies. If you then apt-get remove it, it might not always remove those dependencies - as you may need them for something else.

            Of course it is still much cleaner than having all the dependencies inside your .msi package, and Revo possibly breaking something else when it removes it.

    • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOspaM.hotmail.com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @12:15AM (#29361785) Journal
      why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux?

      It is.

      Microsoft isn't a homogeneous organisation. Parts of it are still in the "Embrace" part of the plan while others are working on "Extinguish" [arstechnica.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shawn443 (882648)
        I think you have a point about it not being homogeneous, perhaps old school culture persists at the chair throwing top and maybe mid level is quietly steering towards a more sensible money making approach.
    • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @12:44AM (#29361941)

      why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??

      You seem to be making a strange equation between "maximizing profits" and "destroying Linux." The goal of most corporations, Microsoft included, is to make money. Utterly destroying a competitor which, although vocal, represents only a single-digit threat to their market share, seems like a rather irrational expenditure of resources.

      You have an awfully pessimistic world view if you equate the maximization of your own success with the downfall of all others.

      • "You have an awfully pessimistic world view if you equate the maximization of your own success with the downfall of all others."

        Unfortunately, we as a society encourage this whole-heartedly. Competitive sports are a good example. You can't win unless somebody loses. Scholarships are another. Somebody goes to school, the others flip burgers.

        Don't get me wrong, competition can be good, but the do-or-die shit plain sucks.

        I teach my kids that failure is simply an opportunity to do better. Once they start seeing

      • by bonefry (979930)

        Linux may represent a single digit in their desktop marketshare, but on mobile phones the market share of Linux is a double-digit.

        And on servers ... the majority of online services (especially the successful ones) are hosted on Linux/BSD servers. Big companies that have an online revenue, like Yahoo, Google and Amazon, are using Linux/BSD. The majority of online startups are built on top of Linux/BSD. And although Microsoft has a strong presence in companies intranets (thanks to Exchange/Office mostly), it'

      • by db32 (862117)

        Yes but that behavior has been well studied in people. Rather than taking a $10 gain and allowing a competitor to take a $5 gain, most people will spend $5 to make a competitor take a $10 loss. I do have a very pessimistic world view, because humans are little more than hairless talking monkeys with delusions of grandeur and "rational" doesn't exactly mean a whole lot. For every great man in human history that has moved us forward, there are many more shit flinging bottom feeders being drug along by thei

      • Could be hedging their bets.

        I think a thin layer Windows GUI over the top of a Linux kernel (like OSX is a thin layer of Apple over the top of a BSD kernel) would be an excellent thing for consumers. Plus Microsoft could still make locked binary drivers which implemented all the DRM and spyware they wanted without violating GPL (at least v2) and not sacrifice a bit of security (which would not be that excellent a thing for consumers, but meh.)

        I doubt if that's a strategy that's being actively considered, bu

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IntlHarvester (11985) *

      Possibly because according to the news, Microsoft has far more problems with patent trolls and their ilk than they do with Linux infringing on their intellectual property.

      I can see how it makes sense to ally with the "good guys" (including the the biggest patent assholes aka IBM) to create a broad patent pool for mutual self-defense. This also benefits the OSS community because its only a matter of time until a patent troll goes after Firefox or OpenOffice instead of Microsoft.

    • by PAjamian (679137) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:58AM (#29362393)

      Speculation [groklaw.net] is that Microsoft only invited non practicing entities (aka "patent trolls") to this auction. It is very possible that the intent was to sell the patents to a company that could wield them against Linux companies without fear of retribution, but AST managed to step in and get the highest bid on them, and then turned around and sold them to the OIN. This is a subversive plan by MS that backfired.

      • by makomk (752139) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:15AM (#29364685) Journal

        This possibility is why Mono is dangerous, and why Microsoft's promise not to sue is worthless. Since the promise not to sue is not a patent license, it doesn't bind any future purchasers of Microsoft's patents on .Net.

        All Microsoft has to do is sell a couple of their more critical patents to patent trolls, after first granting themselves and all the Microsoft .Net users a suitable non-revokable license to them. *BANG*! No more Mono, and all the apps written for it become illegal to run in the US - unless you run them on Microsoft .Net. This is perfectly safe for Microsoft since they and their customers are protected by the patent licenses.

  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:42PM (#29361541) Homepage Journal

    This is a really expensive way to dodge a tiny part of the software patent problem, and it involves paying Microsoft millions. And for every such trick we win, how many did we lose?

    The upcoming Bilski review is the first time in 28 years that the Supreme Court in the USA will review the patentability of software - that's were we can get a real victory. I'm working on an amicus brief which'll have to be submitted within about two weeks. If anyone wants to help, it would be very useful to expand the swpat.org wiki's information about studies which show the harm of software patents:

    And to add more info about arguments for abolishing software patents:

    This is our big chance and might be the last one for decades.

    • The upcoming Bilski review is the first time in 28 years that the Supreme Court in the USA will review the patentability of software - that's were we can get a real victory. I'm working on an amicus brief which'll have to be submitted within about two weeks. If anyone wants to help, it would be very useful to expand the swpat.org wiki's information about studies which show the harm of software patents:

      ... but the Supreme Court doesn't have the authority to abolish business and software patents. You may not like them, but it's Congress who would have to (and has full authority to) amend 35 USC 101. Any argument to abolish them before the Supreme Court based on unconstitutionality will fail since Congress included business methods in the infringement statutes.

      • by russotto (537200)

        ... but the Supreme Court doesn't have the authority to abolish business and software patents.

        The Supreme Court essentially has whatever authority it claims, unless and until Congress decides to say otherwise.

        You may not like them, but it's Congress who would have to (and has full authority to) amend 35 USC 101. Any argument to abolish them before the Supreme Court based on unconstitutionality will fail since Congress included business methods in the infringement statutes.

        35 USC 101 does not refer to busin

        • 35 USC 101 does not refer to business method patents.

          It also doesn't refer to telephone patents. However, it does refer to machines, and similarly to processes.

          The sole reference is a specific defense to infringement for business method patents. It is a standard rule of statutory construction that a statute not be interpreted as having no effect; however, that is a judicial rule, and the Supreme Court is free to ignore it.

          Wait, what? Your argument is that the Supreme Court can find business methods unconstitutional if they ignore two-hundred-plus years of statutory construction precedent? Brilliant! Why, under your idea, they can just ignore any part of any statute they want, regardless of what it says, and pluck out only whichever words they want in order to find something unconstitutional!

          Yeah, it's not going to work

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:45PM (#29361569) Homepage Journal

    All this talk of "defensive patents" that supposedly "protect the community" is just a fraud. To protect the community, take all the documentation of the patent, and put it in the public domain. Then, anyone who wants can implement the tech, without restriction, forever. Keeping it patented retains the power of the patent holder to deny implementation to someone, sometime.

    If they were really serious about merely protecting the community, they'd give up the patent control entirely. But it's clear that "the" community just means whoever the patent holder wants to defend from someone else who they exclude. That's entirely against what the Linux way of real open development means: anyone, anytime can join the community by coding and releasing.

    These "defensive" patent orgs will bite us in the ass. Otherwise they wouldn't be investing time and money in not just the patent portfolios and all the work to maintain them, but also in conning us into believing it's for our own good.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dyinobal (1427207)
      Well seems to make sense to me. First get linux community to seem to agree with the fact Microsoft holds valid patents, second with previous patent validity established destroy linux distros that become a threat by claiming they violate other patents not in this 'portfolio' of what they can use. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @12:27AM (#29361865) Journal

      take all the documentation of the patent, and put it in the public domain.

      That's what a patent does in the first place!

      It just provides monopoly protection for actually using said patent.

      In fact, this was the whole point of patents. Say I invented lemonade. Without a patent, I'd keep it my secret family recipe for generations, and anyone who wanted to make lemonade would have to reverse engineer it -- but if someone did, I wouldn't be able to say much.

      With a patent, I would publish the documentation ("It's just sugar, water, and lemon juice.") and then only I can make lemonade. Or I can license the recipe to others -- it's not like they don't know how to make it now, it's that they legally can't unless I let them.

      If they were really serious about merely protecting the community, they'd give up the patent control entirely.

      I'm not sure it's legally possible to do that, is the problem. Moreover, having a process patented provides clear documentation that you patented it first, thus putting the burden on anyone's infringing patent to prove that they invented it before you did.

      No, my big problems with this are not that I think the result is bad, but because I think it should be unnecessary -- I highly doubt Microsoft has any stunning invention that Linux "stole" for which prior art doesn't exist a thousandfold, and even if there were, I'm not sure software patents should exist at all.

      But if I'm going to accept that they exist, and that someone has to hold them, I'd much rather that someone not be Microsoft, no matter how legally binding their "covenant not to sue" is.

      Though it would be pretty slimy if this new organization doesn't have some sort of "covenant not to sue." Maybe that's the motive? Blech, now I have to go wash the evil from my brain...

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        A patent doesn't put anything in the public domain. I think you just don't know what "public domain [wikipedia.org]" means. It means there is no owner, no one can exert property rights in it, there's no legal way to exclude anyone from using it.

        A patent is a registration that prohibits anyone else implementing what's patented. That's its entire point. Publishing it doesn't endanger that exclusive ownership, and lets everyone else know what they're excluded from implementing (unless they get a license from the patent holder

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          Putting something in the public domain can actually be worse then using a patent. This is because the patent or tech will be limited in scope and offshoots can and most likely will be patented by others looking to cash in. With the patent, a licensing royalty or perhaps a perpetual license can be established for all derivative patents in the same light.

          It's actually better to abolish patents then anything, but as long as the game stands, then having a responsible company or organization hold them can be bet

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)

            I don't understand your scenario. How is publishing an invention into the public domain going to be more limited in scope than a patent would be? How is the public domain prior art going to protect for unlimited exploitation any less than the patent would be?

            If anything, the public domain can be more broadly illustrative than the patent would be. If these orgs dedicated their activity to cultivating the public domain, advising publishers into it for quality documentation the way they now do patents, the pub

    • All this talk of "defensive patents" that supposedly "protect the community" is just a fraud. To protect the community, take all the documentation of the patent, and put it in the public domain. Then, anyone who wants can implement the tech, without restriction, forever. Keeping it patented retains the power of the patent holder to deny implementation to someone, sometime.

      You have completely misunderstood the point of a defensive patent. The idea is that if someone sues over one of the technologies that the OIN is protecting, OIN can look in its portfolio for a patent that the suer is infringing, and that can be used against the suer.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        No, I have completely called BS on the need for a patent to do what "defensive patents" claim.

        If the OIN (or anyone else) simply released all their patents into the public domain, then there would be completely clear defense for anyone using them without restriction - which is what "the point" is supposed to be. If the OIN wanted to also deliver legal advice or representation to people using something OIN put in the public domain, that would actually be useful to protect users of OIN's "portfolio".

        The only

        • by DECS (891519) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:35AM (#29362279) Homepage Journal

          Rethink your position. The point of defensive patents is to leverage what you have to make up for what you don't have.

          If you sue me over patent A, I can countersue you over patent B, and force you to settle with me amicably in a sharing arrangement.

          If I give away by patent B so that unicorns dance among sunshine and rainbow farts, then I end up fucked when you sue me over patent A. I am also powerless to help anyone else in the open source community being attacked over patent A, because I gave away my leverage to the public domain.

          I'm all for beating swords into plowshares, but if you're likely to show up and stab me with your sword, I better keep my sword around, too.

          Inside Mac OS X Snow Leopard: 64-bits [roughlydrafted.com]

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)

            I prefer my position. You're describing an escalating arms race that encourages patenting everything conceivable, just in case it might be used against some possible future infringement victim. Which means each infringement someone wants to get away with requires many "defensive" patents - that are really all offensive, to be traded in exchange for infringing. So those who can afford to play engage in constant patent warfare, while the cloud of shrapnel makes it too expensive for all but the largest players

            • by DECS (891519)

              If you step back from your ideology for a moment, you can look at examples of patents being used defensively to de-escalate wars.

              For example, Microsoft has plenty of patents on things Apple uses. If Apple gave all of its IP to the public domain, then Microsoft could have sued Apple into oblivion, and your peace and love strategy would have rendered the company an ineffectual footnote of history.

              Instead, Apple presents its own patent portfolio to Microsoft and the two have regularly worked out patent sharing

      • Sounds like patent trolling a patent troll.
    • by shentino (1139071)

      Publication doesn't negate the patent itself.

      Only covenants not to sue negate patent rights.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        No, releasing an invention into the public domain negates any patent. If one has the right to do it, like if one holds the patent. Or if one just releases into the public domain instead of the long, costly and complex process of patenting.

        Covenants not to sue can have wriggle room. And to be enforced, someone has to sue the party making the covenant. Public domain prevents suing much more effectively (though nothing is perfect protection from a frivolous lawyer) than any patent and covenant can be.

    • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted AT slashdot DOT org> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:26AM (#29362217)

      He said it best:

      “Whenever a controversial law is proposed, and its supporters, when confronted with an egregious abuse it would permit, use a phrase along the lines of 'Perhaps in theory, but the law would never be applied in that way' - they're lying. They intend to use the law that way as early and as often as possible.”
      meringuoid (568297) @ 2005-11-24 16:40 (#14107454) [slashdot.org]

    • The purpose of defensive patents is to be in a position to sue the other guy if he uses his patents to sue you. Defensive patents don't protect you against patent trolls, they protect you against competitors. If MS uses anything covered by these patents, they are now in a weaker position to sue a company that uses/distributes Linux.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Patenting a flurry of inventions you will not exploit except to sue competitors over makes you weaker. To prevent chinks in the armor, you need a very large portfolio that never does you any good except when you're spending money being sued. If you just invest your money in promptly exploiting your inventions in the marketplace, you'll be much more focused on your core business, employ a lot fewer lawyers who produce nothing but invoices and complexity, and be more profitable. And make more progress.

        • I don't entirely disagree, the current system is broken. But what do you do when your competitor sues you for patent infringement?
          You do not have control over whether or not your competitor sues you for patent infringement, so you are still going to need those lawyers.
          • by Doc Ruby (173196)

            You're always going to need a lawyer when you're making money in business. But the cost of lawyers to defend yourself from infringement charges is a lot less than the cost to generate a portfolio of "defensive" patent counterattacks. Especially if you don't infringe, though even that can require paying lawyers to test your product against patented versions. Just a lot less than the army with a counterattack portfolio.

  • Groklaw Theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by asifyoucare (302582) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:55PM (#29361661)

    This is being covered over at Groklaw [groklaw.net], and PJ's theory is that Microsoft intended that these patents be used against Linux, but they wanted clean hands. Hence the auction, but it backfired when the trolls didn't win.

    Sure Microsoft could have arranged a private sale to known trolls, but their hands would have been a little grimy if not dirty.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:57PM (#29361679)

    Oh, I don't know. Stop funding Darl McBride. [builderau.com.au]

    That would be a nice start.

  • by ugen (93902)

    May be this is Microsoft's way of countering Apple? Support Linux to keep unix-like marketplace from falling entirely into Apple's hands? :)

    • I don't forsee Apple dominating the Unix based server market or to geeks who want to build their own systems (many of which use linux either some or all the time).
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Are you serious?

      As near as I can tell, there has been almost 0 UNIX marketshare falling to Apple. Apple doesn't make a UNIX; they make a UNIX spec compliant desktop operating system for home users and artistic types - and the associated hardware to go with it.

      It's a nice thought, but no. Apple is nowhere near stable or supported enough for that.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        I'm no Apple fanboi, but Mac OSX is UNIX. Who they market it to is irrelevant.

  • by sitarlo (792966) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @12:33AM (#29361901)
    UNIX is bigger than US patents. It is a culture that became an OS that became a culture. Linux gave the poor man a way to run a UNIX-like OS without having to shell out big bucks to Sun, HP, AT&T, SCO, or another UNIX vendor. Linux has become a culture in its own right. If MS were smart, they'd drop the "we hate all things UNIX" attitude and develop their own OSX-style distro that could be run on cheap PC hardware which would put them in position to actually take back some of the market Apple has claimed, and Google is about to claim. Besides, copying Apple is what they do best.
    • That would really be a stupid thing for MS to do. It would simply make them another commodity dealer for UNIX.

      MS's blessing and curse is all the applications that need Windows to run. It's a blessing because it has protected them from competitors, but it's a curse because it limits how they can evolve Windows.

      If they really wanted to throw away their legacy advantage they'd be better off creating a brand new OS than switching from one set of legacy baggage to another.

    • You mean a Microsoft Unix like Xenix? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenix [wikipedia.org]
    • So you think Microsoft should make a Unix based system, perhaps call it Xenix?

      They did that, sold it to Santa Cruz Operation, who sold it to Caldera, Who Became SCO ..... Hmmm perhaps not ....

    • You can't recognize Linux's culture in one breath and ignore Microsoft's in the other. They're not believers in the Unix Way (tm), they like graphical modules controlled by language bindings (COM), a registry and application-specific storage accessed by language bindings, and above that the whole .NET infrastructure. The idea of small programs that communicate via serialized streams, of human-editable text configs, etc, is entirely antithetical to the MS Way.

      I'm not saying they can't retain their disti
  • For every good thing MS does it makes sure to do some evil.

    See:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/09/ms_linux_pitch/ [theregister.co.uk]

  • Not so fast. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by miffo.swe (547642) <daniel.hedblom @ g m a i l .com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:18AM (#29362503) Homepage Journal

    "And by allowing the patents to go to AST in the first place, Microsoft may (the article implies) be signaling at least their lack of active intent to disrupt the Linux marketplace."

    Im much more inclined to believe that the intent was some patent troll getting their hands on the patents. They want a new SCO, no doubt.

  • MS have given Linux all the useful patents :-

    Treble Clicking
    Square Mouse Wheels
    Clippy
    Bob
    etc etc

  • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:02AM (#29362701)
    Linux is fine becuase it is developed globally. It is the USA with these weird software and business method patents that has the problem which affects both open and closed software. There can always be US compliant distros with the patented portions removed just as Redhat already does with mp3 software. It's just like the stupid encyption export limitations which led to companies like RSA incorporating out of the USA and moving development out of the USA.
    • Any aggressive use of its patents will only hurt the US software industry, as the global industry is much less tied to MS, this is bad for them. MS know this and this is the reason they use the patents as FUD instead of weapons!

  • Firstly IANAL and even in my job as a systems/software engineer I try to avoid dealing with patents like the plague on idioligical grounds (I also avoid spelling when ever possible).

    Could this following scenario happen:-

    1. Create a set of patents based on a product, each patent has a dependancy on the other(s).
    2. Release a sub-set of the patents for product.
    3. Wait for people to use the released set.
    4. Sue them for breaching the unrealesed patents.

  • by viralMeme (1461143) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @06:31AM (#29363669)
    You may notice that Microsoft never offered the patents to OIN or anyone directly involved in developing Linux, but instead sold them in a private auction. If one didn't suspect Microsoft of being evil, one would suspect them of releasing the patents to third parties, in the hope that they would engage in patent litigation. Is there a precedent for MS funneling finance to companies who go on to sue people for using Linux?
  • by toby (759) *

    In other news, stalking wild predators "may be signaling at least their lack of active intent to" eat you.

    Gullible much?

"For the man who has everything... Penicillin." -- F. Borquin

Working...