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Microsoft Patents Software Linux

Microsoft, Sue Me First 349

corigo writes "Supporters of free and open source solutions have thrown down the gauntlet at Microsoft's feet. Christian Einfeldt of Digital Tipping Point says 'Sue Me First,' and he's not alone. More and more people are signing up and challenging Microsoft to put their lawyers where their mouth is. The open source community is far from running scared. Will Microsoft step up to the plate, or are they just continuing a scare campaign with no real ability to leverage the patents they claim open source is infringing?"
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Microsoft, Sue Me First

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  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:36PM (#19215053) Homepage Journal
    He just might eat you.

    Dangerous game we are playing, calling their bluff. The stakes are pretty damned high.
  • Not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:42PM (#19215109)
    If MS had strong infringement claims, they would have named them years ago. The fact they're pulling a SCO-esque FUD campaign means that these supposed infringements are questionable at best, and can be challenged, at which point prior art will probably be found. If not, they can be coded around. In all cases, MS is pretty much spent once it's named these supposed infringements, which is why they won't do so publically. Their strategy is a combination of public FUD and private protection-money shakedowns. Calling their bluff is exactly the right thing to do.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:43PM (#19215119) Homepage Journal
    They're getting one hell of a cartload of free publicity, just after the release of their new OS, and projects like the One Laptop Per Child (which runs Linux but does not run Windows) are dependent for survival on orders that have not yet been placed. Intel's legally-questionable pressure on OLPC at the same time as this FUD may be part of a cooperative effort to destroy serious competition in new markets. It wouldn't be the first Wintel effort to crush rivals with anti-competitive actions, if that is what it is.

    (I'm looking at OLTP, because that's a worldwide non-Microsoft venture that could seriously dent Microsoft revenue in growing markets and because it's the biggest event due any time soon. Microsoft's FUD is generally not random but very purposeful and has a specific goal in mind. There simply isn't another goal on a comparable scale on any kind of near-term timeframe.)

    There are a few other avenues that Linux could be doing well in, but Microsoft is growing faster in the server market despite inferior performance, reliability or security, and that's the only other area Linux and Microsoft have any serious rivalry at this time. Linux could be doing well on the desktop, but not while it is playing catch-up. It would have to invent a whole new metaphor before it could seriously threaten Microsoft in the home market.

  • Do not want! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DuranDuran ( 252246 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:45PM (#19215129)
    Microsoft doesn't want to step up the plate - they don't want to solidify their claims. They want to create in the midns of existing and potential Microsoft products that Linux and assorted alternatives are too risky to switch towards. Patents this week, usability next week, compatability the week after. This is not a game about patents, this is a game of unobservable quality and obfuscating the quality determination process. "What if there really are problems with Linux? Maybe it isn't the good solution I've heard it is? Best to stick with Microsoft, the lemon/devil I know".

    This may sound like a troll, but it really is not: in my opinion, Linux enthusiasts crying, "sue me first!" creates in the mind of traditional business people the idea that such enthusiasts are risk-seeking. Not everyone wants to be associated with a risk-seeker.
  • by Vexler ( 127353 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:48PM (#19215159) Journal

    Let's see whether Microsoft runs out of cruciforms first or the Open Source community runs out of people first.

    It's on.
  • Re:Not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:48PM (#19215169)
    Microsoft isn't going to sue some open source hobbyist that doesn't really have much to sue for. They will sue if anyone, with open or closed source products, poses an actual threat to their monopoly. It would be impossible to build any type of new software without infringing on some of Microsoft patents. Whether or not they would be upheld in court is a different matter, but it would be enough to prevent a small group of programmers from threatening their cash flow.
  • by NeverVotedBush ( 1041088 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:53PM (#19215221)
    Actually, I think this is great. People standing up and telling Microsoft to shove it.

    For too long Microsoft has bullied and intimidated. They have monopolized, stolen code (remember the Stacker lawsuit?), and tried to dominate the entire world. Sadly, they did pretty well at it.

    But now, Linux is, IMHO, ready for the general user and the common desktop. It doesn't require the skills that it once did thanks to Gnome and KDE. For most people, web browsing, reading e-mail, and processing word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, Linux looks and feels pretty damn close to Windows - but has added enhancements, has better security, and is far cheaper to own.

    I'm sure these latest developments, with Dell offering Ubuntu, Vista being bad-mouthed by gamers and office users alike, and open sourcers far and wide mocking Microsoft and it's chair-throwing flunkie, Bill and company are just a wee tad worried.
  • Re:Do not want! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:06PM (#19215381)
    This may sound like a troll, but it really is not: in my opinion, Linux enthusiasts crying, "sue me first!" creates in the mind of traditional business people the idea that such enthusiasts are risk-seeking. Not everyone wants to be associated with a risk-seeker.

    On the other hand, if Linux just sat back and let Microsoft dish out the patent threats, companies might not want to be associated with the threat of lawsuits. Damned if they do, damned if they don't, basically.

    At least this way, Linux is trying to head the FUD off at the pass, before real damage can be done. And if I was a decision maker, I'd view it as a mark of confidence in a product if they're willing to stand up to Microsoft.
  • by Fox_1 ( 128616 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:09PM (#19215419)
    First they came for the Hackers, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Hacker. Then they came for Novell, and I didn't speak up, because I don't use Novell. Then they came for the Linux Users, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Windows user. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:37PM (#19215659)
    fp btw!

    Whatever value your post may have had has just been completely negated.

  • by Score Whore ( 32328 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:52PM (#19215743)
    How does it feel to be fringe?

    MS doesn't have an open source business model. They have a "we'll give you almost anything if you pay us" business model.

    You also should know that back in the 70s and 80s IBM had a multistory building full of lawyers for the sole purpose of fighting the US government. SCO is nothing.

    BTW. IBM's market cap (source) [yahoo.com] is $159 US billion. Microsoft's is $297 US billion. Neither company could possibly litigate until their opponent went out of business.
  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:27PM (#19215981) Homepage Journal
    If a business or government body is not taking due care with the private information they hold on the public which could lead to identity theft then they are at risk of being sued.

    1) Demand the business or government body to disclose copies of the anti virus logs for all of their desktops and laptops.
    2) Generate a list of all the malware that
    a) was cleaned up post infection ( the malware was actually executed and run ) AND
    b) exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft applications and operating system prior to an update fix being made available by Microsoft.

    In comparison to MacOSX or Linux based desktop, Microsoft's desktop operating systems and Microsoft's desktop applications face a disproportionally higher risk of being "infected" with hostile malware. Just relying on third party Antivirus software to prop up a Microsoft flagging security record in no way puts you any closer to the level of security that a switch to another vendors desktop platform can provide. ( Just updating to Vista is no guarantee of better security in comparison to another vendors platform )

    A business or government body is not taking due care with the private information they hold on the public if they continue to use Microsoft desktop OS environments or Microsoft desktop applications. That is your credit card data, banking details , health care info and social security information. If switching to Linux or MacOSX based desktops would greatly reduce the risk of further intrusion why should not organizations be "encouraged" to make the move.

    If anyone's customers are at greater risk of being sued it is Microsoft's own customers that face the greatest risk.

  • by NullProg ( 70833 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:36PM (#19216041) Homepage Journal

    Remember, that in America at least, court cases are generally won by money not truth. On television, people win court cases on merit. Frankly, Micro$oft can throw in a few attorney's to fud things up and confuse the judge, then throw in a bribe or two to close the deal. It really is not relevant if M$ has any patents or not. They have money...like O.J. did.

    Generally, in America, anyone can bitch and complain about any legal decision they don't agree with. They can accuse a Judge of accepting bribes with no facts to back them up. In America the complainers don't get shutup or thrown in jail. Judge Kotar-Kelly was obviously bought with Microsoft Money.

    If you remember the OJ criminal trial, then you also remember the results of the Civil trial in which OJ was found guilty. All hell broke loose in Watts. OJ is now broke, getting denied Resturant seats, and taking advantage of the Florida homestead exemption.

    I can proove you wrong so I must be a tool of the Bush/Rove conspiracy, correct?

  • by wordsnyc ( 956034 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:38PM (#19216057) Homepage
    Yes, it's the Holocaust all over again.

    That's an offensively stupid comparison you've got there. Try a car analogy.
  • by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:38PM (#19216065) Journal
    Software patents are like a virus that attaches itself, in an intellectual property sense, to anything it touches.
  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:05PM (#19216237) Homepage
    SCO was Microsoft's sock puppet.

    a) SCO/Microsoft: "You're infringing, we're suing!!" ...SCO dies/fades into obscurity, people stop taking it seriously.

    b) Microsoft: "You're infringing, we're suing!!"

    Different singer, same song.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:08PM (#19216269) Homepage
    No, OJ beat the rap because the LAPD is remarkably arrogant.

    They took a high profile celebrity crime and really didn't bother to put enough care into the investigation for it not to blow up in their faces.

    You can't credit the jury. You can't credit the defense team.

    Sole credit goes to LAPD.
  • Re:Not really. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:23PM (#19216383)
    Yeah, let's have the smaller of the Open Source companies with the least resources to spend on lawyers go up first against Microsoft so that they can be defeated by Microsoft's superior resources and help set a precedent before Microsoft goes after the bigger companies. Thanks for helping out Microsoft.

    This chest puffing does seem reckless and can have bad repercussions on the community. People like you allow Microsoft to get a secondary message across that the Open Source community is reckless, unprofessional, and fragmented.
  • by aliquis ( 678370 ) <dospam@gmail.com> on Monday May 21, 2007 @11:29PM (#19216821) Homepage
    I wonder who it would hurt most of Dell then said "ok, fuck this, we won't distribute Windows for you."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @11:32PM (#19216847)
    Red Hat was able to pre-emptively sue SCO [wikipedia.org], asking the court to declare that they are not violating any copyrights owned by SCO, only because SCO revealed enough information that Red Hat could show that they were in danger of being sued by SCO.

    For someone to do something similar against Microsoft's threats, Microsoft would first have to reveal exactly which patents they are threatening to sue over. Once Microsoft did that, people who think they may be infringing have the right to file with the patent office to have the patent invalidated.

    That is exactly what Microsoft said is the reason that they are not announcing what those 200+ patents are.

    That's also a good indication that they are not likely to sue anyone, and that the only purpose of this FUD is FUD.

    They can't sue for patent infringement without saying which patents are being infringed. That's why "sue me first" is such a good idea, and why Microsoft can't really take anyone up on it.
  • Hey, dontcha just love the Microsoft PR machine!!! Here we are on Slashdot, talking about Microsoft's PR prowess, and Microsoft is kind enough to come along and give us a demonstration! On my screen, I am seeing advertisements for a kinder, gentler Microsoft, one that makes a donation to some unknown charity every time you use Microsoft IM. Oh, that's so sweet and cuddly! Just ignore those patent threats, boys and girls! We didn't mean any harm!

    This is exactly my point, and it's why I offered to have Microsoft sue me. Microsoft is doing an excellent job of PR, and we need to draw public attention to two basic facts: 1) Microsoft's patent claims are unmeritorious; and 2) Microsoft is making vague patent threats because self-censorship is cheaper and more powerful than filing patent infringement lawsuits that only work in the US, if they work at all.

    If you are not seeing the kinder, gentler IM donations on your screen, you can see them here on the Digital Tipping Point Flickr account, at least until Microsoft buys Yahoo, at which point you will see them only on our Google Picasa account:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/49947835@N00/50881358 7/ [flickr.com]

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/49947835@N00/50881358 3/ [flickr.com]

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/49947835@N00/50877703 8/ [flickr.com]

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/49947835@N00/50878264 1/ [flickr.com]

    Note to Microsoft counsel Brad Smith, Esq.: If you need documentary proof for your trial against me that I use Ubuntu GNU Linux, you can use this screenshot, which I am hereby vouching is a true and accurate shot depicting my Edgy Ubuntu desktop which, coincidentally, I am using to produce the Digital Tipping Point film. Among other things, the DTP film will suggest that Microsoft, like RCA and IBM before it, is facing an "innovator's dilemma" that will disrupt its current monopolistic business model. The funny thing is that the same market forces that propelled Microsoft to hammer IBM is now going to help IBM return the favor, this time using GNU Linux and OpenOffice.org. But I guess you knew that already, Sir Brad, because that is why you have been filing patents. You once worked at IBM. You learned well. Here is that proof you will want if you ever do file a case against me:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/49947835@N00/50878264 1/ [flickr.com]
  • Re:...hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Almahtar ( 991773 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @01:03AM (#19217433) Journal
    As the sixth person to sign up on that list, I'm not scared in the least if that was Microsoft's reaction. What would happen if Microsoft tried to sue us and won? Court precedent would be set giving them leverage to sue Google, Apple, HP, Sun, IBM, all the big dogs that are using open source software. The moment Microsoft tries to sue one or all of us, the above companies would step in for a few reasons: 1. They can nip this thing in the bud rather than letting harmful court precedent get set against them. 2. They get to look like the heroes of the little guy and make Microsoft look like a jackass bully in the process. GREAT PR. 3. Microsoft just plain doesn't have a case in this one. Easy win. This challenge can't lose. If Microsoft ignores it they're shown to be the liars and bluffers that they are. If Microsoft takes the bait they get smacked down publicly.
  • by linvir ( 970218 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @02:27AM (#19217799)

    I just had a good laugh at the expense of the people signed up for this. Either they don't care that their addresses are going to get harvested, or they're working under the delusion that obfuscation techniques like "jim at website dot com" can't be beaten by some very simple Perl.

  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @02:45AM (#19217851)
    Now they seem to want to fight us.

    Just like good politicians and good lawyers: you provoke a fight and make the opponent so angry that people will just forget who began the whole thing and tell them hey, they wanted to fight, no wonder we try to defend ourselves. Thing is, this is a very well proven tactic, and we all should just try to clearly avoid it, and try not to make this "sue me first" outburst look like FOSS wanted to challenge Microsoft in the first place. The FOSS world just needs to be very careful in this matter. Maybe this whole thing is just a FUD campaign with a lot of smoke, but we could never know what they hide under the smoke.
  • Re:...hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @03:44AM (#19218077)
    > As the sixth person to sign up on that list, I'm not scared in the least if that was Microsoft's reaction. What would happen if Microsoft tried to sue us and won? Court precedent would be set giving them leverage to sue Google, Apple, HP, Sun, IBM, all the big dogs that are using open source software. The moment Microsoft tries to sue one or all of us, the above companies would step in for a few reasons:

    Wow you have trust... While I don't agree with the tactics of Microsoft I sure as heck don't want to be a marter. The reality is that this "Sue me first" is downright reckless. Do you and the folks on the list really have the bucks, time and effort to stop Microsoft?

    Let's look at this from a legal perspective.

    1) Google, Apple, HP, Sun, IBM don't care about the people using Open Source. They are corporations that have shareholders, employees and businesses to run. If it make corporate sense for them to defend open source they will. If not then they will not. Do you really understand how precedence works? A judge could write in the individual lawsuits that the court decision they made should not be used as precedence. Then you are SOL.

    2) Why would Google, Apple, HP, Sun, and IBM want to look like a hero? Again these are corporations that will do things that make corporate sense. This is not some sort of good guy, bad guy fairy tale where the shiny white knight comes in to save the princess.

    3) Really Microsoft does not have a case? Have you looked at the legal documents? Have you consulted a lawyer? Unless you have done that you know nothing of the case. And if you have I take my questions back.

    And the last comment that I want to make is that the general public DOES NOT CARE about Open Source. To the general public they can take or leave Microsoft. They look at their pocket books and if it makes sense for them to buy Windows they will and in most cases they do anyways.

    What concerns me in this Microsoft patent thing is that I wonder what their real aim is. Microsoft is clever, as has been shown time and time again. What do they have to gain by talking about these patents? Is it really a bluff? Are they trying to show some rabidness of the community? I am not saying that Microsoft has a case, but I have known Microsoft too long to know what you see is not always what you get.
  • Re:Not really. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:56AM (#19218407)
    Monopoly doesn't mean there is no competition, just that you have a SIGNIFICANT advantage over the competition. Otherwise companies would just prep up some puppet companies that get noting done just to avoid being counted as a monopoly. Once you're big enough to damage a company by refusing to deal with them (since your competition cannot fill the job adequately) you're a monopoly.
  • Re:Not really. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pedestrian crossing ( 802349 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:21AM (#19218503) Homepage Journal

    these supposed infringements are questionable at best, and can be challenged, at which point prior art will probably be found.

    For many of their claims, I think this is the likely scenario.

    If not, they can be coded around.

    Everyone keeps trotting this one out, but I don't think it's going to be that simple. There are likely going to be claims that don't fail prior art, but cannot easily be "coded around". VFAT and Samba come to mind...

  • Re:Bingo! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marcosdumay ( 620877 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yamudsocram.> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @10:34AM (#19221245) Homepage Journal

    "GET REAL REAL folks this is all hot air BS to fight FUD."

    What a perfect match!

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"