May 15, 2007

Some quotes from the Microsoft patent FUD

There has been soime noise around an article in Fortune Magazine where Microsoft says “Linux infringes intellectual property”.

This FUD has always a especial characteristic:

  • They talk about “intellectual property”, not about patents or copyright, trying to create confusion.

This FUD strategy is lead by their lawyer Horacio Gutierrez. Then they are able to say things like “Opensource has high quality because it contains Microsoft intellectual property”. As they mixed patents and copyright, this can lead people to think open source has copied Microsoft code into their programs, instead of the real fact: U.S. patent system is screwed and every obvious concept or idea is patented (like the double click of a mouse).

This is a very dirty game. The quality of the software is not very determined by the patents you implement, but how the code is implemented. Microsoft products are a good example: Lot of obvious patents (most of them invalid, as they file so many that they end patenting “intellectual property” from other people) but horrible quality.

Open source software contains no code from Microsoft nor other proprietary company. This is easy to check: the code is open and available. You can’t say the same about Microsoft. Do they include open source software illegally in their products? Nobody knows. The source code is not available. This could be used as a FUD weapon, if the community would be interested in playing dirty games, of course.

Some quotes from the noise generated in the press:

From Is Microsoft Still Just Posturing Over Open Source?:

For now, though, the most to do is continue to say “we’ll see.” Microsoft is still continuing to say things without putting court filings where its mouth is.

From Open-source users, companies scoff at Microsoft threats:

“Microsoft is certainly not the only owner of patents in this area, and perhaps not even the owner of the largest number of patents in these areas,” he said. “Microsoft will need to be careful what it starts, given that it cannot know where this will end.”

Lindsay, Zemlin and others also said they believe Microsoft is exploiting the patent system in the U.S. to buy time as it tries to compete in an industry where it is no longer a thought leader.

“It’s just like with SCO Group – when they no longer had a product to sell, it started suing people,” he said. “It looks like Microsoft is throwing in the towel on trying to be innovative.”

From Microsoft details patent breaches:

Open-source proponents are frustrated by Microsoft’s repeated allusions to patent violations because “they never say what patents being violated, never make any assertions, never put the evidence out there,” said Larry Augustin, a technology startup investor who launched, a prominent open-source development site, in 1999.

If Microsoft were to start suing, it could also kick off a patent war on a grand scale. An organization called the Open Innovation Network, funded by IBM Corp., Red Hat Inc. and others, has amassed a vast number of software patents. In the event of a Microsoft lawsuit against open source companies or customers, the OIN would retaliate in kind.

“We believe it’s highly likely that Microsoft would infringe some of our patents,” said Jerry Rosenthal, OIN’s chief executive.