Linux Foundation: don’t be afraid of Microsoft
San Francisco (USA) – Linux Foundation has said it is ready to defend Linux users who are sued by Microsoft for patent infringement. The promise, made by the organization’s director Jim Zemlin, comes close to Microsoft’s controversial accusations against Linux and other open source software, accused of infringing over 230 patents.
Echoing the opinion expressed by many other open source exponents, Zemlin said Microsoft’s statements ” they have the sole intent of intimidating companies with false or in any case unproven arguments “: This would end up damaging especially smaller companies, which unlike giants like IBM, Oracle or Intel, do not have the financial means to support a multimillion-dollar lawsuit with Microsoft.
Zemlin believes that BigM’s allegations are just FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) not because open source software is necessarily immune to the contamination of proprietary technologies, but because the same problem affects virtually all existing operating systems . The difference, according to Zemlin, is that the Linux code is there for all to see, that of Windows and other proprietary software is locked in a safe.
“If you use Windows, Solaris, AIX, or other commercial operating systems, you run the same legal risks that Linux users do,” the director of the Linux Foundation said in an interview. “Microsoft has to be very careful about what it starts, because it doesn’t know where it can end.”
First as Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), and now as Linux Foundation, the organization led by Zemlin has initiated or sponsored various initiatives aimed at protecting the open source world from the siege of patents : among these Open Source as Prior Art, Patent Commons and Linux Legal Defense Fund. The latter fund, in particular, was born precisely with the aim of supporting the legal costs of companies sued for the infringement of patents relating to Linux.
Patent Commons is instead a database containing information on patents freely accessible by open source developers. It was born in 2005 to support another initiative, called the Open Invention Network, with which IBM, Sony, Novell, RedHat, NEC and Philips and other companies have decided to open a number of patents and make them available to the open source community.
Zemlin pointed out as Microsoft has not yet disclosed any details about the alleged violations of open source software . The reason, according to the executive, is that the possession of a patent does not guarantee the victory of a lawsuit: it is in fact not uncommon for a patent, when contested, to fail the review of the US Patent Office (USPTO).
Louis Suarez-Potts, community manager at Openoffice.org, also yesterday branded Microsoft’s allegations as an “incredible and desperate” act, and said he did not know why Microsoft “is risking alienating corporate customers and millions of Linux users “.