Microsoft: Linux violates a sea of patents
In an interview that appeared yesterday on CNNMoney.com, two executives from Microsoft’s legal department stated that some of the most popular open source software, including Linux and OpenOffice, violate over 230 patents of the big of Redmond.
According to data provided by Brad Smith, Microsoft’s legal advisor, 42 violations are borne by the Linux kernel , 65 of the Penguin GUI components, 45 of OpenOffice, 15 of e-mail programs, and 68 of various other software. The total is 235 “proven transgressions”. Smith failed to identify specific patents or disclose how they are infringed.
It is not the first time that BigM accuses open source software of containing technologies of its own: as early as November 2004, the CEO of the Redmond giant, Steve Ballmer, cited the results of a study drawn up by the Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) company. in which it was stated that Linux could infringe 228 patents 27 of which belong to Microsoft.
At the time, the Microsoft boss took the opportunity to throw a not too veiled threat to Linux users: “One day someone might knock on your door and ask you to pay the rights related to these intellectual properties.” Perhaps Ballmer hoped that SCO Group would fulfill his “prophecy”, but today the legal war launched by the latter against IBM and other Linux players seems destined to be wrecked.
Many members of the open source community they fear now that Microsoft is trying to do what SCO failed that is, leveraging its patents to keep the open source community in check and claim royalties from all Linux distributors and users.
A fear fueled by new statements from Ballmer , also reported in the CNNMoney.com article. “Microsoft’s rivals operating in the open source sector must play by the same rules followed by the rest of the industry,” said the famous executive. “What is right is right. We live in a world where we respect intellectual property and promote its respect “.
It should be noted that Microsoft, rattling off the numbers relating to patent infringements, has not limited itself to citing en passant data already in the public domain, as done by Ballmer in 2004, but has provided unpublished details, probably deriving from an internal study or on commission: this shows, according to some observers, that this time Microsoft is serious . However, not everyone is of this opinion. Others believe that a legal war “to the SCO”, but with an entity of the caliber of Microsoft as protagonist, it would give rise to a shock wave that would end up damaging, if not overwhelming, the entire software industry including the same company as Bill Gates.
Among the supporters of open source the most popular opinion is that the recent statements by Microsoft have the purpose of creating the so-called FUD that is a climate of fear and uncertainty capable of favoring the company’s recent strategies: strategies which, although aimed at collecting royalties from the open source world, do so in an underlying way, through agreements – such as those stipulated with Novell, Wal-Mart and most recently Samsung and Dell – which offer partners legal protection.
Often from this type of agreement Microsoft does not derive an immediate economic advantage, at least not significant, but in return it obtains exclusive commercial relationships, privileged access to the intellectual properties of its partner, exchange of technologies and various forms of collaboration. As also recently recalled, this policy is seen by many supporters of the Penguin as the attempt by BigM to control the Linux market by weakening all distributors and large companies that do not make deals with it.
Be that as it may, some go so far as to read Microsoft’s claims as the first major threat to open source.