Why Is Microsoft Using Patent FUD Against Linux? Perhaps Because It Works

from the not-too-hard-to-figure-out dept

Earlier this year, Microsoft made some news by claiming (not for the first time) that Linux violated all sorts of Microsoft patents, though it refused to name a single one. This seemed like a pretty sleazy strategy not just to get companies to license patents from Microsoft even though there was no proven need to do so, but also to scare some companies off from using Linux in the first place. It appears, unfortunately, that such efforts are having some effect. A new study found that the number one inhibitor against open source adoption was fear of patent or copyright infringement. Of course, the news isn't that bad, since it sounds like the benefits of open source software (price, stability, features, etc.) tend to outweigh that one fear in many cases. However, don't be surprised if Microsoft continues to play this card over and over again. Once again, though, it shows how intellectual property isn't being used to promote innovation, but to hold back innovation by creating uncertainty and fear in the market.


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    PaulT, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 3:54am

    Is legal action possible?

    I wonder if the FSF or a Linux distributor could sue to get Microsoft to spill the beans or shut up. There surely has to be a law somewhere against a large company making unsubstantiated allegations in the press, refusing to show their evidence (e.g. what are the patents that are supposedly infringed?) and using said allegations as leverage against competition. Wouldn't that kind of behaviour be covered by antitrust?

     

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      Cruxcaliber, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 4:10am

      Re: Is legal action possible?

      You would think a simple libel suit would work.

       

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        Pixel Rider, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 4:37am

        Re: Re: Is legal action possible?

        I don't think they (the FSF) can sue for libel at this point, mostly because no one besides the Microsoft lawyers know what patents Linux supposedly violates. I believe in order to sue for libel, at least to win, you need to KNOW that the allegations are false and just being used to hurt you in some way. The FSF may be able to get a court order compelling the disclosure of which patents are being infringed though. After the patents are out in the open, or Microsoft plays the "sorry, we were mistaken" card, the FSF can proceed with further action to either fix the TRUE infringement, or file suit for libel and possibly other more serious crimes.

        PS... IANAL

         

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          Shaun, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:29am

          Re: Re: Re: Is legal action possible?

          Would it be possible to set up a patent busting project like the one the EFF runs but specifically targeting Microsoft's patents or would singling them out in this way be illegal?

          If it isn't then I think this would be a worthwhile response. Only problem would be that anyone who actually produces code would have to distance themselves from this to avoid that triple liability for knowingly infringing a patent - perhaps contributions could be made anonymous?

           

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          IIAL, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 12:03pm

          Re: Re: Re: Is legal action possible?

          If you have reasonable grounds to believe that Linux infringes no enforceable MS patents you can start a lawsuit and allege it "on information and belief" (which is legalese for "I think so and I've got more to back it up that sheer speculation but I can't prove it yet). During the course of the lawsuit you can require MS to be specific. (This may drag out a long time, as anyone watching the SCO lawsuit knows, although in fairness IBM has pretty clearly been targeting thoroughness rather than speed.)

          The real problem with a suit against MS is proving that you were financially damaged.

           

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      Wolfger, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 4:25am

      Re: Is legal action possible?

      Seems that ought to be true, but if there's one thing I've learned about our legal system it's that "ought to be" and "is" do not overlap nearly enough. At any rate, (a I understand it, and IANAL) taking them to court would require proof that they've done some financial harm to the suing party. You or I could not sue on behalf of RedHat, because there is no financial harm to us. RedHat, if they chose to sue, would have to prove that Microsoft has done them harm, which could be quite difficult to do. Instead of there being any burden of proof on Microsoft for its claims of patent infringement (they don't have to prove anything if they don't sue, which they won't so long as scare tactics work), the burden of proof is now on F/OSS.

       

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    chris (profile), Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:27am

    watch redhat on this one

    i am certainly no fan of redhat (slackware for life!) but they are the ones to watch in all of this. they told MS to go pound salt when it was offering partnerships and they are are biggest money maker (outside of IBM) in the linux game.

    redhat's response thus far has been a sort of "i'll believe it when i see it" approach, and i think that's what the approach that the whole community should be taking.

     

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    drjones, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:43am

    Goes to show you....

    ... how smart the pointed hairs are..

    Patent infringement is something thats in no way shape or form increasingly risky because a piece of software is open or closed source. You have the same risks, either way.

    Remember RIM?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:46am

    I'm probably violating a microsft patent just by typing this comment. Fuc*ing FUDruckers

     

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    Microcrap, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 9:30am

    I'm sure MS has already weighed the cost of a libel suit against the revenue that will be produced from the FUD and has concluded that they will make a profit. Thats how MS works if they can make a profit after legal issues are settled then they will do it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 9:48am

    I think the main issue is there is really no way to disprove anything.. cause in reality, microsoft is probably infringing on patents held by the like of redhat, IBM, FSF, and other open source advocates, as much as they are infringing on MS's patent chest. It would get real ugly. The only way to get rid of a cancer like MS, is to teach IT, people the truth, and hopefully companies will put the right people in the right position (but even this I fear won't happen)

     

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    EP, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 11:54am

    The open source comunity DID challenge Micro$oft to "show us the code" that Linux supposedly violates effectively calling Micro$oft's bluff and they never showed us the code, so what was their next move? Make deals with Linux companies like Novell to scare other companies into signing something that they have no idea if it is true or not. Since GPL3 came out, Micro$oft is shaking in its shoes wondering what the next move will be, and Micro$oft even stated that it has nothing to do with GPL3 and that left companies like Novell feeling like a back-stabbing bitch for having signed a deal with the Devil and getting screwed for it.
    Micro$oft's next move is to get "Open Source Certified", why is anybody's guess now, but my opinion is that they intend to infect the open source community with their own version of open source which won't be truly open source at all. They intend to divide the open source community by establishing their very own brand of open source. We are talking about a scheme as big as (forgive the Star Wars reference) Senator Palpatene's to become the first galactic emperor.

     

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    Shun, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 1:22pm

    Well, according to the Inq

    Refer to this "article" :

    http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=41395

    OK, I know the Inq is full of B.S. most of the time, but when it comes to analysis, well, it sometimes does a credible job, mostly. I wouldn't even know where to begin with the whole "Microsoft is trying to take over the world again" meme, but as far as libel is concerned, you would have to be an injured party to sue.

    What would be better is if the open source community could engage in honest debate with someone from Microsoft about this issue. Of course, I expect Microsoft to play "hide the football" for as long as possible, since, along with everyone else, I suspect that M$ has no case.

     

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