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The patent cold war has begun

It is increasingly becoming clear what the deal between Microsoft and Novell really means for GNU/Linux. Hear it from Microsoft itself: Ballmer: Linux users owe Microsoft. Can you hear the sound of those rattles? Microsoft is hitting the patent threat hard this time, and no matter if it is just empty words or a true promise, this could hurt GNU/Linux much more than the whole Novell deal was supposed to help. If you ever thought SCO case was an annoyance to the legal reputation of GNU/Linux, what do you say to having the biggest software corporation on Earth spell out threats of patent litigation against anyone who doesn't sign a deal with them?

As much as enterprises may be encouraged to consider switching to GNU/Linux due to the supposed recognition that this deal gave to it, they may be discouraged by the litigation fears that are now being so tightly tied to GNU/Linux by Microsoft itself. Sure, enterprises can choose Novell SuSE and be safe, but for how long? And what exactly will Novell turn into in a few years time? What exactly will Microsoft do to it?

Even Novell ought to have had some surprises in just days after making the deal with Microsoft, when Ballmer publically said that the deal was not exclusive and offered other GNU/Linux vendors the same thing. The protection racket, anyone? Of course, Microsoft is one of those companies which can get away with that.

Some people believe that the deal may be a sign of change of heart at Microsoft when it comes to the whole idea of Free Software and "Open Source". Well, for one, why would it then be so important for Microsoft to emphasize how GNU/Linux infringes on their patents? It doesn't exactly look like they are positioning themselves as the new friends in our community. It smells more like an infiltration, and a potentially painful one.

If you still somehow believe that Microsoft's stance on FOSS has softened, that they no longer press the FUD, then maybe you should read what Bill Gates has to say about it today:

"Well, let's distinguish: let's talk about free software. Free software has always been an important part of the software world, just like commercial software has been."

Anything familiar? Just as in the "good old days", he is still making a deliberate distinction between Free Software and commercial software making a direct implication that Free Software cannot be commercial and hence propagating the old lie perpetrated so many times against FOSS. The question was about "open source", so rest assured he wasn't talking about distinctively non-profit free software here. He *is* talking about Free Software under licenses such as GNU GPL.

Besides, does there need to be any more proof than this:

Now (Free Software Foundation head Richard) Stallman, he is truly pure; unlike many people who sort of try to act that way, he's pure. In V3 (version three of the General Public License) he's going to really make it clear that there's the world of "can never be (commercialized)"--nobody can ever make money on it, you know, build Web services or things. At least he's pure.

Same old deliberate lies! Richard Stallman, Free Software Foundation and many of its supporters have and continue to repeat endlessly: Free as in Freedom, not price!. Corporations like RedHat are making loads of money on *Free Software* licensed under Stallman's GPL, and yet Bill Gates comes around and say that Stallman's goal is to eradicate every possibility of making money with Free Software? If this was truly his goal, why was the current GPL written as it is today? If you have even the basic understanding of Free Software you know just how shamefully untrue Gates' statement here is. It is so shameful, in fact, that Microsoft's own employees who consider themselves to be some sort of IT experts should denounce their association with Bill Gates in every way if they have any self respect left. It is a shame on the profession and a shame on the software business world.

No, Microsoft has not changed their heart. They may show various faces in various times as it suits them and their agenda, but their actions and still even words show what they truly remain, the enemy of Free Software, the enemy of GNU/Linux and the enemy of digital rights and freedoms. And with this enemy, Novell signed a deal.

So be it, but don't forget that FSF holds copyright to some of the most vital parts of the GNU/Linux system, parts which will so likely be switched to GPLv3. And as they do, they may essentially invalidate the deal. There is something for GPLv3 critiques to ponder. Microsoft has patents, money and the power to corrupt. What do we have? We have the GPL.

Thank you
Danijel Orsolic



The flood gates have

The flood gates have opened.

Microsoft, with the ink on the Novell deal barely dry are starting the litigation we feared. They will sue as many people as they can - this is fear, if they didn't fear GNU/Linux they wouldn't bother suing.

I think this will be a good test of the GPL, where I hope it will remain steadfast against the threat of patents for written work.

I am not so sure they will

I am not so sure they will actually sue. Many doubt that Microsoft would dare actually do that because there are many potential consequences for them too.

The problem is that even mere threats hurt. Even if they never sue, by merely telling everyone how GNU/Linux owes them, and how they could sue if they wish, it is dealing quite a blow to the legal reputation of GNU/Linux. People all over the world will start looking at it as encumbered. This is why even these threats are so bad for us, and Novell has opened their doors to this racketeering.

Ah, I see what you mean: the

Ah, I see what you mean: the threat of being sued is more damaging than being sued, since companies don't want to be in a situation where they might be sued, while if MS were to sue, they woud most likly lose and then the threat wouldn't exist any more. Remindes me of blackmail.

Wrote My State Attorney General


I have written my state's attorney general in the USA to request an antitrust hearing and an immediate gag order.

Dear State Attorney General:

I have a very technical matter to bring up with this state. I encourage the state to take action on behalf of businesses in our state.

Unlike the Microsoft operating system you may have heard of, I am a Linux operating system advocate, trying to start a business, and am writing software for the Linux platform.

Unfortunately, however, I believe Microsoft is exhibiting antitrust characteristics again and I encourage this State to consider taking them back to court again.

In a recent announcement, Microsoft is now saying that Linux infringes on its software patents and is offering cross-licensing deals (a kind of protection racket) to Linux distribution vendors. Novell Corporation, the other day, caved in and signed an agreement with Microsoft. Microsoft, however, will not spell out what exactly these software patent violations are, but is using FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) in the marketplace to maintain Microsoft's dominance of the software industry.

Here is the link to this news item with the Computerworld magazine periodical:

This accusation without proof, and the forcing of this hand from the Linux-based software industry, causes great harm to the marketplace of vendors that rebundle Linux distributions or create or sell software for the Linux platform. Customers who see this announcement in the marketplace are less-inclined to purchase a rebundled Linux OS distribution, or purchase software that runs on the Linux platform. Moreover, they may only deal with Linux and Linux-based software vendors who have signed this agreement with Microsoft. I plan to release my software on to the market next year and I may be faced with a diminished market, causing me and my potential corporation some financial damage.

Microsoft oddly seems to think it can stand above its competition and pontificate about its so-called clean intellectual property when in fact it has been proven that it is not so clean. Early copies of Windows NT 3.5 (back in 1993) have been opened with a "binary editor" tool and inside was found a mistake where Microsoft lifted BSD Unix code for its TCP/IP network protocol and didn't even bother to remove the BSD Unix copyright. And their current code was a rewrite from prior art based on this work. Without operating systems such as Unix and Linux, the Internet would not only not be here, but it would be a lot more expensive too. Indeed much of what Microsoft's business model thrives on is through borrowed concepts from Unix and Linux, with the TCP/IP network stack being a classic example of this.

Here is what I believe this State should seek against Microsoft:

* A gag order that prohibits Microsoft, its board membership, employees, or subsidiary companies from claiming software patent violations against any vendor except in a court of law.

* An addendum to the ruling that also prohibits any software company, its board membership, employees, or subsidiary companies from claiming software patent violations against any other vendor except in a court of law. Doing so in this State should be considered libel and harassment, even if done by a company outside of this State.

* Another antitrust case against Microsoft, using this as a classic example of why the company should be broke up into pieces, and no single piece may use the name "Microsoft" for a period of twenty years.

* Financial restitution by Microsoft to the Free Software Foundation, which could then redistribute this award to many open source projects including Linux and Linux-based software.


{Name Withheld}

Hello supermike. I stand by

Hello supermike.

I stand by everything you wrote in that letter and wish you the best of luck with it. That it is going to be difficult convincing anyone to take legal action against MS goes without saying, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried.

A lot of what MS is doing here is simply illegal. They can't get away with it forever.

didn't explain


Supermike, you didn't fully explain yourself. "Customers who see this announcement in the marketplace are less-inclined to purchase a rebundled Linux OS distribution, or purchase software that runs on the Linux platform" ... because they fear being sued for patent infrigment from Microsoft.

More detail


Here's a comment that Ballmer just stated at a SQL Developer conference:

"We've had an issue, a problem that we've had to confront, which is
because of the way the GPL (General Public License) works, and because
open-source Linux does not come from a company -- Linux comes from the
community -- the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual
property is a problem for our shareholders. We spend $7 billion a year
on R&D, our shareholders expect us to protect or license or get
economic benefit from our patented innovations. So how do we somehow
get the appropriate economic return for our patented innovation, and
how do we do interoperability. The truth is, because of the complex
licensing around the GPL, we actually didn't want to do one without the


Shuttleworth Talks About It Too


"We haven't seen the details of the deal. Novell hasn't seen the real plan. The industry is littered with companies that have fought with Microsoft, then went to Microsoft as a cowered partner to do some small deal and then just got axed. Palm, Sybase and, um, Novell."


Yep, the market truly is littered by those who did side-deals with Microsoft and got burned. IBM, Sybase, Corel, WordPerfect, Palm, Novell (once before, and now this). You'd think these bozos would learn?

What do we have?

libervisco wrote:

What do we have? We have the GPL.

I am afraid this won't be of much weight in this battle. These guys are really powerful and nasty.

What do we have?

Determination. Sincerity.

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again"
[William Cullen Bryant, as quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr]


After reading this the

After reading this the thought of Microsoft engaging in a patent cold war resurfaced. I actually thought of writing about it, but a search reminded me I already did it above ^^ Smiling

Anyway, I would still assume Microsoft wouldn't dare to go hot with this (and start suing GNU/Linux users), so the message should be clear: just ignore them and their patent acquisitions. They're a sinking ship cathing on straws. Sure, it is a huge ship that'll take a while to sink, but that doesn't change their sinking state much.

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