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software patents

"The terms of Linux distributor Linspire's agreement with Microsoft betrays a deal "worse" than that between Microsoft and Novell, according to legal expert Pamela Jones.

Jones, author of the Groklaw blog, wrote on Sunday that the Linspire deal requires users to give up all the freedoms they would expect under the General Public License (GPL), the licence governing the use and distribution of much open-source software."

"Announced in June, Microsoft's deal with Linspire was the latest in a series of arrangements made between Redmond and Linux distributors such as Novell and Xandros. Other distributors such as Canonical, Mandriva and Red Hat have spurned Microsoft's advances.

A Patent Lie

Timothy B. Lee wrote a potentially high impact article for the The New York Times weighing in on the software patents issue and concluding that, as Bill Gates certainly agreed in 1991, software patents are bad for the industry.

"What a difference 16 years makes. Last month, the technology world was abuzz over an interview in Fortune magazine in which Bradford Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, accused users and developers of various free software products of patent infringement and demanded royalties. Indeed, in recent years, Mr. Smith has argued that patents are essential to technological breakthroughs in software.

"Novell and the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) say they've teamed up to work on software patent reforms worldwide.

Stung by international criticism levelled because of its patent cross licensing and technical pact with Microsoft, Novell says it'll work with the EFF to lobby governments and national and international organizations to develop legislation and policies around patents designed to promote innovation."

Even as they continue to defend their deal with Microsoft Novell's stance on software patents seems to be positive and it'll try to win some sympathy on those grounds. The most negative thing about the deal was, after all, the patent agreement implications of which Novell already denied. These moves could only contribute to the further invalidation of Microsoft's patent claims, despite the deal.

At this point it is clear that Microsoft neither prefers nor has very good chances at actually successfully materializing their patent threats. With their recent claim that GNU/Linux violates 235 of their patents they have merely solidified their threats and provoked a more determined response from the community and those who represent its interests.

Therefore, Linus Torvalds has responded to the patent threats by bringing to question the validity of the patent restriction for any of the fundamental operating system theories and calling Microsoft to "name the patents that it claims have been violated so the claims can be tested in court or so open-source developers can rewrite code to avoid the violation". This is really the crux of the issue for Microsoft and the very reason why we can't take Microsoft's threats seriously. As long as they make threats without evidence they will remain ridiculously unconvincing to anyone who knows what's going on.

An article that has recently been published by the Fortune magazine and through called "Microsoft takes on the free world" is one I would regard as historic. In three pages it clearly and honestly describes what is happening between Microsoft and the Free Software movement revealing certain points which are rarely seen in the mainstream media. After reading the article one can't be too confident that Microsoft will succeed, which inspires confidence to the opposite; that the Free Software revolution is imminent.