Litigate or shut up.



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From: Jason R Briggs (May 13 2007, at 23:45)

That's not the Microsoft way.

Why litigate when one can cast FUD into the wind for years... before you need to spend any money on court action?

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From: Ric (May 14 2007, at 00:38)

Hear, hear, Tim ... but there's too much value to Microsoft in threats alone. For the most part they will achieve what they want, not pay much money, and not have to expose the weakness of their case.

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From: Aristotle Pagaltzis (May 14 2007, at 03:06)

So this is a four-word letter, then?

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From: Patrick Logan (May 14 2007, at 06:36)

Em, how about we all simply stop giving them money for their products? Which ones are indispensible, again?

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From: Mike (May 14 2007, at 07:10)

This is a rather excellent escalation of the FUD campaign on Microsoft's part. "Excellent" meaning well executed and likely very effective. As an actual legal strategy, this is a non-starter. Microsoft refuses to disclose which patents are infringed upon, and likely for two very good reasons.

1) The Supreme Court of the US has recently ruled that patents have been too easy to acquire for the last two decades, and software patents are likely to be especially weak and likely candidates for being thrown out. So I don't expect Microsoft to disclose these weak patents or to file claim against anyone as they'd then have to disclose which patents as part of the claim, which are public record.

2) Those patents that actually stand any chance of standing up in a court of law would be few, and I'd bet the farm that the community could innovate around them before any civil suit even got as far as discovery.

So don't expect them to be as stupid as SCO and actually sue anyone. That would actually be the best possible thing for the FOSS community, and I for one would get the popcorn out for the inevitable smack-down from IBM. Oh boy would that be fun to watch. But bad for business for all parties involved as companies would hold off purchasing ANYTHING until the dust settled.

Off the top of my head the most amusing and possibly effective thing I can think of would be for someone from the FOSS community to go on the offensive. Perhaps a company that distributes Linux or offers support for linux could sue Microsoft for libel? There is certainly grounds for damages since this is certainly depriving FOSS championing companies of business.

The list of companies for whom this strategy makes sense is pretty slim though. It doesn't make sense really for IBM, as they don't actually distribute a linux distro, and sell services for lots of software running on Windows as well. Novell is also clearly out. Red Hat could make a good run of it, as this impacts their core business and is certainly depriving them of business.

Sun might be a decent candidate as well; large company with a decent body of in house lawyers, past experience with patents and litigation, including against Microsoft. Since one of the categories of infringements given by Microsoft includes Open Office which is somehow tied to Sun's Star Office there's certainly cause. I assume Sun has some cross-licensing thing going on, but from what I gather most of these cross-licensing pacts with Microsoft don't apply to FOSS software produces by the other party.

Alas, I doubt anyone has the cojones necessary.

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From: Jeremy Dunck (May 14 2007, at 14:18)

With the recent obviousness change and the upcoming Peer to Patent project [1], Microsoft need not reveal any particular claimed patents.

But they've made themselves a high profile target for review.

[1] http://dotank.nyls.edu/communitypatent/

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From: Matt S Trout (May 14 2007, at 14:24)

I want that on a T-shirt.

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From: Seth Gordon (May 15 2007, at 06:06)

Anyone whose business is being harmed by Microsoft's patent FUD has standing to file suit against Microsoft seeking a declaratory judgement, just as Red Hat did against SCO (http://lwn.net/images/ns/rh-complaint.pdf).

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From: Anthony Starks (May 15 2007, at 16:56)

Sun's Jonathan Swartz has three words: (http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/entry/what_we_did)

innovate, not litigate

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From: Aristotle Pagaltzis (May 17 2007, at 19:33)

Linus Torvalds agrees.

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From: Sambeau (May 22 2007, at 16:14)

Two words short by my standards.

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From: Josh (May 26 2007, at 11:09)

I have a different set of four words for Microsoft, but I don't think this comment would be approved if I publish them ;)

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From: John Cowan (May 26 2007, at 15:20)

There is also the famous characterization of Windows 95: "A 32-bit extension of a 16-bit graphical shell of an 8-bit operating system coded for a 4-bit processor by a two-bit company that can't stand one bit of competition" (or alternatively "...doesn't care one bit about its users").

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author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
May 13, 2007
· Business (106 fragments)
· · Microsoft (19 more)
· · Open Source (41 more)

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