Check out Jason Matusow’s Your Input Requested, on the reaction to the recent Microsoft-Novell deal. Jason notes the push-back and seems to be saying that some of it is reasonable and they’re willing to fine-tune. But there’s this one sentence that leaps off the screen at me: We are not interested in providing carte blanche clearance on patents to any commercial activity - that is a separate discussion to be had on a per-instance basis. Oh really. At one level that’s a tautology, but placed like this in the immediate context of the Novell deal, it’s more than a little threatening. It’s hard for me to imagine Microsoft firing a barrage of litigation, or even of royalty demands, at a bunch of Linux developers or integrators or packagers—that would be a nuclear first strike and who knows who’d be left standing—but then strange things happen in this world. Maybe the nonspecific saber-rattling is the real point, just trying to create enough not-unreasonable doubt in the minds of high-tech legal departments to put a little drag on OSS business momentum. Of course, they don’t say what the patents that apply in this context are, but that’s not unique Microsoft evil, it’s just the evil way that these things are usually done. [Update: Ballmer confirms: “the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders.” And “anybody who has got Linux in their data center today sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability”]


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From: John Cowan (Nov 16 2006, at 06:46)

I think that Joe Buck makes an *excellent* point at Matusow's page: If I write and incorporating a GPLed module, then the GPL on that module says I can't distribute the module relying on Microsoft's patent covenant unless that covenant extends to *all* direct or indirect distributees. So I'm up the creek, even if I don't know whether or not the code infringes anything of Microsoft's.


From: John Minnihan (Nov 17 2006, at 16:11)

Isn't this the approach that SCO took? Did they ever actually prove (or show for that matter) what IP in Linux was *their* IP?

Is SCO still breathing? I quit checking their pulse months ago. Microsoft has a long way to go before they would be in the same dire financial position as SCO, but the FUD from Ballmer sounds remarkably similar to that spewed forth from Darl McBride three years or so ago.

The moment MS makes this as an actual, detailed claim, it will be demanded that they identify the code or patent. Big business has closely watched the SCO fiasco, and even those that were originally scared by the threat of litigation have moved on, much the way schoolchildren learn to ignore the 'talk-only' bully.


From: Dalibor Topic (Nov 17 2006, at 18:45)

Downfalls of empires are interesting times. I wonder who'll get to CEO-cide Balmer at Microsoft. Any ideas who to look at in the second row?


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