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Microsoft Letting Patents Move To Linux Firms

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the didn't-need-'em-anyway dept.

Microsoft 228

mnmlst notes a Wall Street Journal story (picked up at Total Telecom) on the move of some patents originally held by Microsoft to the Open Invention Network, where they will join a portfolio whose purpose is to inoculate open source companies against patent trolls. OIN is near a deal to buy 22 patents from another patent-protective group, Allied Security Trust, whose members include Verizon, Cisco, and HP. AST won the patents in a private auction Microsoft put on earlier. An AST executive says that "Microsoft presented the patents to potential bidders in its auction as relating to Linux." While OIN's acquisition of the patents will act to protect the Linux community, AST, by contrast, exists to protect only its corporate members, not the community as a whole. But by selling the patents to OIN, they are cooperating in the protection of Linux. And by allowing the patents to go to AST in the first place, Microsoft may (the article implies) be signaling at least their lack of active intent to disrupt the Linux marketplace.

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Explain this to me (4, Interesting)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361539)

why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??

Re:Explain this to me (4, Insightful)

williamhb (758070) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361717)

why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??

Not quite. Saving Apple was (presumably) to help stave off the anti-trust suits against Microsoft by preserving a weak but "potentially credible" competitor. Helping Linux seems much more straightforward: Linux's overlap with Windows is much smaller than its overlap with HP, IBP, and Sun/Oracle. So, Microsoft might well help Linux to weaken HP, IBM, and Sun/Oracle, reckoning that Linux is unlikely itself ever to be a credible threat to Microsoft's own sales. Which (Linux-cheerleading aside) is an understandable assessment as most commercial purchasers tend to run different software on Linux machines than on Windows machines, and it is more often the software decision that drives the hardware purchase (rather than the other way around). So, Microsoft doesn't primarily need to "compete Windows with Linux", they need to "compete SQL-Server with Oracle", "Exchange with Lotus Notes", "IIS with Apache and JBoss", etc.

Re:Explain this to me (4, Informative)

node 3 (115640) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362309)

Not quite. Saving Apple was (presumably) to help stave off the anti-trust suits against Microsoft by preserving a weak but "potentially credible" competitor.

There was no "save Apple" moment.

When MS invested millions of dollars in Apple, Apple had billions of dollars in the bank. The investment was merely a part of a settlement between Apple and MS that ended the lawsuits Apple had against MS, and for Microsoft's part, they had to buy some Apple stock and promise to keep selling Office for a number of years.

Re:Explain this to me (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362431)

Eh, Apple's "billions of dollars in the bank" was basically Enron accounting, and that was reflected in the stock price. The Microsoft "investment" provided a serious boost for Apple in their times of dire need, and there is no need to pathetically try to rewrite history.

Unless you are one of those late 90s-era melon-headed downsies mac zealots who actually believed Apple was not in serious financial conditions. In that case a shithouse OS like MacOS 8 is exactly what you deserved.

Re:Explain this to me (3, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362739)

Eh, Apple's "billions of dollars in the bank" was basically Enron accounting, and that was reflected in the stock price.

Um, no. It was actual cash on hand.

The Microsoft "investment" provided a serious boost for Apple in their times of dire need, and there is no need to pathetically try to rewrite history.

The boost wasn't the cash. It wasn't even, directly, the deal with Microsoft.

The deal with Microsoft was the result of a change in direction for Apple. At most, it was a "vote of confidence" from MS, especially the commitment to continue to provide MS Office.

No, the boost was Jobs' redirection of Apple which appeared to be increasingly rudderless at the 90s wore on.

Unless you are one of those late 90s-era melon-headed downsies mac zealots who actually believed Apple was not in serious financial conditions. In that case a shithouse OS like MacOS 8 is exactly what you deserved.

Apple wasn't hurting for cash, they were hurting for direction. MS's $150 million had essentially zero direct effect for Apple financially.

Re:Explain this to me (1, Flamebait)

LKM (227954) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362787)

While the Microsoft investment was important for Apple, it had nothing to do with money. The main thing Apple got out of the deal was Microsoft's commitment to continue Office on the Mac. There was serious doubt at the time whether Microsoft would kill Office, and the deal with Apple stopped that doubt.

As far as money goes, Microsoft's investment was far too small to have any real influence on the company. And even given the Office announcement, Microsoft very likely didn't save Apple, because Apple didn't need saving.

Re:Explain this to me (4, Interesting)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362477)

When MS invested millions of dollars in Apple, Apple had billions of dollars in the bank. The investment was merely a part of a settlement between Apple and MS that ended the lawsuits Apple had against MS, and for Microsoft's part, they had to buy some Apple stock and promise to keep selling Office for a number of years.

You're mostly correct. When MS invested in Apple, they had a little over a billion dollars in cash available. The bigger problem was that their market share and stock price had been tumbling for years (1997-1998 was a huge low point, the lowest in some 10 years). Apple wasn't in tremendous financial trouble just yet, but they were worried about the direction things were going, and (as Apple should know better than anyone) public perception of a company's performance is just as important as the real numbers.

The $150 million was really a drop in the bucket. What was more important was that they paid Apple that via purchasing stock which they weren't allowed to sell for 3 years. As you said, they also agreed to continue writing and selling Office for the Mac. They agreed to collaborate on Java to ensure interoperability. Best of all was the agreement to make IE the default browser on the Mac! ;)

Basically, it was Microsoft showing faith in the Apple platform that "saved Apple". Yes, they are competitors, but as Steve Jobs said, "We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose, and for Microsoft to win, Apple has to lose." Considering Microsoft is a publicly-owned company, their motives were obviously more than just being buddy-buddy with Apple. That's not really the point, however.

This video is pretty neat [youtube.com] to watch now (some 12 years later). It's Jobs announcing the new partnership with Microsoft and the reation of the audience (imagine what it would be like now).

Re:Explain this to me (2, Insightful)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362745)

Linux's overlap with Windows is much smaller than its overlap with HP, IBP, and Sun/Oracle.

This may be a large part of their considerations, although helping your enemy's enemies is a strategy that has backfired many times in the past. Another part of it is likely that they want to be seen as not so much of a threat by the growing crowd of FOSS users; by betting so heavily on the corporate world, Microsoft have managed to push away a large part of the people who are going to be important and influential decision makers in the future: the students, who can't afford to pay for an expensive OS, MS Office, Visual Studio and other applications, but can easily learn how to use Linux. And now they are in the uncomfortable situation that there is a large group of people out there, who are comfortable with Linux, which by now offers a large suite of very mature programs. They have to try to win back the minds and hearts of that group.

And one shouldn't be blind to the possibility that they are still poised to try to take over Linux, if the chance emerges. Being very permissive with patents is not the same as giving them away; maybe they hope that the patents will be worked into the FOSS code base, and then when the time is ripe they will call in the debts.

Re:Explain this to me (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361775)

It's not a given that MS wants to do everything possible to destroy Linux, at least not immediately.

Having a (bad) competitor can be better than not having one at all, as it's a useful tool to deny having a monopoly. They can use this as an example to show to the EU commissisions in order to prove they're not trying to stop Linux from competing.

Linux can help MS... it can get companies that are still using proprietary UNIX such as HP-UX, AIX on SPARCs or Itaniums to switch to Xeon over time. Adopting x86 architecture with a familiar UNIX-like OS is the first step towards maybe someday switching those to Windows 2008...

Also, when makers of various gadgets build devices that contain embedded open source software, MS would probably prefer that the popular devices interoperate with Windows (in some cases, using MS technologies), and not just Apple...

And there's a remote possibility that one day, a version of Windows could be based on an open source kernel <G>

Re:Explain this to me (3, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362119)

It may also be the first shot in an attempt to embrace and extend, too. After all, there's quite a lot of rather nice technology in Linux. Apt-get and the open source infrastructure is a heck of an improvement over Microsoft's "Add or remove programs" feature, in my opinion, to say nothing of the dog. Just one example.

I wonder if future convergence will ever reach a point where I'll be writing this on my favorite (yet to be developed) operating system, an outgrowth of some mixture of a number of them.

Or maybe I'll just chuck it all and go back to VMS.

Re:Explain this to me (3, Insightful)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362411)

"Apt-get and the open source infrastructure is a heck of an improvement over Microsoft's "Add or remove programs" feature, in my opinion, to say nothing of the dog. Just one example."

There are always alternatives, it's just that some don't "feel" like MS stuff enough, so they fall by the wayside. I think this is the biggest hurdle that Linux has to leap before it can gain any serious traction on MS. Until it "feels" more like Windows, etc. the vast majority of average users out there won't use it.

Case in point, your example.

I use a program called Revo Uninstaller instead of MS's "Add/Remove Application" software. It is far more useful, actually uninstalls things and is free. It runs an application's built in uninstaller, then goes back afterwards and searches for leftover registry entries and files. It then allows you to manually remove them.

It is so accurate and downright honest about it, I actually use it to test an application for "trustworthyness". I will install an app, then immediately uninstall it with Revo and take note of how much the applications uninstaller left behind. You'd be amazed at how much crap some apps leave behind, most intentionally. Adobe is the worst. I uninstalled one of their apps (reader, I think) and the entire program was still on my hard drive. The Adobe uninstaller straight up fucking lied to me.

It must work because attempting to uninstall Adobe Flash Player gives you a message that says Adobe refuses to uninstall while Revo is running. Essentially, they want to leave shit on your HD and they KNOW Revo will subvert this.

Sounds great, right? So why doesn't everyone use it?

Simple. It doesn't "feel" like the "Add/Remove" app that people are used to. It is hard to convince people that the application they are using doesn't do what they want it to once they have been using it long enough, even if you have the evidence right on the screen in front of them. Some sort of mental block, I suppose. I don't understand it, but I certainly recognize it when I see it.
 

Re:Explain this to me (2, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#29363297)

I can only talk about openSUSE as that is what I know best. I assume the same will be available in some sort on other distributions.

The big difference with Add/Remove and the way Linux works is that Linux distributions work with Repositories. e.g. if I want to install slrn, I go to http://software.opensuse.org/search [opensuse.org] and do the search there and click on "One-Click Install". That will add the needed repositories if they are not yet available.

If I want to remove a program, I go to the openSUSE version of Add/Remove, look up the program I want to remove and remove it.

I would tink that the majority of people won't use something else, even if there are advantages, because in the first place they won't be installing and de-installing programs as much, secondly they are not botherd if stuff stays behind after an uninstal and why would they? They install a program and that works. They remove it and very often that works as well from their point of view. The program is not there anymore.

A bit like files that are placed in e.g. ~/ on Linux after the first time a program ran. Most people will want to remove a program and not bring back the HD to the same state it was before. If that would be my goal, I would work with something like VMware.

Obviously some people will want it that way and apparently enough to make a program for it that you use.

Re:Explain this to me (4, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361785)

why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux?

It is.

Microsoft isn't a homogeneous organisation. Parts of it are still in the "Embrace" part of the plan while others are working on "Extinguish" [arstechnica.com]

Re:Explain this to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361845)

Why isn't there a "-1 Irrational Bashing" mod?

Re:Explain this to me (2, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362753)

Why isn't there a "-1 Irrational Bashing" mod?

Same reason there isn't a "-1 Ad-Hominem" mod.
Slashdot ran out of 'em within a week of opening.

Re:Explain this to me (2, Insightful)

shawn443 (882648) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362499)

I think you have a point about it not being homogeneous, perhaps old school culture persists at the chair throwing top and maybe mid level is quietly steering towards a more sensible money making approach.

Re:Explain this to me (1)

A12m0v (1315511) | more than 4 years ago | (#29363035)

typical Microsoft evil!
backstabbing with a smile!

Re:Explain this to me (4, Interesting)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361941)

why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??

You seem to be making a strange equation between "maximizing profits" and "destroying Linux." The goal of most corporations, Microsoft included, is to make money. Utterly destroying a competitor which, although vocal, represents only a single-digit threat to their market share, seems like a rather irrational expenditure of resources.

You have an awfully pessimistic world view if you equate the maximization of your own success with the downfall of all others.

Re:Explain this to me (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362467)

"You have an awfully pessimistic world view if you equate the maximization of your own success with the downfall of all others."

Unfortunately, we as a society encourage this whole-heartedly. Competitive sports are a good example. You can't win unless somebody loses. Scholarships are another. Somebody goes to school, the others flip burgers.

Don't get me wrong, competition can be good, but the do-or-die shit plain sucks.

I teach my kids that failure is simply an opportunity to do better. Once they start seeing it that way, even success becomes the same thing in their eyes--an opportunity to do better.

Re:Explain this to me (2, Insightful)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362299)

Possibly because according to the news, Microsoft has far more problems with patent trolls and their ilk than they do with Linux infringing on their intellectual property.

I can see how it makes sense to ally with the "good guys" (including the the biggest patent assholes aka IBM) to create a broad patent pool for mutual self-defense. This also benefits the OSS community because its only a matter of time until a patent troll goes after Firefox or OpenOffice instead of Microsoft.

Re:Explain this to me (5, Interesting)

PAjamian (679137) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362393)

Speculation [groklaw.net] is that Microsoft only invited non practicing entities (aka "patent trolls") to this auction. It is very possible that the intent was to sell the patents to a company that could wield them against Linux companies without fear of retribution, but AST managed to step in and get the highest bid on them, and then turned around and sold them to the OIN. This is a subversive plan by MS that backfired.

Re:Explain this to me (1)

BudAaron (1231468) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362839)

Ermmm - the world is going thin client folks. This means cloud computing. Can you run Azure apps from a Linux browser? If you can't today I bet you can very soon. Microsoft could likely have Linux for lunch but why eat what you can use?

It's oft forgot (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362935)

In 1997 Microsoft invested $150M [cnet.com] in Apple.

A quote from that article:

Davis also said that given the size of Microsoft, a $150 million commitment amounts to little more than good public relations. "Remember, they spent $450 million on WebTV. The investment still doesn't give Apple a coherent strategy for turning things around."

Sometimes partnerships work out and some times they don't. For example:

The companies also agreed to collaborate on the Java programming language and other programming languages to ensure they run consistently on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. In addition, Apple agreed to make Microsoft's Internet Explorer the default browser for the Macintosh platform.

We all know how MS Java and IE on Mac turned out, don't we?

Davis said the investment means that Apple will now toe Microsoft's line on Java. "If Java is a threat to Windows, and all operating systems, then it's a threat to Apple and the Mac OS."

We all know that Microsoft Java turned out to be a violation of some law or other and was deprecated. And we're only 11 years hence.

And one more quote on whether the investment and its concomitant concessions was a good deal for Apple: it was only 11% of Apple's available cash at the time:

Apple, which ended its third quarter with $1.2 billion in cash, will use the additional $150 million to invest in its core markets of education and creative content, Anderson said. He added that the company expects to gain a higher percentage of its revenues from software and services in these core markets in the future.

$150M in Apple that week evolves into $4.2B today. If Microsoft kept this one and did as well with their other investments, by now they would own the world.

This isn't what's called winning (5, Interesting)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361541)

This is a really expensive way to dodge a tiny part of the software patent problem, and it involves paying Microsoft millions. And for every such trick we win, how many did we lose?

The upcoming Bilski review is the first time in 28 years that the Supreme Court in the USA will review the patentability of software - that's were we can get a real victory. I'm working on an amicus brief which'll have to be submitted within about two weeks. If anyone wants to help, it would be very useful to expand the swpat.org wiki's information about studies which show the harm of software patents:

And to add more info about arguments for abolishing software patents:

This is our big chance and might be the last one for decades.

Of course it's a loss. (3, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361849)

Please contribute to efforts to eliminate software patents, they are a threat to software and business freedom.

Anyone who thinks patents can ever protect gnu/linux, you have been sorely mislead. Where was OIN when M$ was stomping on TomTom and that NAS company? Sitting on their hands, that's where. Patents, as they exist, will always harm small companies who are at the mercy of giant like M$, IBM and other hoarders. Having to beg big companies not to sue you is not software freedom. Even the giants are threatened by patent trolls now.

Business method patents are not capitalism, it's government protected business monopolies. This is something the US founding fathers hated with a passion. Things are even worse than the king's fiat because government has been less than competent about establishing the winners and losers besides themselves. 20 years ago, people would have called it Communism and pointed to failures in the USSR. Biski can not eliminate softare and business method patents soon enough.

Re:Of course it's a loss. (3, Funny)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362041)

Hey everyone! Twitter's back!

Re:Of course it's a loss. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362281)

Grow up.

The M$ thing is childish and negates your credibility.

Re:Of course it's a loss. (0)

GoochOwnsYou (1343661) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362351)

Credibility? You must me new here.

Re:Of course it's a loss. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362675)

That's interesting; it occurs to me that anti "M$" nazism destroys your credibility.

Corrections (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29363081)

Plea$e contribute to effort$ to eliminate $oftware patent$, they are a threat to $oftware and bu$ine$$ freedom.

Anyone who think$ patent$ can ever protect gnu/linux, you have been $orely mi$lead. Where wa$ OIN when Microsoft Corporation wa$ $tomping on TomTom and that NA$ company? $itting on their hand$, that'$ where. Patent$, a$ they exi$t, will alway$ harm $mall companie$ who are at the mercy of giant like Microsoft Corporation, IBM and other hoarder$. Having to beg big companie$ not to $ue you i$ not $oftware freedom. Even the giant$ are threatened by patent troll$ now.

Bu$ine$$ method patent$ are not capitali$m, it'$ government protected bu$ine$$ monopolie$. Thi$ i$ $omething the U$ founding father$ hated with a pa$$ion. Thing$ are even wor$e than the king'$ fiat becau$e government ha$ been le$$ than competent about e$tabli$hing the winner$ and lo$er$ be$ide$ them$elve$. 20 year$ ago, people would have called it Communi$m and pointed to failure$ in the U$$R. Bi$ki can not eliminate $oftare and bu$ine$$ method patent$ $oon enough.

Patents Don't Protect the Community (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361569)

All this talk of "defensive patents" that supposedly "protect the community" is just a fraud. To protect the community, take all the documentation of the patent, and put it in the public domain. Then, anyone who wants can implement the tech, without restriction, forever. Keeping it patented retains the power of the patent holder to deny implementation to someone, sometime.

If they were really serious about merely protecting the community, they'd give up the patent control entirely. But it's clear that "the" community just means whoever the patent holder wants to defend from someone else who they exclude. That's entirely against what the Linux way of real open development means: anyone, anytime can join the community by coding and releasing.

These "defensive" patent orgs will bite us in the ass. Otherwise they wouldn't be investing time and money in not just the patent portfolios and all the work to maintain them, but also in conning us into believing it's for our own good.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (2, Interesting)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361605)

Well seems to make sense to me. First get linux community to seem to agree with the fact Microsoft holds valid patents, second with previous patent validity established destroy linux distros that become a threat by claiming they violate other patents not in this 'portfolio' of what they can use. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361681)

Keep your jews close, your niggers closer. That has a nice ring to it!

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362749)

But make sure you keep your money out of reach.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361865)

take all the documentation of the patent, and put it in the public domain.

That's what a patent does in the first place!

It just provides monopoly protection for actually using said patent.

In fact, this was the whole point of patents. Say I invented lemonade. Without a patent, I'd keep it my secret family recipe for generations, and anyone who wanted to make lemonade would have to reverse engineer it -- but if someone did, I wouldn't be able to say much.

With a patent, I would publish the documentation ("It's just sugar, water, and lemon juice.") and then only I can make lemonade. Or I can license the recipe to others -- it's not like they don't know how to make it now, it's that they legally can't unless I let them.

If they were really serious about merely protecting the community, they'd give up the patent control entirely.

I'm not sure it's legally possible to do that, is the problem. Moreover, having a process patented provides clear documentation that you patented it first, thus putting the burden on anyone's infringing patent to prove that they invented it before you did.

No, my big problems with this are not that I think the result is bad, but because I think it should be unnecessary -- I highly doubt Microsoft has any stunning invention that Linux "stole" for which prior art doesn't exist a thousandfold, and even if there were, I'm not sure software patents should exist at all.

But if I'm going to accept that they exist, and that someone has to hold them, I'd much rather that someone not be Microsoft, no matter how legally binding their "covenant not to sue" is.

Though it would be pretty slimy if this new organization doesn't have some sort of "covenant not to sue." Maybe that's the motive? Blech, now I have to go wash the evil from my brain...

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361999)

A patent doesn't put anything in the public domain. I think you just don't know what "public domain [wikipedia.org] " means. It means there is no owner, no one can exert property rights in it, there's no legal way to exclude anyone from using it.

A patent is a registration that prohibits anyone else implementing what's patented. That's its entire point. Publishing it doesn't endanger that exclusive ownership, and lets everyone else know what they're excluded from implementing (unless they get a license from the patent holder).

I also think you don't really understand software patents, especially how Microsoft (and its ilk) use them to interfere with others competing with them, or even with interoperating with them.

Covenants not to sue are transient. You'd have to sue them to enforce it, which makes it useless to small operations.

Putting something in the public domain excludes patents or other restrictions on implementing it. That is what a serious inventor does when they want to protect "the community" ("the public") from interference in using something they invented, or even just that they did which might be subject to a patent later, but cannot because it's in the public domain instead.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362321)

Putting something in the public domain can actually be worse then using a patent. This is because the patent or tech will be limited in scope and offshoots can and most likely will be patented by others looking to cash in. With the patent, a licensing royalty or perhaps a perpetual license can be established for all derivative patents in the same light.

It's actually better to abolish patents then anything, but as long as the game stands, then having a responsible company or organization hold them can be better then just opening them up.

Anybody Knows... (1)

scorpivs (1408651) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361909)

If they were really serious about merely protecting the community, they'd give up...

and "...you can't help those who don't want to be helped."

Approve or Decline

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361915)

All this talk of "defensive patents" that supposedly "protect the community" is just a fraud. To protect the community, take all the documentation of the patent, and put it in the public domain. Then, anyone who wants can implement the tech, without restriction, forever. Keeping it patented retains the power of the patent holder to deny implementation to someone, sometime.

You have completely misunderstood the point of a defensive patent. The idea is that if someone sues over one of the technologies that the OIN is protecting, OIN can look in its portfolio for a patent that the suer is infringing, and that can be used against the suer.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362029)

No, I have completely called BS on the need for a patent to do what "defensive patents" claim.

If the OIN (or anyone else) simply released all their patents into the public domain, then there would be completely clear defense for anyone using them without restriction - which is what "the point" is supposed to be. If the OIN wanted to also deliver legal advice or representation to people using something OIN put in the public domain, that would actually be useful to protect users of OIN's "portfolio".

The only reason to maintain a patent instead of just releasing into public domain is to exclude someone else from using what's patented. That is indeed the only difference between a patent and the public domain.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (5, Insightful)

DECS (891519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362279)

Rethink your position. The point of defensive patents is to leverage what you have to make up for what you don't have.

If you sue me over patent A, I can countersue you over patent B, and force you to settle with me amicably in a sharing arrangement.

If I give away by patent B so that unicorns dance among sunshine and rainbow farts, then I end up fucked when you sue me over patent A. I am also powerless to help anyone else in the open source community being attacked over patent A, because I gave away my leverage to the public domain.

I'm all for beating swords into plowshares, but if you're likely to show up and stab me with your sword, I better keep my sword around, too.

Inside Mac OS X Snow Leopard: 64-bits [roughlydrafted.com]

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362303)

In copyright terms you want OIN to release everything into the public domain, but they're using the GPL instead. Yes I know copyrights aren't a particularly good analogy for patents, but the idea is the GPL/defensive patent still allows the IP holder to enforce their rights to keep (insert evil corporation of choice here) in line.

If you don't like how OIN is using patents, please feel free to start your own organization to buy and/or develop patents to be released into the public domain.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362039)

Sounds like patent trolling a patent troll.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361937)

Publication doesn't negate the patent itself.

Only covenants not to sue negate patent rights.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362047)

No, releasing an invention into the public domain negates any patent. If one has the right to do it, like if one holds the patent. Or if one just releases into the public domain instead of the long, costly and complex process of patenting.

Covenants not to sue can have wriggle room. And to be enforced, someone has to sue the party making the covenant. Public domain prevents suing much more effectively (though nothing is perfect protection from a frivolous lawyer) than any patent and covenant can be.

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362087)

Or if one just releases into the public domain instead of the long, costly and complex process of patenting.

And how would one do that in a way that makes it easy to find for patent examiners and defense attorneys alike?

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (5, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362217)

He said it best:

“Whenever a controversial law is proposed, and its supporters, when confronted with an egregious abuse it would permit, use a phrase along the lines of 'Perhaps in theory, but the law would never be applied in that way' - they're lying. They intend to use the law that way as early and as often as possible.”
meringuoid (568297) @ 2005-11-24 16:40 (#14107454) [slashdot.org]

Re:Patents Don't Protect the Community (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362857)

These "defensive" patent orgs will bite us in the ass.

Jeeze! You're not kidding. The group, which includes... International Business Machines Corp., Red Hat Inc. and Sony Corp. IBM? Sony?? What a scam...

M$ Ubuntu ... nice ringtone (1)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361575)

... damme after 10-y the sound-drivers will finally work!

The article? (1)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361595)

The article states that MS was just divesting some of its acquisitions that it had "no use for". Am I missing something here that states that these holdings were any serious threat for patent litigation against Linux?

Micro$oft selling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361645)

again their most valuable asset, FUD.

http://msversus.org/ [msversus.org]

Groklaw Theory (4, Interesting)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361661)

This is being covered over at Groklaw [groklaw.net] , and PJ's theory is that Microsoft intended that these patents be used against Linux, but they wanted clean hands. Hence the auction, but it backfired when the trolls didn't win.

Sure Microsoft could have arranged a private sale to known trolls, but their hands would have been a little grimy if not dirty.

Re:Groklaw Theory (0, Flamebait)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361779)

So paranoid.

Re:Groklaw Theory (1, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361877)

It's not paranoid when they actually are out to get you.

And really -- I know you're often pro-Microsoft, borderline fanboy, but even you should be able to see that Steve "FUCKING KILL GOOGLE" Ballmer would love a chance to cut Linux off at the knees.

Re:Groklaw Theory (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362035)

It's not paranoid when they actually are out to get you.

Allow me to point to Occam's Razor.

Occam's Razor (1)

Tranzistors (1180307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362277)

Which goes something like this: "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." (form Wikipedia).
As you have noticed, "being paranoid" and "they are out to get you" make two completely different conclusions - in one case you are wasting your time and nerves, in other - you are going to die. Thus, the principle cannot be applied.
Or was there a different reason why we had to remember the Occam's Razor?

Re:Occam's Razor (2, Insightful)

MarkKB (845289) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362623)

As you have noticed, "being paranoid" and "they are out to get you" make two completely different conclusions - in one case you are wasting your time and nerves, in other - you are going to die. Thus, the principle cannot be applied.

No. Just... no.

The "being paranoid" theory is that Microsoft is selling the patents because it no longer wants, or wants to maintain, them. The "they're out to get you" theory is that Microsoft wanted to sell the patents to a troll company so it wouldn't look like Microsoft was attacking them. So they held an auction, but the wrong company won. Both theories end with OIN acquiring the patents.

So, yeah, Occam's razor totally applies. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide which one it corresponds to, however.

Re:Groklaw Theory (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362335)

Would Hanlon's razor be a good explanation as well?

Re:Groklaw Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362345)

...even you should be able to see that Steve "FUCKING KILL GOOGLE" Ballmer would love a chance to cut Linux off at the knees.

No, that's what you see, because that feeds into your "Good VS Evil" software fantasy.

Re:Groklaw Theory (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362781)

And I would point to Windows 7. That ain't Linux they are ripping off, hell I'm surprised the Ballmer monkey hasn't started wearing Mock tutrlenecks just to complete the look. Lets be honest here-Linux is at maybe 2% of the desktop market, and while Linux is kicking some ass on the web server market, most places have a Winserver behind the firewall. That is because Linux doesn't really have a drop in replacement for AD+Exchange+Outlook+Sharepoint+GPO.

So while I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, this one just doesn't really sound believable to me. MSFT is gearing up for Win7, all I've heard about it and Winserver 2K8 is good things, and them not inviting Linux is the big proof? Well duh, just because they are not trying to kill you doesn't mean if have to try to help you out either. It just seems to me MSFT is way too concerned with making sure Win7 doesn't pull a Vista and trying to fix their non hip image to go to all this trouble when Linux hasn't even put out anything earth shattering lately. More likely this is just MSFT tossing the dead wood and finally trying to concentrate more on their core businesses than be the jack of all trades and master of none.

After all, if it really was their intent to bone Linux with the patents they would have had meeting ahead of time so that only trolls ready to play ball would have been invited in the first place. I doubt seriously a company with that much money and power would have completely boned their plan so easily.

Re:Groklaw Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361929)

So deluded.

Re:Groklaw Theory (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361879)

I was wondering how the FOSS zealots would spin this, thanks.

Re:Groklaw Theory (0, Flamebait)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362195)

Since being a pundit doesn't actually require any specific training or certification it's a better activity for PJ than pretending to be an expert in law.

Hey Microsoft! If you're serious you could always (2, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361679)

Oh, I don't know. Stop funding Darl McBride. [builderau.com.au]

That would be a nice start.

Story icon (-1, Offtopic)

acehole (174372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361701)

Although this might earn me some flaming, is it really relevant now days to have the borg bill icon for all MS stories? Although MS might still do some questionable things I would have thought that slashdot on the editorial side would have grown over the years to become a touch more serious in how stories are approached.

Re:Story icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361755)

Lighten up, mate. Life's too short to take things so seriously. Microsoft's still evil. Nothing's going to change that -- well, almost nothing.

Re:Story icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362059)

A chair with wings would be a better icon for MS stories.

Re:Story icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362103)

How is it NOT relevant? You think Ballmer is the kinder, gentler Bill Gates?

Re:Story icon (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362209)

Since Ballmer isn't the face in the Borg icon, what's your point?

Re:Story icon (1)

rdebath (884132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362653)

You're right, it should be a Ballmer borg icon now.

cynical interpretation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361705)

They could care less about getting a few more bucks or less bucks from these patents. The long term goal is to insinuate more patents into linux and boil the frog slowly. They are trying to co-opt linux at every turn.

Something similar just happened with the EXFAT file system, which should have been unpatentable. Instead they patented it but then licensed the patent to some linux software vendor. The end result once enough such deals have taken place is that it will become impossible to ship or use linux without extensive cross-licensing even if the initial terms are quite palatable. They don't turn up the heat til later.

Apple? (1)

ugen (93902) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361767)

May be this is Microsoft's way of countering Apple? Support Linux to keep unix-like marketplace from falling entirely into Apple's hands? :)

Re:Apple? (1)

ya really (1257084) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361869)

I don't forsee Apple dominating the Unix based server market or to geeks who want to build their own systems (many of which use linux either some or all the time).

Re:Apple? (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361967)

Are you serious?

As near as I can tell, there has been almost 0 UNIX marketshare falling to Apple. Apple doesn't make a UNIX; they make a UNIX spec compliant desktop operating system for home users and artistic types - and the associated hardware to go with it.

It's a nice thought, but no. Apple is nowhere near stable or supported enough for that.

Re:Apple? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362179)

I'm no Apple fanboi, but Mac OSX is UNIX. Who they market it to is irrelevant.

Re:Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362255)

Mac OS X is not a trademarked API specification. Calling it UNIX "spec complaint" is actually the more correct way of putting it.

Re:Apple? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362293)

Perhaps, but stating

there has been almost 0 UNIX marketshare falling to Apple.

is just incorrect. The GGP seems to be attempting to make a distinction between other UNIX operating systems and Mac OSX simply because of the enviroments in which they are used.

Re:Apple? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362479)

You say that who is being "marketed to" is irrelevant to "market share"? That's an interesting take. but nobody actually analyzing the industry agrees with you. (Because it's dumb.)

PS: You might want to get your brain examined for the aspbergers.

There is no secret patent based plot to kill linux (1)

Foredecker (161844) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361821)

Headline: Microsoft puts Windows source code into public domain!

Slashdot reply: This is just a plot to kill Linux.

Good golly molly. To be sure I see Linux as competition for Windows, but no more so than Apple or Google. Patents are a part of life. But there is no super complicated patent based grand scheme - its just business. From my point of view (I'm not an exec) we'll compete the old fashioned way - build stuff people will happily pay money for, and enable other people to run profitable businesses working with us.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361927)

You're right, the Microsoft plot to kill Linux (be it by patents or any other means) isn't very secret. :p

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29361935)

It's business alright. You're wrong however. The fact that Linux just keeps growing and growing, but always costs the same, troubles Microsoft, and they'll do what it takes to keep their business model working. They'll do anything they can to cause troubles for Linux at any given opportunity, as long as it doesn't hurt number 1. That's how business and competition works. So yes, there is a great complicated scheme to tarnish Linux, and patents are the biggest guns in this game. They will be used, guaranteed.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (1)

Foredecker (161844) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362191)

Really? In the client space? Come on. Linux has always been free. Windows has always cost money. Even then, Linux still only has an almost immeasurably small percentage of the client computing market. Even in sever - where I completely agree it is technically competitive - it doesn't have a commanding market share.

If Linux was as awesome as the Linux fan boys thought it was, then for free it should be utterly dominating Windows. It clearly is not.

A good proof point is Apple - they have a product that costs real money and they have a real, sustained market share. Said another way - they are competitive. On the desktop Linux simply is not competitive. Never has been, and is a long way from being so.

Proof is in the pudding so to speak. In this case it is the numbers.

The netbook was supposed to be the big opening for desktop Linux. No material success for Linux there - people want Windows on netbooks as well.

Here is another way to look at it: A few OEM's sell some systems with Linux, but no OEM is making a major or committed business out of selling Linux based PCs.

Note â" none of this is because of technical limitations in the core Linux bits (like the kernel, networking stack, etc.) My personal opinion is that technically, core Linux is pretty groovy. But there is no organization that is prepared to ship Linux to millions of customers, let alone 10's or 100's of millions of customers. Even the best Linux client distributions donâ(TM)t deal with full consumer and enterprise end to end scenarios well. Microsoft (who I work for) has been doing this for years, and years. So has Apple.

The Linux community needs to figure out how to do that before Linux can be even moderately successful on the desktop.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (2, Interesting)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362625)

That all sounds very reasonable. And if I didn't have personal knowledge of what its like dealing with Enterprise IT providers that partner with your company, I might think what you've described is The Truth. However, I know that running Linux in a Microsoft dominated industry is troublesome. Most of my work involves Unix systems, so a Linux desktop is mostly feasible. But we have to be really careful when looking at purchasing tech unless it comes with a Windows trojan horse. No - not malware. Rather, some "appliance" is really a Windows Server or a particular pieces of hardware requires Windows to run it's management client. I have to keep a Windows partition available to VMWare because of legacy purchasing mistakes. And as much as that annoys me, it is the reality we all live in.

Yes - there are times when Microsoft makes the better option. And there are some examples of Microsoft products in our environment that make sense. But a large percentage of Microsoft architecture that I see in my environment involves very little choice.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362721)

Perhaps if the OS'es competed on technical merit alone you'd be right.

However, this isn't so. You have to add advertizing (accepted practice, but basically a dirty trick that says nothing about the merit of the product), FUD-slinging, vendor lock-in, people who are "used to Windows, ergo it's better", and a gazillion other factors which has nothing to do with the ACTUAL PRODUCT'S technical merits in itself.

On the bright side, Linux and Open Source can't die like MS can (bankruptcy). All the BFG's in the world wont make a licking difference if you've pressed IDDQD and are chipping away with your knuckles one bit at a time.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362233)

Headline: Microsoft puts Windows source code into public domain

They didn't do this. They sold patents to patent trolls (not to the Open Innovation Network) and one of those trolls sold them to OIN.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362379)

I think you missed the point completely. Both of the post and of the article.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (1)

setagllib (753300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362297)

Linux and open source in general are a theoretically infinite competition to Microsoft. After a big spike in proprietary models, the trend of all software industries is now towards more open standards, more open software and smaller companies offering small sets of products that together solve big problems. This is exactly where open source most naturally thrives, and it's the exact opposite of how Microsoft has always operated - one vendor, one set of products, nothing open. Microsoft's executives know this, they're not stupid, so they're trying to hold back the trend with patents and faux-open standards like OOXML. It's like trying to hold off a global ice age by burning your house down.

Re:There is no secret patent based plot to kill li (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362549)

Headline: Microsoft puts Windows source code into public domain!

When that happens, let me know. Until then, let's put that strawman away.

Gosh golly - where do you think Slashdot gets the idea that Microsoft might use patents as a weapon? Certainly not from anything Microsoft's leaders have said [zdnet.co.uk] . I mean, it's not like there's a history [networkworld.com] . This is just irrational hatred for a successful company competing "the old fashioned way." Its got nothing to do with reaping what you sow.

Patents are so 1999... (3, Insightful)

sitarlo (792966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361901)

UNIX is bigger than US patents. It is a culture that became an OS that became a culture. Linux gave the poor man a way to run a UNIX-like OS without having to shell out big bucks to Sun, HP, AT&T, SCO, or another UNIX vendor. Linux has become a culture in its own right. If MS were smart, they'd drop the "we hate all things UNIX" attitude and develop their own OSX-style distro that could be run on cheap PC hardware which would put them in position to actually take back some of the market Apple has claimed, and Google is about to claim. Besides, copying Apple is what they do best.

Re:Patents are so 1999... (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362273)

That would really be a stupid thing for MS to do. It would simply make them another commodity dealer for UNIX.

MS's blessing and curse is all the applications that need Windows to run. It's a blessing because it has protected them from competitors, but it's a curse because it limits how they can evolve Windows.

If they really wanted to throw away their legacy advantage they'd be better off creating a brand new OS than switching from one set of legacy baggage to another.

Re:Patents are so 1999... (1)

sitarlo (792966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362369)

I don't consider UNIX "legacy baggage" at all. It's evolving more than any other OS technology. Just look at OSX! All I'm saying is that MS could evolve with UNIX instead of against it. They cast a line in the sand decades ago and it's time for them to give up the fight. Some people prefer a UNIX-like OS so why not give it to them? It's working for Apple isn't it? BTW, I'm all for moving on from traditional technologies. I'd like to see something like bumptop evolve into a full-fledged OS, but that sort of thing is probably still a decade away.

Re:Patents are so 1999... (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362553)

"I don't consider UNIX "legacy baggage" at all."

It was created in the 1970s, of course there is baggage.

"They cast a line in the sand decades ago and it's time for them to give up the fight."

You do realize that Unix as we know it couldn't possibly run on the original PC, right? If there was a line in the sand it was between having a working system or a brick.

"Some people prefer a UNIX-like OS so why not give it to them? It's working for Apple isn't it?"

There are plenty of Linux distros for those people. What percentage of Mac users know or care about what kind of kernel is used?

Re:Patents are so 1999... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362325)

You mean a Microsoft Unix like Xenix? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenix [wikipedia.org]

Re:Patents are so 1999... (1)

sitarlo (792966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362401)

No No No... XENIX was just crappy old UNIX on a PC. I'm talking about a hybrid Windows/UNIX meld something like OSX, but better. That's what MS needs. A new direction. Every release of Windows just becomes a liability to them. Vista is a huge leap past XP, but people run from it in hysterical terror. They'll do the same with Windows 7. Are you going to wipe your Ubuntu, OSX, Solaris, or Slackware box and put Windows 7 on it? I doubt it. But if MS offered a shiny *new* UNIX, you might be tempted to give it a try and it might actually be solid.

Not so fast. (3, Insightful)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362503)

"And by allowing the patents to go to AST in the first place, Microsoft may (the article implies) be signaling at least their lack of active intent to disrupt the Linux marketplace."

Im much more inclined to believe that the intent was some patent troll getting their hands on the patents. They want a new SCO, no doubt.

I bet it's all the "good" ones ... (1, Funny)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362569)

MS have given Linux all the useful patents :-

Treble Clicking
Square Mouse Wheels
Clippy
Bob
etc etc

Linux is fine, US software industry in trouble (3, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#29362701)

Linux is fine becuase it is developed globally. It is the USA with these weird software and business method patents that has the problem which affects both open and closed software. There can always be US compliant distros with the patented portions removed just as Redhat already does with mp3 software. It's just like the stupid encyption export limitations which led to companies like RSA incorporating out of the USA and moving development out of the USA.

embrace, extend, and extinguish (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29362703)

Remember these words: embrace, extend, and extinguish.
This is the only politic Microsoft knows, they're following the same modus operandi like in the past, this the only way they conduct their business.
Take a look at this document http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ecis.eu%2Fdocuments%2FFinalversion_Consumerchoicepaper.pdf&ei=B1KnSvzuENDFsgaa17XuCw&usg=AFQjCNGoTCIslXHnac9qnm0BYvqnHKqVew

Taken directly from this document:
"
This strategy has three phases: First, Microsoft âoeembracesâ a competing product by developing software or implementing standards that are compatible with the competing product. Microsoft then âoeextendsâ its own offering by creating
features or standards that are interoperable only with Microsoftâ(TM)s proprietary technologies. Finally, when Microsoftâ(TM)s proprietary software or standards have achieved widespread adoption, Microsoft âoeextinguishesâ its competitors by dropping any remaining pretense of compatibility
"

sounds familiar ?

Could this happen (1)

Arimus (198136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29363373)

Firstly IANAL and even in my job as a systems/software engineer I try to avoid dealing with patents like the plague on idioligical grounds (I also avoid spelling when ever possible).

Could this following scenario happen:-

1. Create a set of patents based on a product, each patent has a dependancy on the other(s).
2. Release a sub-set of the patents for product.
3. Wait for people to use the released set.
4. Sue them for breaching the unrealesed patents.

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