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SFLC Argues On Same Side As Microsoft

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the odd-bedfellows dept.

Patents 59

MCRocker writes in with news that, while a few weeks old, didn't get a lot of traction before the holidays. The Software Freedom Law Center is one of the staunchest defenders of FOSS out there. The SFLC is arguing on the same side as Microsoft in a patent case before the Supreme Court. The case, "Microsoft vs. AT&T," turns on whether U.S. patents should apply to software that is copied and distributed overseas. Groklaw has more nitty-gritty details. In the Linux-Watch article, the SFLC's legal director, Daniel Ravicher, is quoted: "I expect many people will be surprised that the Software Freedom Law Center has filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of Microsoft. In this specific case, Microsoft and SFLC are both supporting the position that U.S. software patents have no right to cover activity outside of the United States, especially in places that have specifically rejected software patents."

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59 comments

Amazing. (4, Insightful)

splutty (43475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457116)

An F/OSS supporter that is actually honest enough to see that what their 'enemy' is doing is only beneficial for the whole. Kudos to them, I say. At least they know what they stand for (as is obvious from their name, really :) and don't blindly deny the possibilities that this case gives them.

*cheers*

Case is so important, Microsoft is irrelevant. (3, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457194)

Well in this case it's sort of a "duh" position to take. It doesn't matter if the appellant was Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, the SFLC couldn't possibly ignore this case. It's one of the only USSC cases currently in the system that get at the concept of software patents so directly.

Although Linux supporters sometimes see the software-patent issue as one part of the landscape affecting their favorite OS, I suspect to people working at the SFLC, the whole Linux/Windows conflict is just one very front (and at least at the moment, one on which there's not a whole lot of movement) in a much larger war.

Re:Case is so important, Microsoft is irrelevant. (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457360)

If they win this case, it could have a serious effect on software patents in the USA. Actually, whichever way the case goes could be good for the Free Software community. As I see it, there are two choices:

If US patents apply to activities of US corporations outside the US then this will mean that US companies are not able to compete as effectively in other markets. If it is possible for non-US software companies to undercut US-based ones in places like the EU and south-east Asia then this will have a serious effect on the US software industry. Anyone starting a software company will be likely to seriously consider starting it outside the US, even if they are from there. This will give a lot of weight to those campaigning to get software patents abolished in the USA, since they will be able to point to clear evidence that their existence is harming the economy. If this succeeds, then it will remove the 'aligning our IP laws with the US' argument that keeps being waved around by software patent proponents in the EU.

If the case goes the other way, then it means that those of us outside the USA will be able to get software products that are either better or cheaper (because they will either include code not found in the US versions, or because they will not include patent royalties) than those available in the USA. This can, again, be used as evidence of software patents harming the US economy.

It seems that the US has losts of money to waste! (0, Flamebait)

aysa (452184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457672)

If either of both outcomes establishes that the US is being hurt by software patents, then there is no need for a trial at all. Software patents should be abolished. Patents are an unnatural way to help promote innovation by granting a time limited monopoly. If they cause the opposite effect, it is very clear which steps should be taken...

Microsoft is not irrelevant this time (3, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 7 years ago | (#17458082)

In this specific case, Microsoft and SFLC are both supporting the position that U.S. software patents have no right to cover activity outside of the United States, especially in places that have specifically rejected software patents.

I don't even ascribe to that narrow restriction. Any patent or IP system should be national or managed by a trade union like the EU, not shoved down the throats of foreign citizens and businesses by one country. The current approach allows patent holders to literally leverage the military and economic pressures of the United States for their own personal gain.

Having the OSS symbol of evil (Microsoft) standing alongside the pro-OSS representatives on this issue highlights the broken nature of the current US patent system in double-height, double-width, bold, italic, flashing, underlined text.

Re:Case is so important, Microsoft is irrelevant. (1)

arifirefox (1031488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457604)

Microsoft is very smart and crafty. They will come up with a Microsoft Linux if that is what it will take to win. And they will use that embrace, extend, extinguish strategy to knock the rest of the F/OSS community. We already see this happening with Novell.

Re:Case is so important, Microsoft is irrelevant. (4, Informative)

Adhemar (679794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457700)

Well in this case it's sort of a "duh" position to take.

Still, the SFLC takes a very different position compared to Microsoft, although technically on the same side. Microsoft argues that U.S. patents have no right to cover activity outside of the United States, especially in places that have specifically rejected software patents.

The SFLC argues that software patent are not valid at all under U.S. laws (specifically 35 U.S.C. 101) and prior Supreme Court decisions (Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63 (1972)). The Federal Circuit has repeatedly decided otherwise (In re Alappat, disregarding the Supreme Court's precedent as unclear); the Amicus Brief challenges this practice. (Go ahead and read the Brief, it's pretty readable even by non-lawyer standards.)

So although Microsoft and the SFLC are on the same side, I'm quite sure Microsoft would have preferred stating its case without this brief.

Re:Case is so important, Microsoft is irrelevant. (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463728)

So although Microsoft and the SFLC are on the same side, I'm quite sure Microsoft would have preferred stating its case without this brief. I'm not quite sure. How are you convinced software patents help Microsoft? In reality, they hurt Microsoft as they worry about getting sued by some little podunk who patented the idea for some obvious algorithm that's been in use for years.

Software patents only benefit companies who don't actually produce a lot of software and would prefer to just go around suing. Microsoft would be better off without them.

Microsoft and patents (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#17468788)

Software patents only benefit companies who don't actually produce a lot of software and would prefer to just go around suing. Microsoft would be better off without them.

If software patents harm Microsoft then why does MS patent software?

Falcon

Re:Microsoft and patents (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17469872)

If software patents harm Microsoft then why does MS patent software?

Mutually Assured Destruction.

If you want to go into the software business, you need to have some patents yourself, just in case somebody else decides to go after you. If Microsoft didn't have a patent portfolio, IBM would roll over them like a big blue Panzer division. It's basically impossible to develop non-trivial application software without violating somebody's patents, somewhere; hence every major software company has its own patent arsenal, in case somebody else starts saber-rattling.

I am not surprised (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457898)

Most of the more mature free software supporters have never treated specific companies as "friends" or "foes", except in the context of a specific battle. The "I hate Microsoft" or "I love Apple" sentiments have mostly been reserved for fora dominated by a younger population, such as /..

I blame Hollywood (or, more correctly, popular literature in general) for bringing up kids to believe in a world where people (and corporations) are "good" or "bad", rather than a world where people have interests that are aligned with, or contrary to, your own.

Re:I am not surprised (1)

sgtrock (191182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17460412)

Umm, I don't consider myself to be a young buck. I'm pushing 50, after all. :) However, I was brought up to believe that unethical behavior by people should be treated as grounds to actively dislike them. I don't think I'm alone in that. When a company's officers exhibit that kind of behavior, I'm all for hating the company! ;)

Seriously, I can remember hoping that IBM would finally get their long deserved punishment and go bankrupt. Now, they're a key ally defending freedom of choice. It just goes to show that there's hope for Microsoft once Bill and Steve leave. :)

How why when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17457160)

Does this apply within the U.S. for it citizens and companies if they use code that is breaking software patents, or is this a way to say "Hey, you are breaking our patent, though your country never legally allow this, but we'll sue you in our country anyhow" kinda thing?

I suppose the U.S. Law has learned a lesson or two from Microsoft in it's extend and embrace tactics.

On the contrary, my dear (5, Interesting)

thebackslasher (611336) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457200)

I think the title of this item should have been "Microsoft agrees with the SFLC"! It is my understanding that the SFLC's position hasn't changed. It is just Microsoft's position which is surprising. What? Microsoft defending the rights of countries that do NOT support patents? I for one am surprised!

Re:On the contrary, my dear (3, Insightful)

ShadowFalls (991965) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457288)

Microsoft is looking at the big picture for themselves. With this type of implementation, they can implement products overseas with risk of being sued, taking and using the ideas of others to increase their own profit margin. Remember, Microsoft doesn't do it for the consumers, they do it because they think their bank account is getting short on funds.

Re:On the contrary, my dear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17457422)

Microsoft doesn't do it for the consumers, they do it because they think their bank account is getting short on funds.


So you're saying corporations want to make money?

Re:On the contrary, my dear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17458406)

Their bank account is far far FAR from being short on funds you know?

Re:On the contrary, my dear (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17459562)

Anyway, it is not common for Microsft to see the biger picure behind anticompetitive tatics.

Re:On the contrary, my dear (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457404)

I think the title of this item should have been "Microsoft agrees with the SFLC"! It is my understanding that the SFLC's position hasn't changed.

Bingo!

It is just Microsoft's position which is surprising. What? Microsoft defending the rights of countries that do NOT support patents? I for one am surprised!

Don't be. Microsoft's position hasn't changed either. Follow the money.

KFG

Re:On the contrary, my dear (1)

arifirefox (1031488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457972)

in this case, these patents help protect Microsoft's competitors. Since it is unlikely patents will be abolished completely, Microsoft will have the best of both worlds if they win. That's the problem of incrementalism.

Re:On the contrary, my dear (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17467016)

It is my understanding that the SFLC's position hasn't changed.

I don't think Microsoft's position has "changed" really, either. But the irony here is pretty sweet: the Evil Empire(tm) is for a short time allied with the Freedom Fighters(r).

And I'll go ahead and be that guy and pull out a quote:
If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. --Bill Gates [wikiquote.org] (1991)

the author (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457282)

Well, I am automatically skeptical because of the author. The author is known somewhat for wagon hopping and even a little bit of misdirection. I have read articles wherein he crucifies Linux and another where he praises it. I am not sure exactly where his loyalties lie. Others have observed that he just wants to stir up the waters or fan the flames.

Re:the author (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17457430)

I will point out at the beggining that I have not read anything else by this author.

But it seems to me that unless you think Linux is perfect at every possible task then anyone who is honest will sometimes find it wonderful and sometimes find that it sucks when reviewed.

Loyalty to a product under any circumstances sounds more like a Faith then a unbiased judgement.

 

Re:the author (4, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457484)

I have read articles wherein he crucifies Linux and another where he praises it. I am not sure exactly where his loyalties lie.

I'm not exactly sure why he should have any.

Let us assume, however, for the sake of argument, that he has some. Perhaps they are to ideas rather than to groups or "movements." I understand that to people not used to supporting ideas this can be confusing.

See the very subject of the article.

KFG

Re:the author (4, Insightful)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17458060)

I have read articles wherein he crucifies Linux and another where he praises it.

Possibly because there are some situations where Linux deserves praise and others where it deserves scathing criticism ?

This is the most important piece of the brief. (2, Informative)

codepunk (167897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457320)

"The brief also argues that the Federal Circuit's decisions declaring software to be patentable subject matter conflict with Supreme Court precedent, and thus should be overruled."

They argue in the brief that software as a whole is not patentable and the patenting of software conflicts with earlier supreme court rulings.

Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17457494)

Microsoft and IBM will be having a quiet word to make sure the brief is taken "in context" (or some equally banal euphemisim).

Re:Don't worry (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457556)

Yes I agree, I do fully expect either that to happen or the supreme court to sidestep that argument completely as they usually do, easier to let that just hang in the air vs creating chaos in the system and killing the cash cow on the govt.

Re:This is the most important piece of the brief. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17457736)

I think Software patents are foolish for this reason

No matter what computer programming language you use .
No matter what complier or assembler High level, low level interpreted or not.,
Can't All software can be said to be pirated , why?

All of it used on the same CPU shares a common CPU instructions set and only about 60 - 175 basic instructions and with addressing modes in combination a mere 2000 or more sequences repeat themselves over and over again in a very defined manner.
  Any programming languages used for that CPU must use that CPUs ' instruction set, No matter what it is no mater was programming lanuge is used to create it,
so in that regard every piece of software using the same CPU/ microprocessor can be said to be similar as it must contain code from every other piece of software / firmware using that same CPU.,
What part of the law would exclude this ?
I think the above facts would be arguable ,I would be hard pressed not to find the identical instruction byte sequences in every piece of software that uses the same CPU
Whether or not it has the same function as another piece of software remains in question or does it?.

I have seen cases where it was decided that because the bytes were the same that it was a violation that ruling would be incorrect , the byte sequences can repeat no matter what the programs function , especially if the same complier were used .

Re:This is the most important piece of the brief. (1)

trianglman (1024223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17459448)

I would agree with this.

In my opinion, it works similarly to written works in any spoken language. It should fall under copyright with the same access to fair use and other protections that written works have. I don't know where a good cut off would be for fair use, I would expect a whole class/library/etc. would be outside of fair use, but would a function/method be? The problem is that the people writing these laws know little or nothing about it and the loudest voice lobbying for it are those who stand to make money off of how much code is restricted from reuse.

Tangentially, the ruling a while back that no part of a musical work falls under fair use is similarly idiodic as all songs are made up, at their smallest part, of a set of 8 notes in different octives. Thus can I no longer use middle C because it was in a copyrighted song?

Re:This is the most important piece of the brief. (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#17466836)


Tangentially, the ruling a while back that no part of a musical work falls under fair use is similarly idiodic as all songs are made up, at their smallest part, of a set of 8 notes in different octives. Thus can I no longer use middle C because it was in a copyrighted song?

I suppose you could still write a song using the black piano keys.


Meanwhile, I'm rushing to the copyright office to file on the following code snippet:

int main( int argc, char *argv[] ) {

Re:This is the most important piece of the brief. (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#17468962)

I would expect a whole class/library/etc. would be outside of fair use, but would a function/method be?

A function or method shouldn't patented just as all software shouldn't be. Basically they are algorithms which should have no patent protection. Only implimentations, how it works, should get protection. But only if it is truly new and unique.

Falcon

Baffled... (0)

Xiph1980 (944189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457354)

I'm baffled....
Microsoft and SFLC are both supporting the position that U.S. software patents have no right to cover activity outside of the United States, especially in places that have specifically rejected software patents.
How does AT&T get the idea that it can extend their US laws and rights to other countries? They have no governing rights here.
Patents by themselves are (with good reason) already region bound, and the US patent system is a farce. I would rather not have that system here thank you very much.

PS. nice to see that microsoft for once does the right thing :)

Re:Baffled... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17457570)

In the same manner as they did it in Afghanistan and Iraq

Well, colour me confused (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457362)

I understand Microsoft and the SFLC's position. I even understand the position that software should be patentable (I just disagree with it).

I just can't see any interpretation of any law that says that US patent law should apply to products that are produced nowhere within US jurisdiction. Or any other US law for that matter. Yet AT&T seem to be saying that this is the case.

Re:Well, colour me confused (4, Informative)

Aim Here (765712) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457512)

The law is 35 USC 271, section f [uspto.gov] , which is designed to stop people making components of a patented invention and shipping them overseas in order to be assembled into something that would breach the patent, had the act occured in the US.

In this case, the software is apparently developed in the US and shipped overseas.

Yes, it's a disgusting overreach of US patent law into foreign jurisdictions. And yes, software patents are evil, and hopefully unlawful. Go Eben and Dan!

Re:Well, colour me confused (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457814)

Thanks for the explanation.

Yes, it's a disgusting overreach of US patent law into foreign jurisdictions.

But unless I misunderstand it, it oddly seems to only inconvenience US companies and companies with a substantial US prescence. Strange that the US government (or any other for that matter) would pass a law like that. I'd have expected to see an exception to patent enforcement for manufacture for export.

Re:Well, colour me confused (1)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 7 years ago | (#17459432)

I'll open with the usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer (I hate the acronym associated with this expression). The question(s) to be answered by the SCOTUS are:

(1) Whether digital software code--an intangible sequence of "1's" and "0's"--may be considered a "component[] of a patented invention" within the meaning of Section 271(f)(1); and, if so, (2) Whether copies of such a "component[]" made in a foreign country are "supplie [d] . . . from the United States."

Although the very issue of the patentablility of software seems to be up for grabs in the first question as urged by the amicus brief an answer of "no" would not necessarily mean that software patents are no longer valid since it could be deemed only "within the meaning of Section 271(f)(1)". Also note that software patents rarely cover mere binaries, but higher levels of abstraction, the binaries being just very specific implementations of the program. My uninformed guess is that this case will not be used as a vehicle to invalidate all software patents under 35 USC 101, the section that would be involved in declaring software non-statutory subject matter, but whether the export of a software "master" to be duplicated outside the US is to be considered "a component supplied from the United States". In this context it would be closer to, say, exporting a mold, or set of molds used to create one or more plastic parts that are combined into a machine that would infringe the patent if done in the US.

In any event we will get more clues how the SCOTUS is thinking during the oral arguments scheduled for February 21.

Re:Well, colour me confused (2, Insightful)

Aim Here (765712) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462624)

Yeah, but if SCOTUS rules that patents aren't valid relative to section 271(f) because they're not valid at all, then there's no reason for that reasoning not to be applicable.

In fact, my uninformed guess is that it would be perverse for software to not be a component under 271(f) while being fully patentable under 101. The law so far has ruled diametrically opposite. The Eolas case, the one Supreme Court ruling (sortof) in favour of software patents, allowed for a computer running software to be part of a larger industrial process (and that is the foothold that was exploited by subsequent district courts to effectively legalise software patents without any congressional input). Software can be a component of a patentable invention, if not the invention itself. However, in this particular case, I have a sneaking recollection that the full invention that AT&T wants to patent is nothing but software, which works in favour of the SFLC again.

I don't know how it'll go, but it would be a brilliant legal move for the SFLC to abolish software patents with this drive-by hit on a passing lawsuit, though. It costs us nothing and might win us everything, so it's definitely worth a try.

Finally (1)

fragment1618 (958226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457532)

It's good to see this finally being challenged. Every time I've read about this software patent bullshit I've burnt up inside, even though it doesn't affect me directly.

Heh, I guess we wouldn't be hearing about interesting patent applications from places like Google or Microsoft anymore, but that's really nothing compared to what it could mean for the open source community and for the industry in general.

Indepence works both ways (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457616)

During the Boston Tea Party, the USA asserted its independence from Britain. It seems that some law makers have forgotten that independence works both ways.

Re:Indepence works both ways (1)

Sweetshark (696449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457896)

During the Boston Tea Party, the USA asserted its independence from Britain. It seems that some law makers have forgotten that independence works both ways.
Ehem, no.
The Boston Tea party was about taxes sneaked in as tariffs. Independance came a few years (and stupid british laws) later ...

Ugh? (1)

ecuador_gr (944749) | more than 7 years ago | (#17457772)

Microsoft... good?
Slashdoters... confused?
Posts... few?
Reality... alternate?

This is where the 'itsatrap' tag would be relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17457876)

Don't they realize Microsoft would ruin them in the long run? They should be fighting Micro$hit until M$ goes out of business. It is clo$es $ource bullshit businesses like M$ that software patents even exist.

please, someone tag with "pigfly" or "hellfrozen" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17458078)

too confused to say much more

Earlier Poster got it right (3, Informative)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17458682)

I think the earlier poster got it right in saying that it would really be truer to say that it's Microsoft who are fighting on the same side as the SFLC.

Nevertheless, there is such a thing as "National Sovereignty"; which basically means that a nation's laws stop at that nation's borders. If Person A does something which is legal in Nation X but not in Nation Y, and does it in Nation X, then Nation Y has no redress against Person A. The consumption of alcohol and extra-marital sex are both illegal in Saudi Arabia; however, any Saudi resident who drinks several litres of Guinness while visiting Ireland is not committing any crime for which they can be punished under Saudi law. That's because the Republic of Ireland is a sovereign nation. Only Irish Law applies to acts performed in the Republic of Ireland, whether or not they be done by Irish citizens. If the Arab in question then visited certain parts of the Continent, he might even be permitted to engage in lawful (subject to payment of the appropriate taxes) sex with a prostitute, and possibly even (again legally) to consume certain other substances less harmful than alcohol. Again, local (not Saudi) law would be applicable.

So it seems to me that if a US-owned company were to create software in some non-US territory which might violate US patents if it were imported into the USA but (by dint of the scope of patentability) would not violate any patents in the territory where it were created, the laws of the territory where the software were created would be applicable. And for the USA to seek to prevent a perfectly legal act within the borders of another sovereign nation could be construed as an Act of War.

More to the point... (1)

Duggeek (1015705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463738)

Indeed.

Though the article implies the angle where SFLC deserves attention for siding with MSFT, the real story is how MSFT is even considering the same side as SFLC. (especially since this exchange [slashdot.org] .)

So, in thinking about where this all leads, don't think about what SFLC will do next. Rather, think what the next move of MSFT will be.

So far...

  • Patent "indemnity" deal with Novell [slashdot.org]
    Hmm... seems that this only draws attention to "software patents" in general.
  • Initiates movement to revise US Patent system. [slashdot.org]
    It won't change overnight, but will it change under MSFT guidance/control? (eek!)
  • MSFT is [slashdot.org] punchy [slashdot.org] over [slashdot.org] patents [slashdot.org] .
    Anyone else see a pattern here? </sarcasm> At least others are proving that MSFT has to receive as well as they give. [slashdot.org]
  • Involvement in International Policy regarding validity of US software patents. (TFA)
    Looks like they're buttering-up to the world in response to all the bad press, but might it also be a precursor to something else? Is MSFT setting the stage for more agressive global profiteering?

Another question; could anybody stop them?

Re:More to the point... (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17466760)

The only force that can stop Microsoft is Open Source. And it's got to reach a certain critical mass first; a big user -- an entire country, a multinational company or The Entire Pr0n Industry -- has got to be bold, make the decision to switch from MSFT to OSS, and stick with it for better or worse. Which means there must be absolutely no possibility of Microsoft buying them off before the benefits have set in (let's not kid ourselves: this will take awhile, however well the project is managed). It must be no backies; either the market sector must have a really compelling reason not to use Microsoft at any price, or they must be blacklisted by Microsoft.

Microsoft aren't stupid; or at least they have no excuse for acting stupidly. They will do anything to keep OSS from being widely adopted. Giving away a few million Windows and Office licences is no skin off their nose, and they could easily bribe a project leader.

Vista and Office 2007 might prove to be Microsoft's undoing. If the learning curve is steep enough, the hardware requirements are hefty enough and the compulsory DRM troublesome enough, some people just might be persuaded to evaluate alternatives. Now could be a good time to be hawking migration strategies. (Clue; start with OSS on XP on a few desktops that really need Windows for some critical application, pure OSS wherever it can be got away with, and that will buy you enough time to get to work on a replacement for the "deal-breaker" applications, including Office Macros.)

Poor Man's Way to view (read only -- probably good enough for old correspondence that needs to be kept) legacy Office documents on OSS:
  1. Run Windows and (possibly a few different versions of) Office on one or a few machines (at your end or at client's end)
  2. Set up a server perfectly emulating a JetDirect print server with PostScript printer
  3. Print all old Office documents to this printer
  4. Compress resulting PostScript files and store in some sort of indexed database
  5. Set deadline for new documents to be created using only Open Source Software
For the odd cases where something really needs editing, it can be sorted out manually using the PostScript file as a reference rendering. In practice, the vast majority of all legacy documents will only ever need to be viewed, and possibly reprinted. PS will never "go stale" (become unsupported) because it's not a secret, undocumented proprietary format.

Re:Earlier Poster got it right (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 7 years ago | (#17471248)

Nevertheless, there is such a thing as "National Sovereignty"; which basically means that a nation's laws stop at that nation's borders.
But don't some countries prosecute their own citizens who are paedophiles but offend in another country?

Re:Earlier Poster got it right (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472812)

Only if what they did abroad was also a criminal offence there. If you have sex with a 12-year-old in a country where the age of consent is 12 then you can't be prosecuted on your return home, because you haven't broken any country's laws. If you have sex with a 12-year-old in a country where the age of consent is 16 then yes, you can be prosecuted on your return home.

Why is Microsoft's anti-patent position a Suprise? (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 7 years ago | (#17458904)

In point of fact Bill Gates didn't used to be (publically at least) a fan of software patents. His position in 1991 was that patents exclude competitors and lead industry to stagnation.

Aside from the possibility that Gates just thinks (or thought at any rate) software patents are a bad idea, this is not a suprising position. Microsoft has deep pockets and distributes enough software to fill the Mediterranean Basin. It's a good bet that they would be willing to sacrifice their own patent pool for in order to be free of the constant threat of successful multi-million dollar (or more) lawsuits from some clown who has managed to patent binary arithmetic or the use ampersands in code.

The full quotation "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete stand-still today. The solution is patent exchanges and patenting as much as we can. A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors."

Microsoft and software patents (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#17469346)

Microsoft has deep pockets and distributes enough software to fill the Mediterranean Basin. It's a good bet that they would be willing to sacrifice their own patent pool for in order to be free of the constant threat of successful multi-million dollar (or more) lawsuits from some clown who has managed to patent binary arithmetic or the use ampersands in code.

Microsoft doesn't get software patents to protect themself, the only reason to get patents to use it to make money. If the idea is to protect yourself against others saying you're violating thier patent all you have to do is to put your idea into the public domain. Then if you're sued you can point to the publication you used to prove when you used it. It's then the responsibility of the plaintif to prove they patented it prior to the date of publication.

Falcon

Re:Microsoft and software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17469690)

Microsoft doesn't get software patents to protect themself, the only reason to get patents to use it to make money. If the idea is to protect yourself against others saying you're violating thier patent all you have to do is to put your idea into the public domain. Then if you're sued you can point to the publication you used to prove when you used it. It's then the responsibility of the plaintif to prove they patented it prior to the date of publication.

If it is regarding the same patent and earlier art, yes.

However if Ibay threatens to sue Giantsoft for patent violation on their one-tap-buying, also implemented in Giantsofts Zone music-shop, then Giantsoft threatens to counter sue Ibay because they use Cloppy, the interactive guide, on their auctionsite..
Lawyers cost money and losing lawsuits costs even more, so the Mexican standoff that results is favourable for both companies.

Though this shield breaks down when the suer is a company without products. One that only lives on acquiring submarine patents and suing other companies for patent violation.

I seriously doubt Microsoft only uses software patents for defensive purposes though. If they see that someone with a small portfolio has a lucrative new patent that they want to license gratis, they'll grab it. Having their own portfolio of 10k+ patents makes it likely that the newcomer infringes on some of Microsofts patents. Thus they mightbe able to hardball themselves into a cross-licensing deal.

Re:Microsoft and software patents (1)

FromellaSlob (813394) | more than 7 years ago | (#17470434)

That's like unilateral disarmament. When others have the patent weapon, it makes sense to maintain your own stockpile.

For shame, SFLC! (1)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 7 years ago | (#17459932)

As we all know, if someone you despise thinks that 2+2=4, you are morally obliged to think it is 3 or 5.

Anything else is a betrayal of justice!

Good idea, but unlikely to work (2, Informative)

aegl (1041528) | more than 7 years ago | (#17460778)

So this was a great idea by SFLC to remind the Supreme Court that the larger issue of whether software should be allowed to be patented at all, but it is a very long shot. Chief Justice Roberts is on record as saying that he prefers to keep rulings as narrow as possible:

"If it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, in my view it is necessary not to decide more."

See more of his philosophy at http://www.economist.com/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story _id=8413080 [economist.com]

So, while it would be nice to see the Supreme Court invalidate software patents, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to do so.

cG0m (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17460838)

BSD sux08s. What [goat.cx]

No funny posts? (1)

UED++ (1043486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17461510)

I expected someone to have posted something humorous by now.

SuperFriends Literacy Coalition? (1)

BillX (307153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17468588)

Can we request that story submittors (and failing that, Editors) properly dereference all TLAs, FLAs, and other nLAs?
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