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Why Microsoft Won't List Claimed Patent Violations

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the only-stick-they've-got dept.

Microsoft 626

BlueOni0n writes "Earlier today, Microsoft announced it will begin actively seeking reparations for claimed patent infringement by Linux and the open source community in general. One opinion on why Microsoft won't reveal these 235 alleged IP infringements to the public is that they're afraid of having the claims debunked or challenged — so instead they're waiting until the OS community comes to the bargaining table. But a more optimistic thought is that Microsoft may be afraid to list these supposed violations because it knows the patents can be worked around by the open source community, leaving Microsoft high and dry without any leverage at all."

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626 comments

Where's Novell? (5, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123795)

Didn't they claim (after they signed the agreement) that Linux did not have any patent issues with Microsoft?

Where is their press release regarding this?

Where's the Cease and Desist? (5, Interesting)

EnderWiggnz (39214) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123921)

Where is the C&D from the FSF?

If someone is making a dubious claim, slap them with a c&d, and force this thing into court.

Re:Where's Novell? (5, Insightful)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124023)


The thing I think is interesting is MS's deal with Novell. If MS really had this big patent portfolio on which Linux was infringing, then Novell would have been in a very weak bargaining position.

Instead we see the opposite - MS paid Novell a lot of money for that deal. To me this says that MS is full of shit, its patents are hollow (or uninfringed), and they were paying a lot of $$$ to Novell to try and add credence to their dubious claims.

But what would I know - I'm just a hippy Linux user ;-)

Re:Where's Novell? (2, Interesting)

lnjasdpppun (625899) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124111)

Where's IBM?

My understanding is that IBM has more patents than any other company, whats the chances of them telling Microsoft to back off or face a nasty patent war?

Re:Where's Novell? (1, Insightful)

Sorthum (123064) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124203)

Am I completely misinformed about this? I could have sworn that in order to have a patent suit succeed, you have to actively defend it as soon as you become aware of infringement-- in other words, you can't sit back, let a company build an empire on top of it, THEN sue for damages...

MSSCO (1)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123799)

Perhaps, as in the case of SCO, the infringements don't really exist.

Re:MSSCO (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123831)

Perhaps, as in the case of SCO, MSFT would rather not have PJ at Groklaw dissect their claims...

Re:MSSCO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123979)

Oh my guess is several of them exist. I hope IBM takes this one head on. SCO was just a warm up...

The big problem... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123801)

You get the feel there's some sort of end-game being played out here, but it all started well before it became clear Vista was going to be a dog.

The thing is, if Microsoft divulges what the FOSS patent breaches actually are, the community will respond promptly, and that particular bullet will have been fired. Until Microsoft's list is actually available, we don't know how much harm they'll be able to do, but there's not much chance they'll be able to inflict fatal damage to FOSS.

This patent grab is essentially a one-shot hit, and until now, was always more valuable as a FUD threat than an actual tool of coercion. Micah hacks the computer system so Nathan can win. Peter controls the radiation power, and the ending is a cliffhanger into the next and final episode. That Microsoft is choosing to use it now is indicative that they believe it's value as FUD has waned, and I suspect that has more to do with the outcome of their their patent proxy SCO's efforts than with Vista's failure.

See, you don't even know the real deal (2, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123885)

This is really about knocking back linux's control of the embedded market through a generalized attack.
Fuel prices have radically altered the economics, and some of the patents involved will be used in a new invention that will revolutionize the transportation industry.
Details here:
http://www.snopes.com/autos/business/carburetor.as p [snopes.com]
When you read that link, remember: False is the new True!

Re:The big problem... (4, Interesting)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124249)

Before Vista rolled out they had already dropped key functionality and pushed back the date.

Viridian (MS Virtualization update for those not following along) was supposed to be released 4th qtr '06, but was pushed to '07 and they just announced that they are dropping promised functionality. I believe I read that some of that dropped functionality was designed to deal heavily w/multi-processor/multi-core technology.

360 is popular but makes no cash. Zune is getting hammered.

I would agree that their current strategy was formed before the general publc knew Vista was going to be a dog. MS has known it is in danger for quite a while. Not the same as actually being on the ropes for a company with as much market inertia as they have, but starting to look scary.

They must have known their ship was taking on water long before the general public became aware.

Regards.

Re:The big problem... (1)

MorpheousMarty (1094907) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124291)

I agree. If they post the list then they lose a lot of power. On the other hand never attribute to malice what can be accounted for by simple incompetence. Maybe they just can't get a decent list of what patents may be infringed on. MS probably isn't ready to handle the (negative) publicity such a list would generate.

SCO (1)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123811)

Is it just me or does sound like the beginnings of the SCO/IBM fiasco repeating itself?

Re:SCO (2, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123983)

Pretty much, although that was copyright and this is patents. It could well be that MS holds patents that might be stretched to fit some operation in the Linux kernel, but whether or not that patent is valid is another, yet pertinent, issue.

Until MS lays it all down on the table, just consider it more FUD using the SCO model.

Re:SCO (4, Interesting)

deathy_epl+ccs (896747) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124015)

Is it just me or does sound like the beginnings of the SCO/IBM fiasco repeating itself?

SCO failed Microsoft... so, as the old saying goes, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.

So in other words: (1)

Anarchysoft (1100393) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123819)

Microsoft's tactic is pure FUD. Which most tech folk had likely figured out already. In some ways, perhaps the SCO fiasco is good in that PHB may be less likely to buy patent threats against free software now. We can hope! ;)

Much of Microsoft's IP strategy is FUD (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123875)

Just take a look at the amusing comments on the Office blogs about licensing their Office 2007 user interface IP. It's abundantly clear that some of the bigwigs in management there are not lawyers, and haven't even read about their own company's history in this area with Apple and others in the past. Some of them really do believe that just because they spent a significant amount of time and money researching something, they automatically get perfect monopoly protection of that research under IP laws.

Re:Much of Microsoft's IP strategy is FUD (5, Interesting)

JimDaGeek (983925) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124123)

Damn, I just spent my last mod point, or I would mod you up, this is exactly what I was thinking. How the hell can the management be so dumb as to forget their OWN companies history with Apple? MS really sucks IMO. I wish the US govt. had some spine and had split the company to an OS division and a software division during the anti-trust thing. I guess MS knew what greedy politicians to bribe with money. Oh, but it is PC to call those bribes "campaign contributions".

Microsoft is playing poker. (2, Interesting)

Mahjub Sa'aden (1100387) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123881)

Really, what this comes down to it Microsoft, having or claiming to have some rather nice cards, not wanting to show them off.

The first and hopeful reason for this is because most of their patents are pure rubbage. The second and also somewhat hopeful reason is they don't want anyone coming up with a strategy to overcome theirs. The third and less optimistic reason is that they're trying to maximise the amount of damage they can do.

Comedy option number four is that they're afraid of IBM, FOSS patents, and they're simply full of hot air.

In other news... (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123825)

duh

Like McCarthy holding up an envelope (5, Insightful)

cavehobbit (652751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123835)

MS likely has as many patent violations in its secret list as McCarthy had Communist names on his.

Re:Like McCarthy holding up an envelope (1)

Anarchysoft (1100393) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123853)

MS likely has as many patent violations in its secret list as McCarthy had Communist names on his.
That is an excellent analogy! :)

Re:Like McCarthy holding up an envelope (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123939)

MS likely has as many patent violations in its secret list as McCarthy had Communist names on his.

Ummm, you do know that at the time McCarthy made his accusations, there were Communists actively spying in the government, right?

Even if McCarthy was a nut, nuts can be right from time to time.

Re:Like McCarthy holding up an envelope (4, Informative)

cavehobbit (652751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124225)

Yes, there were. But when he held up the envelope it was a total bluff. He had nothing in it.

Re:Like McCarthy holding up an envelope (4, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124237)

There's a difference between saying "There are 57 card carrying Communists in the Department of Defense!" on national television and "Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are suspected of being Soviet spies because of this evidence."

Just because there's a shark in a lake filled with trout doesn't mean you drain the lake to kill the shark. You could be one of the trout.

Re:Like McCarthy holding up an envelope (5, Interesting)

LionMage (318500) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124313)

Ummm, you do know that at the time McCarthy made his accusations, there were Communists actively spying in the government, right?

While that may be true, it's also true (or alleged to be true) that Senator McCarthy held up a blank sheet of paper when he first claimed he had names of Communist conspirators/spies.

Furthermore, many of the people who were publicly humiliated and accused of being Communists were in fact nothing of the sort. Unfortunately, the problem with defamation is that once the slander/libel is out there, it's really hard to retract. Especially if the party making the outrageous claims is a respected Senator who gets to mobilize government resources to harass people. McCarthy's abuse of the system was his way to attack political opponents, not get rid of real Communist spies.

While it's quite probable that there are some real patent violations in the Linux kernel and in the source code of various GNU tools, that's about all you can say. Whether these infringed patents are even valid is another matter -- and you can certainly bet that FOSS authors are going to go after at least some of Microsoft's patent claims on the grounds that the patents are invalid. For each patent that gets invalidated, Microsoft's patent portfolio becomes just a little bit less valuable...

So it's not in Microsoft's interests to divulge just which patents they feel have been infringed. Worst case scenario, they could lose a good chunk of their portfolio and still have nothing to show for it because the remaining patents that withstood scrutiny might be found to not apply; those patents that do apply could be easily worked around with a modest investment of engineering effort.

What makes me wonder is why Microsoft is bothering to take a page from SCO's playbook. It hasn't worked too well for SCO, so why does Microsoft think they'll fare better with the same strategy?

To tie this back to the McCarthy analogy: even if Microsoft is right that there are infringed patents (which is statistically likely), there's no guarantee that Microsoft has done the due dilligence to ascertain which specific patents have been infringed and leave no margin for doubt. Microsoft has broken down the numbers by OS component (kernel, "GUI," etc.) to tell us how many patents they believe have been violated by each component, but again, we only have their word for that. For all we know, Microsoft is trolling and pulled these numbers out of thin air. Kind of like McCarthy's list.

This seems like a pretty obvious fishing expedition. You know, the kind that involves big nets that scrape the sea floor and damage coral reefs, to use yet another tortured metaphor.

Re:Like McCarthy holding up an envelope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124349)

MS likely has as many patent violations in its secret list as McCarthy had Communist names on his. ...which may have been lost in the same folder as Nixon's secret plan to get out Vietnam and Bush's "Plan B" for Iraq.

So how can MSFT proceed if they don't list them? (4, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123839)

Sure Microsoft can go after companies with legal threats, but ultimately the patents would have to come out. You can't sue and not be prepared for the information to become public. There was a little software company in Utah that is finding this out. Is this just SCO vs. IBM where SCO has been replaced by a much bigger company that isn't going to run out of money in 5 years?

Re:So how can MSFT proceed if they don't list them (3, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123909)

Sure Microsoft can go after companies with legal threats, but ultimately the patents would have to come out. You can't sue and not be prepared for the information to become public. There was a little software company in Utah that is finding this out.

It's been 4 years since this came out. SCO didn't have any facts to put into the case, and it's still banging around after 4 years. The only thing that will really limit them is their bankroll, which is running out.

MS has a much larger bank roll.

And the strategy comes through (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123969)

Yep. It seems that this is going to be the final "slow bleed" for Microsoft. People aren't buying Vista (in fact, Dell is reoffering XP on systems just to shut up annoyed users). But hey - they have the lawsuits, and they'll be more than happy to pull a SCO and threaten to sue the pants off of people who don't pay off their protection racket.

Odds are, they'll be smarter about it than SCO - rather then go right for IBM (with tons of dollars to pay lawyers), they'll make "deals" with places like Novell and others so insure that PC tax continues no matter whom the likes of Dell and Gateway and others finally go through.

The sad thing is, there still isn't a great competitor to Windows. Linux is nice and Ubuntu and other distros have come far, but it seems they lack that final step (like "How do I change my screen resolution?" or other bits that only techies would know). Micah hacks the computer system so Nathan can win. Peter controls the radiation power, Locke returns, Tom dies, and Charlie sacrifices himself to save his friends. OS X is my preferred OS as a security analyst, but it only runs on one system (I know - Apple sells hardware, blah, blah, blah, but damn - if they make Leopard for *all* X86 systems, they might take over the desktops - I've met plenty of CIO's who want that).

Either way, Microsoft's plan is to continue to be the "gasoline" of computers: they don't make the computers, but they get paid for every one that's made. Through their threats and strategic lawsuits/threatening of lawsuit, they'll ensure their money for a long time to come.

Unless, of course, there's enough people who stand up and say "No" and pool together *their* money to help companies fight back....

Re:So how can MSFT proceed if they don't list them (3, Insightful)

bdjacobson (1094909) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124009)

Sure Microsoft can go after companies with legal threats, but ultimately the patents would have to come out. You can't sue and not be prepared for the information to become public. There was a little software company in Utah that is finding this out. Is this just SCO vs. IBM where SCO has been replaced by a much bigger company that isn't going to run out of money in 5 years?
They'll keep threatening that Linux opens your company to patent violations and lawsuits until they've milked it dry. Then when companies stop listening (if this ever happens; I doubt it would) and start using Linux, they'll start suing a few until the companies buy the newest Microsoft product. Then the Linux community will fix the patent violations in a day or two...but it will be too late, and companies will be afraid again that there are more violations and will stop using Linux...

They'll be able to repeat this process as for as many patent violations as they can come up with. Should be able to do a lot of damage.

Optimistic? (1)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123851)

But a more optimistic thought is that Microsoft may be afraid to list these supposed violations because it knows the patents can be worked around by the open source community, leaving Microsoft high and dry without any leverage at all."
I don't see why that is more optimistic.

You can't always work around patents (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124103)

There's a myth that if the patents are listed then programmers will be able to work around them. This is sometimes the case, but not always.

Consider the MS FAT file system patent. There is no way you can work around the patent and still provide FAT functionality (required to work with cards from cameras etc.). For such patents there are three choices (i) Keep infringing, (ii) pull support or (iii) challenge the patent and get it overturned. With these types of patent, MS will have to weigh up whether it is worth exposing their patents to challenge, especially since many of the claims are probably quite unlikely to succeed.

or.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124247)

For such patents there are three choices (i) Keep infringing, (ii) pull support or (iii) challenge the patent and get it overturned

or;

pay licence fee and (cough, cough, ahem ):

iv) MS Profits

Now that the SCO case is tanking .,.. (4, Insightful)

jms (11418) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123855)

Translation:

The SCO vs IBM assault (funded by Microsoft) is about to implode.
Therefore, Microsoft is poised to move on to their next strategy of
attacking free software.

Except... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124321)

Their problem is that they can't just keep braging that there are "238 patent violations in various OSS". The SCO case has proven how much staying vague about the actual violations is useful.

Microsoft, for credibility will have to produce a detailled list of said patent violations (and eventually a list of specific OSS application that they think are infringing).

And this, my friends, is a double edged sword.
On one hand, it will show that Microsoft HAS tangible proof that OSS are inferior because no company can be held responsible for patents infringement, and that patent lawyers will go after the users....BUT...

On another hand, such a list, and maybe a couple of days of work distributed across the whole community is everything needed to circumvent said patent and implement it either with a slightly different approach (see marching cubes vs. tetrahedron in 3D), using more generalised version (arithmetic coding vs. range coding in compression), or simply recycle some very old code in place--Micah hacks the computer system so Nathan can win. Peter controls the radiation power, and the ending is a cliffhanger into the next and final episode--code who's age is a proof of prior art.

And suddenly, all this MS PR stunt is moot.
Just imagine :
This week press titles "Microsoft says OSS dangerous because patent mine field", "New microsoft sponsored studies proves TCO to by higher for OSS because of patent fees", "Microsoft to go after individual users MAFIAA style".
Next week press titles "238 patches and upgrades on Debian and Ubuntu repositories", "OSDL sponsored study proves that OSS has the highest reaction time in terms of patch release", "RMS & Linus to give speech about strengths of OSS development ; Ballmer responds throwing chairs".

Microsoft has the old IBM playbook... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123857)

Microsoft has the old IBM playbook, and they're going to use it.

Here's my favorite play:

IBM to random corporation: You are violating patents A,B,C,D, and E
Random Corporation: A, B, and C are total BS, and we don't violate D and E
IBM: IBM has patents. You can either license these five, or we can go find ten more that you do violate.
Random Corporation pays up.

Re:Microsoft has the old IBM playbook... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124283)

The Microsoft version of the playbook is slightly different:

Microsoft to random corporation: You are violating patents A, B, C, D and E
Random Corporation: A, B, C, D and E are total BS
Microsoft: Not to worry. You are violating F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N and O.
Random Corporation: They're BS too.
Microsoft: Surely there's something worthwhile in this box (rummages in box). How about P, Q, R, S, T, U and V?
Random Corporation: BS
Microsoft: W, X, Y and Z, pleeease?
Random Corporation: Look. IBM had a real research lab that did patentable original research. Yours is just a bunch of people sitting in front of PCs animating paper clips. Now get lost.
Microsoft: Damn

Just tell me for once (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123867)

Why does everyone hate Microsoft? Why do you hate our country for allowing a company with such wonderful products to prosper? To be perfectly honest, all you Stallman fanboys sound like a bunch of Communists to me.

SUPPORT AMERICA - USE MICROSOFT

Oooorrrrrrr (2, Interesting)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123877)

Microsoft wants the OSS community to do its leg-work for them to prove that all the patents are in the public domain, thereby saving them lawyering fees. At $7000 a patent, they are protected. Once they make a small-time claim, OSS proves it is in the public domain, and *poof* MS never has to worry about someone ELSE trying to patent the obvious and using it against MS in a much more costly litigation.

Brilliant, actually.

Joe

Re:Oooorrrrrrr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123905)

Um, what?

No one can use Microsoft's "patents" against them and I doubt they will sue themselves.

Re:Oooorrrrrrr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124179)

I tried to find the -1 Incoherent mod, but there doesn't appear to be one.

(posting anon in case I see something worth modding)

new law needed? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123889)

Shouldn't there be a way to prosecute or charge large fines on a corporation that frivolously files knowingly bad patents and then tries to enforce them for the purpose of disrupting the market into their favor. One would think politicians would at least talk about implementing something like that, there's enough juice in it to make the corps buy them out for extra cash. Taxes plus this, one more thing to protect them from.

Anyway, at least how come the EFF or whoever doesn't campaign for it?

Large snowballing fines should have some effect even if you're a hypocrite corporation.

Re:new law needed? (2, Insightful)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124257)

Just another reason why corporate money needs to not be part of the
political process. The politicians worry about getting reelected,
and corporate money is crucial to that goal.

I might respect Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123897)

I might respect Microsoft as a corporation if they had actually innovated anything in the past 15 years. They want to bully their way through their slump and it will not work. The fact is that some motivated programmers accomplished as much as their multi-billion dollar company has, essentially while programming in their spare time. They are just coming across as sore losers at this point.

Re:I might respect Microsoft (1)

The_Sledge (1049070) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124037)

MS was never really about "innovation" per-se, they've always been about repackaging someone else's idea and saying it's "new" and spend big on advertising by saying "this is wow!".

Look at all their products...
Office suite: Word was a blatant rip-off of Word-Perfect (IMHO a vastly superior word processor, still is).
FrontPage: (was never their product in the first place) - "we can't build a better product, so let's buy a minnow company and say their product's ours, don't forget to brand it 'NEW AND INNOVATIVE'"
CRM: (see above)
I could list dozens more examples, but in the end, they're just a marketing company with a LOT of money to quash any real competition

Re:I might respect Microsoft (5, Insightful)

kabz (770151) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124067)

The real shame is that Microsoft have hidden away some of the greatest programmers that have ever lived, and essentially corralled them into harmlessness in MS Research.

The singularity OS is basically a .NET OS. It's very impressive in and of itself, but the programmers who put that together could have been working on something that would actually see the light of day. Imagine if Borland hadn't been steamrollered into oblivion. .NET could have been a Borland or IBM project.

The comparison between the assets that Microsoft have, such as Singularity, the .NET guys, the Haskell guys, and what they actually release such as Office 2007 (though the interface is nice now) is like night and day.

Microsoft have held back the general state of computing in order to preserve their monopoly. It's absolutely clear. Yahoo for Douglas Crockford and watch his Javascript videos. It stands out like a sore thumb how many examples of Microsoft throwing a spanner in the works of Javascript. Repeat this across a whole industry, many times a year and it becomes clear that FOSS and contributors to FOSS are going to be how this industry is driven forward.

Any time there is even a sniff of a state legislating for open standards and Microsoft goons pop out of the woodwork.

GNU/Linux and the web have now cracked Microsoft, the water is starting to flow in, and the whole edifice needs to start bailing, or flounder. Start using your research. Cooperate with open standards, and start to compete on merit, and maybe Microsoft will have a chance.

Re:I might respect Microsoft (3, Insightful)

Braxton_Bragg (902868) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124307)

Among family , I keep my trap shut about technical matters.

The PR regarding Microsoft is so effective that Bill Gates is regarded as the savior among the clueless (as in all my relatives), and Microsoft is the Orthodox Church.

It really does NOT matter that I think that he is a greedy weasel, and always has been (since the Homebrew Computer Days).

My last great hope in the SYSTEM is that the Supreme Court of this land will recognize that software patents are as nonsensical as making mathematical formulas "IP" or patentable (if that is a valid word).

This isn't the first disgusting display I've seen of a monopoly scrambling for that last nickel out of the tire treads of the parked cars - I witnessed "THE PHONE COMPANY" doing the same thing.

Re:I might respect Microsoft (0, Troll)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124281)

Microsoft hires people. Lots of people. So go on and support your free, open-source software done by people in their spare time. Kill off careers in software development.

Re:I might respect Microsoft (2, Insightful)

Falladir (1026636) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124285)

Be realistic. At least a few MS products are superior to all competitors. If nothing else, you can hold up Excel as a shining example of excellence in software. Many people say the same thing about Visual Studio (I haven't worked with it).

They're monopolists and their ideas about systems programming are at best ill-conceived, but you'll be more credible if you give credit where credit is due.

MS would do very well to clone a few of the OSS utility apps that are totally user-friendly. Kolourpaint, for instance, as a replacement for Paint. It might not make a big splash, but the millions of people upgrading to Vista would be pleasantly surprised by the fact that their bundled bmp editor had become more usable without losing approachability. (the grabbies that resize the canvas would be large enough for easy use on screens with resolution higher than 800x600, you could zoom to 300% in addition to 200% and 400%, you could zoom out, you could add text while zoomed in, .....Paint is seriously deficient.)

Department of Redundancy Department (5, Interesting)

Scottoest (1081663) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123901)

I know this is Slashdot and everything, but at what point do the Microsoft stories become redundant?

Yesterday there was a link to a story on this issue, followed by lots of discussion as to why Microsoft is doing what they are doing. Today there is an opinion piece regarding the original story, in which someone lays out unsubstantiated brainstorms, all of which were covered yesterday.

I understand that Microsoft stories are huge traffic and comment generators on this website (any MS story is a guaranteed 300+ comments), but often times it seems as though the editors like to fuel the fire.

I don't know. Just thinking out loud...

- Scott

Re:Department of Redundancy Department (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124235)

but often times it seems as though the editors like to fuel the fire.

Yeah, we need more Evolution vs. Creationism stories.

But they have to (2, Informative)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123907)

They can't avoid it forever though, and they need to do it before any lawsuits they bring go very far. It's a requirement that a patent holder claiming infringement inform infringers exactly how they are doing that. Refusal to do so is considered a bad faith act on the part of the plaintiff, which is a serious strike against any damages they might want to claim.

Pull over, you've just broken 235 traffic laws... (5, Insightful)

The_Sledge (1049070) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123913)

Imagine this, you get pulled over by the cops, they say you've broken 235 traffic laws, but won't tell you exactly what you've infringed. Ridiculous.

When someone points out a mistake I made, I appreciate when they tell me exactly what it was, or tell me where to look if it's in my best interest to learn how to be more diligent with my work. I don't suffer fools, and being a smart-ass doesn't help.

What MS is doing is simply saying "hey you guys, there are 235 things you're doing that's going to get you in trouble, but we won't tell you what it is"

Will it make us go away? It has definitely incensed a bunch of us to either be even more anti-MS in our stance at their sword waving, (hopefully we can do the Indiana Jones thing from Raiders')

Re:Pull over, you've just broken 235 traffic laws. (1)

Scottoest (1081663) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124005)

Your metaphor doesn't really hold water though.

If Microsoft brings charges against anyone, obviously they will have to divulge what is being infringed upon. Up to now though, it's just some PR sabre-rattling.

Likewise, until an officer lays a charge on you, he also doesn't have to divulge his suspicions.

I honestly believe all of this is just more of a PR blitz to try and create unease within corporate America, and change the minds of anyone considering adopting Linux on a grand scale. After all, no one wants to deploy an OS that might be breaking the law on hundreds of fronts.

Once this idea, right or wrong, permeates the minds of the executives, they go back to shelling out the Windows Tax as "part of doing business".

- Scott

Microsoft loves their employees... (1)

Anarchysoft (1100393) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123967)

...like wardens love prisoners. The fact that they are trying to bully the end consumers rather than the development company, along with dozens of past examples, demonstrates that Microsoft puts financial leverage far above benefit to customers. Looking at this dickweed [windowslicense.com] expecting payment tells me so much about Microsoft. Seen him before? :)

Soft and hard patents (1)

Ep0xi (1093943) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123971)

Software patent licensing troubles are resolved in a soft manner, by lawyers Hardware patenting issues, are solved the hard way? help me on this one!

Equitable Estoppel or Laches? (4, Interesting)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123975)


IANAL, but I have some small knowledge of the law in this area...

If MS has knowledge that their patents are being violated, yet refuses to tell the violators exactly what patents they are violating and how, aren't the patent claims automatically nullified, since they made no good faith attempt to resolve the situation? If Linus or the OSDL contacts Microsoft and are rebuffed when they formally requests details of the patents in question and how they are being infringed, I would expect they would be laughed out of the courtroom in the best case. At worst, this might be viewed as a thinly diguised extortion attempt.

This is sort of like delivering a copyright infringement notice to a website without telling them what the infringing material is, and demanding the entire site be shut down or pay the claimants whatever they see fit.

Re:Equitable Estoppel or Laches? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124191)

I don't believe they have to disclose anything ahead of a court filing. It would be like the police telling someone they have 48 hours to leave the country before they are arrested.

Assuming at some point there is some kind of legal document filed, that will be where the content is. Of course, the question is who would they file against exactly? Red Hat? Novell? IBM? Linux users in general? I don't understand what activity they think they might stop through this technique.

Devil's Advocate (0, Flamebait)

javacowboy (222023) | more than 6 years ago | (#19123991)

I hate Microsoft and refuse to use their products. Still, Slashdot is replete with articulate anti-Microsoft arguments, so I thought I'd play Devil's Advocate.

Microsoft spent billions of dollars, thousands upon thousands of man hours for programmers as well as typographers and visual design specialists, not to mention as untold research and interviews with focus groups on developing their GUIs, only to see them egregiously ripped off by Linux copycats. The "Start" button, Windows taskbar, menu bars, MS Office programs and their associated interfaces, as well other genuine GUI interfaces from Microsoft that did not exist on Mac. At least NeXT, Mac, and then OS X invented their own GUI conventions. These "Free Software" losers stole Microsoft's IP by blatantly ripping off all their GUI ideas. Can the Free Software community afford typographers, GUI design specialists and consumer focus groups? No. So they piggy back off Microsoft's investments in these specialists. GNOME and KDE have come up with ZERO GUI innovations. Switching OK and Cancel? PUH-LEASE!

It's about time Microsoft called a spade a spade. Free Software does nothing more than leach off the hard work of true capitalists.

What's worse is that they have this stupid clause called the GPL that prevents Microsoft and other true capitalists from actually using their code. They steal from Microsoft, and yet they don't let us steal from them? Unacceptable! At least BSD/Apache/Mozilla licensed code is available for Microsoft to use. That's a fair trade. The GPL is a one-way deal and Microsoft can't accept that. That's why Redmond has been forced to use its patent portfolio to defend its investments from this flagrant uncompensated theft.

I'm 100% sure that this is how Ballmer and the rest of Microsoft view GPL software. They can't accept competition. They don't believe in reverse engineering. They don't believe in innovating, only harvesting decades-old investments via the preposterous U.S. patent system.

Re:Devil's Advocate (1)

gnugnugnu (178215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124049)

> them egregiously ripped off by Linux copycats.

when microsoft ripped off Apple/Xerox they set themselves up for a time when someone else would come along and copy their designs with impunity.

Re:Devil's Advocate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124315)

You mean when Microsoft ripped off Apple who ripped off Xerox?

Apple is not entirely blameless there.

You keep using that word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124127)

> I hate Microsoft and refuse to use their products. Still, Slashdot is replete with articulate anti-Microsoft arguments, so I thought I'd play Devil's Advocate.

> It's about time Microsoft called a spade a spade. Free Software does nothing more than leach off the hard work of true capitalists.

Yeah, by writing their own code which happens to infringe upon those supposedly non-obvious patents the coders have never read?

BTW, a "Devil's Advocate" is supposed to be someone who looks into the life of a prospective saint, to see if they're worthy of canonization. If you want to call a spade a spade (or a troll a troll), I don't think Microsoft qualifies as any kind of prospective saint.

Although, apparently, they plan to follow SCO's little Operation: Foot Bullet with one of their own, but that would be more of a Darwin Award seeker than a martyr ...

Re:Devil's Advocate (5, Informative)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124153)

You're making the Look-and-Feel argument, which was legally thrown out in the 80s, not a patent argument.

Thanks for playing. Please try again.

Re:Devil's Advocate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124253)

You mean like the ingenious idea of "tabs" in IE?

Obviousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19123999)

Given SCOTUS's loosening of the obviousness test for patentability, it is entirely possible that MS is terrified that their patent portfolio will get slimmed down considerably in the near future. They are not going to invite any more scrutiny of those patents than they absolutely have to.

How far MS has fallen... (1)

GFree (853379) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124013)

There a time long past when Microsoft was THE place to work; kinda like Google is now... and they just had to ruin things for themselves, didn't they.

They used to be enviable; now they're just pitiful. Kinda sad it had to come to this.

Begun this patent war has (5, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124021)

We all knew this day would probably come, just as soon as the usefulness of the SCO lawsuit ended. Guess this means Microsoft has decided SCO is no longer enough to scare people off.

It also means they have decided the odds of getting Europe to adopt software patents had become too low for it to make sense on holding their fire any longer. Because this will almost certainly put the pro patent forces in the EU on defense while everyone decides that waiting to see how this afair shakes out is the prudent course.

It also means they feel threatened. Now normally that would be sorta good news, but Microsoft is paranoid and fearful as a matter of policy, always afraid of being knocked off their perch. They never choose to wait and 'hope for the best' when attack is an option for dealing with any real of imagined competitive threat. I suspect the only reason they have held their fire for so long was they felt they could use SCO to buy time to come up with a better plan that risking a Patent War that will have unpredictable results.

But SCO is used up and they only came up with the one twist to a plain patent fight, the Novell deal. It a) takes Novell out of the fight and b) offers an escape path for any corporation who decides the risk is too great, just throw Novell money and opt out of the fight. It will probably clear the field of everyone except the principles, which was the plan. Before it is over we will be following, at a minimum, RedHat V Microsoft, probably IBM v Microsoft and since this will probably trigger another anti-trust action we will also get DOJ v Microsoft.

hello my friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124029)

I hope you forgive me for interrupting your day, but I have some sad news I am forced to you to deliver. My name is Igby One Kobooby, and I am the last survivor of an the ancient royal family of Kobooby.

My family has lived life not as faithful to the will of god as I sure you have, and by we know god's will has fallen from grace. But god is merciful and I have willed my life to saving my family.

The last things we have were 235 pieces that are all my family had left and were stolen. I cannot tell anyone what these 235 pices are for they not holy and would discredit my family. But the grace of the lord has lead my to know they were sold on ebay, and may have been sold to you.

I do not wish to impinge you good and wonderful name. I am a good christian and will not judge, but I do wish the pieces back or wish to buy new pieces. It would be unwell to bring outsiders into what is a simple disagreement, or disrupt your ebay store, or in any way endanger your life.

I feel bad to ask, but I must, for the family. Please send $100 for each piece to me to cover my loss of these family trinkets. They are not worth much, except for my family.

Novell will get it the Worst (1)

ThoreauHD (213527) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124043)

Microsoft is Microsoft. The beast we all know. We knew they were coming, we just didn't know how lame it would be until now. So here is the thing, who is going to get screwed the worst out of all of these GPL and Closed source companies? Once the GPL is rewritten to outcast those that pretend to own Linux or GNU, and those who enter deals with violators of the GPL- then I think Novell is in for some deep kinda shit. I hope it doesn't go this way, just because I think choice is good- but it looks like Novell is going to take the brunt of the World's hate once Microsoft holds them up as an icon of indemnification. I got a Jim Croche' song playing in my head right now. Guess which one it is. That's right Leroy. Don't mess around with slim.

Microsoft and Good-Faith (1)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124045)

Since Microsoft has made this nebulous claim would it not severely limit their ability to claim damages since they have failed to act on these supposed acknowledged violations in a timely good-faith manner?

Are they really innovative? (1)

Cpt. Fwiffo (42356) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124047)

In EU vs. Microsoft, out of 200+ patents, only a few were found meritworthy.
Not only is MS afraid that the patents can be worked around, I think they're equally afraid of simply having the patents invalidated.

People can claim McCarthy, but it might also be being afraid that their bag of gold is actually mica.

Didn't another MS person claim linux is dead? (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124055)

If its dead then is there a reason to pursue it for claimed patent infringment?

Re:Didn't another MS person claim linux is dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124271)

i kild it now wut

How will the major players respond? (2, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124057)

If this turns into more than just FUD and we see actual legal documents flying around, how will the various major players respond?

Specifically, I wonder how the following organizations will react:
IBM (big in Linux these days)
Dell (Given the timing one has to wonder if the new announcements by Microsoft are designed in part to kill the Dell Ubuntu machines)
RedHat
Sun
Free Software Foundation (have Microsoft made any claims that FSF software infringes on their patents yet)
Motorola, Cisco, Linksys and others who are using linux on embedded devices

The big question is who is going to keel over and stop using linux, who is going to "cut a deal" with Microsoft (IBM for example may just engage in some kind of cross license deal rather than try to fight) and who is going to fight?

will the Novell deal backfire? (5, Interesting)

_|()|\| (159991) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124069)

Pamela Jones has an interesting take [groklaw.net] on this story: now that Dell has bought some of the SLES coupons that Microsoft bought from Novell, Microsoft has effectively distributed a GPLed Linux distribution, thereby granting an implied license to any patents it may infringe.

Please enlighten me as to how this works. (1)

Masque (20587) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124081)

Given the glacial pace of software lawsuits, how exactly is this going to benefit Microsoft in any way? If the "OSS folks" - whoever they are - come to the bargaining table, there's this thing called "discovery" and after that, the OSS community will be happily a-codin' away on solutions, at which point... well, that's where I'm lost. Can they claim past damages? Is ignorance of the patent sufficient defense? How does this play out?

And who, exactly, are they expecting to squeeze money from? Isn't "free software" pretty synonymous with "not making money on the software itself"? And thus also "not making money on the patents"?

I am obviously not a lawyer. Are you? Fill me in.

This can (and thus probably will) go on forever... (1)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124091)

Notice how it's taken 5 years for the SCO case to get where it is?

Now take that and increase it manyfold. Unlike SCO, Microsoft has lawyers who really do know what they're doing, on top of the financial ability to initiate many independent suits and literally them going for centuries if that were possible.

Worse, unlike SCO, Microsoft has a direct line to the government itself. In essence, as one of the biggest megacorps, Microsoft exerts a great deal of direct control over the government.

So if you think SCO's been making trouble for us, you haven't seen anything.

I fear we won't live long enough to see the end of this. :-(

Anti-competitive (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124101)

"You're breaking the law, but we're not going to tell you what you did to break the law, because then you'll keep braking it and crumble!"

Lets counter attack (1)

G.A. Heath (121898) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124169)

One thing we can do in this case, that we couldn't in SCO's, is simply to attack each and every MS patent methodically. The patent filings themselves are a matter of public record so we can get a list of ALL patents held by MS and proceed to collect prior art, and other evidence to invalidate them. As this data is collected it would need to be placed in public view so that anyone who is attacked by, or planning an attack on MS, in the court system can simply retrieve the data then validate it in a legal manner so it can be used in court. This will do two things. It will help anyone fighting MS in court, and it will have a serious impact on the value of their "IP". The end result is that either MS will want peace or will be unable to use this method to attack OSS. The collateral damage to their IP, while extensive and irreparable, would serve as a warning to anyone else who would attempt this type of attack.

Eventually they have to come out ... (1)

Tribbin (565963) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124183)

... and tell the world what minor, obvious and insignificant doodles they have patented.

Didn't they patent things like combo-boxes and stuff that had prior-art by others?

Patent Infringement Planting, Sabotage!! (PIP'S) (1)

zakeria (1031430) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124185)

I've always been concerned with how easy it would be for somebody with an "MS/SCO agenda" to plant patented IP into the Linux kernel and/or open source software! Should all code get a good IP search before being allowed into Linux or any OSS software? I think so!

Interesting speculation (2, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124189)

But a more optimistic thought is that Microsoft may be afraid to list these supposed violations because it knows the patents can be worked around by the open source community, leaving Microsoft high and dry without any leverage at all.

Then why bluster with the threat? It makes them look like SCO and sound like the Iraqi Information Minister. We've got Super Secret IP! We will drive the Linsux invaders into the sea! There are no Linsux soldiers within 150 miles of Redmond! What kind of drugs is Ballmer on?

Not to mention the scrutiny this case would get by the open source community. Nothing like having an army of volunteers. And you know MSFT actually suing someone would vault them into action.

They trained on SCO, they're ready for the Redmond Death Cage Match.

Earn a living with closed-source software (-1, Troll)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124255)

In my computer science department, every single person who has accepted a job offer has accepted with a company developing closed-source software that is sold either directly or indirectly (including Microsoft). Yet so many people on Slashdot rant and rave about how evil Microsoft is and how we should all support open-source projects done by people in their spare time. DO ANY OF YOU MAKE A LIVING DEVELOPING OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE? I'm sorry, but open-source software doesn't pay the bills. Sure, there are some who are paid by RedHat, Novell, etc., but really, you can't make a living with open-source software. So why do slashdotters support it so rabidly? Are there so many few slashdotters that actually earn a living developing software?

Nature is guilty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124263)

Is not this number a part of Fibonacci Sequence ? So i guess that nature is the real guilty here, not Linux.

In other words... (1)

TLouden (677335) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124303)

They don't have anything of value and are hoping to scare people into giving them money.

Huh, sounds a lot like bullies... or thugs... or militant governments... funny.

put up or shut up (1)

RelliK (4466) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124323)

Somebody (RedHat, IBM, OSDL, FSF -- whatever) needs to file a "put up or shut up" lawsuit against Microsoft, seeking the following relief:

Either:
List all patents Microsoft believes are being infringed, and explain how they apply to Linux (this clause has to be water-tight to prevent hand-waving and vagueness).

OR:
Shut up and pay damages for libel, unfair competition, restraint of trade, or whatever other laws apply here.

Recall, RedHat did sue SCO for exactly the same reason. It didn't make much of a difference -- that case was stayed pending the resolution of SCO v. IBM and SCO v. Novell, and it doesn't look like there will be anything left for RedHat to sue once Novell and/or IBM are done with SCO. However, it would make a huge difference vs. Microsoft. Until this is done, the FUD will not stop.

We all know that this is bullshit. However, a CTO of a fortune 500 company would likely pay the exto^H^H^H^H ehhh.... "protection" money to cover his ass. I fully expect Microsoft to use the vague patent threats to "win" customers. And this will only get worse until somebody actually fights back. I am surprised no one has done anything about this yet.

Atari vs. Sega (1)

Fortyseven (240736) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124331)

This reminds me of when Atari sued Sega over the 9-pin connector they were using, not long before they went belly-up.

...*fingers-crossed* ;)

don't give free research to the enemy (1)

logicpaw (868693) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124335)

They're not afraid. They're smart. They paid for some legal research looking among their thousands of patents. Why give any specific information away for free when they can wait for the OSS community to incur equivalent research costs? (in time if not in cash).

microsoft, now with 100% more....something! (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124345)

Does anybody, even microsoft, really think that this is going to accomplish much other than pissing people off? I mean, granted microsoft does have a really GREAT image...so i guess it won't hurt them to piss off the I.T. community a little...so this is okay.

Lets pretend that microsoft wins a lawsuit against F/OSS software. Is it going to become illegal to use linux/bsd? IF that is the case, they should go talk to the MAFRIAA and see how well enforcing policies like that have been going. Are they planning to shut down all of the mirrors out there?

I'm a linux user at heart, but let me tell you something; Active Directory really is great, its easy to set up printers, its easy to manage users, and Group policy is pretty cool, but what else does microsoft have to offer me? Why would i go out and drop a couple of GRAND on microsoft's IIS, when I could do exactly what I did do, and grab an old machine from the garage at home, bring it in to work, and have apache up in running in an HOUR. One of our customers asked us for a data feed in a very specific text format a couple weeks ago, cracked out the perl and it up and running on my linbox in a few hours...complete with FTP. I wouldn't even KNOW where to start doing something like that on windows.

Enough rambling. Windows is just fine for my mom to use, its just great for me to use at my desk, or in active directory. When it comes down to the actually nitty gritty i-need-it-to-work-right-now stuff: Linux 100%.

This lawsuit won't do anything to change that.

FUD (1)

netdur (816698) | more than 6 years ago | (#19124355)

microsoft claim +200 useless patents... because they don't want to start patents war with all companies doing business with Linux... all what they can do now is throwing FUDs everywhere... if slashdot spread it by publishing such as stories, then FUD machine is working

please slashdot, stop working for microsoft

The industry is dreaming it can ditch MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19124361)

It's certainly not a stretch of the imagination to think that several distros could be copying Windows too closely. I mean, they even have XP themes and all that.

How can you say you haven't used Microsoft idea when your OS is designed to look and feel similar to windows as a selling point to steal their customers. It's a joke to think open source distros haven't infringed on at least that many patents.

If you know anything you'd realize that infringing on patents is very easy to do. All you have to do is try to brainstorm new ideas and not have a legal team to verify none of your ideas your thought you came up with are already patented. Considering the design model open source is likely plagued by this problem since it usual runs or at least starts on a shoe-string budget. If patent infringement is alive and anywhere it's in the open source community where the feeling is that we are open source so nobody is paying attention.

It's exceptionally easy to make a distro that infringes on hundreds of patents if not thousands. Consider the number of distros and open souce projects. The number 230 ish sounds pretty low really. Copyright laws are very strict these days and for the most part run by wealthy corporations who have stronger legal teams.

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