Microsoft has been threatening Linux users with a claim that the open source operating system infringes upon 235 of their software patents. The Redmond software giant has conveniently neglected to tell anyone specifically what these patents are.
A Patent Problem
Patenting software has only been well established in the United States since the early 1990s. There is some controversy to the legality of patenting software. It has been suggested that Microsoft began patenting any computer process they could. Being able to patent a process rather than actual code would bar other developers from writing their own code for the same process – and effectively destroy innovation.
Microsoft has thousands of such patents and has offered deals to certain Linux distributors in order to protect that distribution’s users from being sued. Novell, Linspire and Xandros have all bowed to Microsoft and teamed up with them – buckling under the weight of the fear, uncertainty and doubt that Microsoft is so fond of spreading.
Recently, Microsoft brought this offer to Red Hat – the most widespread Linux distribution in corporate America and the handler of the Fedora Project. Red Hat denied the deal. Red Hat director of corporate communications Leigh Day was quoted as saying: “We continue to believe that open source and the innovation it represents should not be subject to an unsubstantiated tax that lacks transparency.”
Popular user distribution Ubuntu has also denied the deal. Canonical’s CEO, Mark Shuttleworth, posted on his blog: “Allegations of ‘infringement of unspecified patents’ carry no weight whatsoever. We don’t think they have any legal merit, and they are no incentive for us to work with Microsoft on any of the wonderful things we could do together.”
I’m glad to see there are members of the community that will stand up to these bullies and fight for free software.
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