Mozilla Open Source Software

Patent Wars 2.0

In 1.0 we had Unisys and SCO. In 2.0 it looks like it will be Microsoft:

He says that the Linux kernel – the deepest layer of the free operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer hardware – violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user interfaces – essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars are set up – run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more. E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly transgress 68.

Emphasis is mine.

Email programs? Thunderbird? Evolution? Chandler? Kontact? Mutt? Pine? The fact that it’s plural says quite a bit. Is it the concept Email itself (RFC 822)? SMTP (RFC 821)? An address book (no RFC, but there’s got to be prior art here)?

I can’t think of too many things that are shared across “Email programs”.

This will be very interesting.

1 reply on “Patent Wars 2.0”

Unfortunately they don’t disclose which patents are violated exactly, which plays well with their FUD strategy. They want to scare customers into paying royalties, without giving the FOSS community the opportunity to refute the patents.

Anyway, I think that Microsoft isn’t particularly happy with the situation software patents create either (Chris Wilson at the least is clearly against them), but they have to do business in the world that we live in now, and in that world, software patents are a given. In order to maximise their profits, they will have to use the mechanisms that the law provides. And if they are being treatened with or sued for patent infringement (think about e.g. Eolas), they have to counter and compensate for that by filing their own patent cases.

Anyway, software patents are an abomination, and I think Richard Stallman’s ‘freedom or death’ approach is very interesting. Will Linux and other FOSS (like Mozilla’s Thunderbird) be important enough to be able to force the legislatives into abolishing the software patents system? That would be wonderful. For now, I’m glad that at least in the Netherlands the law as of yet still does not honour software patents.


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