Posted May 15, 2007 5:48 pm by with 16 comments

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UPDATE: Sun’s response (via).

Microsoft has announced that they’ll be suing open-source software companies, developers and even users for patent infringement—on 235 patents.

How will this affect you? If a court finds that these programs do infringe upon MSFT’s patents, programs like Linux, Mozilla,, Apache, Drupal, or Joomla will no longer be available. Microsoft anticipates collecting royalties from distributors and users. (Over half of the Fortune 500 uses Linux.) Potentially, this could trickle down to even small, private users, though Steve Ballmer declined to address the subject.’s article on this is just great. I mean, the title is “Microsoft takes on the free world.” I love it. Plus, they have a picture of Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, is straight out of The Ten Commandments.

Okay, so’s article also takes a good hard look at the subject. Another reason it’s good. One important point Roger Perloff makes:

[L]ast month . . . the Supreme Court stated in a unanimous opinion that patents have been issued too readily for the past two decades, and lots are probably invalid. For a variety of technical reasons, many dispassionate observers suspect that software patents are especially vulnerable to court challenge.

It’s not time to panic quite yet. Another interesting point the article makes is that, if the courts do find that these patents have been infringed upon, the Open Invention Network might turn around and sue Microsoft. The OIN is made up of Microsoft rivals (and erstwhile partners) IBM, Red Hat, Novell, Sony, Phillips and NEC, who have basically come together to share patents that the might eventually be able to sue Microsoft for.

I think the overall debate stems from an underlying theme in many intellectual property cases today. The free information culture fostered by the Internet has changed the copyright and patent landscape in many ways. If they end up in court, these decisions may shape the future of the information economy.

  • Yea… This is going to go over great with the online community!

    This is like Google sueing MSN, Yahoo and, stating that they are infringing on their rights because they are displaying websites in search results in a format similar to there’s.

    Good job Microsoft, good job.

  • I wonder how many of those patents where created while they were illegally using their monopoly power to grow their business big enough that they could afford all the research that lead to those patents.

  • Pingback: Too Bad Cavemen didn’t have Patents! | The Marketing Technology Blog()

  • dnn

    Well we will see a lot wars in near feature. I want to be objective, people trying to build some work with their experince, knowledge. But open source kills development. If Microsoft and other companies decreases their prices, it would be good to go with. Currently people does not like Microsoft. Why? Because they are not cheap.

    In Turkey %90 of visitors comes from Google generally, this means Yahoo and MSN means nothing for Turks.

    Yahoo and MSN should do some unique projects to fight with Google’s monopoly.

  • hmm..I think that open source team will win..yeahh…just my sense..

  • HDR

    Microsoft is at the end of its growth as a company, so they look to using RIAA’ish tactics.

  • I wonder how this will end up affecting Microsoft’s brand image. I think they are getting a little too brash and are going to suffer from their attempt to
    “take over the free world”.

  • Jordan McCollum

    I think it’s all talk right now.

    @dnn–open source kills big companies’ (like Microsoft’s) R&D dept, but it fosters a spirit of open development around the world. There are hundreds of open source programs. How many plugins are there for WordPress? Mozilla? (I agree, though, that you usually have more incentive to invent something when you’re getting paid.)

  • Hi from Greece! Like Linus Torvalds says in responce: “they’re probably happier with the FUD [fear, uncertainty, doubt] than with any lawsuit”. The GNU General Public License (GPL) and the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) have proven to be a powerful legal stand for open-source applications in the recent history of software development. Microsoft should name the patents that it claims have been violated.

  • As Vista fails as a cutting edge must have product, it is only natural for people to search for better, cheaper alternatives.

    Microsoft must be seeing revenue bleed from the inside. They are practically giving operating systems away in China and are back to the big bully threats that kept them on top in the past.

    Looks like a desperation move to me.

  • Jon Macgregor

    More evidence of the last desparate death throws of a giant. If they (Microsoft) do intend to pursue the open software sphere, they can expect untold bad press. Not the regular type of press — open source projects are incredibly social and network people from all walks of life. The collective community is far more powerful and influential than any company, courtroom or patent.

    The sabre rattling is outrageous when you consider this company’s track record of anti-competitive behaviour, dirty tricks campaigns and blatant ripoffs from for example Apple. In this case patents are indeed a threat to innovation. Who invented the word innovation? (perhaps I should patent it).

    Let the games begin, if Microsoft dares … as it will indeed herald the beginnings of Microsoft’s death knell.

    Bring it on.

  • mark

    It’s Richard Stallman not Stillman

  • Jordan McCollum


  • It will be a sad day when big enterprise wins over small freedom. Sure, big companies have more money, more weapons. But Open Source has lots of people and those numbers will weigh in heavily if it comes to an open confrontation. How we all react to the “posturing” today will surely have an effect on how things will turn out.

  • Microsoft declares war on anyone who doesn’t buy their software

  • Microsoft marketing tactics have always been dirty.. They abuse their monopoly as they wish. I’m happy to see Euro Comission has finnaly seen this and now wants Microsoft to ship Windows without Internet Explorer installed by default which is a total crap.

    Andrew Katasonov’s last blog post..Caveats About Restoring Linux Root Partition From TAR Archive