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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that the open source movement needs to “play by the same rules” as the rest of the business and claims “what’s fair is fair.” Which is pretty rich given the high profile cases involving dodgy business practice and Microsoft during the last few years. Still, a leading Microsoft lawyer, Brad Smith, has nonetheless accused the Linux of a serious swathe of patent violations, some 235 in total in fact. As part of an interview with Fortune magazine, Smith cites some 42 violations of Microsoft patents involving the Linux kernel, 45 more by OpenOffice.org, 65 to do with the UI and other Linux design elements, and throws in a nonchalant 83 bonus violations involving other open source applications.

If this is the case, then why has Microsoft not filed against those concerned in order to protect its IP and add a few million in damages to its bottom line? After all, the IT business is not exactly know as being shy when it comes to filing for patent infringement, and Microsoft isn’t what one could call backwards in coming forwards regarding litigation to protect itself.

Could it have something to do with taking a big stick and little carrot approach to lucrative commercial deals, such as we have seen recently with the Novell ‘we won’t sue you if you jump into bed with us’ pact? Or perhaps it is more a case of running scared from the big stick that the Open Invention Network (OIN), with members such as IBM, Philips and Sony at the helm, has been carving which might just be long enough to poke Microsoft in the eye and heavy enough to do some serious damage in the patent litigation department?

There is no doubting that the OIN has something of an intellectual property armory which could certainly be brought into play as part of an offense is the best defense strategy should Microsoft get heavy. And Windows looks like being the soft flesh poking through the Microsoft armor.

The OIN approach does look like being the way forward when it comes to dancing around the minefield that is open source patent handling. Rather than often complicated individual agreements or limited rights assignments and perpetual licenses, the OIN requires those that license its patents (for free of course) to do so without asserting any patent claims against anyone involved in the Linux environment. Meanwhile, the Free Software Foundation is working on a new GPL draft which will include clauses that prohibit partnerships and pacts of the Microsoft/Novell ilk.

No wonder Microsoft is getting hot under the collar and rolling out the big guns to fire the heavy patent infringement allegation shells. But, let’s be frank here, shouting you sank my battleship to anyone who will listen is not going to scare anyone, even if it is Microsoft doing the shouting. Open source software users are not the type of people who will back down and put their hands into pockets to pay a Microsoft tax, after all. This is just Microsoft FUD, and I doubt we will see it get to court because if truth be told it is Microsoft which is running scared when it comes to open source and not the other way around.

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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Last Post by Sturm
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Mhh whats with all the MS hate, if they are forced to pay millions of dollars for patents, such as the recent MP3 case. Then so should everyone else, so I have to agree with Balmer on this one.

"microsofts OS is not good enough to be seen as any kind of a threat to the rest of the computing world.
" you cant be serious? Windows XP is a solid OS thats a fact.

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>...the only difference is that microsofts OS is not good enough
>to be seen as any kind of a threat to the rest of the
>computing world.

Windows is a good OS, though it has big resource requirements. Almost all of the non-malware related crashes are caused by 3rd party software (drivers, especially).

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>“what’s fair is fair.”

Whao!. I would love to get paid as much as he gets just
to be able to say these kind of profound statements.
I am so moved that I'm thinking of giving him a big hug of support and condolences.

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I acctually meant windows vista not windows XP i think windows XP has just become a rather stable OS and by releasing Vista and forcing people to upgrade they are really burning their bridges to the point where other people are going to be looking for alternatives those alternatives being OSX or linux making them a big threat to microsoft. Where as i do not think that OSX and Linux see microsoft as a big enough threat and therefore dont see the need to turn around and sue microsoft for the ideas that they have stolen off them.

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Vista has many design changes that have been developed over the last several years. It would be silly for Microsoft to not release a new version. While the pricing on Vista is somewhat controversial, its release is a very good thing.

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Note the fact that MS aren't mantioning any particular patent. Just obscure sayings, nothing more. This is a PR trick to scare businesses from switching over to Linux, because vista is such a failure. The exact same trick was already played out by MS in 2004, and it did manage to slow Linux down, a little bit. But these days - no way.

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>its release is a very good thing

No it would be a good thing if it acctually worked and a complete power hog.

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