Patent vs Copyright
I think there might be more than a little confusion over the difference between patent infringement and copyright infringement. I'm certainly confused, which means that Redmond's FUD campaign is definitely working.
I was thinking along the same lines as the poster above who said 'show us the code' ... but then I got thinking, thats an accusation of literally ripping off existing code - which surely would be a copyright breach.
As we know, the Linux kernel was written from scratch, so I'm certain that can't be the case. Unfortunately however, the Linux kernel also has a FAT file system module, among a couple of others. Perhaps this is where the patent infringement comes in?
Although in use since '76, Redmond finally got around to patenting FAT in '96. That patent was re-examined and rejected in 2004 (a 'non final' decision) by the patent office...
...but subsequently seems to have been reinstated in 2006 (what sounds like a 'final' decision)...
You can download the specification for the FAT file system here:
...as long as you agree to a "royalty free" license agreement which allows you to "make, have made, use, import, and directly and indirectly, offer to sell, sell and otherwise distribute and dispose of portions of products which comply with the Specification in unmodified form.".
But hang on - as long as the Linux FAT compatibility kernel module complies with that specification, M$ have issued a covenant not to sue. *now* I'm really confused.
...ah, now theres some really interesting cunningness written into the agreement further down - the "covenant not to sue" provided by the license no longer applies should you decide to sue M$ for patent violations yourself...
Now I'm wondering if the M$ legal eagles have been preparing defenses in advance to create a cover under which their developers can work in patented OSS territory.
This all really does suck bigstyle(1). As has been protested by anti-software-patent campaigners for some time, these patents are destined to make it economically impossible for independent or small business software developers to write any new software for fear of unknowingly infringing a big company patent. The simple accusation of doing so can put you out of business in a blink.
(1) All the more when you consider that Gates and Allen didn't even invent either FAT, or even DOS for that matter.