back to article Google to rescue Linux from Microsoft lawyers

Google has joined the fight to save Linux from an army of patent-waving Microsoft lawyers. With Redmond threatening to collect royalties from Linux users and distributors across the industry, claiming that the open-source operating system violates 235 of its patents, Google has thrown its considerable weight behind the Open …

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Put up or shut up, Microsoft!

If MS is allowed to claim that Linux "violates" 235 patents that MS owns, without disclosing what those patents are, then there's no good reason any other company - say, Novell, or Sun - shouldn't claim that Microsoft violates *their* patents.

In fact, there's no reason (other than that I don't have any) *I* shouldn't claim that Microsoft products violate 312 software patents which I own.

Of course, there's no reason on Earth that anyone with two functioning neurons would ever allow software to be patented in the first place. But that aside, Microsoft is lying. They know it, we know it, everyone knows it.

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Novell?

Having Novell in the OIN is kinda like having one of those robot-moths in there. Watch what you say, OINsters, or Big Daddy will make a note and put you on Microsoft's short list of "people we can sue because we want to".

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Google?

I dont get it, google doesn't "modify" linux code and it just works for them?

Doesn't open source mean they have to "give back" to the community?

We're entering a world where you can choose what OS you want to use, either developed by hundreds, dedicated to that specific function, or developed by millions, working on various random bits.

You can either shift your coders to work on your corporations "need", or pay someone else (microsoft), to do it. Either way, it is that companies choice.

Microsoft is no longer the only "evil" one. Companies have enough money to develop DRM for *nix based system, develop user friendly desktops (ubuntu), but whether they decide to invest or not, will be dependent on them. Microsoft is still focused on software and nothing more. They will be at the heart of the battles for years to come, but that's it, software.

Remember, 25+ years ago, there were choices out there, but companies charged way too much for their OS and one popped up with a cheaper alternative (and coded directly in house). If peope are not satisfied with Windows and other MS brands, invest in a new OS, INVEST into it!!

Not everything in life is free, I believe in choice, but I do not believe everything is a right.

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OIN == Death of F/OSS

I can't believe that El Reg are posting this as any kind of a Good Thing.

It is an undeniably Bad Thing.

Great, so this little clique of multi-million (billion) dollar companies can all afford to get involved in F/OSS development, without suing each other.

Isn't that lovely for them? What about the guy in the basement? The Finnish student (Linux), the MIT researcher (GNU), the band of webmasters (Apache), the small team of dedicated engineers (SAMBA and lots of ofter projects)?

None of these projects could have even started within such an environment.

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J

To the community

"Doesn't open source mean they have to "give back" to the community?"

Morally, sure. Legally, not necessarily. The GPL only demands that you give the source code *that you distribute*. Since Google only uses it internally, and does not give their modified binaries to anybody, they are not legally obliged to give anybody the source code, or tell them what they modified, if anything, to begin with.

But it would sure be nicer if they did give these modifications to the community nonetheless (I suspect they do contribute something, but I haven't checked), in case they are of use to other people. I mean, they built their multi-billion dollar business off of this free stuff the unimaginative pundits keep saying is no good; it would be nice to give mods back out of gratitude, if nothing else. Oh my, I'm wishing for moral businesses, what a fool I am...

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I can't believe it

I cannot, for the life of me, imagine for one second that anybody is taken Microsofts claims seriously. No really, after SCO and years of legal hide-and-seek that finally exposed three lines of comment as sole grudge, can anyone actually believe that Microsoft has a leg to stand on ? Not to mention that we're talking about a company that has used absolutely every underhanded tactic in the book, and probably some that are not in the book, to "acquire" the code it wanted, whether or not it had a license for it.

No. The SCO business has amply demonstrated that the FOSS community is not liable to anyone. Microsoft is not going to change this.

Besides, this is the company that has patented the use of the "msgbox" moniker. Nobody else is supposed to use that in any programming language. Congratulations, Microsoft ! That really helps advance programming !

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Re: Put up or shut up, Microsoft!

> But that aside, Microsoft is lying. They know it, we know it, everyone knows it.

Unfortunately I'm not so sure, software patents are such a mess I wouldn't be surprised if they owned a patent on the "a+=2" statement :) I remember a guy trying to patent URLs ("a block of data refering to other data", aka "pointer"), and even a woman trying to patent 0 and 1... I can immagine that a small percentage of such ridiculous patent applications get accepted ?

Of course if Linux violates some of MS patents, probably other OSes also do. But because Linux is Open Source, they can pretend to be able to prove it, whereas they cannot pretend they read the source code to, say, AIX. OpenSolaris is an intersting case, though ; will MS (and others) start to look into the code and sue Sun ?

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Anonymous Coward

software patents are non-sense

Patents should not be applied to software or algorithms or things like that. It's just pure non-sense. It is as if we had to pay royalties in School to learn how to solve an equation. But we don't; it is free knowledge.

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You can't patent logic.

I think this is a fundamental flaw in 'the system'. Software shouldn't be subject to patents, copyrights, yes if you write a complete program you can protect that, but patenting parts of software that are made up of common building blocks like mathematical operations and language specific syntax.

As for microsoft they're just being their usual combative self. They know full well it'll cost more tracking down and summonsing all the users of their 200 patents would probably cost more than it'll make.

If anything this somewhat flailing swipe at Opensource is merely confirmation that Linux, OpenOffice and alike are becoming an ever more potent threat to the MS monopoly. I believe this attack was never intended to take on the members of the opensource network, instead it's to spread fear or an MS summons into prospective End Users in the hope they'll not risk taking on a liability.

With regards to that Novell comment, I sincerely doubt Novell would shop out anyone in the opensource community as opensource drives on the functionality and user base of linux , and linux are partially (if not completely by now) owned by Novell, thus damaging the opensource community would shoot themselves in the foot with regards to their own growth.

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re; Google?

"Doesn't open source mean they have to "give back" to the community?"

As far as I know, they do. Wine has had a number of changes implemented with code patches from Google, from their Picasa project. What else they have contributed I don't know and don't have time to check right now, but I can't imagine thats the only thing.

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Title

"Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith and licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez, who recently told Fortune that Redmond plans to use 235 of its OS patents to collect royalties from Linux users and distributors alike."

Attitudes like that make piracy less of a temptation and more of a moral obligation. Sooner, rather than later, the rest of the world's IT industry is going to tell the US exactly where they can shove their stupid patent system.

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GPL v Affero public license

"Doesn't open source mean they have to "give back" to the community?"

The GPL V2 which covers Linux as used and presumably modified for internal use by Google doesn't require providers of a server to give source to users of the server. Those wanting this stronger than the usual kind of copyleft should release source code under the Affero public license.

The moral issue is debatable, as what someone does in their own premises without affecting anyone else is generally thought to be their own business. Whether you can really extend this moral privacy argument to a significant public corporation is another matter.

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Just a thought...

I wonder how many patents MS is currently flouting? Send in the lawyers - it's the only language they understand!

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FAO: Steve Parker - death of Foss

You've got the wrong end of the stick mate, OIN companies don't licence patents to each other, they're for anyone, provided they're not attacking Linux. From the OIN website:

"Patents owned by Open Invention Network are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System"

So basically, at the moment everyone benefits... well, apart from Microsoft :-D

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Non sequitur?

I don't understand. What does Google or the OIN have to do with Linux being protected from Microsoft's patent claims?

If the OIN own some of the patents MS claim they own, or if the OIN own patents which Microsoft are using without permission and could thus sue MS in retaliation, then that would connect the two things, but nothing like that seem to be mentioned. Just that Google is using an OIN licence or something, and the OIN has some large members who own some patents. So what? Did my brain skip over a paragraph or am I missing something or what?

I know MS haven't said what the patents actually are, and to me that makes their claim more FUD than anything else so far, so I'm certainly not siding with MS on this issue, I just don't see the connection this article, and its headline in particular, seems to be drawing.

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OIN

Basically what the OIN is is a group of companies and people who own patents and say that anybody can use these patents, so long as they agree not to use any patents they have themselves against open source.

It also means that we've got a bunch of big names standing together on the linux issue, against Microsoft and it's not at all unlikely that these companies will together clobber Microsoft legally, given the chance and the incentive to do so.

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The "missing paragraph"

For those of you, like Leo, wondering how a big body of patents necessarily protects against another big body of patents, it's this:

The software patent landscape is so screwed up and so many lousy, worthless patents have been granted that any useful software of any size is statistically almost guaranteed to infringe on a number of them. Since companies like Microsoft and Amazon have been seeking such silly patents, other companies have taken to doing so as well.

So IBM, Novell, and many other companies hold huge bodies of patents on trivial and obvious crap just like MS does. If Microsoft chooses to go after people with a huge portfolio of useless patents, there can be a war of useless crap patents vs. the same rather than needing to prove each and every one of Microsoft's patents invalid.

The idea is to overwhelm Microsoft or other companies with the same thinking as Microsoft with as many or more counterclaims as there are claims, and eventually the plaintiff would agree to cross-license some, some patents (probably on both sides) would be invalidated by the courts, and perhaps the big mess the Patent and Trademark Office has allowed would get some notice outside the industry.

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Why wait?

"Sooner, rather than later, the rest of the world's IT industry is going to tell the US exactly where they can shove their stupid patent system."

Seriously. Anyone who's really serious about this should contact their legal representatives (MPs in the UK, I don't know who in the EU, and so on) and point out that the US Patent system is incompatible with innovation, and further that it is designed to stifle foreign competition, rather than to protect inventors. The solution is for non-US nations to reject US patents and refuse patent protection for US inventions until such time as the USA cleans up their act at the USPTO.

And as an American citizen, I am deeply ashamed of my governmnet.

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Giving back to the community

You only have to provide source/give back to the community if you make alterations to existing GPL'ed code (unless I am very mistaken).

If Google use out-of-the-box Linux configurations but have their own separate software which runs on that, they can license their *own* code any way they please, or lock it in a vault under 20 feet of concrete, protected by hungry tigers and killer bees if that's what lights their candle! They'd only have to feed back any alterations they made to the GPL'ed bits of the system.

Seems like they give a lot to the community, look at Summer of Code for example.

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Anonymous Coward

Scared?

I think Msoft are still scared of Linux and revert to legal attacks when they're not sure what else to do.

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Huh?

It's nce that Google and co have bought up some Free/Open Source patents and promised not to use them; sort of like protecting a plot of land by splitting up ownership into 1-metre, blocks, I guess.

But --- even leaving aside the question of whether software should be patentable at all -- how can there BE "open source patents"? If software was 'protected' by the GPL/whatever, how can it also be patented by someone else?

Maybe this is a Reg typo: is it that Google et al have bought up patents that might *conceivably* been used, perniciously, against Linux? Which would make more sense...

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Anonymous Coward

re: Giving back to the community

"They'd only have to feed back any alterations they made to the GPL'ed bits of the system."

correct, but the feed back only need be to those who have access to the binary.

could you image if every modification to un-released programs had to be accessible, sourceforge would have to be a slew of real-time feeds showing every key-stroke of every developer, flooding the system with crap code in progress.

the intent may have been to allow developers to only release tested code, basing that on distribution is genius.

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What does Google give back to the community?

How about a bloody good search engine that you don't have to pay for?

I'm sure just about every project has used Google at some point. I'm also sure that Google does a pretty good job of advertising F/OSS projects too - consider the Google search "free office software".

Giving to the world of F/OSS doesn't have to mean releasing code surely?

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M$ = SCO

Microsoft's arguments and behavior both sound familiar to another contentious and poorly run company.

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