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Linux Foundation slams Microsoft's patent ploy

Microsoft protecting 'privileged' position

Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin said Microsoft's recent patent claim against Linux and the open-source community is a delaying tactic to merely help protect its profits, according to a column in BusinessWeek.

"What most people don't realise is that the story really isn't about patents at all - it's about a rational actor trying to protect its privileged position," wrote Zemlin, the executive director of the consortium.

Zemlin's article follows a flurry of activity on the patent front, which was brought about by the latest draft of the General Public License version 3. The debate sprung into action when Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, and Horacio Gutierrez, the company's vice president of intellectual property and licensing, spoke with Fortune magazine, during which they claimed open-source software, including Linux, violates 235 Microsoft patents. See 10 things Microsoft loves & hates about open source.

According to Zemlin, Microsoft is doing its utmost to protect the huge profit margins enjoyed by its Windows operating systems and Office suites - both of which are most threatened by Linux and OpenOffice.

"Given the high stakes involved, it's not surprising that Microsoft would take steps to protect its turf," he said.

"In fact, it makes perfect sense. Let's face it: If you were making $1 billion per month, what would you do? Perhaps engage in rhetoric and hyperbole to generate some old-fashioned FUD [Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt]?

"Just looking at the numbers, it's easy to see that even if the scare campaign merely delays a customer's migration from Windows to Linux by a single day, Microsoft is $34 million dollars better off."

Zemlin said that a patent war would negatively affect consumers.

"Customers want choice and innovation; that's why open-source is winning," he said. "That's why Microsoft should embrace open-source to bolster competition in the marketplace. Competition will make us all better - even Microsoft."

Despite its clout, Zemlin said Microsoft's arsenal of patents can be matched by the open-source community, saying members of the Linux ecosystem have "significant patent portfolios".

However, he said, the goal should be for all parties to work to make the patent system "tighter, more reasonable, and efficient for everyone in the software business."


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