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Microsoft "regrets patent deal" tactics

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 4 Oct 2007 at 17:52

Microsoft is regretting the way it handled the patent protection deal with Novell and other Linux vendors, according to open-source advocates.

The software giant claimed earlier this year that open-source software infringes 235 of its patents. Microsoft has signed business agreements with LG, Xandros, Linspire and most significantly Novell, exempting their customers from legal action over possible patent infringements.

But open-source companies believe Microsoft may regret the way it pressured the Linux vendors into signing the deals. "I think Microsoft regrets that entire path now," says John Powell, CEO of Alfresco, a content management system provider, speaking at a forum to discuss the effect of patents on open-source software. "It got a deal with Novell and wanted to put pressure on other companies, but it encountered such vitriol for it."

"[Microsoft] says it has 100 patents but it never identifies the patents. Is it not identifying the patents because it's not proud of them? Because it knows they're not valuable?" asks Jerry Rosenthal, CEO of the Open Invention Network, a group formed to protect Linux's interests by acquiring related patents.

"What we're saying is 'show us the patents' and if it's a real problem we'll work around them," adds Mark Taylor, president of the Open Source Consortium, a non-profit organisation representing open-source software firms in Europe. "It's just FUD [fear, uncertainty, doubt], it's just smoke and mirrors."

Asked how he could see the conflict between Microsoft and open-source developers going Rosenthal responds: "The worst case is that Microsoft brings litigation and we have to go and sue the company, but I don't think that'll happen.

"There'll be a continuing spread of FUD as it tries to make customers nervous. Open source is a genuine competitor now and it's found a tactic to deal with that competitor, but I think the threat is diminishing."

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