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ZDNet: Will open source get snagged in .Net?

Aug 08, 2001, 01:20 (50 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Charles Babcock)

Surprise patents may spell trouble for open source efforts to interoperate with .NET:

"...One patent is believed to underlie Windows' file transfer protocol, which will probably be used in .Net. The patent covers only the encryption procedures for how a user password is changed, but as part of the transfer protocol, it is a potential dependency for all developers who have to mimic the Windows file system and seek to interoperate with it. For example, successful interoperation with Samba might make the Samba project subject to Microsoft demands for patent licenses and royalties.

"The real danger is that there are hidden patents" on .Net technologies, said Eric Allman, chief technology officer of Sendmail and the original author of the dominant message transfer agent software on the Internet. Developers who use .Net may be subject at any time to demands for royalties. A patent owner that declines to issue a license may also go to court and ask for an injunction against the further use of its technology, said Tim Cahn, an attorney of Legal Strategies Group, an Internet law firm in Emeryville, Calif.

Jeremy Allison, a lead developer of Samba technology for file sharing between Linux and Windows systems, said keeping an open-source project in step with Microsoft's changes to its architecture "is a constant treadmill. If they think Microsoft is going to play fair, they're insane."

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