Giving the Lie to Patents and Innovation

“One of the enduring soap operas this year has involved the
ongoing patent infringement threats by Microsoft against ‘Linux,
OpenOffice, email, and other open source software.’ According to
Microsoft, 235 of its (unnamed) patents are being infringed, and it
should be entitled to be paid for this use of its intellectual
property. Steve Ballmer believes that Microsoft owes it to its
stockholders to file patents to protect its innovations, and then
to assert these intellectual property rights in this way, and at
this time.

“Of course, Linux is based on Unix, which has been around for
decades, as have many flavors of Unix created by IBM, HP, Sun and
others. Curiously, Microsoft is not now, and never has, alleged
that those systems infringe upon these same patents. Apparently,
its stockholders do not expect it to assert patents against Unix
vendors or users–just open source vendors…”

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