Linux patents claims a diversion from innovation

Microsoft’s claim that open source Linux violates 235 of its patents dominated the opening proceedings of the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco, though none of the speakers mentioned the company by name.

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Microsoft’s claim that open source Linux violates 235 of its patents dominated the opening proceedings of the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco, though none of the speakers mentioned the company by name.

Open source is impacting proprietary software companies, said Matt Asay, vice president of business development at Alfresco and chair of the OSBC. Their business model requires them to make money in an alternative way, he said.

"It's very hard to shift a model to open source," Asay said. On one side of the equation, a company tries to be a friend to open source, but on the on other side is the chief executive, said Asay, in an apparent reference to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, who has, in the past, been outspoken in his opposition to open source.

Asay then reeled off statements, such as noting the 235 patents figure and complaints about willing infringement of IP, without directly naming any source as the origin of these statements.

Red Hat's Matthew Szulik, chairman and chief executive of the Linux vendor, focused less on the patents issue but did say patents "are a relatively new idea in the software industry".

"The issue shouldn't be focused on patents. It should be focused on innovation," Szulik said. "We have a great respect as an industry for intellectual property," said Szulik.

Aside from patents, Szulik said the open-source industry has to bolster its service provision capabilities. "The industry for open source has to scale itself," Szulik said.

Now read:The Microsoft - Linux patent wars

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