Open source advocates brush off Microsoft patent threats

Microsoft's threat to seek patent royalties from open source software users and vendors is so far provoking more scorn than fear.

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Microsoft's threat to seek patent royalties from open source software users and vendors is so far provoking more scorn than fear.

Open-source supporters are thumbing their noses at Microsoft's claim that it will seek royalties based on 235 patents for technologies it says are in Linux and other open-source software, saying they are not worried about being sued for infringement.

Rather than scare companies away from using or distributing open source, the general consensus is that the litigation threats - outlined in statements Microsoft executives including CEO Steve Ballmer made to Fortune magazine this week - show that the software giant which is afraid of the competitive threat Linux and open-source software pose to its business long term.

Joe Lindsay, chief information officer of Los Angeles-area mortgage company Secured Funding, said that Microsoft's attempt to cause fear, uncertainty and doubt may scare some users away from open-source software and Linux in the short term, but ultimately will not stop the momentum the open-source business model has.

"It's like saying I have a big baseball bat, and I'm going to hit somebody," he said. "Everyone runs away." But in the long term Microsoft is the one who will suffer from its actions, since the company should be more focused on providing more valuable and innovative products than threatening to sue companies that have outsmarted them.

Linux distributors too were nonplussed by Microsoft's claims, and Novell - which struck a broad licensing deal that included paying royalties on Linux to Microsoft last year - even seemed annoyed.

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's vice president of intellectual property and licensing, compared the deal with Novell as a model for how Microsoft wants to settle patent-infringement differences. However, Novell never admitted it was infringing on patents, a point reiterated by spokesman Bruce Lowry on a company blog.

Red Hat also weighed in on the battle, saying it is not worried about Microsoft's threats because it has a solid program that indemnifies Red Hat Linux users against patent litigation. "Our confidence in our technology and protections for customers remains strong and has not wavered," the company said in a statement.

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