Is Microsoft becoming the next SCO? Linux-Watch.com seems to think so, especially in light of this week’s patent posturing.
Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that “Linux violates over 228 patents. Someday, for all countries that are entering WTO [the World Trade Organization], somebody will come and look for money to pay for the patent rights for that intellectual property.”
The Internet is positively in a tizzy over the remarks, which were reiterated in a second interview with Fortune magazine, as users scramble to decipher if they mean MS is again on the hunt for patent violations of its intellectual property.
This time around, Microsoft claims that the Linux kernel violates 42 of its patents, while the Linux graphical user interfaces break another 65. In addition, the Open Office suite of programs infringes 45 more, an assortment of email programs violate 15 others, and an assortment of free and open-source programs allegedly transgress 68 more patents.
In a statement obtained by eWEEK, Microsoft’s vice president of intellectual property and licensing, Horacio Gutierrez claims that “Even the founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, noted last year that Linux infringes well over 200 patents from multiple companies The real question is not whether there exist substantial patent infringement issues, but what to do about them.”
What’s interesting is this is strikingly similar to posturing made by the infamous SCO way back in the day when its trial against Linux and IBM still had legs to stand on (today it’s more like stubs, no?). Then , as it is now, it was “vague threatening IP claims without any facts” says Stephen J. Vaughan-Nichols at Linux-Watch.
The FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) comes at a tough time for Microsoft, which may be exactly the point. Vista is for all intents and purposes sputtering; Dell is cozying up to Linux on the desktop; and the anti-Microsoft/Novell GPLv3 nears completion. What better time to muddy the waters, right?