Motivation of FS contributors

Steven D'Aprano steve at
Wed Aug 4 00:22:23 CEST 2010

On Wed, 4 Aug 2010 06:02:15 am Jonas Maebe wrote:
> On 03 Aug 2010, at 17:18, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
> > On Tue, 3 Aug 2010 07:07:10 pm Jonas Maebe wrote:
> >> It's not really supporting in this case. Microsoft is of the
> >> opinion that a lot of open source software infringes on their
> >> software patents (which is definitely true
> >
> > [...]
> >
> > Unless you can point out the infringing software, and demonstrate
> > what patents it infringes, that's just an supposition. It is not
> > "definitely true" except by doing violence to the idea of
> > "definitely".
> (to view the patents, enter the patent numbers at
> and click on
> "Search"; to see the most basic stuff covered by a patent, read
> claims that do not refer to other claims)
> * Microsoft's patent on page up/page down (including a formula on how
> to calculate how much you have to scroll a text document to show the
> next page): 7,415,666 
[snip further examples]

Fair enough. However, until they have been proven in court, it still 
isn't proof that they definitely are infringing. You have Microsoft's 
accusation, and (e.g.) HTC's decision to make a deal rather than fight 
a legal battle that would probably cost them millions even if they win. 
That's good evidence, but not proof.

In fairness, in hindsight I'd probably agree with you that *some* OSS 
*somewhere* surely has to be infringing some patent. Whether that 
patent is actually valid and would itself survive a court challenge is 
another question. I suspect that's at least partially why MS prefers to 
talk tough about patents and cross-licence rather than sue.

> Tinfoil hats need not apply. Steve Balmer publicly announced that
> sooner or later someone will have to pay for the Microsoft patents
> that FOSS projects infringe.

He can say whatever he likes, but until infringement is either proven in 
court or admitted (and paying a licence fee or doing a cross-licence 
patent deal is not admitting infringement), it's just a wild claim.

> See 
> about the Linux
> kernel in particular, and
> about the Novell
> deal and veiled threats to users of Red Hat Linux.
> > Yes, they're threatening to wield the patent sword (and yet they
> > haven't done so ...
> They have done plenty of times, see above. And those are only a
> number of published cases (there are more, involving at least Amazon,
> Samsung and IO Data). As you may or may not know, most patent cases
> however never reach the daylight and are settled behind the scenes
> (it's generally not good business to publish that you are being
> accused of patent infringement, and patent court cases cost insane
> amounts of money -- in fact, if the license fee is less than $1
> million, in the US the costs of the court case itself will always
> outweigh the license fee; see slide 9 of
> ).

Right, which is why licence deals don't prove that infringement occurs. 
Patents make a wonderful instrument of intimidation and legal 
blackmail: "pay us $1M, or your lawyer $10M".

Steven D'Aprano

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