Is Microsoft Taking Legal Aim at Linux?

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-11-12 Print this article Print

Opinion: Is Microsoft getting ready to explore intellectual property lawsuits against Linux and open-source software?

If you cant beat them, sue them? Is that what Microsoft is thinking these days when it comes to slowing down Linux and open source?

Earlier this month, I reported that people were concerned that Microsoft might be trying to retroactively claim IP (intellectual property) rights over many of the Internets basic protocols. The lawyers I spoke with told me they certainly didnt like the looks of Microsofts Royalty Free Protocol License Agreement.

Then a few days later, Microsoft declared that it was extending its IP protection policy to cover all customers using current and earlier versions of its programs, with the exception of XP embedded and Windows CE. Microsofts large volume licensing customers have always had this protection, but I really hadnt seen anyone demanding it.

Thats because people havent needed it. Microsoft has been sued dozens of time for IP violations. Heck, here at, we have a special report just for Microsoft trials. But users have never had to pay for these cases… directly. Instead, Microsoft simply keeps its software prices moving ever upward.

On the other side, while theres a lot of concern about Linux and open-source IP violations, except for the going-nowhere-fast SCO cases, no cases have been filed.

Im not saying that theres no reason to be concerned. You should be. I am saying that, based on the track record, proprietary software, not open-source software, has been the one tarred with IP suits.

But, whats this? On Microsofts anti-Linux propaganda site, Get the Facts, we find an independent (cough, cough) research paper titled "Indemnification Becomes Open Sources Nightmare and Microsofts Blessing." Its premise? "The necessity of having to purchase outside indemnification for Linux could negate the perceived savings of the so-called free Linux licenses over Microsofts proprietary Windows."

Can you say "setup?" I knew you could.

Next Page: Helping to fuel SCOs anti-Linux lawsuits.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel