At OSCON, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, says he doubts Microsoft would file a claim against Linux developers.
Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical, which maintains the Ubuntu desktop
Linux distribution, said he doubts Microsoft would file a suit against a free
software developer unless the software giant wants "war."
At the end of a session at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention here on July
24, where Shuttleworth discussed the emerging practice of mixing agile
development methods with community development efforts, Shuttleworth responded
to a question about the possibility of Microsoft making patent claims against
open-source code by saying: "I don't believe Microsoft will file suit
against free software developers. It would be tantamount to declaring nuclear
war. ... And I can afford it."
Shuttleworth was responding to a question about how developers could protect
themselves against patent and intellectual property issues when it comes to
contributing code to open-source projects. He initially said, "GPL V3 is a
good solution ..." But pressed on the threat regarding Microsoft,
Shuttleworth said he does not think the software giant would pursue a claim.
In essence, Shuttleworth said, Canonical has copyright assignment agreements
with developers. "In order for us to be nice enough to accept your code,
you have to ensure us that there are no problems with it," he said.
Shuttleworth, upon further questioning, indicated that the GPL3 would provide
protection against legal claims.
Shuttleworth did say open-source and free software developers need to be
extra careful because "[patent] trolls are going to be a problem; they're
Also at OSCON on July 24, Keith Bergelt, CEO
of the Open Invention Network, spoke on the danger of patents and how they can
be used against free software developers.
"Patents can either enable or retard open source and Linux,"
However, OIN "exists to enable the community to grow and for patents to
have a minimal effect" on it.
Added Bergelt: "What we do is acquire patents and license them back to
For the future, Bergelt said open-source developers should focus on
"defensive publications" to protect the community from patent claims.
"'Intellectual property' is not a dirty word," he said. "There
are many ways to codify IP, and defensive publications are one way."
Bergelt said OIN is not alone in its effort to "minimize the importance
of patents." He cited the Linux Foundation and the Software
Freedom Law Center
as two other organizations working on the issue.