Microsoft Set to Attack Linux with Patents?

Experts debate whether recent remarks by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicate upcoming patent litigation against Linux. (Linux-Watch)

Is Microsoft getting ready to attack Linux and open-source software with its patents? Florian Mueller, spokesperson for the European and a leading anti-patent activist, thinks that may be the case.

Mueller sees a recent Forbes interview with Microsofts CEO Steve Ballmer as stopping just "short of announcing patent litigation against Linux."

In the interview, Ballmer said, "Well, I think there are experts who claim Linux violates our intellectual property. Im not going to comment.

"But to the degree that thats the case, of course we owe it to our shareholders to have a strategy. And when there is something interesting to say, youll be the first to hear it."

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about the Microsoft FAT patent conflict.

Mueller reasoned that, "By intellectual property he must mean patents. IP is a broad term and includes diverse rights, but its hard to see how Linux would infringe any trade mark rights or copyrights held by Microsoft.

"However, given the size of the Linux code, its almost certain that it will violate a number of patents, and some of them, such as the ones on the FAT file system, may indeed be held by Microsoft."

Others who are also concerned with open-source and patents dont see Ballmers recent comments as being anything new.

"Well, I wouldnt say that [these comments are] noise, [but] its actually less than theyve said in the past," said Daniel B. Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation.

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