MSFT, Red Hat Disagree over Patents

Not surprisingly, these leading software firms take a very different view of IP.
Microsoft made waves this week with their GPLv2 contribution of virtualization code. On the other side of the coin, Microsoft continues to take issue with open source vendors over the issue of patents.

One vendor that has called on Microsoft to be more open is Red Hat. In a blog post, Red Hat's legal team praised Microsoft's code contribution while asking Microsoft to change its stance on patents.
"To win the respect and trust of the Linux community, Microsoft should unequivocally disavow such conduct and pledge that its patents will never be used against Linux or other open source developers and users," Red Hat stated.
Microsoft however has a different opinion. Horacio Gutierrez Corporate VP and Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft has blogged his own response to Red Hat's call.
"Some observers question how a company can contribute to open source projects while, at the same time, insisting on respect of its intellectual property rights by its competitors," Gutierrez blogged. " In fact, these two things are not inconsistent, and striking a balance between them is one of the key things every commercial technology company must do in order to compete effectively in a mixed source world. Microsoft has been consistent in its approach to the issue of IP and open source software. We have shown our openness to licensing our patented inventions on commercially reasonable terms even to our direct competitors."
In my personal opinion, Gutierrez is however missing the point of why so many in the open source community have issues with Microsoft's patent position. First off, to be sure - Microsoft has clearly made tremendous and commendable strides in working with open source vendors and technologies. The patent issue is a little different though.

For me, it's not necessarily about whether software patents are right are wrong -- that's another story. The issue is that for the last several years Microsoft has stated that open source infringes on its intellectual property with over 200 patents.

I don't think vendors like Red Hat knowingly want to infringe on other people patents -- and that's where the issue is.

For the most part, to the best of my knowledge, Microsoft has not disclosed to Red Hat, or to anyone else in a public manner a full list of the disputed patents. If Microsoft did so, then Red Hat and other open source vendors could choose to knowingly license the patents and/or develop different technology that does not infringe on Microsoft's IP.

For example, efforts are already underway for the FAT patents that Microsoft has identified in their open source lawsuit with GPS vendor TomTom. 

In my simplistic non-legal laymans view, I don't think that it's fair to say that anyone is infringing on anyone else's particular intellectual property - when the actual infringing intellectual property hasn't been clearly defined or stated.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.

Tags: open source, Linux, Microsoft, virtualization, Red Hat

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