"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Microsoft: "Patents are for intimidation, silly."

From Todd Bishop's Seattle PI Microsoft Blog... Microsoft's lawyer on why they will not disclose which patents they believe Linux violates...

That is not something that any other company in our industry does today. And yet, we do find ourselves as a company repeatedly getting requests from other companies to license their patents, to pay them royalties. We believe that, especially as long as there are other companies in our industry that come to us, asking us to take a license and pay a royalty, that it is important for us to work on a reciprocal basis -- and that means providing information on our patents in a forum where they are providing information to us on their patents. We're not comfortable being the only company in our industry, certainly, to take a unilateral step, especially when that step could change the dynamic, subsequently, for discussions with other companies.
Software patent portfolios are for intimidation, silly. The murkier the better.

6 comments:

Luis said...

Source for the quote?

Patrick Logan said...

Corrected. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

A bit arbitrary because every big company actively tries to extend the AMOUNT of patent portfolios it can get a hold on.

And intimidation is not the only reason - everyone understands that big companies rather will opt to cooperate in some way (and work against the consumers, as long as both can profit, more or less)

But I know of cases where a big company simply bullied through very small dev teams (without a lot of financial backup).

I think patents are overrated. They are not per se helping society, they are a strategic weapon which should be removed (as far as the weapon is concerned. Personally I would encourage legislation that makes maintaining too many patents simply too costly. The income would directly go for "society benefits" so that the money is redirected. If patents simply cost too much after some time big companies will rather choose to break certain patents or give them back to society, where they actually belong.)

Cory said...

MS doesn't ever seem to sue people over patents. They use them defensively, as this quote seems to be saying. It certainly is a better defense for Microsoft if the portfolio is murky, because it makes it harder for companies to know whether they would be "safe" in suing the giant. If they think they might not be safe, they'll stay away.

MS does not use the murkiness offensively.

My opinion on this will change the instant MS ever actually files a lawsuit against Linux.

Patrick Logan said...

"I think patents are overrated. They are not per se helping society..."

Certainly they are not being used as originally intended. It's time to rethink the system.

Patrick Logan said...

"MS does not use the murkiness offensively. My opinion on this will change the instant MS ever actually files a lawsuit against Linux."

So you do not believe MSFT deliberately wishes to keep this area murky? This is an offensive use of patents for intimidation. I don't see how that can be doubted.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.