An article published Sunday reveals that Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez told Roger Parloff of Fortune Magazine that Free and Open Source Software infringes on no fewer than 235 Microsoft patents.
For some time now Microsoft has been claiming infringement of its patents by Open Source software. Gutierrez even claims such infringement is willful:
"This is not a case of some accidental, unknowing infringement," Gutierrez asserts. "There is an overwhelming number of patents being infringed."
Setting aside questions of Gutierrez’ command of grammar, I take offense at the notion that anyone in the Open Source world is willfully violating a Microsoft patent, particularly since Microsoft refuses to disclose any potential violations:
"Gutierrez refuses to identify specific patents or explain how they're being infringed, lest FOSS advocates start filing challenges to them."
Gutierrez and Microsoft aren’t interested in intellectual property rights. They’re not interested in allowing the Open Source world to defend itself. They’re not interested in a fair fight. Like a bully, they refuse to face the Open Source world in a fair fight, instead hinting at willful infringement and making backhanded threats. Why? Like any bully they fear that when faced with a fair fight in the light of day they will be revealed for the bully they are. Like any bully they fear that which they threaten.
I work with many companies that have partnerships with Microsoft. For many years I’ve tried to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt and watched them slowly move from anti-Open Source to an Open Source supporter, or at least a company that recognizes the importance of Open Source ISVs to the future of the Windows platform. But this bullying has to stop now.
If Microsoft believes that Free and Open Source Software violates any of their patents, let them put those patents forward now, in the light of day, where we can all evaluate them on their merits. If not, then stop trying to bully customers into paying royalties to use Open Source. It’s time for Microsoft to put up or shut up.