Microsoft and patent claims: 'Business as usual'?

Summary:Bill Hilf, Microsoft's General Manager of Platform Strategy, has finally blogged about Microsoft's decision to go public with its claims that it has found 235 patent violations by open source software on various Microsoft products. Hilf's contention: Nothing's changed. It's business as usual.

Bill Hilf, Microsoft's General Manager of Platform Strategy, has finally blogged about Microsoft's decision to go public with its claims that it has found 235 patent violations by open source software on various Microsoft products.

"Our IP strategy has not changed," said Hilf and Microsoft's head of the company's open-source-software lab, Sam Ramji, in a blog posting dated May 18. "Where we have unique and valuable intellectual property (as indicated by our high scores on the science strength of our patents) we will seek to license it to commercial entities (such as Samsung and Fuji Xerox).

"It’s not us versus the free world. It’s about commercial companies working together around IP issues – it’s business as usual," the pair added.

Hilf and Ramji reiterated that Microsoft has no current intentions to sue its customers, partners or competitors.

So why go public with an alleged number of violations? Interestingly, Hilf and Ramji don't mention the looming GPL v3 as the impetus for Microsoft's latest saber-rattling -- even though Microsoft's own public-relations team did. Instead, Hilf told IDG News Service (IDGNS) in an interview late last week that the decision to share the numbers was motivated by a call for "more transparency."

Check out this exchange:

"IDGNS: In hindsight, do you think it was a good idea for Microsoft to release the number of patents it believes are being infringed?"

"Hilf: What we heard back after the Novell deal was 'Give us more transparency. You say that there is IP involved, give us an understanding of what that is.' So the attempt was that if we give a number and category of where these things fall, maybe that will help people get an idea of the scope. We are very much calling out to commercial companies to license this stuff and resolve these issues. This isn't like a trivial invention. There are a couple hundred significant patents here."

Hilf also told IDG News Servcie he was aware that Microsoft was going to go public with the alleged number of patent violations before the Fortune Magazine story ran. If this is true, I'm kind of surprised Hilf waited until a full week after the damage was done to post to the Port 25 blog his claim that nothing had changed for Microsoft vis-a-vis the open-source community.

Microsoft is holding an Open Source ISV (Independent Software Vendor) forum on May 21, just before the Open Source Business Conference kicks off this week. Let's see this week if Microsoft's open-source partners back Hilf's claim that it's all business as usual ....

Topics: Open Source, Legal, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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