Tax day smackdown from FOSS

If the industry's largest company, with its immense patent portfolio, and its many fine patent attorneys, finds patents to be a bad business, shouldn't the rest of the industry take a hint?

My last piece, on Stuart Cohen and the CSI, held light. Be forewarned the following is pure heat. We'll see which you prefer.

It seems our friends at the Software Freedom Law Center have a little tax time advice for you. When you use open source, you avoid the "patent tax."

The SFLC estimates that every copy of Windows includes a $20 charge for patents Microsoft licenses in order to produce it.

The estimate comes from published descriptions of Microsoft's recent patent suit losses. Since April 2004 there have been $1.25 billion to Sun Microsystems, $536 million to Novell, $440 million to InterTrust and (in the biggest one of all) $1.52 billion to Alcatel-Lucent over patents allegedly infringed by Microsoft's software.

The SFLC estimates Microsoft has paid out $4.3 billion for patents the last three years (including legal fees), then notes that Linux has never had a successful patent suit.

While this is being spun here as a big win for Linux, it also helps explain why Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (above) might like to claim the patent rights he has paid so dearly for must also be infringed by open source -- just leveling the playing field.

What the SFLC really wants to do, however, is explain again why software patents are bad. If the industry's largest company, with its immense patent portfolio, and its many fine patent attorneys, finds patents to be a bad business, shouldn't the rest of the industry take a hint?

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