Steve Ballmer is telling Asian governments that they could face patent lawsuits for using Linux.
Someday, for all countries that are entering the WTO (World Trade Organization), somebody will come and look for money owing to the rights for that intellectual property.
Ballmer didn't say who would be looking for money, but it seems a safe bet that he has someone in mind to lead the charge. Whether Ballmer is blustering or foreshadowing an assault from Redmond, it's very likely that Linux will face patent hurdles in the near future.
This is why I consider it heartening that Poland has withdrawn its support for the EU software patent directive. Software and business practice patents are, as Wladyslaw Majewski put it, "the biggest threat ever to our economic growth, and to our freedom of communication. The desire of the patent system and the patent departments of certain large corporations must never prevail over the interests of the economy and society at large. " I couldn't agree more.
The patent situation is out of control, and software patents are a threat to more than open source software: Microsoft is already entangled in lawsuits over software patents and has only narrowly avoided having to cough up more than $500 million to Eolas over what is almost universally seen as a bogus patent.
The question isn't if there will be patent suits designed to hamstring Linux, but when and how effective they'll be.