You can taste the irony of Microsoft's patent positions on MP3 and Linux

You can taste the irony of Microsoft's patent positions on MP3 and Linux

Summary: Yes, litigating your way to software business success has its pitfalls, and it's ironies. Trouble for Microsoft is that it has the deepest pockets in town, and therefore an IP infringement magnet, whereas the Linux cup runnith over in all directions, with only a trickle available for a jury to potentially ransack. It just doesn't seem fair.

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TOPICS: Patents
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Sure juries are fickle, and appeals can drag on and on -- especially with $1.5 billion at stake. But perceptions count too in big jury awards. And the perceptions that Microsoft has tried to encourage in regard to patents -- that Linux steps all over Microsoft's intellectual property, though we don't know exactly how -- must make a lot of sense to Alcatel-Lucent today, if no one else.

Just when fear enjoys a energetic caddy (Ballmer) on Microsoft's repeated foray into Linux legal uncertainty, a real law suit with real trial lawyers and a real jury ironically slaps down Microsoft as a potential world-record intellectual property (IP) infringer. Yup, Microsoft the purported victim of Linux, is in fact the major MP3 format predator, or so says the assemblage of 12 informed peers.

Wow, to be a lawyer for Microsoft -- to simultaneously play offense and defense on IP -- must feel like that llama thing from Dr. Doolittle, the pushmi-pullyu. You wonder if the defense strategists feed tips to the offense. Given the Alcatel-Lucent MP3 jury award, perhaps the offense ought to ignore the advice (it ain't intellectual, and it ain't property!).

Yes, litigating your way to software business success has its pitfalls, and it's ironies. Trouble for Microsoft is that it has the deepest pockets in town, and therefore an IP infringement magnet per none, whereas the Linux cup runnith over in all directions, with only a trickle available for a jury to potentially ransack. It just doesn't seem fair.

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Topic: Patents

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  • No good option

    Eventually Microsoft will have to realize they have no good options and are inevitably going to be the loser in every IP case they get entangled in.

    If some small software distributor knocks off a Microsoft idea and gets caught Microsoft is stuck either trying to 'get blood from a turnip' or picking over the bones of a company whose wealth has been transferred to their defense lawyers. Either way there is little chance of there being enough left to even cover Microsoft's legal costs.

    OTOH If Microsoft is caught borrowing another's IP they have billion dollar deep pockets and no way to escape transferring a portion of their billions to the victor of the case. Each loss by Microsoft encourages the next round of suits as the circling lawyers realize that even a nibble from the wallet of Microsoft is likely to be tens of millions.

    Every lawyer knows that it is inevitable, one day Microsoft, like the cigarette companies before them, will lose a significant class action lawsuit. If they can only be the lawyer that figures out the right angle of attack, gets the right judge and the right jury they can hit the lawsuit lottery. And like every other class action lawsuit each member of the "class" will get $5 or $10 and the lawyers will each pocket a cool million.

    If Microsoft was smart they would go to Washington and lobby for an end to IP patents and software copyrights. With their larger brand name recognician and deep pockets they will remain the 2000 pound gorilla of the software world for decades. The only thing that threatens their position ot the top of the software world is a giant lawsuit which transfers tens of billions of dollars from their bank accounts to that of a competitor or an injuctin that forces them to pull a flagship product off the shelf and forces them to spend years scrambling to get a replacement to market while their market share is slowly erodes.

    Such a result is unlikely though, Bill comes from a family of lawyers and has built his company as much on clever manipulation of the law as on clever software programming. Microsoft is use to having sharks swimming around the company and will probably not realize the sharks are circling until it is too late.

    Bjorn A Freeman
    bjornafreeman9
    • Well said ...

      ... and well reasoned. My thoughts exactly. Thanks, Bjorn.
      Dana Gardner
    • IP, copyright and the rest

      There is no proven benefit for consumer for any kind of IP right or software patant. You cannot (c) a IDEA or principle is it stupid and should never have been allowed in the 1st place. IP should only be allowed on a finished product and protect the software CODE not what it does. IP, copyright, Patants, DRM... its all the same for the consumer: lower quality product at a higher price. MS is not the best company to fight for. But i hope they will contersue Lucent untile Lucent is forced to close and all owners jailed for extortion. Lucent is only trying to get FREE MONEY nothing else.
      Mectron
    • Slight correction

      "[i][b]If Microsoft was smart they would go to Washington and lobby for an end to IP patents and software copyrights.[/b][/i]'

      Remember that in the Free/Open Source Software world, copyright is the fundamental method the for protecting the owners of the code.

      Without copyrights, how would one protect their software from being filched by a Microsoft, an Oracle, or an SAP to be incorporated into their products? There has to be a method for proving the ownership of the code.
      NetArch.
      • Microsoft is already guilty of stealing from Open Source (and many others)

        I'm sure that it is unknown to most Windows users but each new version of Windows is slowly becoming more Linux-like. Because Linux developers only have the interests of users in mind they will always come up with the better solution. Microsoft realizes this and is letting the Open Source community be their R & D department. Just look at IE7. It is a blatant copy of Firefox. UAC? Linux has had this from day one. Aero is a rip off of Mac OSX. I bet that their next file system will automatically defrag like Linux filesystems do. Microsoft plays it both ways. They don't want anyone stealing their products but if they can't buy someone else's product then they are more than willing to steal it and claim that they invented it. They even summited a patent application on something they stole a while back (BlueJ). Luckily they were caught red handed. A break up of Microsoft is long overdue.
        robert_rowe9
    • Strategy depends on Objectives

      [i]If some small software distributor knocks off a Microsoft idea and gets caught Microsoft is stuck either trying to 'get blood from a turnip' or picking over the bones of a company whose wealth has been transferred to their defense lawyers. Either way there is little chance of there being enough left to even cover Microsoft's legal costs.[/i]

      That's a bad plan only if your objective is to make money on licensing. If your objective is to drive potential competitors out of business (or to scare them off) what you're describing is a very good course to take.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Said it before and I will say it again...

    Microsoft has made the bed they sleep in. They have noone to blame but themselves for the mess they are in. This is what happens when you get arrogant and big. IBM, AT&T, Standard Oil, the railroads... history is filled with examples of greed, abuse and outright stupidity in bringing companies to court to get slapped hard. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Thanks for reminding the readers who are the real monopolies

      Microsoft and their somnambulant partners can't compete in the free market by
      sheer weight alone, so they resort to crying 'MONOPOLY!' when Apple beats the
      crap out of them with superior products THAT CONSUMERS WANT AND FREELY
      CHOOSE.

      How rapidly those poor suckers, er, I mean partners who bought into Microsoft's
      free-ride promises were abandoned. Janus was jettisoned for PlaysForSure which
      was jettisoned for Zune, leaving partners in the lurch with each aimless
      redirection. Damn the partnerships, if they don't ensure Microsoft's continued
      monopoly. The one company that remains viable is the one that has never
      partnered with Microsoft--Apple.

      That's bold, to go contrary to the popular thinking, i.e. against the sure thing, the
      thing that would guarantee the domination of the world's distribution of media.
      Let that be a lesson to companies: NEVER PARTNER WITH MICROSOFT, that is, if
      you want your business to be based on a solid foundation and not on the whim of
      Microsoft confusion and whim.

      With its ulterior motives exposed and its business reputation in tatters, Microsoft
      now insidiously uses its 'faux-grassroots' blogging network to disseminate
      whining, FUD, inaccuracies, and on and on. This network includes: Thurrott,
      Scoble, Ou, Berlind, Gartenberg, Foley, et. al.

      So the question is what will retire these writers: physical or Microsoft decline? I
      hope it's the latter.
      YinToYourYang-22527499
  • How many patent cases has MS won, anyway?

    I can think of several high-profile patent cases MS has lost or settled (going back to the Stac litigation) and not one where MS has successfully sued someone for patent infringement. So tell me again why MS is such a big proponent of software patents?
    John L. Ries
    • Re: How many patent cases has MS won, anyway?

      [i]...and not one where MS has successfully sued someone for patent infringement.[/i]

      The biggest boner of them all was an IP though trademark, not patent. case against Lindows. MS hounds Lindows worldwide, finally initiates a litigation against Lindows, then pays Lindows $20 million to avoid the judgement that it sought in the first place.



      :)
      none none
  • Chicken Feed

    Is what 1.5 billion is to Microsoft. Why Bill could pay that out of his petty cash and it wouldn't cost Microsoft a cent.

    Who? Microsoft worry? Not likely. They can afford to buy the best lawyers and judges made, not that they don't already own enough of them.
    Ole Man
    • Re: Chicken Feed

      [i]They can afford to buy the best lawyers and judges made, not that they don't already own enough of them.[/i]

      It's not turning out to be such a smart investment, is it?



      :)
      none none