HP memo predicts MS patent war on open source

HP memo predicts MS patent war on open source

Summary: Microsoft has been preparing for an all-out assault on open-source software via patent law, according to what is apparently an internal HP memo from 2002

TOPICS: Government UK
What appears to be a leaked internal memo from HP shows that the company expected Microsoft to launch a full legal assault on free open-source software (FOSS) using patent law. The document, dated two years ago and revealed on the Newsforge FOSS news site yesterday, details concerns at the highest levels within HP that "basically Microsoft is going to use the legal system to shut down open-source software".

According to Newsforge, HP in the US has confirmed the memo's legitimacy. A spokeswoman for HP in the UK was not immediately able to comment.

The memo goes on to say that HP would seek ways to "reduce our exposure" to open source and "lower our profile" while still shipping products. Although HP was covered by cross-licensing deals up to 2001, the memo said, patents filed after June 2001 that year would not be included.

"Microsoft could attack open-source software for patent infringements against OEMs, Linux distributors, and least likely open-source developers. They are specifically upset about Samba, Apache and Sendmail. We believe Samba is first, and they will attempt to prove it isn't covered by prior patent cross as a so called "clone" product carve out in the previous agreement," the memo said. "OEMs that don't have a cross (like SUN), or OEMs like HP that they force a change in their cross licence to exclude open-source software are probably the first target. Intel, Red Hat, SuSE, UBL, Oracle are probably in the first wave as well."

Microsoft embarked on a campaign last year to increase its revenue from patents and enlarge its intellectual property portfolio. It has received patents on a wide variety of apparently elemental computing components such as to-do lists, double clicking and storing documents in XML format, and had another 5000 applications in the pipeline as of November 2003. Last year, Microsoft also hired IP guru Marshall Phelps -- previously architect of IBM's $2bn-a-year IP strategy. He is on record as saying that Microsoft intends to spend $7bn annually on IP issues.

The company has recently said that it would make most or all of its portfolio available for licensing on "commercially reasonable" terms, a key phrase that makes it easier to uphold patent cases in court. It has also been settling many outstanding cases out of court, and is in the final stages of its European antitrust battle.

Topic: Government UK

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Typical of Microsoft. It simply can't see that Open Source is a response to it's inability to manage it's own product line, in terms of performance and security. The recent news about continuing security flaws in IE make this point best. People weren't looking for an alternative browser but they are now. Microsoft has done what is a sure business killer; it has taken it's customers for granted. As usual, Microsoft will try to make up for it;s failures through spending money and initiating lawsuits. Imagine what could be accomplished with 7 billion dollars making some of it's products secure and stable. Look what Open Source has done with far less.
  • Let them come. I'll personally do everything I can to see that an anti-trust action is brought against them so fast it will make their arrogant little heads spin.

    If Microsoft can't compete in the business arena, maybe they need to get the hell out.

    They also might want to take a really good look at what happened their little proxy, SCO Group.

    They are in danger of being delisted soon from the exchanges.

    Go ahead Microsoft... Bring some more anti-trust action on yourselves. I guarrantee it will be the final curtain call.

    Customer don't exactly like it much when you try that kinds of crap either.

    Something to think about there Stevie boy.
  • Oh... Gee... i guess the cat's outta the bag now! Once again Microsoft has proved that it shouldn't be attempting to write an operating system.

    What a shock!

    Maybe they should just get out of the software buisness altogether. They do show promise as a corporate pitbull though.