Microsoft sends mixed patent message

In the wake of the Open Invention Network challenge to Microsoft's patents related to Linux, the company's good cop-bad cop routine has gone into overdrive.

In the wake of the Open Invention Network challenge to Microsoft's patents related to Linux, the company's good cop-bad cop routine has gone into overdrive.

(I found this cute fellow at a site called Funkydung for an October, 2007 piece on Microsoft's patent strategy.)

Speaking at a panel in Singapore covered by ZDNet Asia, regional technology officer Oliver Bell tried so hard to spin the issue both ways he must have seemed in need of an exorcism.

On the one hand, Microsoft might release patents to Red Hat as part of a partnership. On the other hand "Microsoft has an interest in protecting intellectual property." On the other hand it won't sue open source on patent infringements. On the other hand Microsoft has an obligation to its shareholders. On the other hand Office now supports the Open Document Format.

That's right, more hands than Vishnu. And that's also right, I'm using more analogies than a bad Hollywood screeplay pitch. (It's like Citizen Kane meets One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.)

Burning the Ships seemed pretty clear on what the policy is, namely to use intellectual property claims in order to replicate the Non-Assertion of Patents regime Microsoft had through the last century. Patents are weapons and Microsoft is only willing to drop its under treaty.

The question is whether that message is getting through, whether it's being received, or whether Microsoft can ever be seen as anything other than an intellectual property bully and patent troll.