| Are we really safe using "Open Source Software"?
| By Salar Golestanian @ Tuesday, April 05, 2011 :: 10:19 PM :: 722 Views :: 0 Comments ::
|I am a little worried about some of the news coming out of Microsoft Related Court Rooms which is important to developers like us that work on Open Source Products like DotNetNuke, nopCommerce, Umbraco and others. According to this blog here, there are couple of disturbing signs that requires some attention.
According to the this blog, Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel says:
As you may have seen, Microsoft today filed legal actions against Barnes & Noble, Inc., Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., and Inventec Corporation in both the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Today’s actions focus on the patent infringement by the Nook e-reader and the Nook Color tablet, both of which run the Android operating system.
He then goes on to make two interesting comments:
Together with the patents already asserted in the course of our litigation against Motorola, today’s actions bring to 25 the total number of Microsoft patents in litigation for infringement by Android smartphones, tablets and other devices. Microsoft is not a company that pursues litigation lightly. In fact, this is only our seventh proactive patent infringement suit in our 36-year history. But we simply cannot ignore infringement of this scope and scale.
It seems that the attack is on a number of companies that have in common only the fact that they are making and selling products running Android. Possibly there is a bigger picture to this because the “scope and scale” of infringement he refers to is rather small - I have not read the full case but if we take the blog as a honest review then it is rather alarming. Have a look at the alleged crimes are:
I never liked the way the big organizations seem to be able to use their heavy weight in obtaining such trivial patents applications. Here Microsoft is suing companies for alleged infringement of its patents on *selecting text* and a superimposed download bar? IMHO this is ridiculous. FaceBook recent acquisition and trademarking of the word "FACE" is another example of how silly the whole thing is.
- The Microsoft-created features protected by the patents infringed by the Nook and Nook Color tablet are core to the user experience. For example, the patents we asserted today protect innovations that:
- Give people easy ways to navigate through information provided by their device apps via a separate control window with tabs;
- Enable display of a webpage’s content before the background image is received, allowing users to interact with the page faster;
- Allow apps to superimpose download status on top of the downloading content;
- Permit users to easily select text in a document and adjust that selection; and
- Provide users the ability to annotate text without changing the underlying document.
@glynmoody articulates it well when he says:
These are no great Einsteinian insights into the underlying fabric of space-time – or industrial applications therof; they are things that you or I would *instinctively* think of. No patent incentive was needed to bring these forth. The fact that Microsoft has been forced to use such risible patents shows that it simply wants to “persuade” companies through the potential inconvenience of a long, expensive trial, just enough to make paying some royalties slightly more attractive. This is intellectual monopoly bullying at its worst.
I know "Open Source" here is in inverted coma because it was made OS by Google and it is winning the war against both Apple and MS on the mobile front - but the implications are profound and IMO - this is an attack on any Open Source Product such as DotNetNuke as any time soon anyone that uses it could be sued with the same Patent Infringement law suit.
@glynmoody also talks about his Exhibit B that is to be honest very funny.
Microsoft seems to be trying to get its own personal unfair competition laws passed state by state, so it can sue US companies who get parts from overseas companies who used pirated Microsoft software anywhere in their business. The laws allow Microsoft to block the US company from selling the finished product in the state and compel them to pay damages for what the overseas supplier did.
You heard me right. If a company overseas uses a pirated version of Excel, let's say, keeping track of how many parts it has shipped or whatever, and then sends some parts to General Motors or any large company to incorporate into the finished product, Microsoft can sue *not the overseas supplier* but General Motors, for unfair competition. So can the state's Attorney General. I kid you not. For piracy that was done by someone else, overseas. The product could be T shirts. It doesn't matter what it is, so long as it's manufactured with contributions from an overseas supplier, like in China, who didn't pay Microsoft for software that it uses somewhere in the business. It's the US Company that has to pay damages, not the overseas supplier.
@glynmoody also talks about some examples of how this may affect people using Open Source Products. Also, I got some of my own examples. What if we develop a large application for a client that will be using DotNetNuke to sell products and services that compete with Microsoft similar offerings? For example this customer is likely to drop SharePoint and therefore a large money making license instead of a free and Open Source DotNetNuke product. Could Microsoft have a case in trying to stop them using their new investments in the Open Source Product by asking them to prove that all aspects of the Open Source Product is created with paid software and all the components and modules used in it is 100% Open Source and not developed in China or India that a developer may have used an unlicensed Microsoft Product.
IMHO we are now getting into a very 'Murky waters’. I am sure that Microsoft needs to fight with tooth and nail to revive some of its failing technologies like in Mobile OS. But this is not endearing them in the eye of the world. In the last few years they were making some really good effort in embracing the Open Source and trying very hard to lose their old dinosaur appearance. So if they are listening, urge them to drop these silly litigations.