[Fsfe-se] "Microsoft is not the real threat"

Jeremiah Foster jeremiah at mail.jeremiahfoster.com
Wed May 23 13:36:10 CEST 2007

Tue, May 22, 2007 at 10:40:31PM -0700:  Martin Olsson mangled some bits into this alignment:
> http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/118

Interesting link Martin. 

Surprisingly Shuttleworth is wrong, on the patent issue he does not get it. To claim that 
there are no patent trolls, just ordinary inventors going up against the big corporations,
is a gross misunderstanding of the facts.

Patent trolls are not individual investors leveraging the law to gain an opportunity for
their product, they are cynical manipulators of a broken system that was poorly designed 
for contemporary innovation.

For example, if we look at the blog writing of Sun's General Counsel we can quickly see the
type of malicious harm created by patent trolls. Nothing against M. Shuttleworth, but the
General Counsel of a publically listed American technology company that invented Java is
somewhat less circumspect than a space tourist from South Africa.

Mike Dillon describes[1] the patent trolls as purchasing a patent (for $5 US) from a third 
party, then using that patent as the basis for a lawsuit against Sun's Sun Grid Compute
Utility. The patent troll knows they won't win, they don't care. They just want to use 
the law to make it more economical for Sun to pay them something and very often big companies
do just that because legal costs are not trivial. 

Patent trolls file lawsuits, they don't write software. Patent trolls exploit the law, they
do not respect public property. These people "forum shop" by filing cases in specific 
districts with judges that favor strict patent legislation interpretation, therefor making
it more likely that they might prevail. The issue costs consumers a good deal of money since
software companies pass the costs of litigation on. It has gotten so bad that finally patent
reform has come to the attention of congress and the Supreme Court and action is being

Shuttleworth seems to think Microsoft will not actually go to court; "Why? Because Microsoft 
is irrevocably committed to shipping new software every year, and software patents represent 
landmines in their roadmap which they are going to step on, like it or not, with increasing 
regularity." What? Vista took seven years! There is no way they can, or want to ship new
software as often as Mark states. Not only that, the landmines he speaks about have often
been set by Microsoft, and they have the maps, so they want other companies to go through
those fields to give them some time to catch up.

Microsoft _is_ the problem, a big problem. They are damaging software markets and the
productivity of nations by constantly litigating when they should be innovating. Microsoft
knows that once its desktop monopoly is gone, and they can see that day coming, they will
cease to be a profitable software company. All of the new markets they have gone into they
have failed to be profitable in: gaming hardware and software, mobile operating systems,
internet search, internet portals, music hardware, music download sales, etc. Their stock 
price has stagnated, they have pressure upon them from the EU, they have had to spend 
record sums to buy new businesses because they couldn't compete with Google; in short -
Microsoft is a desparate company that will use the legal system, and Shuttleworth should
not be starry-eyed about that.

[1] http://blogs.sun.com/dillon/entry/cautiously_optimistic

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