Microsoft puts a figure on open source 'patent infringements'

Number of the beast


Microsoft's top lawyer says open source software violates exactly 235 entries in the firm's vast patent portfolio.

General counsel Brad Smith released the figure to Fortune as part of Microsoft's long-running campaign to seed doubts over the legality of Linux and other open source efforts.

Redmond's licensing boss Horacio Gutierrez said: "This is not a case of some accidental, unknowing infringement. There is an overwhelming number of patents being infringed."

Smith said the Linux kernel violates 42 Microsoft patents and the GUI stomps on another 65. Open Office plays free and easy with 45 more, while email programs do for 15, and miscellaneous open source programs accounting for the remaining 68.

Smith said: "The only real solution that [the open source] folks have to offer, is that they first burn down the bridge, and then they burn down the patent system."

Microsoft announced no plans to act on the accusations. Last month the Supreme Court ruled that patents had been granted too readily in a case between KSR International and Teleflex Inc. Details here at Business Week. The patent portfolio run by the Open Invention Network - a consortium backed by IBM, Sony, Philips, Novell, Red Hat, and NEC - could slap back with its own lawsuits against Microsoft if it goes through with its threats.

Free Software Foundation lawyer Eben Moglen was wheeled out to repeat the movement's assertion that algorithms are not patentable. He said: "As the commercial confrontation between [free software] and software-that's-a-product becomes more fierce, patent law's going to be the terrain on which a big piece of the war's going to be fought. Waterloo is here somewhere."

The Fortune story, which includes a run-down of the saga, is here. ®

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