Microsoft Mum on Alleged Patents Violated

Back in May 2007, Microsoft publicly claimed Free Software Violates Patents! Todd Bishop had a lengthy article on this topic. Now, nearly a year later Microsoft won’t publicly disclose what patents are being infringed by Linux and other open-source programs. Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith was appearing earlier today at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco. Todd Bishop had a chance to speak to Smith on the phone about Microsoft’s reason for not listing what patents are being infringed upon:

Will we publish, on the Web, a broader list? That is not something that any other company in our industry does today. And yet, we do find ourselves as a company repeatedly getting requests from other companies to license their patents, to pay them royalties. We believe that, especially as long as there are other companies in our industry that come to us, asking us to take a license and pay a royalty, that it is important for us to work on a reciprocal basis — and that means providing information on our patents in a forum where they are providing information to us on their patents. We’re not comfortable being the only company in our industry, certainly, to take a unilateral step, especially when that step could change the dynamic, subsequently, for discussions with other companies.

It gets even better. Todd Bishop asked since Microsoft has gone public with the allegations about the number of patent violations by Linux and open-source programs, why not just go ahead publish the actual list? Smith’s referred back to his above comments as an answer to this question.

So basically, it comes down to what Microsoft is willing to publicly admit their reasoning of the alleged patent violations is ‘because we said so!’ They will not provide any other evidence (actual patents) because ‘(it) is not something that any other company in our industry does today’. The same could be said for the way they are making these public accusations. When Gibson Guitar claimed patent disputes against Activision’s Guitar Hero series games, they disclosed which patents were being infringed upon. Granted, it was no where the number Microsoft claims are being infringed by Linux and other open-source programs.