Microsoft is suing GPS vendor Tom-Tom over alleged patent violations that might include Linux. Is this the beginning of the big Linux versus Microsoft patent showdown? Microsoft has long asserted that open source somehow infringes on Microsoft’s intellectual property.
My view is this is a great thing for Linux. Really.
You see to date, Microsoft has never formally engaged in patent litigation on Linux related items. Yes they have patent covenants with some vendors including Novell, but the true scope of Microsoft’s patent claims has never seen the light of day in a courtroom.
The problem that I see (that many others have commented on over the years too) is that Microsoft has never ‘shown its hand’ and layed out what it’s grievances are. Once they do, the open source community could then potenitally re-act with prior art issues to invalidate the patent and/or just re-code the offending application to not infringe on the patent.
By knowing what the issue is, Linux can defend itself against patent claims. Ignorance of the claim is not bliss and is not a defence.
Additionally, thanks in part to the legacy of SCO, the Linux community has resources and organizations that could mount a formal legal defence if the need should arise. So far as I see the current Microsoft claim is very specific to just Tom-Tom but prospect for a wider patent battle surely does exist.
Regular Linux users need not be too woried though, the big ‘guns’ are ready to defend Tux.
“The Linux Foundation is working closely with our partner the Open
Invention Network, and our members, and is well prepared for any claims
against Linux,” Jim Zemlin Executive Director of the Linux Foundation blogged. “We have great confidence in the foundation they have
laid. Unfortunately, claims like these are a by-product of our business
and legal system today. For now, we are closely watching the situation
and will remain ready to mount a Linux’s defense, should the need arise.”