Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Leopard's Spots

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In my last article, I likened Microsoft to the fabled leopard that couldn’t change its spots. As it happens, Microsoft, in the voice and actions of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, has proven that indeed, the leopard is still covered in spots.

Mr. Ballmer declared his belief that the Linux operating system infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property. What is so laughable about his assertion is that Microsoft has had those same charges leveled at them for infringement of the very same Intellectual Property of Apple, Xerox, and several other entities.

(Full Source Article

What is Intellectual Property?

IP was designed to be a method of legal protection for ideas or "property of the mind". It's a controversial topic, especially in computer science, because it deals with concepts and methods rather than something concrete like a physical object. When you own some intellectual property, you can apply for special governmental protection for your ideas to ensure other people can't use them. In short, it's a defensive measure designed to protect someone's original work.

From the Wikipedia entry: "In law, intellectual property (IP) is an umbrella term for various legal entitlements which attach to certain types of information, ideas, or other intangibles in their expressed form. The holder of this legal entitlement is generally entitled to exercise various exclusive rights in relation to the subject matter of the IP. The term intellectual property reflects the idea that this subject matter is the product of the mind or the intellect, and that IP rights may be protected at law in the same way as any other form of property. However, the use of the term and the concepts it is said to embody are the subject of some controversy."

Groups like the Free Software Foundation believe that exclusive rights to ideas are a bad thing for society. Instead of encouraging individuals to market their ideas in a protected environment, intellectual property is used as an offensive tactic by some companies to force others to pay for common ideas or technologies that have been used for a long time or are widely used in the marketplace.

Ballmer: Linux users owe Microsoft

Full Source Article

In comments confirming the open-source community's suspicions, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Thursday declared his belief that the Linux operating system infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property. Mr. Ballmer further asserted that “…Microsoft was motivated to sign a deal with SUSE Linux distributor Novell earlier this month because Linux uses their intellectual property and Microsoft wanted to get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation.“

The Nov. 2 deal involves an agreement by Novell and Microsoft to boost the interoperability of their competing software products. It also calls for Microsoft to pay Novell US$440 million for coupons entitling users to a year's worth of maintenance and support on SUSE Linux to its customers. In addition, Microsoft agreed to recommend SUSE software for Windows users looking to use Linux as well.

On the face of it, that seems like a reasonable idea. Well, it got worse. Mainly because some folks haven’t learned the lessons us Texans learned at our Mother’s knee. Basically, “If you are in a big hole in the ground, stop digging!” Mr. Ballmer didn’t even slow down!

"Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered," Ballmer said. This "is important to us, because [otherwise] we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability." There is a term for that kind of talk. It’s called FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

What does this all mean? Basically, that Microsoft is trying to get us to reimburse them for using Linux, of which they have had no part. The claim is that the Windows Desktop concept is ‘copied’ by the various desktops used in Linux, and therefore needs to be paid for. If you look at the first URL in this article, you will find several examples of pre-dated Intellectual Property that were used against Microsoft when Windows was first introduced, proving that Microsoft doesn’t ‘own’ the property they are claiming has been ‘stolen’.

Novel is wondering where all this has come from because the agreement they agreed to said nothing about Intellectual Property.

One comment made stated, “If Microsoft thinks it has a case, it should get it into court to prove or disprove its claims.” If that happens, Microsoft should look to its market place, because the customers are going to make their point of view very plain!