Linux continues to penetrate their markets. Other Open Source projects do it on the Windows platform as well. It’s not the current situation but the trend that worries them. And they don’t seem to have a working strategy against it. Immediately after the recent Novell/Microsoft deal, that included a patent covenant, Steve Ballmer said something like: “We’ve had an issue, a problem that we’ve had to confront, which is because of the way the GNU General Public License works, and because Open Source Linux does not come from a company – Linux comes from the community – the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders”. So, Linux infringes upon Microsoft’s IP? Tell the community where Linux does this. If it really does, they would like to fix it. It sounds so much like what SCO tried. First, there were “millions of lines of code” that were infringing, now it’s down to zero lines. If Microsoft can’t learn from the mistakes of others, it has to repeat them. But because of how the US patent system works, they probably can put other companies out of business who refuse to cooperate simply by sueing them. Their claims don’t have to have a solid base. They don’t have it right now.
Although the EPO is issuing patents on software, they cannot be enforced, because the European Patent Convention excludes software from being patentable. I hope it stays that way. But companies like Microsoft are lobbying extensively in order to change that. If that happens, those patents would not be used to fuel innovation, but to bring down competitors. Software patents are used primarily for that purpose in the US. That’s exactly the opposite of what was intended.
I actually like some of Microsoft’s products, and I still use Windows as a desktop OS. But personal ethics make it harder every day to use products from a company that behaves like Microsoft.