Thursday, January 12, 2012

What a racket!

So last week Microsoft reached a deal with LG over LG’s use of the Android and Chrome Operating systems on LG devices. In the agreement LG agreed to pay licensing fees to Microsoft in exchanged for not suing LG for using the Android and Chrome Operating systems (both made by Google) on their devices. This is a fairly common thing these days, Microsoft claims that Linux violates patents they hold and for that reason they are due this fee; that at least is their logic.

Every time I read something about this I get just a little bit aggravated, I am a Linux user and supporter of the Free and Open Source community. I take issue with this on a couple fronts; first is that Microsoft has never really proven that Linux violates their patents (it seems to me that MS claims a lot of look and feel violations which along with being difficult to prove, seems kind of petty, they are essentially claiming to have patented a metaphor), and second I feel like this can only stifle development and innovation, why would a company risk further angering Microsoft by developing along a similar path to the territory that MS has claimed. In the end the whole thing seems just a bit sinister to me, here we have Microsoft essentially saying “if you pay us we won’t sue you” to me that sounds almost like “I sure would hate to see something bad happen to your shop, if you pay us we will make sure none of our boys get out of line”. It’s a protection racket, or at least that’s how it appears to me.

Now in truth I am not really qualified to render an opinion on the subject beyond my initial impression, I am first of all in no way involved with the dealings of these companies, I don’t know the details, and I’m not a lawyer. I can only really call attention to what I see, what I also see is a lot of smaller companies that are subject to what is almost a predatory action from a larger company, none of these companies could afford what would be a lengthy court battle with the software megalith and it would be cheaper for all of them to simply pay these fees than to stand up for what is likely the truth that there is no violation (you can’t patent a metaphor….yet), what would happen if they were to stand together, or what happens when Microsoft’s eyes get bigger than its ability? That I think would be a story worth reading.

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