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Linux Foundation To Microsoft: Touch One Of Us, Fight Us All

Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office desktop applications are threatened by open source code, but the company will be reluctant to file a patent suit, foundation officials said.
"Touch one member of the Linux community and you will have to deal with all of us," Linux Foundation director Jim Zemlin warned Microsoft in a column that appeared May 25 on the BusinessWeek "Viewpoint" slot of its Web site.

Labeled the foundation's "formal" response to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith's statements earlier this month, the column suggested that the foundation was prepared to step in with countervailing patents if Microsoft took action against anyone. The foundation's board of directors includes representatives from AMD, Bank of America, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, NEC, NetApp, Oracle, and Microsoft's newfound Linux partner, Novell.

The Linux Foundation in San Francisco is the organization that resulted when the Open Source Development Labs and Free Standards Group merged earlier this year. It continues to sponsor the work of Linus Torvalds, Linux originator and holder of the Linux trademark. Zemlin also urged Microsoft to "stop engaging in FUD [fear, uncertainty, and doubt] campaigns" and help make the U.S. patent system do what it was originally intended to do: both spur and protect young inventions.

Microsoft's statements about its patents being violated by open source code are "a glimpse of a threatened giant struggling to keep a grasp on its empire," Zemlin claimed in the column.

What's really going on, in addition to "a rather bizarre public relations campaign," is a company compulsively engaged in "trying to protect its privileged position," he added.

Microsoft's products most threatened by open source code are the Windows operating system and Office desktop applications, and both are "not coincidentally those most threatened by Linux and Open Office," he wrote in the column.

Microsoft realizes $1 billion a month in net profit coming largely from those two products, he continued.

On the other hand, Microsoft will be reluctant to initiate a patent war. "It has too much experience with the downside of such litigation," including its recent loss in a suit by Alcatel-Lucent over MP3 patents that led to a $1.5 billion judgment against Microsoft.