informa
/
2 MIN READ
News

Sun CEO Warns Microsoft Not To Press Patent Claims

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz posted a scathing blog in which he warned that "no amount of fear can stop the rise of free media or free software."
Two days after Microsoft publicly claimed that it owns patents on hundreds of programming methods used in the creation of open-source and free software -- including Sun Microsystems' Open Office desktop suite -- Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz posted a scathing blog in which he warned that "no amount of fear can stop the rise of free media or free software."

In the post, which he titled "Free Advice For The Litigious," Schwartz said Sun was able to stabilize its business only after it decided to offer customers greater choice. In part, that meant embracing Linux and other open-source software, rather than issuing implied legal threats against free software users. "We decided to innovate, not litigate," wrote Schwartz.

Schwartz, who posted the blog Tuesday, also had this advice for Microsoft: "You would be wise to listen to the customers you're threatening to sue -- they can leave you."

In the blog, Schwartz didn't mention Microsoft by name. He referred to the company only as "one of Sun's business partnersthat claims the open-source community is trampling their patent portfolio."

The issue was thrust into the spotlight on Sunday, when Fortune magazine published a story in which Microsoft licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez and chief counsel Brad Smith claimed that the Linux kernel violates 42 Microsoft patents, while other free software -- including Open Office -- infringes on an additional 193 patents. It was the first time Microsoft put a specific number on its Linux patent claims.

In an interview Monday with InformationWeek, Gutierrez insisted it's not Microsoft's intention to sue customers who use Linux without first paying royalties to the company. "We're not litigating. If we wanted to, we would've done so years ago," Gutierrez said.

In his blog, Schwartz also revealed that Sun "was invited by one company to sue the beneficiaries of Linux. We declined. We could join another and sue our customers. That seemed suicidal."

Schwartz didn't identify the companies by name.

In 2004, The SCO Group sued two customers -- DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone -- claiming their use of Linux violated SCO licenses. SCO's suit against DaimlerChrysler was dismissed the same year it was filed. Its suit against AutoZone is on hold pending the outcome of SCO's litigation against IBM.