Does the little company that recently got a patent on JPEG actually used open
source code in-house? They might be a windows-only shop. I don't know.
> Dealing with Microsoft, or anyone else whose only motivation is to
> obstruct, is an entirely separate issue.
Oddly enough, Microsoft isn't a major threat here. They don't seem to want
to lob the first nuke any more than anybody else here. They have too much to
lose. If they unleashed their patent portfolio upon the Linux community,
there are enough big players with their own patent portfolios and a vested
interest in Linux to respond in kind. (Microsoft is happy to rattled their
saber about the unenforceability of the GPL, and threaten to use patents to
stop it, but you'll notice they haven't DONE it yet. Threats are cheap, in
the legal world. As far as I can tell, at least 90% of any legal maneuvering
is posturing and seeing if the other guy blinks. It's mostly a game of
chicken, you never know WHAT a judge or jury will actually say, when it comes
down to it.)
They can't go after the big players with patents anyway, they've already got
cross-licensing agreements with most of them (which is the point of patent
portfolios in the first place). So it's only the small players they could
really go up against, and they simply don't see those as their real
competition except as allies to big players like IBM, HPaq, Dell...
And if they're going after the small fry, having already been convicted in
court of being an abusive monopoly, they open themselves to a class-action
suit by ambulance chasers working on retainer against the prospect of tapping
Microsoft's deep pockets in a judgement or settlement. (Sort of like suing
the tobacco industry: it's not easy but lawyers still sign on because there's
so much MONEY to be gained if they win...) An explicit patent infringement
suit does NOT give plausible deniability of the "you can't prove we didn't
win simply because we were better in the marketplace" kind. (You can't prove
the tooth fairy doesn't exist, either. Hard to prove a negative.)
Other than FUD, the more likely pragmatic problem is some small fry with no
stake in anything who thinks he can get rich quick by being really slimy.
Anybody remember the origin of the Linux trademark? THAT is the most
annoying problem patents pose, being nibbled to death by ants...
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