Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Microsoft says open-source violates 235 patents (Reuters)

NEW YORK - Microsoft Corp.

Research said on Tuesday that open-source software, including the rival Linux operating systems, violates 235 of its patents, making its most detailed intellectual property challenge to open source.

The maker of the Windows operating system said it wants to work out licensing deals with open source companies instead of fighting out the patent disputes in court.

The world's largest software maker contends open-source software violates its patents related to graphical user interface, e-mail programs and other technology.

Linux is a rival to Windows and is distributed by Novell and dozens of competitors. It is the most popular version open-source software, which users can obtain at no cost and which developers can download and modify as long as they share changes with the public.

Microsoft heralded last year's partnership with Novell Inc. (NOVL.O: Quote, Profile, Research as an example of the type of licensing agreement it wants to replicate with other open-source vendors. The partnership also made the technology interoperable.

That agreement, which includes a clause that Microsoft will not sue Novell's Linux customers, which incensed the community of open-source software developers, because they say it implied Microsoft holds patents that apply to cooperatively-developed technology.

"The real question is not whether there exist substantial patent infringement issues, but what to do about them," said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft Vice President of Intellectual Property and Licensing in an e-mail statement.

Microsoft's challenge to open-source comes at a time when the Free Software Foundation is discussing the draft of a new version of its General Public License, which allows access to the software code at the heart of the Linux operating system.

The nonprofit software group has said it may ban Novell from using new versions of its computer code. Novell is one of two companies that have made profitable businesses out of selling their own versions of Linux bundled with technical support, maintenance and other services.

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