LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – The Washington Post reports that Microsoft’s claim for patent royalties may relate to internal and marketing issues, rather than legal issues alone. The report quotes Mark Wine, an IP lawyer and partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP in Los Angeles, who said that Microsoft is hoping companies will pay without a fight rather than engage them in a legal battle. He also said Microsoft may be trying to drive open-source software users to migrate to its products.
Microsoft Corp.’s aim to seek patent royalties from open-source distributors and users may be an attempt to use legal threats to deflect attention from larger questions surrounding its business, including lack of interest in new versions of core products and lackluster profit from new wares.
Microsoft’s claims that it will ask distributors and users to pay royalties for up to 235 of its patents included in open-source software, including Linux, is clearly an attempt to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt and make people hesitant to use open source as an alternative to commercial products, intellectual-property (IP) attorneys said.
But the claims also raise questions about the business strategy behind Microsoft’s aggressive moves to seek licensing money from patents amid rumbles that customers have been slow to adopt Windows Vista and Office 2007, while new products such as the Xbox 360 remain unprofitable.
The matter came to light Monday with the publication of a Fortune article that included Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saying, “We live in a world where we honor, and support the honoring of, intellectual property,” adding that users of free and open-source software have to “play by the same rules as the rest of the business.
What’s fair is fair.” The article included comments from additional Microsoft executives detailing plans to seek the infringement claims, and just as it was posted online, Microsoft sent e-mail to other journalists about the issue.