From the InfoWorld Article Hilf: Microsoft won't sue over Linux, for now we learn

Microsoft ignited hostility following its assertion in Fortune magazine on Monday that Linux and other open-source software infringe on 235 of the company's patents.
In an exclusive interview, Bill Hilf, general manager of platform strategy and director of Microsoft's work with open-source projects, spoke with IDG News Service on the effects of the declaration on the open-source community.

IDG News Service: The Fortune story has caused a lot of concern over how Microsoft may proceed in regard to its patent claims. Did you know Microsoft officials were going to reveal the number of patents?

Hilf: We did. [But] the Fortune article does not correctly represent our strategy. That's what has people so inflamed. It looks like our strategy changed and we are moving in a new direction, but it hasn't. In the Novell deal, we said we had to figure out a way to solve these IP issues and we needed to figure out a way for better interoperability with open-source products. The Fortune article makes it look like we are going out on this litigation path.

Our strategy from everyone in the company -- from [Steve] Ballmer to Brad Smith to me and everyone in between -- has always been to license and not litigate as it relates to our intellectual property. So we have no plans to litigate. You can never say we'll never do anything in the future, but that's not our strategy. That article spins it on the attack. The only new piece information in that article is that it just put a number on the patents.

Your thoughts?


Thursday, May 17, 2007 7:46:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Are you kidding? Do you expect me to believe that an article that went into Fortune Magazine about something as sensitive as Patent infringement wasn't vetted by someone at MS? Sounds suspiciously like someone over at MS wanted this information to get out exactly the way it got there to instill fear into the hearts of CIO's. Typical business practices. Same sh*t - different day.
Thursday, May 17, 2007 7:51:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It is relieving but the damage has already been done. Certainly the interview will not be posted on techmeme or slashdot.

Maybe it's time for MS to state clearly how GPLv3 is going to damage interoperability (which is where the REAL threat is) instead of complaining about patent infringement. And, to be honest, if MS is not going to start litigating, it takes someone higher up to the chain (like SteveB or Brad Smith) to pacify those who are suspicious but not yet outrageously attacking MS.
Thursday, May 17, 2007 8:37:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Microsoft has spent a lot of time over the past few years trying to regain the trust of a lot of people, and trying to prove it was no longer Old Nasty Microsoft - and in one fell swoop Ballmer ruins it all. Got to be about time he went.
Thursday, May 17, 2007 8:50:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Compare and contrast that with the Wired article where Microsoft was accused of having a file on how to handle the reporter and manipulate the story.

I guess MS PR needs to update their file on the Fortune reporter huh?
Thursday, May 17, 2007 8:50:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think Teresa has it exactly right - Microsoft sent out multiple lawyers (including their top lawyer) to talk to mainstream journalists, and the message was a calculated one. To argue now that they were misrepresented is merely an attempt at damage control. Or are we supposed to believe that Brad Smith *and* the Microsoft PR folks aren't competent to get their intended message out to the press?
Thursday, May 17, 2007 9:51:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I've never been a big fan of conspiracy theories -- stupid mistakes are *more* likely to happen at big companies than small, because of the number of different agendas and the complex channels of communication.

That said, I'm guessing that there are some really decent individuals at Microsoft who are still defending the company in public but starting to feel a growing sense of discomfort in private -- this doesn't sound like the kind of company most of the Microsoft people I know signed up for.
Friday, May 18, 2007 12:12:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hilf is clearly clueless.
Friday, May 18, 2007 1:34:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
As Tim Bray wisely said "Litigate or shut up"

Good to know which one Ms has chosen
Tony Stark
Friday, May 18, 2007 1:40:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I do think there is sensationalism in the way this and other articles are written so I don't discount that.
The strategy to collect revenues by licensing makes business sense but there are several things about this whole thing that worry me.

1. The licensing for revenue plan carrot seems driven by the stick which implies litigation can only be avoided by making a cross licensing deal.

2. I don't think it is fair to say open source violates x number of our patents without pointing to the specific patents. While business customers of MS may be willing enough to pay without this information, it casts a pall over all open source projects. Now CIOs will be only using open source projects vetted by Microsoft? Can you not see how threatening this is to open source projects? So no-one will use say Debian linux since it has no patents to cross license and therefore receives no blessing from Microsoft.
With specific patents unspecified will this not hurt even little open source projects? Since the actual (asserted) violations are ambiguous it is likely that large business customers will be shy of using "any" open source project not approved by Microsoft because it "might" infringe even if there is no specific assertion of infringement against the project. So will this have an impact on little projects like web apps and Content Management systems? I doubt it is the intention of Microsoft to hurt these little open source projects but intention doesn't matter if you are the ant being stepped on.

"open source" is a blanket term for a huge ecosystem of projects and now business customers are being told that "open source" violates some unspecified patents. As an open source developer/entrepreneur it worries me a lot to see this perception spread in the business community.
Friday, May 18, 2007 10:39:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
You folks are aware that MS doesn't "vet" any stories done by Fortune, right? They don't get to sit at the reporter's desk and tell them what to right?

Reporters are keen to create a sensation and they regularly do that by using soundbites without the proper context. I'm not saying that is what happened here, but it's awfully naive to suggest that just because a reporter writes it a certain way, that it completely and accurately represents what the interviewee said.
Mark Hoffman
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