It is using the same tactics that didn't work or SCO but doing it in a much less graceful way, the community initially thought that SCO might have had a claim. It didn't and Microsoft doesn't.
If you have a leg to stand on, there is one thing you can do, show people what you have against them. Microsoft has not and cannot do it, so it is hand waving. The infamous 235 patents it is threatening are all filed, all handed out, and all legitimate, right? Then why not tell those evil thieving Linux folk what they are?
Three reasons. First, the Linux community will go to extraordinary lengths to remain in the spirit and letter of the law, a trick Microsoft has yet to attempt anywhere. If it knows what the problem is, it will be fixed before you can say "dance monkeyboy, dance".
Second is the fact that the patents are probably so tenuous they are laughable. It is one thing to snow a patent inspector who has approximately seven minutes to sort through an 891 page application about obscure software items he has never heard of. It is quite another to do the same to a gaggle of greybeards who really did do that 20 years before Gates decided that bullying the powerless was the way to fame and fortune, but not fashion sense.
Those patents hold no threat, the second they are revealed, they will be set upon and prior art will be found. Microsoft will end up losing those precious patents that they never should have been granted in the first place, and all will be a little righter in the world.
Last is the simple fact that if Microsoft had anything that would hold up in court, they would have sued someone by now. There has been much made of the question of who to sue, and the fact that most Linux customers also happen to be Microsoft customers too. I don't buy either argument.
The reason is that MS went into shake down talks with Red Hat, and it ended up with Red Hat telling MS which orifice it could place their patents in, and by the way, the door is that way. If MS had anything, it surely would have shown them to Red Hat during that time, and if it did not show Redhat anything, well, that gives you a good idea about the strength of its arguments.
So, Redhat either saw the evidence and laughed, or did not see the evidence and laughed. Either way, it has a lot of IP lawyers, and they decided that MS had the joke of a position. Had MS had the slightest shade of a case, it would have signed something with Redhat.
In the end, MS is doing what it has to, bluffing and third grade scare tactics. It is going after corporate America, the companies that are used to be shaken down, and have divisions with kneepads and checks waiting to buy their way out of the next controversy. No need to get the stockholders jittery, eh?
Microsoft sticks to soft targets because they know what will happen if they talk to anyone willing to fight. If it decides to pick said fight, it will lose because it has no case. Instead, it picks patsies like Novell and tries to build up a list of people who bought in. The theory there is that a long list of dumb patsies will be more impressive to the next shakedown target.
It doesn't and won't work outside of a select group of idiots like Novell. The second this case gets real is the second it is over, a classic case of FUD, and MS is quite good at that. Luckily, we are all on to them, and have many more eyeballs to find prior art. They know this, and fear it.
So, what should the community do? Easy, proactively start going after MS patents. They are all listed publicly, so anything you think might apply to Linux, go after it, hunt it down, and get it overturned. All you need is a web page with a list and a wiki or message board to start the process. Don't wait for them to come to you, bring the fight to them.
The sooner this garbage is brought out into the light, the sooner the shakedown attempts will end. MS has no case, we all know it, so lets go on the offensive. Every day that the FUD campaign lingers is another day they accomplish their goals. µ
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