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Microsoft rallies firms against patent lawsuits

Circles the wagons against patent trolls
Thu Sep 30 2010, 10:23

CONVICTED SOFTWARE MONOPOLIST Microsoft has somehow managed to garner the support of just about everyone that matters in the world of technology to support its bid to change patent law.

The move came after the Vole lost a lawsuit to i4i for $290 million last year. The lawsuit by i4i had threatened to stop the firm from selling its word processing application, Microsoft Word, and its productivity suite, Microsoft Office. Microsoft then went on the campaign trail for patents to be more 'defendant friendly', in the hopes that would ward off patent lawsuits.

Now the Redmond firm has managed to get briefs filed by the likes of Apple, Google, Dell, HP, Toyota and even Wal-Mart to support its effort. Perhaps surprisingly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Apache Foundation have also publicly supported Microsoft's efforts.

Microsoft and its band of supporters essentially want to make it easier to invalidate patents by lowering the quality of evidence required at court. The EFF claims that the current patent regime "undermines the traditional patent bargain between private patent owners and the public and threatens to impede innovation and the dissemination of knowledge." Patents were envisaged as a tool to allow just that, the sharing of proprietary information without fear of the inventor losing financial rights for a certain period of time.

In truth, Microsoft's request for a reform of the patent system is something that is far from a charitable act. Not only does the move come after losing a lawsuit, albeit with a fine that is little more than pocket change for the firm, it and the other firms stand to gain financial security should the burden of proof be moved towards the accusing party.

So while Microsoft has managed to conjure up a rare thing, uniting some of technology's biggest firms and rivals, this looks like it's not in the name of charity but rather a circling of the wagons against patent trolls. µ



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