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Microsoft Admits Open Source Patent Pledge Misses the Target

   News Publication Date: 15 November 2006
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Microsoft Corp has admitted execution flaws with its promise not to sue open source software developers and invited the wider community to tell the software firm how it can get it right.

In a blog posting inviting feedback on its plan to offer non-commercial developers a covenant not to sue for patent infringement, Microsoft’s director of standards, Jason Matusow, admitted that there had been mistakes.

"While the idea was solid, the execution seems to have missed the mark a bit," he wrote, noting that Microsoft has had feedback from key open source developers within Novell that the covenant is not up to scratch.

“Nat Friedman and Miguel de Icaza from Novell have been extremely clear with us that the existing covenant is not good enough,” he added, noting that Microsoft also wanted to hear from open source community members it does not have relationships with, and inviting feedback on Microsoft’s plan.

The offer not to sue open source software developers for patent infringement might sound philanthropic, but it has been dismissed from various quarters as "divisive" and "worse than useless".

Earlier this week the Samba development team urged Novell to rethink its agreement with Microsoft as it favored non-commercial developers or those contributing to Novell’s openSUSE project over contributors to other commercial open source projects.

Meanwhile the Software Freedom Law Center said the offer was "worse than useless" and was not to be relied upon.

While Matusow’s request for input from the open source community shows that the company is open to criticism, it appears it will not be changing its position on commercial open source developers.

"Our design goal is to get language in place that allows individual developers to keep developing. We are not interested in providing carte blanche clearance on patents to any commercial activity - that is a separate discussion to be had on a per-instance basis," he wrote.


 
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