Brussels, 17 September 2007 — The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) says that Microsoft was expecting the 17 September verdict of the EU’s anti-trust case, and will exploit software patents to keep its monopoly grip on the global IT market.
FFII president Pieter Hintjens explains, “The decision seems positive but it is five years out of date. During that time, Microsoft has lobbied for software patents in Europe and bought patents on many trivial concepts. It has claimed patent violations against Linux, put patent timebombs into its formats and interfaces, and turned fear of patents into a core part of its business strategy. It will now open its formats, because that lets it extend its software patent franchise even further.”
Microsoft recently published its MCPP (Microsoft Communications Protocol Program) patent licence which requires competitors to pay royalties for each copy of software distributed. For example, a free software project making a print server would have to pay USD$8 to Microsoft for each copy downloaded.
“The largest monopolist in history has faced down the largest economy in history,” says Benjamin Henrion of the FFII’s Brussels Office. “Microsoft will appeal, and the fines if ever paid are just a month or two of profits. Meanwhile Microsoft now has the time to crush its only real competition, the free and open source economy. We regret that the EU Commission and ECJ are blind to the real threat of software patents, while Microsoft cleverly exploits Europe’s own patent system against EU businesses. This is a defeat for Europe’s anti-trust, a defeat for the global economy, and I’m sure they’re popping the champagne in Redmond.”
In the proceedings of the EU antitrust trial, Microsoft states that its communication protocols are covered by at least 3 European patents or patent applications (namely patents ‘EP 0661652’, ‘EP 0438571’ and ‘EP 0669020’). In addition, another 20 patent applications are pending in the United States, as are 2 in Europe (in its reply, Microsoft states that one of its two applications has since been granted, namely patent ‘EP 1004193’). Moreover, Microsoft is planning to apply for ‘some 130 European patents relating to Windows server operating systems’.
Jeremy Allison, leader of SAMBA, the open source project file and print services for Linux/Unix servers and Windows-based clients, mentioned recently in LinuxWorld that the MCPP patent licences will make impossible for open source to use them:
“We read the license, it’s impossible to release open source implementations of the product. You have to keep it secret. This defeats the whole idea of open source.”
IDSC: Hearing report of Microsoft antitrust case (PDF, 7.5MB)
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The FFII is a not-for-profit association, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1,000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.