02 March 2007

Microsoft Patents "Lack Significant Innovation"

Now here's an interesting little cross-cultural spat:

The European Commission has warned Microsoft that it could impose further penalties in its ongoing antitrust case against the software giant.

The EC claimed on Thursday that Microsoft wants to charge too much for interoperability protocol licences that enable third-party software vendors to develop software compatible with Windows servers. In a damning statemement, the EC claimed that the protocols "lack significant innovation", even though Microsoft has been awarded patents on much of the technology in question.

And what's Microsoft's response? Why, to go running to Mummy:

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith responded that other government agencies had found "considerable innovation" in Microsoft's protocol technology.

"US and European patent offices have awarded Microsoft more than 36 patents for the technology in these protocols, which took millions of dollars to develop, and another 37 patents are pending, so it's hard to see how the Commission can argue that even patented innovation must be made available for free," said Smith in a statement.

Hey Brad, you don't think this might be because the patent system in many countries is horribly broken, and regularly awards patents for obvious, trivial and otherwise inappropriate ideas? Just a thought.


jackyb said...

Charge too much? Common, Microsoft has, in my opinion, worked with the E.U. and now it's time to take control of what they have. Microsft has already released enough to allow for secruity concerns, but for them to release anymore would be just wrong. Microsoft has a reputation and a great product that is un-matched they have to protect it. They have every right to release what they believe is appropriate. They are not saying we won't release anything but there should be a limit!

Glyn Moody said...

As I understand it, this is an issue of interoperability. If Microsoft doesn't make the information available, it's effectively acting monopolistically, using its market power to shut out others.

All the EU is requiring is the interface details, not any coding "secrets" (not that such things exist, since code is protected by copyright). And as the EU has pointed out, even if Microsoft has some US patents involved, this says nothing about the worth of these: the US PTO is notoriously lax about letting through unwarranted patents, and just because Microsoft has some is no reason for them to granted global protection.

Let there be a level playing ground, so that Microsoft can demonstrate that it's solutions really are better. That means releasing interface details.