Bear-baiting from Redmond

(In response to Open Letter to Steven Ballmer: Show Us the (allegedly infringing) Code)

While I am completely convinced that Steve Balmer needs to be called on his grandstanding, I don't think forcing him to "reveal the violations" (or "show us the code"), is the most intelligent tactic. Like many old economy software vendors who have played the patent game, I'm certain that Microsoft Corporation has some stupid, overly-broad patent in their portfolio. If their lawyers pulled one of these bits of junk out from under a rock, what would the free software community do? Worst case, what would happen if they actually sued someone?

As many will counter-argue: yes, such a patent is patently stupid. This does not negate its potential existence. As soon as some dumb patent hits the table, Balmer's point will have been made. He, or some Microsoft fan boy, working in an enterprise will be able to write blog articles or make public speeches demonstrating the correctness of these statements.

Even if this magical patent suit never makes it beyond the threats and posturing phase, the damage will have been done. Worst case, if this dumb patent generated a lawsuit, those who want to spread FUD about free software will be able to say: "Remember back in 2007, when Linux got sued? Can we risk getting sued for running it?"

This sounds like the SCO case all over again. That FUD engine is just winding down and by this time next week it will have been generating bad free software press for 4 years. Furthermore, I wonder if Balmer is baiting the bear, hoping to trigger the overreaction that sometimes accompanies free software politics. We should avoid this trap by ignoring the bait.

(Steven J. Vaughan Nichols suggests a similar approach)