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MS exec rattles sabre, suggests Linux could infringe patents

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The CEO of Microsoft Israel has played the FUD card against Linux, raising doubts about the provenance of the intellectual property in the software, and advising potential customers to seek indemnification from the supplier in the event of patent infringement.

Or at least we think that's what Arie Scope said in an article here last week. If your Hebrew is enough to get you past the registration page you'll no doubt be able to cope with the whole piece, which provides a response to open source initiatives in Israel. These include proposed legislation on the use of GPL software by the government.

In the article, Scope says: "IBM is not developing its own version of the Linux OS. Rather than that it distributes Red Hat's version and clears itself from any liability in case the customer changes the code. I advise organizations to review the licensing agreement of Red Hat distributed by IBM, and ask the company for legal protection if it turns out that the OS infringes patents."

It's not entirely uncommon, one might observe, for suppliers of systems to deny responsibility if the customer breaks stuff through fiddling with the software, but that's probably not what Scope means. Effectively he's trying to raise doubts about IBM's long-term commitment to Linux, and to the customers it supplies Advanced Server to.

The IP issue has more edge to it, because major business customers do have concerns about IP issues with Linux, particularly because Linux distributors have historically been small companies who'd have difficulty indemnifying them should they be subject to legal action. Why they should be, or why Linux distributions should be any more at risk in this area than, say, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, is not entirely clear. But they worry, nevertheless.

Scope is therefore turning his guns on a Linux distributor that does have resources, IBM, and suggesting customers demand it backs its sales force with its wallet. Just like Microsoft does? One does wonder. One also wonders whether a lawsuit against Red Hat Advanced Server might just be sitting in a silo near Redmond, waiting for someone to push the button... ®

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