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Of Apple, Microsoft, Linux and patents

If you can't beat 'em, file for the patent. That seems to be the strategy employed increasingly by companies in the tech industry.


Even leaders in the ostensibly egalitarian open-source technology community joined the fray this week, in no small part to defend against Microsoft. The Windows empire, of course, is well-versed in this tactic as well, having long trained its sights on Linux and others. The latest revelation on this front involves none other than Apple Computer.

Last month, an Apple application to patent some iPod features was rejected because a Microsoft developer had filed a similar claim five months earlier. So much for any Pollyannish visions--if anyone ever had any--of Apple living in a blissfully harmonious Wintel alliance with Microsoft and Intel.

Blog community response:

"It is alleged Microsoft may be contemplating an attack on open source by piling up a bunch of patents for stuff everybody has been doing all along, and will use it to sue Linux out of existence. Let's just suppose they manage to do that. What of it? Could the U.S. federal government force folks to stop using Linux?"
--Plain Package

"It appears that Microsoft could negotiate with Apple for licensing payments covering every iPod on the market--and, perhaps, every MP3 player on the market. Nothing of the sort is in the wind, but this case does illustrate the treacherous waters in which invention-rich companies swim."
--The Digital Music Weblog

"I'm not sure whether it's standard to patent the user interfaces of consumer electronics devices, but it does seem that something like managing a playlist is only going to be done a certain number of ways, and patenting it basically gives the company with the most lawyers a stranglehold on a type of device or technology."
--By the Bayou