[Mono-list] I need help with FUD

Jonathan Pryor jonpryor at vt.edu
Tue Jan 20 20:49:04 EST 2009

On Tue, 2009-01-20 at 16:31 -0800, ccoish wrote:
> I use Mono. I love Mono. I think I agree with the intent of your post, but
> it just seems wrong to me that every alternative faces the "EXACT SAME
> PROBLEMS". Every alternative faces the threat of software patents, sure. But
> I think there's a difference between the threat of a typical patent troll
> and Microsoft. I see at least two important differences.
> 1.) Steve Balmer has gone out of his way to state that Linux is infringing
> on Microsoft's software patents.
> 2.) Microsoft is far more powerful than a typical patent troll, both in the
> size of its legal department and in terms of public perception.
> Now I realise that the whole Microsoft patent threat is more FUD. But the
> threat is coming straight from Microsoft. They have specifically targeted
> Linux and are trying to make trouble there.

Two points worth mentioning:

 1. In the broken world of software patents, the software patent is 
    written to "enclose"/patent as much as is possible (often more so).

 2. Microsoft threatened *Linux*.

(1) is basic software patent mindset -- why patent something that has
extremely limited applicability (unless said "extremely limited
applicability applicability" is still large enough to run a large
fraction of the industry).  It's what leads to patenting all
Internet-based commerce (vague recollections of articles from ~1995),
the Wang patent, and patenting OS Permissions (and then suing ~everyone
of consequence [0]).

Mix (1) and (2), and Mono may infringe some patents, but so is nearly
everything else.  There's no reason a "well written" patent shouldn't
cause ALL of Python, Ruby, Java, Mono, Perl, Guile, etc. to
*simulateneously* infringe the same patent.  (In fact, that would be my
definition of a "well written" patent in this case -- if nothing
infringed it, what would be the point?)

>From Microsoft's perspective, that would be ideal as well.  Why take out
a smallish project like Mono (which arguably *helps* their cause) when
you can take out the entire Linux ecosystem at once?  To think that
Microsoft would only target Mono is to think that Microsoft is
incredibly stupid.

(Then there are the legal reasons against a major lawsuit like that --
the EU would likely try to castrate Microsoft if they tried a stunt like
that, and I doubt that the DOJ would look kindly upon it.)

So even if Microsoft is something to worry about -- which I grow less
convinced of every year, especially with their increased forays into
open-source software like IronPython -- there is NO reason to believe
that they'd only be a threat to Mono.

> This doesn't change the fact that I use Mono. I don't think Microsoft's
> going to risk the bad press by suing. I think the Mono project could work
> around it if they did. Mostly, I think Mono is the best technology around
> and deserves to have the users. But do I think the risk of using
> technologies from a giant company who's CEO has threatened Linux is
> precisely the same as the risk of using technologies from companies who's
> CEO's have not made such threats? No. There are shades of gray here.

There are certainly shades of gray, but some shades of gray are closer
than others.  In this case, I don't think the shades are that different.

 - Jon

[0] http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/01/12/0119227

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