I normally read the FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) press releases with interest as I feel they were instrumental in persuading the European Parliament to reject US-style software patents. Software patents are one of the great technology evils of the modern age, but they mean big money for big businesses, and so there is constant pressure upon the European Parliament to make them legally binding here in Europe. The FFII represent many small and medium-sized businesses that know that software patents would be bad for their businesses.
So given that I normally think highly of the FFII, why the title of this blog post? It is prompted by their latest press release: “Microsoft will trump EU competition ruling with patents. It is in response to the news today that Microsoft has lost its antitrust case appeal. Aparently though, this isn’t good news, as FFII president Pieter Hintjens explains, “The decision seems positive but it is five years out of date. During that time, Microsoft has lobbied for software patents in Europe and bought patents on many trivial concepts. It has claimed patent violations against Linux, put patent timebombs into its formats and interfaces, and turned fear of patents into a core part of its business strategy. It will now open its formats, because that lets it extend its software patent franchise even further.”
This just doesn’t ring true to me. I personally think that Microsoft is in the process of shifting its business model as its previous anti-competitive practices have put many businesses and governments off. It’s a giant organisation though and some bits seem to be adapting faster than others. Thus we see the one company threatening Linux users with patents on the one hand, whilst giving to the Linux community with Moonlight with the other hand. I therefore think that the FFII have lost the plot with this one. The nagging doubt that they are right and that Microsoft have suckered me remains though.