Open-source conference hones in on patent issues

Open Source advocates weary of Microsoft

Although Microsoft was not mentioned by name during opening proceedings of the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, the company and its complaints about open-source software allegedly violating 235 Microsoft patents clearly were on the minds of speakers and attendees.

Open source is impacting proprietary software companies, said Matt Asay, vice president of business development at Alfresco and OSBC conference chair. Their business model requires them to make money in an alternative way, he said.

"It's very hard to shift a model to open source," Asay said. On one side of the equation, a company tries to be a friend to open source, but on the on other side is the CEO, said Asay, in an apparent reference to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who has said open-source software such as Linux violates 235 Microsoft patents.

Asay then reeled off statements, such as noting the 235 patents figure and complaints about willing infringement of IP, without directly naming any source as the origin of these statements.

Afterward, a quick video displayed a Bill Gates mug shot from an arrest over a traffic stop in New Mexico in 1977. Another slide displayed an old Gates comment about 640K of memory being enough for anybody.

A quote appeared from Gandhi in which he stated first they ignore you, then laugh at you, then fight you, and then you win.

Red Hat's Matthew Szulik, chairman and CEO of the Linux vendor, focused less on the patents issue but did say patents "are a relatively new idea in the software industry."

"The issue shouldn't be focused on patents. It should be focused on innovation," Szulik said.

"We have a great respect as an industry for intellectual property," said Szulik.

Aside from patents, Szulik said the open-source industry has to bolster its service provision capabilities. "The industry for open source has to scale itself," Szulik said.

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