Linux infringes on Microsoft’s intellectual property, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has stated during a Q&A session following a keynote in Seattle. The statement follows Microsoft’s tie-up with Novell, under which the two companies entered a patent sharing agreement to protect users—and each other—from potential lawsuits. Ballmer stated last week that he was open to similar deals with other Linux vendors like Red Hat. However, in the Q&A session, Ballmer reportedly insisted that “Linux users, apart from those using SUSE, are taking advantage of Microsoft innovation, and that someone – either Linux vendors or users – would eventually have to pay up.”
Considering the aforementioned patent sharing agreement cost Novell a cool $40 million, Ballmer appears to be threatening other Linux vendors with potentially costlier lawsuits unless they pay up via similar deals. And of course, Ballmer’s age-old strategy of spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt among Linux users has this time turned into a direct threat.
Still, other Linux vendors may not play Microsoft’s game. Red Hat, for one, has stated, “We do not believe there is a need for or basis for the type of relationship defined in the Microsoft/Novell announcement.” The company has also called Microsoft’s threats an “innovation tax,” adding that it has the power to protect its users against potential patent claims.