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Microsoft and Patents
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== News and Chronology
Microsoft Corporation grew large and successful without patents, relying instead on copyright. In 1991, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates warned that patents could bring the software market to a complete standstill and drive out small players. In 1994, Microsoft was the only software company at the USPTO hearings which spoke in favor of software patentability. Meanwhile, Microsoft had been stepping up efforts to build a patent portfolio to counter the much larger portfolios of traditional IT hardware companies such as IBM, HP, Canon etc. When the patent lawyers at the European Commission pressed for legalising software patents in Europe in 1997, they cited Microsoft as a success model, pointing out that Microsft already owned 400 software patents. In late 1998, an internal Microsoft stratgegy document about the "opensource threat" leaked out which suggested using software patents alongside with proprietary standards in order to crush competition from free software such as Apache and Linux. In 2000, Microsoft forced a free sofware project to abandon support for its patented video streaming format ASF. In 2001/07, in the midst of an ongoing campaign against free software, a leading MS executive challenged opensource companies to keep clear of Microsoft patents or else "Get your money and let's go to court!". In 2002/03 Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, declared that Microsoft's new standard DotNet was protected by patents and free implementations would not be allowed. In 2003/04 Microsoft published patent license terms for CIFS which disallow the use ore reimplementation of this communication architecture by GNU software. In late 2002, Microsoft began dissuade corproporate customers from introducing GNU/Linux by pointing out that if they use free software nobody would protect them from being sued for patent infringement.

Until June 2003, Microsoft largely abstained from public comments on European patent policies. In small-circle discussions at Bitkom, where IBM patent lawyers pushed vocally for far-reaching patentability, the Microsoft representative remained almost silent but tacitly supported the IBM patent department's hard line. At another association, Verband der Software-Industrie e.V. (VSI) und Logikpatente, Microsoft's pro patent involvement was more overt. In France, Microsoft representatives have exerted pressure on associations such as Syntec Informatique not to oppose software patents. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) had Microsoft's full support when it worked on the software patentability directive for the European Commission (CEC), which CEC adopted almost without modification. German Microsoft representatives have, as a part of their anti-Linux campaign of 2002 at the Federal Parliament, been asking politicians in Berlin to support the CEC/BSA directive proposal. One Microsoft paper circulating in Berlin based its arguments mainly on the TRIPs fallacy.

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english version 2004/08/16 by Hartmut PILCH