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MS sponsoring the Irish EU Presidency

Europe: Given the Irish EU Presidency’s recent passing of the IP Enforcement Directive and the second attempt to get the Software Patents directive through using the EU Council of Ministers, is it really appropriate for Microsoft to “contribute” to the Irish EU Presidency?

MS reportedly see software patents as a very important part of their strategy to deal with open source, as they noted way back in 1998 in the leaked Halloween I document.

MS is reportedly applying for 10 new patents a day (or is it per week? eWeek can’t decide. anyway.)

It’s pretty clear that MS want to ‘de-commoditize’ open standards, using software patents; they said so in the Halloween doc. Their XML Word-processing patent, which claims to patent the use of two open standards (XML and XSD) in a word-processing file format, is a great example of locking up an open standard as a patented, proprietary format.

As a result, they’d have a vested interest in helping the EU Presidency to decide that software patents should be legalised in the EU. A more conspiracy-minded type than myself might read something into their ‘contributions’ accordingly ;)

Now, it could be all touchy-feely niceness from MS. This eWeek article quotes David Kaefer, Microsoft’s director of business development for intellectual property:

According to … Kaefer, “We’ll make our IP available to all comers, open-source or not.” Kaefer added that Microsoft isn’t focused on what garage-shop developers are doing …

Sounds lovely, except it didn’t happen in this case, where MS threatened an open-source developer with patent litigation:

Today I received a polite phone call from a fellow at Microsoft who works in the Windows Media group. He informed me that Microsoft has intellectual property rights on the ASF format and told me that, although I had reverse engineered it, the implementation was still illegal since it infringed on Microsoft patents. … At his request, and much to my own sadness, I have removed support for ASF in VirtualDub 1.3d, since I cannot risk a legal confrontation.
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