I agree with what you said but I want to make it clear that I am talking about
software patents. I don't have problems with patents in general, as long is they follow the original guidelines (ie, they must be detailed and well written enough so that some one competent in the subject can understand and reproduce the invention
in question). Software is already established under copyright.
It's not alarmist at all by the way. I hope you realize that Microsoft themselves loses billions of dollars from what amounts to frivolous patent lawsuits. At one point they had to cripple IE for one of the patents. A patent if broad enough (and there is no
legal limit to what is considered "broad", only "obvious") it a lawsuit could be enough to ban the sales of Windows or any software, until it no longer violates the patent. Plus billions of dollars in fines can be issued. This is not being alarmist at all,
this is being realistic. All I am saying is how it is. I am not a moralist or an idealist. This is stuff that could directly affect me and probably anyone else who works with software.
Ok, if you write a bit of code differently from Microsoft and come up with a result that is the same that's not patent infringement, Microsoft have a department to work with companies that are in this situation, they have coughed up millions (if not
billions by now) of dollars to companies where they weren't the first to patent.
Some people out there have made allot of money out of Microsoft, I actually do know one guy that has retired because he 'sold his company' to Microsoft so they could have his code (he had to register a company first for Microsoft to buy)
If you want to use a piece of code that Microsoft has already patented but can't afford it, again, they are happy to cut a deal. In one case I read that Microsoft could clearly see the advantage to them of a good interoperability story, they let the fee slide.
However, FAT32, you can't argue that you wrote a bit of code and it came out exactly the same as FAT32. Gee-whizz! How did that happen?!
Then if the owner of that patent finds out and gives the person an opportunity to sort it out and tries to get in contact but gets stone-walled ... and this goes on for a YEAR ... this is clearly taking the mick! What recourse do you have over than to go legal?
TomTom aren't a small company, they clearly sell stuff for profit, they charge £30 for a data-file that tells you where the 'safety-camera's' are, however this file is offered free by almost everyone else, infact the Transport Agency recommends that this informatinon
is 'easily accessible' ... but still TomTom charge.
So looking at the facts here I would advise that the Open Source posse would be better advised to pick on a story that better serves their cause!
I have nothing against Open Source ... I have even written years worth of code back in the days when I was a true believer ... just now I believe it has a place ... not the place.