An Empty Promise

Wed, 8 Feb 2012

I was reading about some new "promise" that Microsoft supposedly made, but in reading the details I see it as much ado about nothing. Here are the points they made:

  • Microsoft will always adhere to the promises it has made to standards organizations to make its standard essential patents available on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

Well, duh. This isn't anything more than saying they'll respect the commitment they made in order to participate in the standard-setting process to begin with. The world should expect nothing less, so this isn't anything special. Moving on.

  • This means that Microsoft will not seek an injunction or exclusion order against any firm on the basis of those essential patents.

But that doesn't mean they won't use other patents to do exactly that. Sounds nice, but means nothing if you think about it.

  • This also means that Microsoft will make those essential patents available for license to other firms without requiring that those firms license their patents back to Microsoft, except for any patents they have that are essential to the same industry standard.

Well, of course. With these so called "RAND" licenses (which is really a misnomer), they're already required to offer the license to anyone anyway so just like the first bullet, this doesn't mean anything beyond following their previously-made commitment.

  • Microsoft will not transfer those standard essential patents to any other firm unless that firm agrees to adhere to the points outlined above.

More of the same: They're continuing to follow the commitment they made to partiticpate in the standard-setting process to begin with.

In closing, the whole thing is an empty promise, and nothing in their announcement has changed anything. If Microsoft truly wanted to change things they'd be in favor of eliminating software patents entirely, but they haven't said that. So we should expect nothing less than for Microsoft to continue their patent attacks against the free software community.