Vendors: Stop threatening us

Apparently, we're supposed to be living in fear.

What we should fear is possible litigation over unlicensed, patented material that may or may not be in Linux. Each week, we're goaded into purchasing one operating system or another based upon that particular vendor's ability to indemnify us from potential litigation.

A few weeks ago, it was copyright problems. Now it's patent problems. I was hoping to acquire an operating system based upon the merits and fitness of the code for what I wanted to do with it, not how I'm somehow indemnified.

Microsoft's vicarious financing of SCO was the first shot across the bow. SCO has tried mightily to make its case, but doesn't seem to have instilled much fear, uncertainty, or doubt among operating system buyers and integrators.

Recently, Steve Ballmer stated that Linux violates 228 patents, citing an OSRM study that actually says there are perhaps 283 patents that Linux may some how be unlicensed for. We're supposed to act accordingly.

And just a week before Ballmer's address, Sun's Jonathon Schwartz and Scott McNealy told of how they took a "$92 million bullet" in terms of a patent payoff to Kodak over IP for the open source community.

We can obtain plenary indulgence, the old concept of immunity from intellectual property damnation, by purchasing operating systems from MicrosoftSunHPNovell, and/or Red Hat, or so the stories go.

Ptui, I say. If you've got patents, play that card, and play it now. We're sick, mighty sick, of listening to it. Tell us, chapter and verse, what you think is the problem. Do it now. Stop the threats - go in to action. We're the customers, remember? Stop harassing us with vague threats.

This chest thumping, lawyer-enriching hubris, and cold intimidation is causing this industry to slink around as though we're all guilty of something that we didn't do. If there's a license to pay, then we'll pay it. If you as vendors have manipulated the patent offices into granting a patent for something that you didn't invent, then back off. If you so thoroughly patent your future products so that no one can work with them, then you've lost compatibility, interoperability, and therefore any worth to us.

Otherwise, we want to see the tort. If you don't send it shortly, we'll all know that your huffing and puffing is truly a breach of ethics.We'll throw your salespeople out the door and not renew licenses that we've already bought from you. You'll not be welcome here, and that's for the next ten years, because we have long memories of companies that tried to manipulate and/or coerce us.

We don't care about your studies anymore, because they're rife with self-serving pretension about IP indemnity. We don't care whom you've cross-licensed, and don't have the time and money to track the organizations that you've signed non-aggression treaties with. We have plenty of needs for our legal departments rather than researching your supposed IP hegemony.

The U.S. is at war. Remember who the enemy is. It's not your clientele. We're sick of listening to your posturing, your vague and veiled threats, and your intimidation. Save it for the unemployment line after your stock becomes delisted because you lost your customer base, handfuls of us at a time.

And don't doubt our resolve. Build new and competitive goods and services that we want. If you threaten us, we're out of here. Wholesale. And we're taking our friends with us.

Henderson is managing director of ExtremeLabs of Indianapolis and a member of the Network World Test Alliance. He can be reached at

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