It seems that Microsoft has decided that Linux violates 235 Microsoft patents. Of course, Microsoft has declined to list which of its patents has been violated, making it impossible to determine if their claim is valid. On the other hand, Microsoft is not known for its close adherence to patent law or, in fact, federal laws regarding restraint of trade or anti-trust statutes.
Linus Torvalds, lead developer of the Linux kernel, has a sharp retort to Microsoft executives' statements in a Fortune magazine article that Linux and other open-source code violate 235 Microsoft patents.
"It's certainly a lot more likely that Microsoft violates patents than Linux does," said Torvalds, holder of the Linux trademark. If the source code for Windows could be subjected to the same critical review that Linux has been, Microsoft would find itself in violation of patents held by other companies, said Torvalds.
Torvalds claim is based upon the idea that operating system theory was pretty much complete by the late 1960's, much of it by IBM. If anyone were to look close at Microsoft's code they might find a lot of violations of IBM patents, making their own position far less tenable than that of Linux.
Torvalds thinks that Microsoft's gambit is a bluff, trying to throw a monkey wrench into the ever increasing popularity of Linux.
"Naming [the patents] would make it either clear that Linux isn't infringing at all (which is quite possible, especially if the patents are bad), or would make it possible to avoid infringing by coding around whatever silly thing they claim," he said.
"So the whole, 'We have a list and we're not telling you,' itself should tell you something," Torvalds said of Microsoft's stance in the Fortune story. And for good measure, he added: "Don't you think that if Microsoft actually had some really foolproof patent, they'd just tell us and go, 'nyaah, nyaah, nyaah!'"
So more than anything else it's Microsoft trying to make a dent in Linux's market share. They don't need to sue. All they need to do is make the accusation.
Is Microsoft so afraid of Linux? It appears they are.