09.03.07

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Miguel de Icaza Talks About Novell, Mono, and Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interview, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 9:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An interview has just been published where Miguel de Icaza speaks to the local Microsoft press. There are various bits that are worth mentioning, but recently we have been focused on the implications of using Mono. Here is what de Icaza had to say about patents:

Some people say the drawback to Mono is the saber rattling from Microsoft about patent, and that it doesn’t support the latest versions of .NET. What is your relationship like with Microsoft these days?

[de Icaza:] So, I have two positions, and one is speaking as the person managing the Mono team, and then there is another answer speaking as a Novell vice president. So from the position of the open source community — a position not attached to Novell — we as any other software project are aware that software patents are a problem. We don’t like them. We think they’re bad for the industry, but we know that we need to abide by that system. So we have a very strict policy, that we’ll not knowingly introduce patented code into the Mono code base. If somebody raises an issue with us about a patent, or that we’re infringing on their code base, we’ll be more than happy to either do an investigation to see if there’s prior art that will invalidate a patent claim, or basically re-implement the same functionality using a different approach. Or, if worse comes to worse, removing the code from Mono. And I think that’s pretty much the same rule that every open source project has to use.

“Whether Microsoft litigates or not, Mono introduces uncertainty”The patent system is defunct and there is no question about it, but stepping on Microsoft’s toes by mimicking the very same thing which they created is simply tactless. Whether Microsoft litigates or not, Mono introduces uncertainty. It’s easy to see why Microsoft will continue to support de Icaza’s work on Mono. As long as Novell’s desktop is becoming more assimilated to Windows (in terms of the underlying framework), the more solid Microsoft’s vacant claims will seem.

In the fragment above, de Icaza confirms that he has concerns about patents. Rather than dismissing the issue (as many of us do using valid arguments like “prior art”), de Icaza replicates Microsoft’s art. A ‘carbon copy’ imitation of the .NET framework is not even an ‘artistic’ matter with subjective interpretations. The goal and intent is to copy. Why approach these territories in the first place? Languages exist that are vendor-independent.

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6 Comments

  1. Sebastiaan Veld said,

    September 4, 2007 at 1:56 am

    Gravatar

    “Whether Microsoft litigates or not, Mono introduces uncertainty”
    So does projects like Samba then; imitate the SMB protocol, AD, authentication, printing, etc. Like it or not, that could also impose problems. One can just say patent infringement is not there, or neglect it at all, but either way with the current patent system in mind it may lead to legal problems for any company or project trying to extent or add functions to or with existing technology. So, you cannot blame Novell for the fact that that system exists and that they THINK about the fact that they may need to work around patent issues.

    “Rather than dismissing the issue (as many of us do using valid arguments like “prior art”), de Icaza replicates Microsoft’s art.’
    Well, that is really not what he says.

    “we have a very strict policy, that we’ll not knowingly introduce patented code into the Mono code base. If somebody raises an issue with us about a patent, or that we’re infringing on their code base, we’ll be more than happy to either do an investigation to see if there’s prior art that will invalidate a patent claim, or basically re-implement the same functionality using a different approach. Or, if worse comes to worse, removing the code from Mono.”
    He clearly states that they do not introduce patented code, if needed they work around, or worst case drop the code at all.

    “The goal and intent is to copy. Why approach these territories in the first place?”
    Well I think they do that for the same reason Samba (to take the same example) exists; interoperability. Or why does OpenOffice support .doc like extensions at all? The use of Mono allows Novell and other with one code base to support development on multiple OS’s. I’m not a developer, but I can see the advantage in that. Sure, there alternatives, but they may not fit one needs. Like any open source project I believe in the first place Mono is about having fun.

    If you like Novell’s and others moves or not, one should at least tell the truth.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 4, 2007 at 3:22 am

    Gravatar

    “Whether Microsoft litigates or not, Mono introduces uncertainty”
    So does projects like Samba then; imitate the SMB protocol, AD, authentication, printing, etc. Like it or not, that could also impose problems. One can just say patent infringement is not there, or neglect it at all, but either way with the current patent system in mind it may lead to legal problems for any company or project trying to extent or add functions to or with existing technology. So, you cannot blame Novell for the fact that that system exists and that they THINK about the fact that they may need to work around patent issues.

    What what Carla Schroder (tuxchick) said here. about Samba and some other of the projects.that reverse-engineer Microsoft’s proprietary technology.

    Regarding the rest, which makes a seemingly-sound argument, remember that programming, unlike extraction of data and communication, is something that can be achieved in a variety of ways.

    Let me think of an analogy for a moment…

    Okay, I have one bad analogy. Think about rails and about trains (it just happened to spring to mind because I’m listening to Midnight Train at the moment). Rails enable merely any train to its complete journey, but the use and evangelism of Mono is promotion of Mono-culture (as the name implies), i.e. let us all have just one type of train rather than concentrate on the rails, which should remain consistent.

  3. S.tephen said,

    September 4, 2007 at 3:32 am

    Gravatar

    You say…

    “but stepping on Microsoft’s toes by mimicking the very same thing which they created is simply tactless”

    …But clearly it’s not tactless. Rather it’s a very smart recognition by Mono, that the overwhelming population of developers/programmers/engineers are currently working on a Microsoft development platform (OS+SDK/.NET). Making Mono cross platform breaks the OS piece. The success of a platform is largely a function of it’s application developer community.

    By the way, your assertion that MONO CULTURE means one culture is incorrect. Mono was chosen because of the relationship to Ximian. Mono is the Spanish for monkey, therefore it’s monkey culture!

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 4, 2007 at 4:01 am

    Gravatar

    The success of a platform is largely a function of it’s application developer community.

    Yes, that’s the central point of this debate. It’s a bit chicken-and-egg. But then again, we are facing the same problem when it comes to accepting binary blobs. That’s how you end up with another Mac OS X, not GNU/Linux as it was intended to be.

    Mono is the Spanish for monkey, therefore it’s monkey culture!

    :-)

    Like the phrase goes, “monkey see, monkey do.” Mimicking the competition.

  5. John Drinkwater said,

    September 4, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Gravatar

    ““Whether Microsoft litigates or not, Mono introduces uncertainty” So does projects like Samba then; imitate the SMB protocol”

    Microsoft haven’t made significant changes* to SMB, compared to IBM’s version of it, for Microsoft to have a case in litigation.

    *EU decided the changes weren’t substantial enough. Or did you miss that court outcome?

  6. Jose said,

    September 7, 2007 at 5:29 am

    Gravatar

    I think you read this from Miguel de Icaza where he claims that “OOXML is a superb standard” and that you (as a consumer/user/distributor of free software) are only safe from patent claims about mono/moonlight if you get them from Novell.

    Miguel is nothing more than PR spokesman, a lackey for Microsoft. A hypocrite.

    http://groups.google.com/group/tiraniaorg-blog-comments/browse_thread/thread/2a07b8b50038d8c8/2429b33859cf05c0#2429b33859cf05c0

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