It’s strange. Microsoft has been patent trolling the heck out of the Linux kernel for a long time now, and is still using these patents against Android today in its protection money scheme. However, as LWN.net illustrates, Microsoft makes quite a few contributions to the Linux kernel. Shouldn’t this invalidate their patent claims?
LWN.net regularly investigates and summarises the various contributions to the Linux kernel, making lists of who contributes the most. Now that version 3.0 of the Linux kernel is about to hit the big wide world, it was time for another one of these investigations.
Microsoft proposed a total of 361 changes to the Linux kernel, putting it in seventh place on the list of companies contributing the most to the kernel. To give you an idea – Red Hat provided 1000 changes, and Intel 839. Independent developers contributed 1085 change sets.
Now, this doesn’t say a whole lot, since it doesn’t take the size of the changes into account. As H-Online notes, Microsoft’s changes are small and touch only a few lines of code; Microsoft changed 11564 lines of code (1.3%), while Intel, for instance, changed a whopping 163232 lines (18.1%). Most of Microsoft’s code revolve around the driver for its HyperV virtualisation interface
Still, this got me thinking. In The Netherlands, there is this TV show called ‘De Rijdende Rechter’ (‘The Travelling Judge’), which revolves around a judge taking on all kinds of small and hilarious cases, like trees hanging over neighbour’s gardens, fences protruding 3 inches onto other people’s property, and so on. It’s hilarious.
Now, imagine Microsoft is bringing a case to the Rijdende Rechter. Microsoft claims that his neighbours (a family) are building a shed a few inches over the property line so that it actually covers a minutely small strip of Microsoft’s land. The shed is usable as it is, but the neighbours continuously improve it inside and out, painting it, replacing some of the wooden panelling, installing lights, and so on. Microsoft demands that the judge orders the neighbours to either pay rent for the small strip of land, or tear down the tiny sliver of the shed on Microsoft’s land.
How strong would Microsoft’s case be if the neighbours building the shed told the judge Microsoft had actually been helping in building the shed, even though it knew about the placement of the shed and the property line issue? I can assure you – it would make Microsoft’s case considerably weaker. Helping to build the shed while knowing it protrudes on his land would would constitute a form of approval.
But then, maybe I’m applying too much logic here.