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Microsoft: Open Source Has Cooties

Microsoft claims that open source software in Linux violates 235 Microsoft-held patents. Really, honest, they counted and everything.

[Microsoft’s lawyer] says that the Linux kernel – the deepest layer of the free operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer hardware – violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user interfaces – essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars are set up – run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more. E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted [free and open source] programs allegedly transgress 68.

The risibility of Microsoft accusing “teh Interweb” of, say, violating its intellectual property on user interfaces? Indeed, quite risible.

In 1988, Apple sued Microsoft for copyright infringement of the LISA and Apple Macintosh GUI. The court case lasted 4 years before almost all of Apple’s claims were denied on a contractual technicality. Subsequent appeals by Apple were also denied, and Microsoft and Apple apparently entered a final, private settlement of the matter in 1997 as a side note in a broader announcement of investment and cooperation.

Steve Ballmer claims that Microsoft is being bullied by, um, teh Interweb. No, really.

“We live in a world where we honor, and support the honoring of, intellectual property,” says Ballmer in an interview.

As seen by Microsoft’s history of honoring and supporting intellectual property by purchasing it, putting it in a small box, and then taking it out and playing with it on annual developer days.

Note that it’s a sad day when Fortune’s title for this story is actually funnier than mine:

Microsoft takes on the free world.