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Gates v. Denmark
Tuesday, February 15 2005 @ 07:11 AM EST

If you have ever wondered what Bill Gates says when he flies to Europe to meet with heads of state, we now have clarity, as business dudes might put it. Here's an article in Danish on precisely what Bill told Denmark he'd do if they opposed the software patents directive, followed by a rough translation by an alert Groklaw reader there, one of several to send this item to us:

"Stifteren af verdens største softwarevirksomhed Bill Gates er nu parat til at lukke Navision i Danmark og flytte de knap 800 udviklere bag Danmarks største softwaresucces til USA."

The founder of the world's largest software company, Bill Gates, is now ready to shut down Navision in Denmark and move around 800 developers behind Denmarks biggest software success to the US.

"Det slog Microsoft-chefen fast, da han i november mødtes med statsminister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (V), samt økonomi- og erhvervsminister Bendt Bendtsen (K), og videnskabsminister Helge Sander (V). "

The Microsoft leader made that clear, when he meet with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Economic and Business Minister Bendt Bendtsen and Science Minister Helge Sander in November.

"Truslen risikerer at blive ført ud i livet, hvis det lykkes dele af IT-branchen at få blokeret et omstridt EU-direktiv om patenter på software, som Microsoft for alt i verden gerne vil have vedtaget, men som gang på gang er blevet forhalet takket være modstandernes effektive lobbyarbejde. "

The threat risks being executet, if part of the IT business manages to block the disputed EU directive on patenting software, that Microsoft wants so dearly, but time and time again has been postponed thanks to efficient lobbying by anti-patent opposition.

"»Hvis jeg skal beholde mit udviklingscenter i Danmark, kræver det, at der kommer en afklaring på rettighedsspørgsmålet. Ellers flytter jeg det til USA, hvor jeg kan beskytte mine rettigheder,« sagde Bill Gates ifølge Microsofts chefjurist Marianne Wier, der også deltog på mødet med Anders Fogh Rasmussen."

"If I am to keep my development center in Denmark, I must have clearity on the rights issue. Otherwise I will move to the US, where I can protect my rights," said Gates according to to Microsoft chief attorney Marianne Wier, who also attended the meeting with Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

So, how do you like it? Still want to use this nice man's software? Here's FFII's statement. "Børsen", I'm told, is the largest financial daily in Denmark, sort of like our Wall St. Journal.

Speaking of rights, you all have the right to stop using Microsoft software, you know. Thanks to Richard Stallman and his GNU Project, Linus Torvalds, and thousands and thousands of good-hearted and skilled programmers who cared enough to give the world some very fine software, you actually do have a choice. If enough companies, individuals, and governments make that choice, this kind of bullying would be so over.

UPDATE: Henrik sends me this update, an article indicating that the Danish CEO of Microsoft business solutions is backtracking, says he was misquoted in Børsen, and that the company is not moving to the USA, no matter what happens to the patent directive.

UPDATE 2: Here's Microsoft's statement:

Statement from Regarding Microsoft Development Center at Vedbaek, Denmark

REDMOND, Wash. -- Feb. 15, 2005 -- Contrary to reports in the Danish media today, Microsoft stated that there are no plans to close the Microsoft Development Center at Vedbaek, Denmark. Microsoft remains committed to Vedbaek as a development center, as evidenced by the appointment of Klaus Holse Andersen as leader of the Microsoft Vedbaek campus and the opening of the Microsoft Technology Center for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) ISV Development in November 2004. The campus at Vedbaek continues to thrive, and Microsoft expects to add additional developers in 2005.

Of course, us cynics might note that this doesn't say that Mr. Gates didn't make the threat. That seems like an admission to me. It also doesn't say that they won't shut it down, if software patents are not allowed. It just says they have no current plans. They are, no doubt, expecting to be able to cram software patents down everyone's throat eventually, and I'd read this statement in that context.

That's the thing. When you lose people's trust, then when you speak, we don't listen even when you really, really want us to.

Here's a copy of an email that a VP at Microsoft in Denmark sent to all employees today, I'm told:

Dear all,

  You may have seen the front page article in Børsen today with the headline: Gates threatens to move Navision. The article outlines how the current EU disagreement over software patent protection endangers our development centre here in Vedbæk. Let me be very clear about this:  

Microsoft has absolutely no plans to move the centre.

We are completely committed to Vedbæk and its current location.  

The journalist has linked Microsoft’s known and outspoken attitude towards patent protection with some internal disagreements in EU regarding this software patent.  

Microsoft is very much in favour of software patent protection – we believe this is the only way to ensure innovation and development of state-of-the-art software. Bill Gates has spoken of this numerous times in different situations. And yes, he has also made our opinion very clear to the Danish government. Let there be no doubt that Microsoft believes patent protection is necessary in order to protect our innovative work. We will continue to argue in favour of this but it is not the only aspect which we consider when investing in R&D.  

If patents were the only thing determining where we locate our development sites then we would probably not have a site in China or in India.  

I just wanted to briefly reassure you – you have absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of Vedbæk’s future. We are in dialogue with the journalist whom we hope to be able to present a more nuanced picture of the situation to.  

Best regards,

Love the nuanced journalist bit.


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