Dan Bricklin is hosting a meeting on Monday from 9AM to noon sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council on the Novell-Microsoft deal. I know. Blech. But both Microsoft and Novell are sending representatives to speak, and what Dan is asking for is this: what should he ask them? If you would like to attend and ask questions yourself, here's the info.
Microsoft provided the content for the blurb on the MTLC Events page, not MTLC, and this part should send the blood straight to your face:
Patent Agreement: The IP incentive system and software patents in particular, are essential for fostering innovation and collaboration activities. This agreement is the foundation of a new model for how open source and proprietary software companies can work together to meet the needs of their customers. It recognizes that patents are a valuable form of property for both business models, and the agreement puts a framework in place for the companies to share patents on commercially reasonable terms, enabling both companies to recognize commercial value from their respective patent portfolios. The companies have established a creative, simple, and reasonable mechanism to gain access to each other's patent portfolio and provide their customers with greater certainty and peace of mind with respect to the IP in the products they are deploying.
So, what would you like him to ask? Polite questions only, please. Include followup questions in case the first question is a canned response. Bricklin has been deep in a coding frenzy, so he would appreciate your input to get him up to speed. Also, there will be an attorney there to answer any legal questions, Harvard's Berkman Center's John Palfrey.
Update: I've had time to think about some questions, and here are the
two three I'd like asked:
1. Both Nat Friedman and Miguel de Icaza are reported to have visited Microsoft to say that the patent agreement as written isn't acceptable, and Microsoft said itself publicly that a change was needed. Where is the rewrite? When might we expect it? What will the changes be?
2. For Mr. Palfrey: If Linus or Groklaw or any FOSS developer sent a registered letter or published an Open Letter to Steve Ballmer, asking for a specific list of Microsoft patents that he believes support his claim that Microsoft has "IP" in Linux or FOSS, if Microsoft failed to provide the list, would the defense of waiver later be available? What other strategy might be successful, since no one in the FOSS community is interested in violating Microsoft patents, if any actually existed, but no one can ameliorate without specificity? How can such a specific list be forced out of them?
3. For Novell: You promised the community that you would use your patent portfolio to protect Linux. Now you ally with this Microsoft statement, that the deal is "enabling both companies to recognize commercial value from their respective patent portfolios." Why did you break that promise? Do you care that the majority of the FOSS community is opposed to software patents? How do you reconcile the clear intent of GPLv2 that no restrictions, such as a patent license, can be added to the GPL and what you signed?