Proprietary software gets the patent blues too

Remember how Microsoft spread fear and doubt on open source software, claiming its users are sitting ducks for intellectual property lawsuits? Guess what, corporations that use Microsoft Office XP or 2003 are now seeing the indemnification that Microsoft offers them isn’t worth the CD-ROM it’s printed on:

“It was recently decided in a court of law that certain portions of code found in Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, Microsoft Office Access 2003, Microsoft Office XP Professional and Microsoft Access 2002 infringe a third-party patent,” Microsoft said in an e-mail to customers. “As a result, Microsoft must make available a revised version of these products with the allegedly infringing code replaced.”

The question for companies, though, is if they are exposing themselves to potential legal liability if they don’t quickly move to the new software. Microsoft promises to indemnify customers from third-party patent claims, but [Gartner analyst Michael] Silver said the license terms also require customers to “immediately” move to any new noninfringing version that Microsoft releases.

For those who believe that FLOSS contains no guarantees, warranties or indemnification, they would be correct. But check the fine print on the EULA on that proprietary software you just paid thousands of dollars for. You aren’t getting any kind of protection there either.

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