Microsoft has been vociferously selling indemnification as one of its selling points over Free Software. The theory is this: if somebody launches a submarine patent attack, they’re a big company with lots of money so they’ll handle dealing with the issue so you, as a customer, don’t have to worry about it. They started this right around the time they funded The SCO Group (though Baystar Captial) file suit against IBM and go after several prominent Linux users.
<p>But, as of last week they’ve officially reneged on the offer. The case concerns a 1990 patent by <a href="http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/06/07/microsoft_pays_excel_man/">Carlos Armando Armano</a> which he tried to sell to Microsoft who told him to go away but used his technology anyway without license. </p> <p>Microsoft has posted <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=57E27A97-2DB6-4654-9DB6-EC7D5B4DD867&displaylang=en">Office 2003 Service Pack 2</a> which users are required to install to maintain licensing terms. This patch removes the functionality of Access to update an Excel spreadsheet, which Microsoft agreed to in a settlement with the patent holder. If your workflow or application relies on that functionality, you better start whittling a paddle - you’re SOL.</p> <p>So much for Microsoft protecting the customers’ interests with its vast corporate resources - nobody doubts they could have settled this case for more money and licensed the patent, but they chose not to at their customers’ expense. Keep that in mind they try to sell you a bill of goods about why you don’t want to use <a href="http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html">Free Software</a>.