Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dear Lazyweb: Software patent lawsuits?

Dear lazyweb,

A Microsoft exec recently remarked that they're "not litigating". Some people seemed to interpret that as meaning, "we're not going to sue users", although Microsoft wasn't explicit about who they weren't going to sue.

My question for anyone law-savvy is: Can Microsoft (or any other software company) sue users for using software which allegedly violates software patents?

For example, if I buy a DVD player which was manufactured and sold illegally without royalty payments to the DVD consortium (etc.), it's the manufacturer of the DVD player that violated the patents. If I bought and use the DVD player, how on Earth am I the one that broke the law?

Following that logic, how on Earth are users liable when it's the developers who allegedly violated the software patents?

Update: Interesting twist, which supports the growing evidence that Microsoft's statements were/are FUD.