Linux Foundation: We'd love to work with Microsoft

Jim Zemlin is the executive director of the Linux Foundation. Formerly executive director of the Free Standards Group, Zemlin also has served as vice president of marketing for Covalent Technologies, providing products and services for the Apache Web server. Zemlin has also been a keynote speaker at industry and financial conferences including Gartner's Open Source Conference and Linux World. Zemlin met with InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill this week to talk about Linux topics ranging from overtures to Microsoft to the progress of Linux on the desktop.

InfoWorld: What's the role of the Linux Foundation?

Zemlin: We obviously are the home of [Linux founder] Linus Torvalds. We sort of focus on three main areas in terms of the platform. The first area is to promote Linux as a technology solution, and that's across embedded, mobile, server, desktop computing. We respond to competitive marketing on behalf of the platform, so when competitors are out spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about open source or if there is a general lack of understanding of open-source licensing practices or governance practices, our organization plays a role educating [the] industry and end-users on those issues. We protect the platform by allowing people like Linus Torvalds to work as fellows at the foundation so that they can be neutral actors in a mass collaboration project like Linux. We manage the Linux trademark. We have a legal defense fund for the platform. We work with the USPTO (Patent and Trademark Office) on patent quality issues. And we do that work to improve the quality of software patents and protect the platform. And then finally, we work on the standardizing the Linux platform.

InfoWorld: What kind of legal protection does Linux require? And has anything ever come of the Microsoft protest that there's Linux code that they patented or something to that effect?

Zemlin: What they were talking about were patents that Microsoft holds in a range of areas. They didn't actually disclose what those were, but in general felt that they overlapped with other technology. No, nothing ever became of it because everybody holds patents on everything out there lately in software.

InfoWorld: You have a legal defense fund. Should people have legal concerns about using Linux?

Zemlin: Just like any other major software platform, there'll be patent trolls or opportunists who try to harm the platform. The SCO Group was a good example of that. In fact, the legal defense fund was created to assist in defense of the platform in the SCO lawsuit. And so that's a good example.

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