Microsoft joue un jeu dangereux avec les brevets logiciels

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Publié le : 16/03/2009 vers 8h par :
Gilles SALOMON

En attaquant TomTom en justice pour violation de brevets, Microsoft déterre la hache de guerre. Mais l'éditeur pourrait se retrouver pris à son propre piège.

Fin février, Microsoft assignait en justice le constructeur de GPS TomTom pour la violation de huit brevets, dont trois concernant le noyau Linux.

L'éditeur américain estime depuis longtemps que certains logiciels open source violent des dizaines de ses brevets, mais n'avait jamais encore lancé d'action en justice.

« Quelles sont les véritables intentions de Microsoft ? s'interroge Philippe Laurent, avocat spécialisé et chercheur au Centre de recherche informatique et droit en Belgique. Par le biais de cette attaque contre un producteur particulier, Microsoft menace tous ceux qui embarquent un noyau Linux. Ils peuvent se demander s'ils sont les prochains sur la liste. »

En cas de condamnation, TomTom devrait recoder son projet ou payer une licence à Microsoft, deux options coûteuses. « Les grosses sociétés qui ont les moyens déposent beaucoup de brevets. Quand ils ont un bon portefeuille de brevets, ils attaquent d'autres entreprises. C'est le principe de la guerre froide, explique Philippe Laurent. Cela se termine par le versement de royalties ou par des accords de cross licencing par lesquels les sociétés s'autorisent mutuellement à utiliser leurs brevets. »

Le « cross licensing » interdit sous la GPL : Mais le cross licencing pose un problème dans le domaine du logiciel libre. « Lorsque Microsoft et Novell ont conclu un accord de ce type, Novell a couvert ses clients contre des attaques de Microsoft, mais pas tous les autres utilisateurs potentiels dans le cadre de la libre distribution », explique Philippe Laurent.

Pour contrer cette pratique, la Free Software Association a ajouté une clause dans la Global Public License (GPL) version 3, qui interdit de faire des accords de cross licensing sans couvrir tous les usagers.

Horacio Gutierrez, l'avocat de Microsoft dans cette affaire, vient pourtant d'avouer au magazine américain Computerworld que certaines compagnies comme Kenwood, Alpine et Pioneer avaient déjà signé des accords de cross licensing avec Microsoft. Ces accords portent entre autres sur l'utilisation du FAT LFN (File Allocation Table-Long File Name).

En tout, dix-huit compagnies auraient signé des accords, mais elles sont tenues au secret par les termes mêmes de ceux-ci. Secret rendu nécessaire par le fait que ces accords constituent une violation de la GPL.

L'arroseur arrosé : « Les tribunaux américains sont de moins en moins enclins à valider les brevets, se réjouit Alix Cazenave, chargée de mission à l'April. Ils se dirigent vers une doctrine plus favorable à l'innovation qui permet à de nouveaux entrants de s'imposer. »

Résultat, Microsoft pourrait se retrouver dans la situation de l'arroseur arrosé si le juge estime que ses brevets ne sont pas valables.
Autre bon signe selon Alix Cazenave, le United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) estime dorénavant qu'on ne peut pas considérer comme valide un brevet dont l'innovation réside uniquement dans le logiciel.

« Peut-être qu'on verra la même tendance contre les brevets logiciels en Europe et que l'Office européen des brevets arrêtera d'en délivrer », espère la représentante de l'April. Pour elle, ce procès démontre toute l'absurdité des brevets logiciels utilisés comme armes de guerre économique.  (Source 01 net).

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