Microsoft is committed to building bridges with the open source community and reports about it threatening litigation over the 235 patents it says are infringed by open source technology are sensational. This is according to Ashley de Klerk, public sector director at Microsoft SA, who says that users can avoid legal issues by buying open source products endorsed by Microsoft. 

"On May 13, Fortune magazine published an article entitled 'Microsoft Takes on the Free World'," De Klerk writes in a statement. "In the article, Microsoft publicly acknowledges that more than 235 of its patents are incorporated into open source technology.
"Unfortunately, the article sensationalises this development and portrays Microsoft as taking aggressive action against open source software (OSS). On the contrary, Microsoft is committed to building bridges with the OSS community to help our customers meet their needs for interoperability, performance, and intellectual property (IP) peace of mind," De Klerk adds.
"Microsoft prefers to license our technology and enter into patent agreements rather than engage in litigation. Microsoft’s groundbreaking collaboration with Linux distributor Novell is just one example of our commitment to working cooperatively with OSS companies and the community, and that collaboration rests on a mutual respect for IP.
"Microsoft believes that because the ability of the IT industry to innovate and grow depends on IP, developers, distributors, and users of open source and proprietary software alike must adhere to the same laws governing IP. IP is the cornerstone of “open innovation” – the sharing of knowledge and innovation through IP to foster economic growth and meet customer needs."
De Klerk points out that Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, last year acknowledged that Linux infringes on well over 200 patents from multiple companies.
"The real question is not whether there exist substantial patent infringement issues, but what to do about them. Microsoft and Novell already developed a solution that meets the needs of customers, furthers interoperability, and advances the interests of the industry as a whole. Any customer that is concerned about Linux IP issues needs only to obtain their open source subscriptions from Novell.
"As part of our landmark agreement with Novell, Microsoft made a promise to the open source community to not assert its patents against individual non-commercial open source developers and users. In addition, Microsoft will work with Novell and actively contribute to several open source software projects, including projects focused on office file formats and Web services management."