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Microsoft: Give us Software Patents or we Move 800 Jobs Out of Denmark

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According to Danish newspaper reports, Bill Gates has been threatening the Danish government to move jobs from Denmark to the United States should Denmark continue to oppose the software patent directive. While Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen denies the reports, statements from Navision and from party colleagues of Rasmussen partially confirm it.

the original report

Børsen and the Copenhagen Post quote Bill Gates (according to Microsoft's chief legal counsel Marianne Wier who attended the meeting) as saying, with regard to software patentability in Europe:

The Børsen report confirms that threats of this kind have been uttered at the time of the Gates-Rasmussen meeting:

FFII Comment / Analysis

This is not the first threat of its kind, but it is an unusual move for Microsoft. So far Microsoft has left this role large European firms, who are in a better position to exert such pressure:

Microsoft has, contrastingly, been maintaining a fairly low profile on patents. They have spoken mainly through proxies such as CompTIA and BSA.

FFII's president Hartmut Pilch explains:

The following article, which appeared at a same time when Philips was making such threats to the Dutch goverment, tells everything about the credibility of these threats:

Official Denials from Microsoft / Navision

Microsoft DK (Navision) thereby does not explain how the misunderstanding arose.

While it is safe to assume that Gates never intended to really make Navision's fate dependent on European patent legislation, the Gates quote must have been supplied by Microsoft DK, and Andersen does not deny this. Microsoft DK (Navision)'s chief legal counsel Marianne Wier gave the news to Børsen.

It was moreover reinforced by a statement from a danish industry group, with the apparent intention of instilling fear, uncertainty and distrust (FUD) in a wider audience that jobs could be at risk if software patents aren't legalised in Europe. This too would not be an unusual tactic for Microsoft.

According to De.Internet.com Andersen from Microsoft confirmed that Software patents were a topic of the meeting with Rasmussen, however denied a Navision blackmailing attempt.

Danish responses.

The Danish prime minister has denied the allegations of a threat by Bill Gates: "He has not done that in any meeting with me. I can't confirm that interpretation, not at all. We have not touched that subject. No."

However Andersen (MS Denmark) confirmed according to a de.internet.com report that the issue of software patents was a topic of the meeting in November.

Bill Gates' alleged threats have been criticized by

Comments

2004-02-15 Alberto Barrionuevo:

"Microsoft has a record of trying to blackmail governments. Microsoft CEO of Brazil, Emílio Umeoka, in middle 2004 already did similar against the president of the Brazilian National Institute for Information Technology, Sérgio Amadeu da Silveira. Microsoft sued to Sérgio Amadeu as a pressure to the Brazilian Government, but some weeks later they retired when they realized that the whole Brazilian government was backing Sérgio and against the Microsoft intimidation."

Preliminary Translation of the Article Teaser

English announcement of the article

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