James K. Lowden
jklowden at freetds.org
Thu May 31 12:21:07 UTC 2007
A decision was made back in 2005 not to include FreeTDS in Fedora Extras.
The decision's reasoning rested on faulty logic. I am not an RH user or
developer; I'm the FreeTDS maintainer. I would like to clear up the
misunderstanding today and request FreeTDS be included in some way in the
The above cited message suggests FreeTDS is under a legal cloud. The
1. The TDS protocol has been public information for many years.
2. Microsoft's patent 5,974,416, mentioned above, does not apply.
3. Microsoft and Sybase are well aware of FreeTDS and have never
suggested any kind of infringement exists.
4. FreeTDS serves the business interests of both vendors.
) is freely downloadable. It is marked "confidential", true, but it has
continuously been published on their website for several years, so any
confidentiality is surely now minimal. The mere fact that something is so
marked, in any case, has no legal import. Nothing else in the document
suggests its use is in any way restricted.
The assertion that FreeTDS violates the LGPL license that governs its use
is incorrect. The TDS protocol is not covered by any patent.
Microsoft's patent 5,974,416 does not mention and does not describe TDS.
It issued in 1999, 15 years after Sybase invented TDS, perhaps five years
after Microsoft licensed it from Sybase, and two years after FreeTDS was
first released. Yes, the patent has words like "tabular" and "data" and
"stream" in it. No, TDS does not have any of an "Advanced Data TableGram
(ADTG) format", a "HandlerOptions section", or a "Descriptors section".
There is no "Descriptors section [that] comprises a 16-byte unique
identifier." In short, the patent describes something similar to TDS that
the inexpert reader might be led to believe is the same thing, but which
in fact specifically avoids language that describes TDS. This should come
as no surprise: Sybase surely would object to having its protocol patented
by Microsoft. One might even suggest the USPTO would object, too.
The assertion in a reply
"There are 4 versions of TDS: 4.2, 5.0, 7.0, and 8.0. MS bought TDS 4.2
from Sybase. Only Sybase uses 5.0, and only MS uses 7.0 and 8.0."
is true but unimportant. These flavors of the protocol are much more
similar than different. Only a small part of FreeTDS distinguishes
between them. The features Microsoft added are limited to a few new
datatypes, the use of UCS2 encoding for metadata, and some minor
annoyances. No one would plausibly claim that TDS 7.0 represents an
invention of any kind, much less a protocol distinct from its predecessors
in any but the most technical way.
The FreeTDS project has been contacted by parties at Microsoft from time
to time. Discussion at one point led to how Microsoft might support the
project in some way. If patent violations were at issue -- which clearly
they can't be -- surely those who opened the discussion with us would have
been warned off. In the end, though, nothing came of it; they would
have required a nondisclosure agreement no one on the project was
interested in signing. (IMO the LGPL was the real stumbling block.)
Finally, a Google search for "freetds site:microsoft.com" quickly shows
that Microsoft actively supports FreeTDS to a surprising degree. Microsoft
makes no Unix drivers of any kind. I do not think I have to explain how
Microsoft benefits from the existence of a free driver connecting
Apache/PHP sites (to cite just one example) to their database product.
The facts are all on one side: the documentation, the patent language, the
age and history of TDS, and the vendors' behavior and interests all tell
us that TDS is completely, absolutely unencumbered. It cannot be patented
or copyrighted, and it is obviously not a trade secret. It doesn't even
stand vaguely *accused* of violating patents. FreeTDS is, simply, free
software. I wish the Fedora project would accept and treat it
Thank you for your time.
P.S. I hope this is the right forum, now that fedora-extras-list is
More information about the fedora-devel-list