Microsoft's recent patent claim. against the open source community is a delaying tactic to help protect its profits, according Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin, in a BusinessWeek column.

"What most people don't realize is that the story really isn't about patents at all - it's about a rational actor trying to protect its privileged position," Zemlin wrote.

Zemlin's article follows a flurry of activity on the patent front, which was brought about by the latest draft of the General Public License version 3. The debate sprung into action when Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, and Horacio Gutierrez, the company's vice president of intellectual property and licensing, spoke with Fortune magazine, during which they claimed open-source software, including Linux, violates 235 Microsoft patents.

According to Zemlin, the executive director of the consortium, Microsoft is doing its utmost to protect the huge profit margins enjoyed by its Windows operating systems and Office suites - both of which are most threatened by Linux and Open Office.

"Given the high stakes involved, it's not surprising that Microsoft would take steps to protect its turf," he said.

"In fact, it makes perfect sense. Let's face it: If you were making US$1 billion per month, what would you do? Perhaps engage in rhetoric and hyperbole to generate some old-fashioned FUD [Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt]?

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"Just looking at the numbers, it's easy to see that even if the scare campaign merely delays a customer's migration from Windows to Linux by a single day, Microsoft is US$34 million dollars better off."

Zemlin said that a patent war would negatively affect consumers.

"Customers want choice and innovation; that's why open-source is winning," he said. "That's why Microsoft should embrace open-source to bolster competition in the marketplace. Competition will make us all better - even Microsoft."

Despite its clout, Zemlin said Microsoft's arsenal of patents can be matched by the open source community, saying members of the Linux ecosystem have "significant patent portfolios".

However, he said, the goal should be for all parties to work to make the patent system "tighter, more reasonable, and efficient for everyone in the software business."