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Microsoft Patents Linux Your Rights Online

Microsoft Letting Patents Move To Linux Firms 228

Posted by kdawson
from the didn't-need-'em-anyway dept.
mnmlst notes a Wall Street Journal story (picked up at Total Telecom) on the move of some patents originally held by Microsoft to the Open Invention Network, where they will join a portfolio whose purpose is to inoculate open source companies against patent trolls. OIN is near a deal to buy 22 patents from another patent-protective group, Allied Security Trust, whose members include Verizon, Cisco, and HP. AST won the patents in a private auction Microsoft put on earlier. An AST executive says that "Microsoft presented the patents to potential bidders in its auction as relating to Linux." While OIN's acquisition of the patents will act to protect the Linux community, AST, by contrast, exists to protect only its corporate members, not the community as a whole. But by selling the patents to OIN, they are cooperating in the protection of Linux. And by allowing the patents to go to AST in the first place, Microsoft may (the article implies) be signaling at least their lack of active intent to disrupt the Linux marketplace.
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Microsoft Letting Patents Move To Linux Firms

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  • Explain this to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by assemblerex (1275164) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:42PM (#29361539)
    why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??
  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:42PM (#29361541) Homepage Journal

    This is a really expensive way to dodge a tiny part of the software patent problem, and it involves paying Microsoft millions. And for every such trick we win, how many did we lose?

    The upcoming Bilski review is the first time in 28 years that the Supreme Court in the USA will review the patentability of software - that's were we can get a real victory. I'm working on an amicus brief which'll have to be submitted within about two weeks. If anyone wants to help, it would be very useful to expand the swpat.org wiki's information about studies which show the harm of software patents:

    And to add more info about arguments for abolishing software patents:

    This is our big chance and might be the last one for decades.

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:48PM (#29361605)
    Well seems to make sense to me. First get linux community to seem to agree with the fact Microsoft holds valid patents, second with previous patent validity established destroy linux distros that become a threat by claiming they violate other patents not in this 'portfolio' of what they can use. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
  • Groklaw Theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by asifyoucare (302582) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:55PM (#29361661)

    This is being covered over at Groklaw [groklaw.net], and PJ's theory is that Microsoft intended that these patents be used against Linux, but they wanted clean hands. Hence the auction, but it backfired when the trolls didn't win.

    Sure Microsoft could have arranged a private sale to known trolls, but their hands would have been a little grimy if not dirty.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:57PM (#29361679)

    Oh, I don't know. Stop funding Darl McBride. [builderau.com.au]

    That would be a nice start.

  • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @12:44AM (#29361941)

    why isn't microsoft doing everything possible to destroy linux? Is this a "saved apple" moment all over again??

    You seem to be making a strange equation between "maximizing profits" and "destroying Linux." The goal of most corporations, Microsoft included, is to make money. Utterly destroying a competitor which, although vocal, represents only a single-digit threat to their market share, seems like a rather irrational expenditure of resources.

    You have an awfully pessimistic world view if you equate the maximization of your own success with the downfall of all others.

  • by PAjamian (679137) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:58AM (#29362393)

    Speculation [groklaw.net] is that Microsoft only invited non practicing entities (aka "patent trolls") to this auction. It is very possible that the intent was to sell the patents to a company that could wield them against Linux companies without fear of retribution, but AST managed to step in and get the highest bid on them, and then turned around and sold them to the OIN. This is a subversive plan by MS that backfired.

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:15AM (#29362477) Homepage Journal

    When MS invested millions of dollars in Apple, Apple had billions of dollars in the bank. The investment was merely a part of a settlement between Apple and MS that ended the lawsuits Apple had against MS, and for Microsoft's part, they had to buy some Apple stock and promise to keep selling Office for a number of years.

    You're mostly correct. When MS invested in Apple, they had a little over a billion dollars in cash available. The bigger problem was that their market share and stock price had been tumbling for years (1997-1998 was a huge low point, the lowest in some 10 years). Apple wasn't in tremendous financial trouble just yet, but they were worried about the direction things were going, and (as Apple should know better than anyone) public perception of a company's performance is just as important as the real numbers.

    The $150 million was really a drop in the bucket. What was more important was that they paid Apple that via purchasing stock which they weren't allowed to sell for 3 years. As you said, they also agreed to continue writing and selling Office for the Mac. They agreed to collaborate on Java to ensure interoperability. Best of all was the agreement to make IE the default browser on the Mac! ;)

    Basically, it was Microsoft showing faith in the Apple platform that "saved Apple". Yes, they are competitors, but as Steve Jobs said, "We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose, and for Microsoft to win, Apple has to lose." Considering Microsoft is a publicly-owned company, their motives were obviously more than just being buddy-buddy with Apple. That's not really the point, however.

    This video is pretty neat [youtube.com] to watch now (some 12 years later). It's Jobs announcing the new partnership with Microsoft and the reation of the audience (imagine what it would be like now).

  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:44AM (#29362625)

    That all sounds very reasonable. And if I didn't have personal knowledge of what its like dealing with Enterprise IT providers that partner with your company, I might think what you've described is The Truth. However, I know that running Linux in a Microsoft dominated industry is troublesome. Most of my work involves Unix systems, so a Linux desktop is mostly feasible. But we have to be really careful when looking at purchasing tech unless it comes with a Windows trojan horse. No - not malware. Rather, some "appliance" is really a Windows Server or a particular pieces of hardware requires Windows to run it's management client. I have to keep a Windows partition available to VMWare because of legacy purchasing mistakes. And as much as that annoys me, it is the reality we all live in.

    Yes - there are times when Microsoft makes the better option. And there are some examples of Microsoft products in our environment that make sense. But a large percentage of Microsoft architecture that I see in my environment involves very little choice.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:02AM (#29362701)
    Linux is fine becuase it is developed globally. It is the USA with these weird software and business method patents that has the problem which affects both open and closed software. There can always be US compliant distros with the patented portions removed just as Redhat already does with mp3 software. It's just like the stupid encyption export limitations which led to companies like RSA incorporating out of the USA and moving development out of the USA.
  • by houghi (78078) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @05:09AM (#29363297)

    I can only talk about openSUSE as that is what I know best. I assume the same will be available in some sort on other distributions.

    The big difference with Add/Remove and the way Linux works is that Linux distributions work with Repositories. e.g. if I want to install slrn, I go to http://software.opensuse.org/search [opensuse.org] and do the search there and click on "One-Click Install". That will add the needed repositories if they are not yet available.

    If I want to remove a program, I go to the openSUSE version of Add/Remove, look up the program I want to remove and remove it.

    I would tink that the majority of people won't use something else, even if there are advantages, because in the first place they won't be installing and de-installing programs as much, secondly they are not botherd if stuff stays behind after an uninstal and why would they? They install a program and that works. They remove it and very often that works as well from their point of view. The program is not there anymore.

    A bit like files that are placed in e.g. ~/ on Linux after the first time a program ran. Most people will want to remove a program and not bring back the HD to the same state it was before. If that would be my goal, I would work with something like VMware.

    Obviously some people will want it that way and apparently enough to make a program for it that you use.

  • by symbolset (646467) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @06:05AM (#29363553) Homepage Journal
    Ok, to be fair it really is possible to add programs with the add/remove programs feature of Windows. It's also horrifically expensive and complex, but it is, in a limited sense, possible.
  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:09AM (#29365405) Journal

    I remember those days - Mac users would brag about "Think Different" due to not running Windows, and then run a whole suite of Microsoft products such as Office, Internet Explorer etc...

    (Although I see that now, "Think Different" is replaced with "Get an iSomething to be like everyone else"...)

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