Enterprise Linux Log

Feb 25 2010   4:51PM GMT

Microsoft includes Linux patents in licensing deal with Amazon

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

So, Microsoft again is showing the world that it “owns” Linux. At least that’s how it seems to anyone looking at the details of the recent cross-licensing patent deal that Amazon and Microsoft have entered.

According to Microsoft’s press release:

The agreement provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio and covers a broad range of products and technology, including coverage for Amazon’s popular e-reading device, Kindle™, which employs both open source and Amazon’s proprietary software components, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers.

You probably noticed the words “open source” and “Linux” in there. So, while President of the Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin, has essentially said in his blog “it’s interesting, but don’t fret,” others are much more hot under the collar.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, self-described “Cyber Cynic,” came out swinging, pointing out that “Microsoft has never actually been able to prove that its patents cover anything to do with Linux,” calling Amazon a “fool company,” for buying the claims (with cash), and signing the agreement. Vaughan-Nichols received over 50 comments to his blog post, which ranged from attacks on his journalistic cred to notes declaring the discontinued use of Amazon’s services.

On Twitter, a few people posted some comments about their thoughts on the deal. Rodger Cooley said, “#Microsoft doing the “patent violation” #FUD again. When will they furnish proof?” And Almond Mendoza said “Damn, Amazon is stupid. They pay Microsoft for the Linux they used. US has a stupid patent system.”

Meanwhile, Matt Asay has urged Microsoft to sue Google. He points out that “if anyone should be paying Microsoft for Linux, and if anyone has everything to lose from a lawsuit, it’s Google.”

Ok, so Zemlin says it’s unusual behavior to disclose any of the information involved in a cross-patent deal but it’s just another deal; Vaughan-Nichols points out that Microsoft doesn’t have any proof of their claims to Linux, and is outraged that they’re parading this tired idea around again; and Asay essentially tells Microsoft to get off the pot and do something already, or drop it.

What do you think? Is this another wound to Linux, Microsoft’s way of building up a larger case over time by assembling more and more patent deals and claims to back up their ownership of technologies involved in Linux? Will Linux die the death of 1,000 cuts? Should the Linux faithful just ignore this and get back to coding, like Zemlin suggests?

I personally find it curious that Microsoft would specify the Linux and open source portions of the agreement in their press release. It was certainly a jab at Linux. But what it means in the big picture, I don’t know. Without any real legs to stand on, it just makes Microsoft the Darth Vader of IT, and further strengthens the open source community’s resolve to fight them. If the Linux troops were feeling uninspired, this should get them motivated.

4  Comments on this Post

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  • Khawarnehal
    My opinion and understanding so far. M$ is taking what seems like a swipe at Linux to get them to say something. When the Linux people say something ordinary folks listen. This because Linux based people are usually those who get results in the real world IT. Example Google, amazon, and millions more. When M$ says something people have understood the hype value of it. So without Linux no more M$ marketing. The IT Departments have moved on to larger things like ERP, CRM, BI, SCM and... Mostly LAMP based and the clients could care less about this M$ vs Linux vs Mac hoopla. Folks who still debate the issue seem oblivious to the fact that Linux is now 18 years old. Nothing new. Such old technologies are mature and are doing their job and everyone who is serious should already know about it. If they still don't know, then they do not need to be told. Just give such people a PCLOS Live CD and tell them to DIY if they want to learn. M$ messed up big time with GPL v3 after the novell deal. They just seem like they have a death wish as a company. The opensource group is now too large to be taken on without suffering deadly blows. A few more such stupid swipes and maybe that shall be the end of M$ for good. Then all of it shall end up in opensource may be GPL v 4.0 may need to be developed to incorporate the resulting legalese. Regards, Khawar Nehal khawar.nehal@gmail.com http://atrc.net.pk
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  • Khawarnehal
    P.S. M$ is a private company which shall be dead as soon as it runs out of money. Linux is a "no profit or revenue needed" organization. Any business person can figure out which organization has better chances of survival. Both are copyrighted. Linux is not BSD. M$ uses BSD code since 1983 but cannot touch Linux code. OS people know that the applications are the deciding factor. And in applications the usefulness and quality is the deciding factor. Looking at the steady growth of opensource apps, how can any serious business person predict that M$ code shall not become opensource or something like emulated by WINE stuff in the future. Look at what happened to the DOS box. FreeDOS exists. You cannot get M$ to support MSDOS but you can get your old FoxPro app to run in FreeDOS. Wake up people. This is a no brainer based on economics and learn your history lesson. Quotation from history Matthew J. Szulik, chair, CEO and president of Red Hat, the leading provider of Linux and open source technology, outlined the challenges and opportunities faced by the movement in the opening plenary session of the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science & Technology. Some 250 people filled the auditorium in Charlotte , North Carolina , for the presentation. Szulik began by showing a promotional video whose theme was that despite ignorance, ridicule and opposition, “truth happens.” It quoted Mohandas K. Gandhi as saying, “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” Szulik said the video captures the spirit of Red Hat. He complimented ASIS&T for setting up wikis and blogs for the Annual Meeting. He noted that in 1997 Red Hat was a magazine company.
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  • Tuomoks
    I don't think Microsoft has "Linux patents" - as far as I know nothing in Linux, the kernel, is patented? Or at least not yet challenged - it would be interesting because after 40+ years writing / designing software on all levels I still have to see something new, i.e. patentable, the bits still behave same way as when I started! Besides - all "open source" code is copyrighted, some has a license allowing it to be used without any restrictions, some has more strict licenses but saying a "piece of code" is patented is very weird. It's like saying I could patent the way you breath? Or maybe how you write from left to right? On the other hand, MS, Amazon, etc have some real patents (as seen by current laws) and the patent deals, as any other business deals, have always been very common just to avoid later problems - nothing new there. And, of course, everyone just dreams to have such deal with IBM - their patent portfolio is unbeatable today.
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  • Egads
    MS is simply displaying its usual modus operandi, i.e., co-opt (O.K., steal) intellectual property until the courts impel a halt. Then treat the $Millions or $Billions in fines as what they are, a mere 'cost of business'....
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