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.

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