Microsoft/Linux: Don’t Cross License with Us?

Microsoft/Linux: Don’t Cross License with Us?

Last week saw the purchase, by OIN, of a portfolio of patents which ultimately originated from MicrosoftOIN has alleged that Microsoft had described this portfolio as relating to Linux.   Red Hat has speculated that Microsoft auctioned these patents off in the hope of them being picked up by a patent troll and used ‘offensively’ against Linux (which I take to mean ultimately by way of litigation).

Without being a potential bidder I can’t say whether or not any of this speculation is true, but what if it is?

First, if this speculation is true, it means that Microsoft believed that the patents would be of value in litigation against Linux.  By selling the patents it therefore consciously decided not to litigate over them itself.

Second, what is the impact of this sale on manufacturers of Linux based devices who are entering cross-licensing arrangements with Microsoft?  What is the value of a cross licensing deal intended to protect against Linux related patents if the very patents you want to license are, will be, or have been, sold off to third parties?

Is Microsoft undermining its patent cross licensing push?


7 Responses to “Microsoft/Linux: Don’t Cross License with Us?”

  1. 1 Paul Wayper 21 September 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Not at all.

    These days, Microsoft is now trying to look like it’s happy to work with Linux and the rest of the computer industry. It’s releasing drivers to the Linux Kernel, it’s opening up new open source initiatives, it’s donating computer time and developer access to SaMBa and other organisations, it’s working on ODF compatibility, and it’s trying to look like it doesn’t threaten anyone with patents. The backlash over the TomTom patent, and i4i’s successful suits against it, have shown that pushing the patent line turns into negative publicity really quickly.

    But, fundamentally, at the executive level Microsoft still has the attitude that it should be the only player in town. So it’s keeping its patent holdings, its kernel contributions have been left to stagnate, CodePlex is just another big “one way with Microsoft” collector, and it’s trying to find ways to creatively break ODF compatibility. Having other companies bring up patent suits against big Linux companies suits Microsoft perfectly – it keeps its hands clean while being able to still push the “if only they’d gone with Microsoft all the IP licensing would be sorted out” line. And Microsoft do realise that Groklaw and others will scrutinise any new patent suit against Linux for any possible connection with Microsoft.

    So Microsoft sells off a few minor patents that it thinks will threaten Linux but aren’t its big guns. It keeps its hands clear by selling them to a neutral third party and tries to keep the OIN out of it by having them be not invited to the sale. IT all goes a little bit sour, because OIN does get the patents, but that’s fine, since they’re not actually very important to its’ patent claims over Linux – whatever they are.

    Put it this way: when the Mafia boss is threatening to muscle in on your business and – just by chance – some random thugs beat you up in the street, you don’t put that down to coincidence…

    I don’t think that it all went the way Microsoft had hoped, but then it was pretty stupid of it to declare that they weren’t actually very useful to attack Linux in the first place. In this way Microsoft is actually in a bit of a quandry, as I see it – it can’t use the patents to attack Linux directly, but it can’t sell them off without implying that they’re not useful for attacking Linux. A nice Catch-22.

    Have fun,


  2. 2 Badger 22 September 2009 at 2:02 am

    I think MSFT can not be trusted, as much as I try…I just can;t bring myself to the point of trusting them. Their manipulation of the educational system, government officials and ruling parties. Cut throat vicious attacks. Even the way the ‘*Gates’ foundation operates is vile in quite a few areas and situations.

    I think the GNU community better gird its loins as there could be a large and complex battle in the very, very near future. Windows 7 isn’t what the marketers hoped for just like Vista wasn’t. If the adoption and sales don’t meet the hype and expectations, look out.

  3. 3 Jose_X 22 September 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Yes, Microsoft is a master of deception and milking loopholes. At some point in time, I would not be surprised to find out that they have no Linux relevant patents even while they wrap up hundreds of Linux patent protection deals per year. This can certainly happen if “partners” don’t ask to see the patents and the lines of code that infringe?

    “Oh, we offer blanket coverage.”

    But is there anything under the blanket!

  4. 4 Fred 9 October 2009 at 2:39 pm

    “Is Microsoft undermining its patent cross licensing push?”

    If I was Novel right now I’d be looking for a change of underwear. By this Microsoft has tipped its hand; undoubtedly the cross licensing deal says something like “we won’t sue your customers”, but leaves out “we’ll sell the patents to trolls and let them sue your customers”.

    When you can’t compete on price or quality, duplicity wins. And to the dupes who get into bed with the Redmond behemoth I say “hurts, don’t it?”

  1. 1 Microsoft/Linux: Don't Cross License with Us? « Brendan Scott's Weblog | Linux Affinity Trackback on 21 September 2009 at 11:47 pm
  2. 2 Roy Schestowitz (schestowitz) 's status on Tuesday, 22-Sep-09 09:53:41 UTC - Trackback on 22 September 2009 at 7:53 pm
  3. 3 If Vista 7 is as Good as Microsoft Says, Then Why is Microsoft Actively Attacking GNU/Linux? | Boycott Novell Trackback on 22 September 2009 at 10:47 pm

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