Microsoft's other Linux patent deals

It looks like the Novell Patent deal isn’t the only one Microsoft is pursuing. From a recent CBR post:

While Microsoft’s patent covenant deal with Novell has grabbed all the headlines, it is not the (only) patent deal Microsoft has done recently regarding Linux and open source software.

Back in March in struck a patent deal with Fuji Xerox, while over night it announced a broad patent deal with Samsung.

What have these deals got to do with Linux? A lot, according to Microsoft’s representation of the terms.

Neither of which actually state that Linux contains Microsoft’s intellectual property, but they continue to associate the open source operating system with Microsoft’s intellectual property.

It’s a fair assumption that maintaining the association is the main reason for mentioning Linux in the announcements, given that must be countless other technologies involved that do not get a specific mention.

Only Microsoft and Samsung/Fuji Xerox know how much the deals actually relate to Linux.

So what is going on here? Given the vague nature of the patent sharing agreements it remains to be seen, but the argument put forward by Matt Asay recently following a conversation with Mark Shuttleworth certainly makes a lot of sense:

“Microsoft’s patent game is designed to force open source to compete on its terms. Mark made a hugely salient point on this: Microsoft has been a disruptive force in the software industry by building complex software and essentially giving it away for peanuts.

In turn, it is being challenged by open source, which is free. The difference, as Mark said, between $0.00 and $0.01 is huge. And that difference is not flattering to Microsoft, even despite its lower price points than its fellow proprietary competitors.

The assertion is that Microsoft is attempting to basically levy a tax on Open Source software. It does seems odd the Linux is specifically called out, while no other technologies are. As the article indicates though, only Microsoft and Samsung/Fuji Xerox know how much the deals actually relate to Linux. These deals certainly snuck under the radar when compared to the Novell deal, but neither of the other companies involved here are “Open Source” companies and deals like this in the industry are quite common. Where Microsoft is planning to go with these deals is anyones guess, but it’s certainly something worth keeping an eye on. I’d definitely agree with the general consensus that Microsoft is looking to create doubt and not looking to actually sue anyone. We’ll see.

–jeremy

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