Open Source to Purchase 22 Patents from Microsoft to Defend Linux

Open Source lovers will do anything to save Linux’s future. Though Microsoft claims themselves to be Open Source friendly, proof being their 20k lines of code drop for Linux Kernel a month ago, but still it was watched closely- Why Microsoft gave Open Source Linux Kernel Drop.

People are not convinced with what Microsoft does. A group of Linux players will purchase patents formerly held by Microsoft in an effort to defend distributors of the open-source OS against the ongoing threat of patent litigation from the software giant, this tuesday.

The group is called Open Invention Network (OIN). The Group includes members like IBM, Red Hat, Sony, NEC, Novell and Phillips. OIN plans to buy set of 22 patents once held by Microsoft from Allied Security Trust, (AST). Why? These patents are said to pertain to technologies found in Linux.

AST is a company established to help purchase of patents to protect interested parties from patent litigation. Its members include HP, IBM and Verizon.

OIN is expected to release a statement and more details about the purchase Tuesday afternoon

Facts

Microsoft has been quietly striking deals with companies that distribute Linux or components of it to license technology in the OS for which Microsoft claims to hold patents. Microsoft executives have said that Linux violates more than 235 patents the company holds. Though open-source proponents have disagreed on the number.

Microsoft usually strikes patent deals with companies before bringing cases to court, but a case earlier this year against GPS navigation device vendor TomTom, which uses Linux in its devices, was a notable exception. TomTom eventually agreed to pay Microsoft to settle the case, which Microsoft insisted was a mere patent disagreement rather than an attack against Linux.

“If they get access to these [patents] they would then go about suing, which creates a perceptual issue around Linux that’s highly inaccurate. It represents a potential source of antagonism and source of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) for the community.”

Not all Linux and open-source proponents felt the same way about it, however, though most open-source companies — which are much smaller players than Microsoft — would rather pay the proprietary software company to protect themselves against litigation than try to fight its deep pockets in court.

“With the current patent system in place, it is to be expected that various parties with competing interests will continue to acquire patents and patent portfolios for defensive purposes, if nothing else,” said Stephen O’Grady, an analyst with Red Monk.

However, if the group is going through the trouble to acquire them, experts say,  presumably they at least believe they will be useful to Linux, either offensively or defensively.

source: Osnews, Computerworld

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