Microsoft promises to defend-not attack-Linux with its 60,000 patents

  • Microsoft promises to defend-not attack-Linux with its 60,000 patents

Microsoft promises to defend-not attack-Linux with its 60,000 patents

According to ZDNet, Microsoft's entire patent portfolio is on offer with the legacy exception of its Windows and desktop application code.

Microsoft announced Wednesday, October 10 (October 11 Manila time) it had joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent group that works to protect Linux from patent suits.

But on Wednesday, Microsoft said the company was adding its own technology portfolio to OIN's patent defense pool, which now shields over 2,650 companies. "Through its participation in OIN, Microsoft is explicitly acknowledging the importance of open source software to its future growth", said Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network.

Andersen's mention of "friction" is putting it lightly. Those patents can now no longer be used as a threat against Linux and other open-source projects, but instead are provided royalty-free to any company, institution, or individual which in turn agrees not to assert its own patents against what the OIN terms the 'Linux System'. This can be done by supporting grassroots efforts like the FSF's End Software Patents campaign, or by Microsoft directly urging the US Congress to pass legislation excluding software from the effects of patents, or both. This resulted in frequent clashes with the Android community and others but Microsoft is intent on leaving that behind. In 2016, the company even became a member of the Linux Foundation. "We hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers", he added. Members of OIN get access to the OIN's roster of patents and cross-licenses among the licensees of OIN without needing to pay royalties.

Joining OIN reflects Microsoft's patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company's views on Linux and open source more generally.