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Linspire Signs Patent Pact With MS 386

Posted by kdawson
from the devil's-sleeping-around dept.
RLiegh sends us to an AP article reporting that Linspire has signed a patent deal with Microsoft. The company, which started out life as "Lindows," joins a growing list of patent agreements reached between Microsoft and vendors. Linspire will be granted a license to use True Type Fonts and "various code" that would allow for Linspire users to use voice on Windows Live Messenger as well as the usual patent protection for Linspire's customers. In return, among other things, Linspire will make Microsoft's search engine the default search on PCs shipped with their OS. Kevin Carmony, the CEO for Linspire, approached Microsoft a year and a half ago, according to the article.
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Linspire Signs Patent Pact With MS

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  • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:40AM (#19503729)
    ...continues to hang itself. At least we still have Debian. Even though its derivatives will probably all sell out.
  • by Puls4r (724907) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:44AM (#19503761)
    This is how Microsoft has always done business. From Internet Explorer to Media Player on down the list, bundling the software or having it as a "default" is a very very powerful tool.

    For instance, most companies lock down their computers. I can't even install quick time on ours - which means that unless it works with windows media, I don't visit the website. Many websites know that - so they don't use Quicktime formats. It's a neverending circle.

    If I were google, I'd be thinking about doing the same thing in reverse. Get your office suite working and then begin package it free on every computer manufacturer that you can negotiate with.
  • by b1ufox (987621) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:46AM (#19503789) Homepage Journal
    What are linux big shots waiting for now?

    Red Hat , Ubuntu please do the rest of the honours. I have no freaking idea what MS has in his pocket that all these companies have agreed to MS terms of so called *patent* protection.Hell yes, i am paranoid but that so only because MS is involved in all of these pacts, i am not at all comfortable taking the bullshit.

    Why is Linux community silent on a whole? Only thing they can do is host a site called as showusthecode.com and challenging Mr Balmer. And MS responded by making one more Linux company its ally. Now i am really getting worried about my submitted code as GPL. Is this just me or something is really cooking up at Redmond?

  • by denominateur (194939) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:50AM (#19503839) Homepage
    The problem is that a lot of the software we use on a daily basis is largely copyrighted by these businesses in addition to the thousands of developers that have contributed code. Most of the nuts and bolts of a linux distro, including a lot of the kernel, came from redhat developers. As for the desktop, GNOME has a lot of contributions from Novell programmers. KDE is almost entirely Trolltech's child and so on. So in case any patent litigator has valid (in legal terms, we all know how much we agree with software patents) claims in any of these pieces of software, the community at large will be forced to rewrite large portions unless these copyright owners transfer everything to GPL3.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:55AM (#19503877)
    Linspire, Xandros? These distros are going to find themselves unable to distribute GPL3 licensed software under the terms of their deals with Microsoft. Who cares?
  • it is a good thing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:56AM (#19503885)
    This will just separate the wheat from the chaff. when it is all over the GNU/Linux community will be stronger and those that sign on with microsoft will have lost the respect and be shunned by the majority of the Linux community (both developers & users)...
  • by SkunkPussy (85271) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:09AM (#19503997) Journal
    It seems like M$ are trying to get as many of these agreements out as possible before GPLv3 comes out, although I imagine they will have learnt from the Novell deal.
  • Why is Linux community silent on a whole?

    Good god, man! Are you serious? The Linux community isn't silent about anything. Novell has experienced a backlash, and the CEO had to go so far as to address it publicly. That's not insignificant, in my mind.

    Now i am really getting worried about my submitted code as GPL. Is this just me or something is really cooking up at Redmond?

    I'm struggling with that, too. Trying to figure out how serious a concern this is. My one solace at the moment is that what we've really got is Microsoft managing to rope Novell, and then two bit players in the game. Xandros and Linspire? Microsoft isn't exactly taking down the titans of the Linux world.

    They did get Novell, and I agree that's not small potatoes - but the general opinion really seems to be that as well as getting hosed, Novell also got conned by the boys from Redmond. In the fallout - RedHat specifically rebuffed Microsoft's public offer.

    Many people have compared this to the SCO fud-fest that got going - and that actually seems to be a more apt analogy the further we go. A couple of small-frys have caved in -- in their own defence, they're not equipped for a battle with Microsoft, and we must assume these are businessmen and not fanboys.

    I expect Microsoft will continue to pick off the small distros, trying to build some PR momentum before training their guns on the larger players in the Linux industry. Not dissimilar to SCO's approach.

    What happens then, is what tells us what's really going on here...

  • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:34AM (#19504321) Journal
    They know they cannot fight against the movement of open/free software, but they sure can influence companies.

    YESSSS! Give that customer another mod point.

    But rather than trying to "divide and conquer" the FOSS community, I'd suggest it's a new chapter in Microsoft's "embrace, extend, extinguish" strategy. Getting these companies to sign agreements covers the "embrace" part. The "extend" part is, perhaps, the will-not-sue covenant: it offers an extra warm/fuzzy feeling for the customer.

    I'm very curious what will happen with these agreements with Novell, Xandros and now Linspire when gpl v3 arrives.

    Maybe this is the "extinguish" part. AFAIK, the companies who have signed the agreements could no longer include updated versions of code that has gone to GPL3. So ... either they go out of business or they fork their code. (Hmmm, the latter actually does seem like "divide and conquer" after all.)
  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:50AM (#19504545) Homepage
    Microsoft are not the biggest worry when it comes to patents...
    Sure they will talk and talk, but they wont actually do anything. They have as much to lose from ridiculous software patents as anyone else. If microsoft start suing people over patents, then a large number of companies will start suing them back, including big companies like ibm and sun, which could have significant impact upon microsoft's products.

    The biggest risk, comes from the small companies who have a few patents but no products. They have nothing to lose, you cant sue them because they dont have any products anyway, their entire business is litigation.
  • by sjaaklaan.com (1109147) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:54AM (#19504593) Homepage
    I think a few months back Ubuntu announced they would work together with Linspire on technology and new distributions...
  • by Stocktonian (844758) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:59AM (#19504663) Homepage

    In return, among other things, Linspire will make Microsoft's search engine the default search on PCs shipped with their OS.


    As someone who sells Linux ,and only Linux, pre-installed on PCs and laptops across Europe I'm disappointed in this. My company is a Linspire reseller and system builder and we've been awaiting the new Linspire 6.0 for a few months now with baited breath. Linspire 5.0 doesn't work on most of our hardware so we're not selling it at the moment and news like this makes me want to drop it all together.

    It'll be a cold day in h*ll before I ship a PC with Microsoft Search as the default.
    ---
    http://www.xephi.co.uk/ [xephi.co.uk] for Linux without MS Search
  • by denominateur (194939) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:03AM (#19504733) Homepage
    I realise that, I was specifically referring to section 11 of the current draft. If the Novell/Linspire/Xandros deals include licenses to Microsoft patents, relicensing to GPL3 will extend that patent license downstream to all users of said software, thereby protecting them from any patent claims that Microsoft makes. Of course the enforcability of this third-party downstream patent claim protection is something that will be tested in court. Of course I'm not trained in the legal profession and I'm just trying to understand this whole conundrum for myself. Since the Novell deal essentially grants Novell a license to sublicense Microsoft patents to its users, the following clause will extend this sublicensing to all users of Novell's contributions, irrespective of their status as direct Novell customers.

    From the current GPL3 draft, section 11:
    A contributor's "essential patent claims" are all patent claims owned or controlled by the contributor, whether already acquired or hereafter acquired, that would be infringed by some manner, permitted by this License, of making, using, or selling its contributor version, but do not include claims that would be infringed only as a consequence of further modification of the contributor version. For purposes of this definition, "control" includes the right to grant patent sublicenses in a manner consistent with the requirements of this License.

    Each contributor grants you a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free patent license under the contributor's essential patent claims, to make, use, sell, offer for sale, import and otherwise run, modify and propagate the contents of its contributor version.
  • by mythz (857024) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:17AM (#19504977)

    However, it could be worse, MS could just have ignored all these companies and pushed MS Linux or even a Linux Subsystem for NT as an alternative for business and left every Linux distributor to fend for themselves in the commericial market. This would be worse...
    MS Creating a Linux Distro would be a great thing for Linux/Open Source. Apart from the positive PR from MS endorsing Linux as a true alternative platform. Any technically superior enhancements they develop would be available to all other Distros.
    Open source should not be about stopping large companies from making money. If they release the changes back into the community then I don't mind if MS becomes a successfull Linux vendor.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:27AM (#19505095) Journal
    The GPL, including version 3, is about being free to make choices for yourself, but not for other people.
  • That's really funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kimvette (919543) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:29AM (#19505113) Homepage Journal
    It's really funny that Microsoft is "letting" Linspire use Truetype, especially considering that:

        - Truetype is an APPLE innovation
        - Truetype was developed over 20 years ago, so any patents pertaining to such have long run out. Even if there were valid claims, APPLE would have to be the one to pursue the claims. Somehow I cannot see Apple doing this.
        - Fonts aren't copyrightable, based on numerous court precedents (note: a font is distinct from a typeface: a font is a typeface with a style, weight, size applied)

    A typeface dscriptor (a .ttf file) may be coprightable ( http://nwalsh.com/comp.fonts/FAQ/cf_13.htm [nwalsh.com] ) however that is easily resolved: ttf2afm $foo $bar && afm2ttf $bar $zag. Granted, that is a sleezy way to work around the issue, but the end result is likely not going to be an identical binary file. That would be a slightly interesting test case. Considering that the outline itself is not copyrightable but the binary representation of it is, I wonder if such a tactic is clear of infringement in a court of law? I'm sure the big business would win, but it's not outside feasibility for that to be considered not infringing since typefaces are an odd creative work in terms of copyright.

    So, licensing truetype fonts to Linux distributions? Ha. I hope these linux vendors are not paying so much as a dime for these "agreements"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:31AM (#19505139)
    MS Creating a Linux Distro would be a great thing for Linux/Open Source. Apart from the positive PR from MS endorsing Linux as a true alternative platform. Any technically superior enhancements they develop would be available to all other Distros.

    Yes! That would be great, but if they distribute Linux at all, the license terms require them to give away all of the software patents that they claim it infringes. Because they want to use software patents as a lever to kill off use of Linux within businesses (except for businesses paying the required protection money), Microsoft cannot afford to distribute Linux - ever.
  • by Tony (765) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:43AM (#19505329) Journal
    This isn't about shutting down these companies. This is about making Linux unfree.

    See, right now, you have the freedom to download and install Linux on as many machines as you desire. Imagine a corporation with thousands of computers. Imagine the license fee savings alone, let alone the freedom of modifying the system to fit your business model, rather than fitting your business model to your software. Right now nobody can tell you that you must purchase a per-seat license, and you don't have the right to make modifications, or distribute those modifications.

    Microsoft is attempting to change all that. They are trying to put the cloud of patent litigation over every "unauthorized" installation of Linux. They are trying to give the appearance that they are the ultimate arbiters of who can and cannot use Linux. They are giving veiled threats: "It'd be a shame if somethin' bad were to happen to your network infrastructure. A damn dirty shame."

    If Microsoft were simply to create an MS-Linux, they would be forced by the licenses to release their modifications. They would have to abide by the various licenses. Now, granted, they could make changes to the X Windows System, or Apache, or Perl, and not release those modifications back to the community, but they would then have to suffer the non-standard nature of their distro. But, MS-Linux would be an overall win for Linux, and for free software.

    And, I believe, for Microsoft.

    The path they have chosen is the path of pain. It will harm everyone involved, and many not currently involved. All of use will suffer. Right now, Microsoft is trying to keep their name in the news, with the appearance that they own Linux. I'm not sure about the timing, but I bet it has to do with corporate license renewals, especially concerning Vista. I would bet their salesmen are able to point at the news and say, "See that? We own Linux, too. Now how about signing that license renewal? We'll give you a great deal. We'll throw in patent indemnity for Linux, for a modest fee."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:44AM (#19505333)
    It may well be "the fastest selling OS of all time", but that's certainly not because people *want* Vista.

    It's because Windows is still largely bundled on every new PC, and PC sales are reaching record highs. It's not that hard to figure out.

    On the other hand, OEMs like HP, IBM and Dell are still shipping PCs with Windows XP on them due to customer demand. Imagine that...customers *demanding* a downgraded product.

    Yeah, there's nothing wrong with Vista. Keep telling yourself that.

  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @11:23AM (#19505905)

    RMS, why do you hate Linux so much?
    That is not what is happening. Linux is just one kernel that happened to fit with the GNU userland. Before that, you had to use a BSD kernel to get a GNU system up and running (and almost nobody did, because BSD comes with its own userland stuff which is also Free Software. Who but an enthusiast with a bee in their bonnet is going to buy a complete car, then rip out just the engine and transplant it to an existing chassis?) You can also run GNU with a Solaris kernel. Come to think of it, quite a lot of OpenSolaris seems to be GNU alternatives to Sun's proprietary userland tools. GNU/Solaris may well be the Open Source OS of the future.

    None of which is to denigrate the Linux people in any way. They've done a great job in raising the profile of Open Source / Free Software (and they are the same thing) to the point where an entrenched monopoly is running scared.

    As for Hurd, well, that failed simply because it's a microkernel and microkernels plain don't work. Hurd is designed around the idea of building fences where they look pretty, irrespective of how much traffic may have to pass through them. Linux is designed around the idea of building fences where as little traffic as possible ever has to pass through them, no matter how ugly it may look to an outsider with no understanding of what those fences are there to do. The existence of layers is natural, but the boundaries between them are determined by cold, hard mathematics. Attempting to adjust those boundaries will ultimately be futile.
  • by zarlino (985890) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @11:34AM (#19506139) Homepage
    Ubuntu and Linspire made a deal [ubuntu.com] to bring Click and Run technology to Ubuntu. How this patent pact with Microsoft affects the relationship between Ubuntu and Linspire?
  • by Locutus (9039) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @01:48PM (#19508307)
    I believe it was also about Linspire getting continued access to MS codecs. Linspire, IIRC, was/is the only distro which ships with full multimedia access/enabled for US users. They got that from the settlement to change their name from Lindows to Linspire, along with a bunch of cash.

    It appears that rights to use MS codecs was not unlimited and Linspire wanted to continue with that 'feature' of their distro. My guess is that alot of the motives behind this was the extension of the licensing for those codecs. Like in the Novell deal, Microsoft probably 'requires' the fake IP protection crap or else any other deal would fail or cost too much. It's typically how they operate.

    How this will impact the Click-n-Run deal with Ubuntu will be something to look at since I'm sure Microsoft would not want Linspire to just hand out those codecs to just anybody.

    I will warn others to not believe this is about Microsoft collecting fees from Linux. Microsoft runs by Windows and without Windows, they fall. Therefore, all this IP licensing stuff is about killing Linux or killing corporate use of Linux one way or another. They've shown before that they're willing to spend billions just to protect the Windows monopoly/gravy-train and Linux is a threat. IMO.

    LoB
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @02:37PM (#19509049)
    It is now crystal clear that Microsoft is pursuing a BRILLIANT divide-and-conquer strategy: Offer the COMMERCIAL GNU/Linux software vendors a Hobson's choice - cater to your insatiable, vocal shareholders and your angst-riven but highly profitable Enterprise customers or else support the anti-Microsoft jihad. The choices are currently mutually exclusive.

    We know that shareholders generally demand their companies make ever-increasing profits in order to justify the shareholders' investments and the risks they entail.

    We know that many/most Enterprise customers who have mixed (e.g., Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux, UNIX) IT environments really DO need/want BOTH software interoperability and to sleep well at night without having to worry about copyright/patent lawsuits, et al - whether those lawsuits are bogus or not.

    Now, imagine YOU are the CEO of a commercial GNU/Linux software vendor. Suppose YOUR company wasn't currently very profitable (if profitable at all!) selling GNU/Linux software and related services in a HIGHLY COMPETITIVE, Microsoft-dominated software market. Furthermore, suppose you KNEW Microsoft was already doling out MILLIONS to companies that are eager and willing to make what seems like an EASY business decision? Finally, suppose you were earning a "nice living" as a CEO and really NEEDED/WANTED to keep your job.

    Given all of those circumstances, what would YOU do?

    IF you were SMART you too would quickly grab Microsoft's filthy lucre and then swear up and down in a loud and clear voice that there is NO WAY in Hades that the GNU/Linux software you are peddling and supporting infringes on ANY of Microsoft's patents. No way whatsoever!

    IF you were SMART...and if you also wanted to keep your Enterprise customers, your Board of Directors and your company's shareholders happy and off your freakin' back!

    NOW you know WHY Novell, Xandros and Linspire (and more to come, I'm sure) are "dancing with the devil". It's called "life in the REAL world". So deal with it and move on.

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