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IO Data Licenses Microsoft's "Linux Patents" 197

Posted by kdawson
from the bigger-than-we-are dept.
eldavojohn writes "The Japanese computer manuracturer IO Data is the latest in line to license Microsoft's so-called 'Linux patents,' following the likes of Novell, Samsung, and Amazon. Yes, even the press releases use the word 'Linux' to describe these patents. From the press release: 'Specifically, the patent covenants apply to I-O Data's network-attached storage devices and its routers, which run Linux. Although the details of the agreement have not been disclosed, the parties indicated that Microsoft is being compensated by I-O Data.'"
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IO Data Licenses Microsoft's "Linux Patents"

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  • North Korea (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:33PM (#31360712) Homepage

    I bet Kim Jung Il didn't license those "Linux patents" from Microsoft when he rolled out Red Star. Is that grounds for attacking North Korea?

    • by Ltap (1572175) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:38PM (#31360766) Homepage
      Maybe it's a job for the Microsoft ninjas.
      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        Maybe it's a job for the Microsoft ninjas.

        Now there's a movie I'd pay to watch. I wonder what Steven Segal is doing this year...

      • Re:North Korea (Score:4, Informative)

        by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:53PM (#31360968) Journal

        From looking at their website, you would be led to believe that all they do is sell hard drives to consumers and set top boxes to cable companies. So, if you refuse to buy external hard drives with the model numbers:

        HDC-UXW250, HDC-UXW320, HDC-UXW400, HDC-UXW500, HDL-GXW250, HDL-GXW320, HDL-GXW400, HDL-GXW500

        That should allow you to reward them appropriately.

        Is there anything else they sell? From reading their presidents statement, they seem to go in and out of the business of making X over and over again and partner up with a series of corporate boyfriends because they don't have the talent to make things in house. Not someone whose institution I'd want to fund...

        • by Kagato (116051)

          They sell a ton of stuff... in japan. The US operations closed for the most part.

      • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday March 04, 2010 @03:02PM (#31361078) Journal

        You actually recommend using more than one ninja? Do you not understand the Inverse Ninja Law? [wikipedia.org] It's pretty simple. Watch any martial arts film. A single ninja, by himself, will kick the ass of anyone less than Chuck Norris. However, a group of ninjas will always be defeated. There is a conservation of Ninjutsu at work, the more ninjas, the less power each of them have. If you want the job done right, send only one ninja.

  • Free money. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spewns (1599743) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:35PM (#31360734)
    I wish I could run a scam as good as Microsoft's.
  • Soprano style (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neil Watson (60859) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:36PM (#31360748) Homepage

    I might be holding a club behind my back. Should I choose to begin swinging this club, which I may or may not have, I can guarantee that I will not strike you with it, for a small fee.

    • Re:Soprano style (Score:5, Insightful)

      by freedumb2000 (966222) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:49PM (#31360904)
      I think that is called "racketeering".
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pooh666 (624584)
      Sounds cute, but straight to jail for extortion. The threat with a weapon, that you may or may not have wouldn't change that it is still a physical threat, not legal in Canada at least. However, we are just people, not super entities like corporations that now even get their own say legally in the US. It seems they can do the above with no issues.
      • by blair1q (305137)

        Extortion isn't about physical threats, it's about entitlement to the money for doing or not doing the act.

        If you commit a crime, and I say "pay me or I'll call the cops," and you pay me (actually getting the money is necessary here), then I have committed extortion.

        I'm not entitled to the money, so I'm extorting you. No physical threat required.

        Microsoft, however, owns the patents and is entitled to the money, so when it says "pay me or I'll tell the courts you're using my patents", it's perfectly legal,

        • Re:Soprano style (Score:4, Informative)

          by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @03:16PM (#31361222) Journal

          Microsoft may or may not be entitled to the money. If they hold the patents, and are NOT enforcing the patents nor disclosing the infringing products, even though it has all the evidence it needs (source code to all things OSS), then it is "Extorting" because it is NOT entitled to the money.

          It would be, if it disclosed what products were in fact infringing, and took remedial action. Because it hasn't it is only making veiled threats.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

            How the hell do you know Microsoft hasn't disclosed the patents to the hardware manufacturers? Depending on what the patents cover, that's perfectly reasonable. They don't need to disclose them to YOU, YOU don't manufacture hardware and use software that potentially infringes on their patents. Since they are hammering out licensing terms, it seems infinitely more likely that they have disclosed the patents to IO Data, else why would IO Data bother? "Prove it or get out of my face" works extremely well i

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hduff (570443)

            Microsoft may or may not be entitled to the money. If they hold the patents, and are NOT enforcing the patents nor disclosing the infringing products, even though it has all the evidence it needs (source code to all things OSS), then it is "Extorting" because it is NOT entitled to the money.

            Why would this not be fraud?

        • by pooh666 (624584)
          That is right, we are talking about two crimes in that statement. Again, at least in Canada. I don't know of any law like that in the US re the threat. It is an interesting way to illustrate that people have fewer rights that corporations, esp on an international level.
        • by Shagg (99693)

          Microsoft, however, owns the patents

          Really? Which ones are they again?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Microsoft, however, owns the patents

          Which patents? By using the definite article, you were asserting that there are specific patents involved. So far, nobody including Microsoft has come up with any patent numbers.

          Without knowing what patents are allegedly being infringed, it's all FUD, and the whole thing looks uncomfortably like extortion.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sjames (1099)

          Microsoft, however, owns the patents and is entitled to the money, so when it says "pay me or I'll tell the courts you're using my patents", it's perfectly legal, provided the amount they demand is reasonably fair.

          Maybe. That's the part that makes it extortion. They haven't disclosed which patents or how they believe Linux might infringe. If they lay the patents on the table and say it infringes here, here, and here and they are correct then they are making a licensing deal (whatever we may think about patents it is legal). By keeping things secret, they are actively preventing a cure to the infringement. Arguably they should be estopped from any enforcement action as a result.

          When someone infringes your property, yo

  • Microsoft is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexborges (313924) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:42PM (#31360816)

    A mean bunch of bastards for claiming patents and not disclosing any kind of infringement. But the ones that buy into the scam, man, those are PLAIN IDIOTS.

    • Re:Microsoft is... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:46PM (#31360870) Journal

      But the ones that buy into the scam, man, those are PLAIN IDIOTS.

      They probably figured that it would cost more time and money fighting these patent claims by MS than it would licensing bogus patents. If that's true, then it is clear that our patent system ought to be done away with entirely.

      • Re:Microsoft is... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ravenscar (1662985) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @03:01PM (#31361066)
        I agree. We haven't seen just what compensation was involved. If it was slight, buying off MSFT was surely less expensive than fighting off an army of their attorneys. MSFT's strategy here seems interesting. They realize getting other companies to license their Linux patents is likely to strengthen their claim to the patents. Knowing this they pushed in that direction. They were able to get some of the early licensees to do so by offering what seemed like mutually beneficial terms (like patent sharing). My guess is that as more the terms will be similar for a while - giving MSFT a large group of patent licensees. Getting a license will then become more costly. the first group that MSFT doesn't like that also refuses to license the patents will be taken to court. MSFT will then flaunt all of the other licensees before the jury stating "Amazon, and others all recognized our patent. What makes [variable] so special?"
      • If the patents were truly bogus a company like Amazon wouldn't have licensed them. Amazon would have readily filed suit to get them invalidated.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Amazon would have readily filed suit to get them invalidated.

          Oh, you are the CEO of Amazon? Or are you just talking out your ass? If the cost of licensing is less than the cost of litigating, then licensing is the best business decision. Why do you think they'd not make the best business decision?

          If the patents were truly bogus a company like Amazon wouldn't have licensed them.

          How do we know what was really licensed? We know those patents were licensed (unless the press releases were lies, which i
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by h4rr4r (612664)

          No, then amazon would have risked their bogus one-click patent.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by shadowen1977 (903138)
        Why don't two or more companies join together in class action to fight Microsoft against this FUD??? Second, of the companies that did sign up with Microsoft before class action and before the suing companies WIN in class action, what happens to these companies that paid Microsoft for these patents? I don't think that patent system should be scrapped, but I do think that patents should be under the administrative control of the government entity, not Microsoft saying you are..... I'm sure if I had patent
      • by evilviper (135110)

        They probably figured that it would cost more time and money fighting these patent claims by MS than it would licensing bogus patents. If that's true, then it is clear that our patent system ought to be done away with entirely.

        That might be true if it was only patents. But with the RIAA going crazy with copyright infringement, and the DMCA allowing anyone to remove anything from the web, it would seems it is, instead, our legal system that must be done-away with...

        It sounds much more well thought-out and

        • It makes sense to fix or eliminate a corrupt system. Patent law is broken and often does more harm than good. The same is true of copyright law; most of the time it's used to extort instead of encourage innovation in the arts. The justice system O.T.O.H. is still somewhat useful and would be easier to fix than being unreasonable and eliminating it.

    • Well, maybe not. First off, they do get press coverage from the deal. Second, does it make Microsoft junkies and fanbois more willing to use their product (Yeah, it runs linux, but it's "Microsoft Licensed Linux"(TM))? Third and finally are they getting anything directly from MS because of it (I know TFS said that IOData was "compensating" MS, but surely MS wants them to license (so it has more power in court later to say "look, these other companies saw what we were doing is right. You were just trying
    • Yup. And with all the cross-licensing deals companies end up entering into with MS, who ends up holding all the cards? MS cross-licenses with everyone else, who don't end up cross-licensing with each other. There's an imbalance in the force... Yet another barrier of entry for companies to have to surpass to compete with the gorillas...

  • I thought the first rule of Linux Patents is you do not talk about Linux Patents.

    What happened? Did someone not bend over far enough?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:44PM (#31360846)

    I don't understand why the Linux developers are so quiet about this. Microsoft is building up a huge amount of momentum around the idea that Linux violates some arbitrary patents, and not a single Linux developer or company appears willing to call them out on it. Bizarre.

    • by dwiget001 (1073738) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:57PM (#31361026)
      Well, the momentum is in anticipation of a ruling from the Supremes (SCOTUS) "In re Bilski" related to software patents. If the ruling goes the way I think it will, business method and software patents will be decimated, the USPTO will have to revisit and probably many many such patents they have so stupidly granted.
      • by c++0xFF (1758032)

        Is there any specific reason you think that the ruling will go that way? I'm not familiar with the supreme court (it seems to me it leans slightly to the right of center, most of the time, but what do I know) and its past rulings, but I haven't seen anything that would make me think it would rule one way or the other.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by alexborges (313924)

          Its an appeal for decition already taken in the bilsky case and nobody in the legal "community" (can lawyers actually be construed as members of any community?) has come up with good arguments for it except the ones appealing.... but, it may be just that I get my news from all the wrong places.

    • by Golddess (1361003)
      Back when Microsoft first claimed that FOSS violates 235 patents [slashdot.org], they did [slashdot.org], and near as I can tell, nothing ever came of it.
    • I don't understand why the Linux developers are so quiet about this. Microsoft is building up a huge amount of momentum around the idea that Linux violates some arbitrary patents, and not a single Linux developer or company appears willing to call them out on it. Bizarre.

      Bizarre? How so? It's [joe blow Linux developer] VS. Richest company in the World's Law Team (that successfully managed to blunt a clear antitrust case by the US DOJ). You go the wherewithall to go up against them?

      • The lawyers had little to do with Bush pardoning Microsoft, giving them a slap in the wrist, instead of what Clinton's DOJ had done so well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by andydread (758754)
      Honestly? I don't think the developers really care. As long as they can bury their heads in the guts of the kernel and write code then they will probably never care. I am not even sure if they care if anyone else runs Linux. Just as long as they can write code and run it on their own PCs then that good enough. They couldn't give a crap less about the marketplace and the extortion racket that Microsoft is running. Just as long as Microsoft is not suing them then we probably won't hear a thing from them
  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@D ... com minus painte> on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:44PM (#31360852) Journal

    I-O Data released one of the industry's first Windows 7 API-based sensors, which automatically detects when a person enters or leaves an office or room.

    So basically, they are licensing Windows stuff. Nothing to see here. Also, while Novell did a patent deal wit Microsoft, it did NOT do a deal wrt linux, as there's no Microsoft code in linux (and most of us are smart enough to remove the potentially-encumbered mono-base from opensuse).

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      how did the Novell patent deal not affect Linux? color me confused. If novell creates stuff in linux that is covered under the patent agreement (as it encapsulates everything under the sun), how is that not affected?

      • Only Microsoft claimed that the deal covered Microsoft-patented junk in linux. It was a cross-licensing deal that Microsoft paid Novell almost half a billion dollars - in other words, it was pretty much Microsoft who needed patent coverage of certain Novell technologies.

      • It affects it only if MS has functionality described in their patents that non-Novell distros don't have and Novell adds that functionality to linux. Note that if non-Novell distros already implement the patented functionality, they can already be sued by MS.

        So what functionality do you believe Windows has but Linux doesn't?

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          I just wanted to pose a stupid question based on my presumptions so I could get some answers.

          I think your problem is the wording. Novell is not linux. Novell is a flavor of linux. Therefore the issue and your question are not the same.

          • No, "linux" was the correct word to use in the question, not "Novell" precisely because "Novell is a flavor of linux".

            The point is that there would have to be some Windows functionality missing in the other linux distros, or there'd be nothing Novell could add to their distro to make it more vulnerable to MS patents.

            • by poetmatt (793785)

              Well, there are things missing in other distros due to legal concerns, but otherwise I can't imagine what there would be.

        • Heck, if Novell adds patented functionality to Linux and distributes, Novell can be sued by anybody involved in Linux development for license violation. The Microsoft deal may prevent Microsoft from suing Novell over patents, but Novell (or, for that matter, anybody else) can only legally distribute Linux if it isn't in violation of unlicensed patents. The GPLv2 "freedom or death" clause makes sure of that.

    • Mono is no longer "potentially encumbered."

      At this point, the only risk with Mono is that Microsoft could fork the project into something that isn't free.

  • ...kowtow much?
    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      ...kowtow much?

      That would be a Chinese word, but still pretty funny. Well played sir.

  • I don't know that I've ever seen exactly what patents MS might have...

    About the only thing I can come up with is either FAT32 or NT filesystems, which *would* make sense in the case of IO Data.

    • "FAT32 or NT filesystems, which *would* make sense in the case of IO Data."

      Why would that make sense? If IO Data makes Network Attached Storage, wouldn't you use either something like Samba or NFS (in which case, you would probably use Ext2/3/4, or maybe XFS or ZFS), or if you are talking about a lower level device, wouldn't you be using something like iSCSI or Fiber Channel where the device just looks like a hard drive attached to the network, and the Operating System on the other computer which is using i

  • Again they still do not actually say what specific patents !

    This should be criminal, the Linux foundations should sue for libel damage.

    Fuck it, maybe we all contact companies and ask for money for breaking our imaginary patents.

    Also this company is out the USA, do they have crazy software patent laws too.

    Thank god for the EU (I never thought i'd say those words)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaHat (247651)

      I always find the 'imaginary patents' or similar lines hilarious as it assumes that Microsoft walks in and says "In this sealed envelope that you may not open or see, we have a list of patents that you are infringing on... you should license them."

      Each and every company who gets involved in such a licensing deal knows full well what they are getting into and exactly what they are licensing... and if not, they probably should fire their entire legal staff who said they should go ahead with the licensing deal

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Sheik Yerbouti (96423)

        Or they are actually taking money from Microsoft on the back end in a underhanded bid by an underhanded convicted monopolist to establish a right to licensing fees as a way to stifle competition. See for an example the Novel SUSE license certificates MS bought as a result of the Novel deal. Basically since we can't see the terms of the deals that could be happening in each and every case. Microsoft or some investment firm they have a stake in makes and investment (payoff) in these companies. They basically

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        I am sure you do but that is because you have never been in a law suit with a big company.
        They can drag on and on and cost millions of dollars. Even if you win you don't win. Microsoft will never go after IBM because IBM has enough patents that they could bury Microsoft a thousand times over.
        Microsoft might go after Google but we don't know what patents Google has to hold over Microsoft's head.
        What Microsoft will do is go after companies that do not want to risk their core business and are willing to pay t

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        Each and every company who gets involved in such a licensing deal knows full well what they are getting into and exactly what they are licensing...

        Of course they know exactly what the agreement is. But you're assuming that the agreement is a license for specific patents that Microsoft alleges Linux infringes. Despite being called a "license agreement", the actual contract the two parties are signing need not exclusively involve such patents.

        The agreement probably includes some patent licensing, but the pa

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:49PM (#31360906) Journal

    I love how none of these articles include any info on which patents were licensed. If Microsoft has patents which cover algorithms in Linux, then there should be a list of patents numbers they can point to to say which patents are being covered in these License Agreements.

    You know, back when Microsoft sued Tom-Tom, it came out that the patents in question covered certain features of the VFAT filesystem. I don't think that patent would affect Network Attached Storage. After all, if you're using Samba NFS, FTP or HTTP to access the files, it doesn't matter what filesystem is used on the NAS device. One would presume such a device would be using Ext3, Ext4, or maybe XFS or something.

    Which makes me wonder, is Microsoft asserting patents which cover Samba, perhaps? The Linux kernel itself, even if you don't compile VFAT support into the kernel (or use the patched version which supposedly avoids the MS VFAT patents by removing some functionality)?

    Sure seems that this is all a marketing driven FUD campaign, since no one is talking about what patents are in play here. If they have patents, they should come out and tell the Linux developers and the world which patents supposedly are infringing. If they won't tell anyone, then the courts should just put a stop to this crap - it's my understanding that there is a principle of law in many countries, including the U.S., where if you know someone is infringing your patent or copyright, and you don't take action to prevent further damages, you can't get the court to award you those damages. That is, you aren't allowed to 'run up the bill' by continuing to allow infringement to happen, just so you can sue for more money later?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by butalearner (1235200)
      This is why Microsoft is smarter than Apple. You see, Microsoft is getting easy paydays from all these companies. Sure it's not as much as they'd try to get if they sued, but they're still raking in the cash for running what is essentially a protection racket. Apple on the other hand, sues HTC for patents covering BS like moving an icon across the screen at variable speed. Apple might be going for a bigger payday, but is very much at risk of losing the lawsuit and losing the patents.
    • I love how none of these articles include any info on which patents were licensed. If Microsoft has patents which cover algorithms in Linux, then there should be a list of patents numbers they can point to to say which patents are being covered in these License Agreements.

      Don't hold your breath. Not releasing what is being licensed is probably part of the licensing contract. They might even have a patent pending on that business method. We tried asking them which patents Linux infringed on but they're too busy to list them all [slashdot.org]. They'll throw out numbers though like "235 patents free software violates [slashdot.org] that are ours!"

    • by ubercam (1025540)

      I'm no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I think the principle of law you're thinking of refers to trademark issues, not copyright. I believe you can nail someone any time for copyright infringement, even way after the fact (there might be a statute of limitations though), but if you let a trademark violation slide, you're unable to defend it later on, i.e. you have to act as soon as you're aware of it or you could potentially lose it.

  • If there Exist documentation that some invention was used before the patent was issued the patent is invalid.

    The problem is that the open source community doe not have the central power structure and money for defence,
    EFF?
    any one?
  • When the Supreme Court invalidates software patents all these companies can go back to Microsoft and demand their money back. That should be fun to watch!
  • How long before they start hitting up specific distributions with their claims? Does any of this "established precendent" matter? Will it just be enough to scare off PHB's who don't know any better from Linux? Can they be sued or otherwise complelled to provide the exact patents in their claims? If any of those patents are found to be valid and distributions write them out of their repositories how liable are they for the past infringment? Software patents hurt innovation.
    • Look at it like a business process.

      No distro is well capitalized.
      Litigating a distro would *clearly* set off a hue and cry about monopoly practices thereby waking a sleeping giant.

      Microsoft uses some millions annually to fund their protection racket process. They target companies marketing products in the U.S. that have valuations such that they can extract meaningful sums of money. Same forms and process for each litigation target. It's the equivalent of a sweatshop operation.

  • As Linux has been fixed to not offend Microsoft's FAT32/VFAT patent. If these companies think that they are voilating this patent, they should do their own research or fix it so that they don't have to pay royalties to Microsoft.
  • How is this not a potential qui tam [wikipedia.org] suit just begging to be initiated?
  • It seems to me (IANAL) that Microsoft is potentially engaging in slander of title [wikipedia.org] against Linux. Couldn't IBM, or any company that's contributed to the Linux kernel, sue Microsoft for this, and force MS to enumerate the alleged violations during the trial if not during discovery?

  • by Kagato (116051) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @03:41PM (#31361536)

    IO Data is a big name in Japan. They sell a lot of Computer and AV devices. In the US they aren't that big anymore. IO data was a pioneer in the Network Equipped Up-Converting DVD player. Not only could it play UPnP file sources, it could output them up to 1080i.

    That's when they ran into trouble. Their HD player had nice Analog Component outputs to upconvert DVDs. That got them in trouble with license holders for DVD. Which wouldn't have happened except they started expanding in US, and then the guys at the MPAA started taking interest. I think they are a bit gun shy after that. So I can understand folding to Microsoft.

  • by HalAtWork (926717) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @04:10PM (#31361938)

    So, MS doesn't actually plan to overtake Linux, it just plans to make money off of other peoples' work. How long before they turn around and sue the developers of Linux?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by maugle (1369813)
      Hmm? How did you miss that whole SCO thing that was going on a few years back?
  • When they licensed these patents, did they happen to disclose and identify these patents? Most people are still mystified as to what these patents are precisely.

    What Microsoft is doing is simply a "protection racket" and need to be prosecuted under RICO.

  • by Hasai (131313) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @04:18PM (#31362036)

    ". . . . the names of 57 patent violations that are in the Linux kernel at present."

            ~The Manchurian Candidate, the remake, starring Steve Ballmer.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @05:15PM (#31362668) Homepage Journal

    i can think of only one reason, if they came up with what they claim to be their own 'ip', and it was proven, the code would outright get removed from linux, leaving microsoft with nothing to harrass with. they would also lack the weapon to coerce and subdue the i.t. world at the time when linux becomes established for good worldwide.

    in any case, the community should look into this, and discover them, and remove them.

    chances are high that they have claimed rights to some basic logic routine or procedure, thanks to the beyond shitty patent system in u.s., and are now waiting for acta to make their claim in u.s. globally valid. you know, since the places like europe werent so stupid enough to let such stupidity like being able to 'own' logical routines and constructs for anyone.

    with all undue respect, american system has gone beyond failure, if it has (and it really has) come to the point of letting private people and organizations own logic and thought.

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