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Microsoft Patents The Almighty Buck Linux

Microsoft Charging Royalties For Linux 286

Posted by samzenpus
from the that-doesn't-seem-right dept.
andydread writes "It seems Microsoft's campaign to scare manufacturers away from open source and Linux in particular is proceeding at full force. The latest news is from Digitimes out of Taiwan. Apparently Microsoft is threatening Acer and Asustek with having to pay Microsoft a license fee for the privilege of deploying Linux on their devices. This time, it's in the form of Android and Chorme OS. So basically, this campaign is spreading to PC vendors now. What are the implications of this? Does this mean that if I build PCs with Linux (Ubuntu/ChromeOS/Fedora) and sell them I am at risk of getting sued by Microsoft? "
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Microsoft Charging Royalties For Linux

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  • by weachiod (1928554) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:08AM (#34045992)
    How wonderfully twisted summary. Even the article doesn't say Microsoft is demanding license for installing linux. It says Acer and Asustek should patent license fees just like everyone else:

    As Android is an open platform, vendors of Android handsets have to pay royalty fees of at least US$10-15 per handset for licensed use of the patents concerned, the sources explained.

    There are only several Taiwan-based handset vendors and only HTC has signed for licensed use of Microsoft patents, leaving Acer and Asustek being the targets for the royalty charge, the sources indicated.

    What a surprise, HTC pays license fees so they aren't asked to do so!

    I don't like software patents either, but development does take its time and money and you currently still have to play by the rules like everyone else. Just because you're not selling as many devices as HTC doesn't mean you don't have to pay the same royalties. Even Google, like every other company, is asking for patent royalties, so why suddenly Microsoft shouldn't? Sure, hate the software patents, but twisting this as something like Microsoft demanding manufacturers to pay if they want to install Linux is just... wrong.

  • by sjames (1099) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:20AM (#34046046) Homepage

    That strongly depends on the validity of the patents in question. Since TFA doesn't say what the patents are, it's hard to determine how legitimate they might be, but statistically for software patents, they're probably bogus (however what a court would make of it is a crapshoot).

  • by PhilipTheHermit (1901680) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:31AM (#34046092)

    If I understand the article correctly, Microsoft has software patents on a number of technologies related to smartphones, and is seeking royalties from some portable electronics companies for their use of technology covered by the patents.

    Generally a "ho hum" situation, BUT, Microsoft seems to be using the situation to pressure the companies to stop using Android and Chrome on the devices. Seems to be.

    If anything, rather than proving that Microsoft is some sort of terrible evil, this proves that SOFTWARE PATENTS are a terrible evil.

    We should never allow ANYONE to patent something that is not a physical item or process. The idea that a company can write up a vague description of how some software product MIGHT work SOMEDAY, if SOMEONE decides to develop it, and get the patent office to grant them the right to act as a gatekeeper for that idea, should be abhorrent to all people with scientific and technical backgrounds.

    I think that about sums up the situation.

    Now, perhaps I'm wishing for the moon here, but if anyone from the patent office, Congress, or the Obama administration is a Slashdot reader, this would be an excellent situation to use to show the average representative in Congress why, exactly, software patents should be abolished. "Here are two companies that are not using Microsoft products, and not stealing secrets from Microsoft, and in fact not using any Microsoft property at ALL, whose businesses are being interfered with because Microsoft was granted some software patents and they're using them as bargaining chips. This situation is ridiculous and should be addressed. (Etc, etc)".

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:37AM (#34046122)

    Hmm, I can't figure out to what in the parent post you are saying "it depends". He was saying the summary is twisted and wrong, which it is - this has nothing to do with Linux, and everything to do with using *any* OS that doesn't involve paying a royalty to MS.

    If they feel that their patents are valid, they have a right to demand license fees. And everyone has a right to ignore them and settle it in court. But "Microsoft Charging Royalties for Linux" is just a HORRIBLE title given the article referenced.

  • by guanxi (216397) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:39AM (#34046130)

    I doubt it's intentional, but if Microsoft wanted to use their patent portfolio to scare businesses away from Linux (and I don't know that it's true), they probably would fantasize about reading this on the front page of Slashdot:

    Does this mean that if I build PCs with Linux (Ubuntu/ChromeOS/Fedora) and sell them I am at risk of getting sued by Microsoft?

  • by robbak (775424) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:42AM (#34046140) Homepage

    They are being sued for 'computer', in other words.

    To the original poster: You live on planet earth. You therefore are liable to being sued by Microsoft.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:43AM (#34046142) Journal

    I don't like software patents either, but development does take its time and money and you currently still have to play by the rules like everyone else. Just because you're not selling as many devices as HTC doesn't mean you don't have to pay the same royalties. Even Google, like every other company, is asking for patent royalties, so why suddenly Microsoft shouldn't? Sure, hate the software patents, but twisting this as something like Microsoft demanding manufacturers to pay if they want to install Linux is just... wrong.

    From HERE [reuters.com]:

    The patents in question relate to synchronizing e-mail, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power, Microsoft said in a statement

    Really? synchronizing email, calendars and contacts? Doesn't the iphone do that? Why is MS not suing Apple? Wait, didn't my Palm Treo do that? Hell, my wife's old Palm Pilot did that. Before all that, Eudora did it. So, in other words, this is nothing new, as far as the software goes. The only difference is the hardware. So why is MS not suing Apple, Palm or any of the other software applications that do this stuff... you know, like any OS anywhere that runs on a battery powered device or does email? Oh, that's right, because the whole point is to scare Acer, Asus and other smaller manufacturers from supporting Android.

    This is not about development costs. How much software development cost went into patenting an idea that's been around since before Windows for Workgroups. This is legal blackmail, nothing more. HTC is paying MS off because it was probably cheaper than a lawsuit (and probably gets the money back in WinMo7 licensing deals). This is about companies installing software that isn't written by MS. This is about not paying licensing fees, BECAUSE OPEN SOURCE HAS NO LICENSING FEES!!!

  • by sjames (1099) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:47AM (#34046170) Homepage

    They are using Linux. MS is demanding royalties each time they use Linux. Thus they are charging for Linux.

    As far as we know, they're not demanding such fees for Symbian or MacOS.

    Of course, nobody ever knowingly demands royalties for invalid patents depending on the high cost of court and the near random nature of court decisions to make their victims pay up...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:48AM (#34046174)

    Yet another "I'm right and you're wrong because these are the rules and rules shouldn't be broken because they're the rules" post. Circular reasoning sucks balls in any context.

  • by sjames (1099) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:52AM (#34046202) Homepage

    The wheel was patented a few years ago. I think it's safe enough to say it would never survive even a cursory review of prior art.

    It would (unfortunately) still have to go to court eventually, but that doesn't make it valid, it just makes the legal system insane.

    Sorry to pull you back into sanity.

  • by jrumney (197329) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:56AM (#34046222) Homepage
    It seems their strategy is to target Windows customers that are starting to make the switch to a Linux based OS. Probably in an attempt to scare them back onto the Windows path, but I hope suing their customers backfires on them.
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@nOspam.infamous.net> on Thursday October 28, 2010 @01:02AM (#34046252) Homepage

    Sorry to pull you back to the real world... any patent that has been issued and has not expired or invalidated, is valid. It's a simple as that.

    If a patent is issued in error or in contravention of the law, it's not valid. It's as simple as that.

    If you think it's not valid for whatever reason, you will have to ask a judge to invalidate it. And until they agree with you and invalidate the patent, it is valid.

    No, upon the judge finding it invalid the government will start treating it as invalid. It was invalid all along.

    It's like unconstitutional laws: segregation and the "separate but equal" doctrine didn't suddenly become unconstitutional when the courts woke up in the 1950s and 60s. They were unconstitutional since Amendment XIV was ratified. Court rulings don't change basic facts, they change what facts the government will admit to as being true.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @01:10AM (#34046280)

    It's no longer about "How it might work". There are many patents that simply cover "what it is used for".

    ie "Email push over wireless" - this says nothing about the specifics of the process, only what it accomplishes in the end.

    THIS is the problem with the today's patent landscape.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday October 28, 2010 @01:17AM (#34046316) Homepage Journal

    If you commit a crime and are never caught, you're still a criminal.

  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @01:55AM (#34046440) Homepage Journal

    Sorry to pull you back to the real world... any patent that has been issued and has not expired or invalidated, is valid. It's a simple as that.

    If a patent is issued in error or in contravention of the law, it's not valid. It's as simple as that.

    If you think it's not valid for whatever reason, you will have to ask a judge to invalidate it. And until they agree with you and invalidate the patent, it is valid.

    No, upon the judge finding it invalid the government will start treating it as invalid. It was invalid all along.

    It's like unconstitutional laws: segregation and the "separate but equal" doctrine didn't suddenly become unconstitutional when the courts woke up in the 1950s and 60s. They were unconstitutional since Amendment XIV was ratified. Court rulings don't change basic facts, they change what facts the government will admit to as being true.

    Very interesting (and misleading) post. While technically, it may be correct, it changes nothing. Invalid all along or not, in effect it was still very valid until that legal determination was made, including often, the damages that were done during the time frame when the (whatever) was considered valid or went unchallenged...

    ...Just like the poor example you gave. Do you think those who lived in the 40's and 50's and part of the 60's suddenly woke up when Amendment XIV was ratified thinking "wow, that's great that everything that happened to me back then has suddenly un-happened!"

    Sure, I am sure they were happy that it was no longer legal - but the earlier effects dont magically get wiped away all of a sudden. That's the funny thing about the past... we havent figured out how to change it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:09AM (#34046494)

    Why complicate it? Just make the software patents expire in 3 years.

  • by Shihar (153932) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:12AM (#34046502)

    like software patents either, but development does take its time and money and you currently still have to play by the rules like everyone else. Just because you're not selling as many devices as HTC doesn't mean you don't have to pay the same royalties. Even Google, like every other company, is asking for patent royalties, so why suddenly Microsoft shouldn't? Sure, hate the software patents, but twisting this as something like Microsoft demanding manufacturers to pay if they want to install Linux is just... wrong.

    Shit like this is why the cell phone industry is in as sorry of a shape as it is. Mobile devices are hotter than hell right now. EVERYONE makes them in fucking China. The only thing you need as a producer is to design some hardware from some off the shelf components, add your spin on it, and flip on a switch in China. What is happening? Not this.

    What is happening is that only people armed to the teeth with both piles of money and patents dares step a foot into this market. Every single pissant start up Silicon Valley should be building a phone, but instead it is limited to only people armed to the teeth for a legal fight. This is fucked up, and for a consumer, it is hitting you in the pocketbook. Further, absolutely none of these patents are novel. It isn't like a company hits on a great idea no one will ever think of and patents it to protect themselves. What is happening is that everyone is patenting the obvious next step, and than suing when everyone goes to take that obvious next step.

    What people forget is that patents are not some sort of moral fucking right. They are a completely artificial creation made by governments. It is a government granted monopoly, and it isn't granted for some fucked up sense of morality. It is granted for the singular reason of "promoting the useful arts". It is written into the fucking US constitution. When it fails at this, we are doing it wrong. If patents are stepping in the way of competition and innovation, they are failing in their singular purpose. Clearly, they are failing.

    Patent law is so horribly fucked up these days there are no words for it. Consumers, small and medium sized businesses, and the economy are getting screwed. Microsoft is leading the charge. They can't compete in an open market, so they swing a government enforced sledgehammer at the competition.

    I almost considered looking into getting a WiMo7 phone, but after this sort of anti-consumer crap, fuck those guys.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:34AM (#34046584)

    Looking up the details, the patents are for "synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power". Last I checked, none of those are included in the Linux kernel - they are part of the Android middleware/OS, and/or apps the vendors added.

    In fact, a bit more research shows that yes, Symbian, Palm, Nokia, and some other Linux embedded vendors are in fact already licensing the patents (and have been for *years* - the first article I found was from 2005). And Apple has patent cross licensing agreements with Microsoft (and likely all of those other companies) as well. This is about Taiwanese companies trying to make cheap phones by avoiding the patent license fees everyone else has already agreed are valid. And those companies probably also violate Apple patents (in Apple's opinion, at least) - to that matter, Apple has already sued HTC (a Taiwanese company paying MS fees now as well) for this.

  • by gig (78408) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:36AM (#34046592)

    You can pretend that the PC is an open platform all you like. It is not. Microsoft stole the PC from IBM and they're not giving it up.

  • by Noitatsidem (1701520) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:42AM (#34046620)
    Who the fuck modded you as flamebait? It's a valid point. Microsoft has tons of extremely broad patents that describe really basic functionality of an operating system- Nothing innovative on their part. I'd love to see them start threatening Apple... Or they could do something even more insane, like sue their own customers: I really like MS's self-destructive tendencies, it really puts a smile on my face knowing that their own customers can't trust Microsoft not to sue them- I wonder what this will do for the Windows market share? Hey, if a major vendor ever did decide to stop shipping windows all together (or hell, even downplay Windows) I can definitely see Apple-like ad's going "LOLVIRUS" while at the same time going "By the way, it can surf the web, you can make .docx files with openoffice/libreoffice, the OS supports 3D acceleration, etc. while still being cheaper than a certain other proprietary operating system. Let's face it: IF these vendors do ever move away from Windows, they may not kill it, but they could certainly put a fairly big dent in its market- Imagine the world with two Linux based vendors with the same market share as OSX, or even one for that matter. That's a pretty big dent. Also, I'm getting ready to be modded down for thinking, as it seems to be a recent trend on /.
  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:19AM (#34046750)

    Really? synchronizing email, calendars and contacts? Doesn't the iphone do that? Why is MS not suing Apple?

    Because Apple has a cross licensing deal with MS and recognizes the patents.

    Also you can patent specific implementations and methodologies. It's entirely possible and likely that other email synchronization systems can be employed that don't run afoul of Microsoft's patents.

    As to Palm I'm sure they had their own treasure trove of patents which they both defended and cross licensed with Microsoft.

    Just because Open Source has no licensing fees doesn't mean it doesn't have to respect the law that closed source software abides by.

  • by Just Brew It! (636086) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:45AM (#34046864)

    Quite frankly, I would've been surprised if they had not tried something like this; it is certainly in character (and in the interests of their shareholders). And if they happen to get some protection *ahem* I mean "royalty" payments as a side effect, that's just more money to the bottom line.

    Clearly they've got good lawyers on staff. Too bad their development teams aren't quite up to the same standard.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @04:08AM (#34046942) Homepage Journal

    Also you can patent specific implementations and methodologies. It's entirely possible and likely that other email synchronization systems can be employed that don't run afoul of Microsoft's patents.

    In theory, yes. But in practice you can patent the "what" and not just the "how" [wikipedia.org]

  • by John Sokol (109591) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:00AM (#34047116) Homepage Journal

    I can't spell to save my life, I am a computer programmer.

    So I am not even an amateur at law. But my former partner for 5 years was known as an attorney that could pull of the impossible. He broke Jean Claude Van Dam's unbreakable contract. Talk about Teflon coated.

    He never ever went to court, it was all poker and maneuvering. His dad is one of the most powerful entertainment lawyer in Hollywood.

    It was amazing to watch him work. When he was up against other lawyers it was like watching him pick the wings of a butterfly. They where playing law, he was playing a totally different game, they never stood a chance.

    After many conversations with him, suddenly much of what I would see Microsoft and other large corporations do suddenly started to make a lot more sense. It wasn't about winning in court, but to win overall.

    So many strategies all sort of within the letter law but dirty tricks. Things that as a logical computer programmer seems very unethical. But as it turns out is just business as usual for most of the big boys.

    It's the reason the little guys almost always loose.

    We had Microsoft sabotage our investment opportunities in 1996 by announcing a superior product with a completely faked demo, then not releasing anything for almost 5 years, and when they did it was nearly identical to what I was selling. There video streams even played in my 5 year old player without modification! They then disabled the ability for my product to work with the release of MSIE4.

    I had CNN trademark "livecam" after they did a story on it. Then send us a siest and desist! Fortunately that didn't fly, I had the domain years before the trademark was filed. We were never able to get the trademark for ourselves after that.

    More recently the first CCTV DVR board which I designed and built while in Korea 1997 was copied by a number of Korean companies. Many Chinese company started making clone boards of the Korean boards. One of the Korean companies then threatened to sue me for reselling the Chinese version of the board which was my original design! Didn't take much to call that bluff.

    So many dumb greedy people.

    The number of time's I'd been burned in business by this stuff is disturbing.

    My last experience It was a $120K software contract with $20K upfront. Then $50K and $50K. It was in writing that it would be based on open source.

    We got much of the functionally working and demo'ed it. He demanded source code, eventually I caved in to get the next payment. He canceled his $50K check.
    He handed the code to a Russian company to complete and filed a suit to get his $20K back because it was all based on Open Source code!

    Fortunately these days I am not so easily intimidated.

     

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:11AM (#34047154)

    Microsoft says Motorola is violating nine patents "that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power."

    What a sad, sad state of affairs. Any moron given enough time fiddling with several devices will come up with the idea that maybe it would be cool to sync email, calendars, and contacts. Maybe even schedule a meeting or two. Software patents are not necessarily bad, but I would call it near criminal to allow corporations to patent the obvious just because their legal departments are a step ahead of everyone else. A bad patent is a bad patent, and all the major companies agreeing to play along because it costs less to litigate than it does to pay (and protects them from needing to litigate occasionally) does not make it any worse than it is. I raise my glass to any company in any market with the guts to ignore those patents even if it is just to undercut the competition.

    And here's to the poster. Even though he's "overstating" the situation, the ensuing discussion brought the patent thing up. I had no idea it was that bad.

  • by apexwm (1612713) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:38AM (#34047656) Homepage
    Microsoft can't come up with a better product, so they have to resort to using legal tactics to try and undermine the competition indirectly. Pretty sad. This tells me that they know that their own product stinks, so they have to resort to these tactics to try and force customers to use their products.
  • by Qubit (100461) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:59AM (#34048332) Homepage Journal

    You may call us your hat, but we canadians refer to you as our balls...

    Wait, so you're saying that Canadians have no balls?

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:00AM (#34048334) Journal

    The fact are just fact - they are not racist.

    What can be racist is what you do/imply with them. You can for example use those facts as a base to research how to improve the situation: better assistance, work equality rules, ... In that case, it is not racist. Similar to the fact that only women (at bird) get pregnant is not sexist if use to target your pregnancy line of clothes, but it is if you use it as an argument not to hire a woman.

    By only selecting facts that paint defavourably black people in a completely off topic discussion the GP is however very suspicious.

    Good point. If any civil rights leader had used those statistics to push for more educational funding for minorities, would they still be considered racist? I doubt it. Let's try it:

    We need to increase funding for schools whose population primarily minority groups because per capita black people commit more crimes, have more bastard children, have fewer college graduates, and lower literacy rates than ANY OTHER SINGLE GROUP in the USA. Per capita, adjusted for percentage of population, yada yada.

    What kills me is that anyone who opposes special benefits based on race would be the ones labeled "racist".

  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:01AM (#34048348)

    Also you can patent specific implementations and methodologies. It's entirely possible and likely that other email synchronization systems can be employed that don't run afoul of Microsoft's patents.

    In theory, yes. But in practice you can patent the "what" and not just the "how" [wikipedia.org]

    In theory, the "what" is patented, but in court, it is the "vaguely looks like/competes with my product" that prompts the suit.

  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:07AM (#34048402)
    What a wonderfully stupid post.

    The simple fact is Microsoft has NEVER demonstrated in a court of law, code in Linux that infringes patents that Microsoft holds.

    Thus Microsoft is using its' patent portfolio to extort money.

    You are a very stupid person.
  • by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:09AM (#34048454) Homepage

    I don't like software patents either, but development does take its time and money

    Development of software patents does not take time and money. At least not time and money spent on software development. You do like software patents more than you should if you think so.

    This is legalized extortion, nothing more. Microsoft is not providing anything of value to the companies they threaten.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:54AM (#34048998)

    cheap, third-world labour to the martians

    Hmmmmm... it seems perfectly reasonable that Earth should be viewed as the third world portion of our Solar System...

    -AC

  • by kenh (9056) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @10:32AM (#34049634) Homepage Journal

    No, they are going after manufacturers that infringe on their patents, they are not "suing their customers" as you put it.

    The vast majority of phone consumers don't think of the OS in the phone, they think of the functions, what their friends have, and what the subsidy from their carrier will be when picking a phone. It is a small, small, minority of smartphone buyers make OS selection their prime, over-riding criteria for picking a smart phone.

    As "proof," I submit the following YouTube "I Want an iPhone" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL7yD-0pqZg [youtube.com]

  • by Mysteray (713473) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:09PM (#34051434) Homepage

    No, they are going after manufacturers that infringe on their patents, they are not "suing their customers" as you put it.

    In this usage "going after" means making a credible, even if implied, threat of filing a lawsuit. Seeing that Acer and Asustek both distribute Windows on some of their products, the statement that "Microsoft is suing their customers" seems pretty accurate to me.

  • by andydread (758754) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @01:59PM (#34053186)
    Microsoft claims Linux infringes some 200+ patents. Many are obvious patents that should not have been granted to them in the fist place. They threatened to sue manufacturers for deploying devices that use Linux. here [computerworld.com] Ballmer whines about Linux users have an "undisclosed balance sheet" Meaning if you use linux you need to pay the Microsoft Tax. They are going around behind the scenes threatening comanies to pay them royalties and patent license fees to sell devices with Linux. The sued Buffalo, TomTom,HTC,Motorola,IO-Data and several Korean companies and many more companies. Many have caved some tried to fight but caved like TomTom. and now they are ruffling feathers in Taiwan. They are in the middle of a spear and scare campaing to scare the timid manufacturers and system builders away form using Open Source and Linux in particular.

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