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Businesses Microsoft Novell Patents Unix Linux

Microsoft (Probably) Didn't Just Buy Unix 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the how's-that-for-definitive dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Word came down this morning that when Attachmate bought Novell, certain intellectual property rights were sold to a Microsoft-led consortium as part of the deal. Since Unix is the most valuable piece of IP Novell owns, there was a certain amount of panic that suddenly Redmond is in charge of this foundational technology for Linux and a number of other open source projects. But, while MS is being cagey, Brian Proffitt doubts that Unix was part of the IP package that was sold — and believes that Linux would be safe even if it were."
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Microsoft (Probably) Didn't Just Buy Unix

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  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:30PM (#34311324)

    After the revelations years ago that Microsoft had funded SCO during the Darl era, and has been on the attack against Linux for a good 10 years now at least, I would not just put my feet up and rest easy following this news. At this point nobody even knows what MS bought, so it's a little too early to be going down for a nap.

    Microsoft knows that there are several threats to its existence, but most of them can just be bought off, paid off, or partnered with. Linux is not really susceptible to any of those vectors. If indeed MS has come away with the Unix intellectual property rights we can expect a renewed set of attacks. Specifically, Microsoft would probably avoid dirtying its hands directly, and instead use some sort of nominally separate entity (which would probably end up being the holder of the Unix IP) to attack Linux through a confusing and expensive court case.

    I know it is nice to hope for the best, but while one does that, they should also prepare for the worst.

  • Anyone else... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:32PM (#34311346)
    ...Is tired of this whole software patent mess?

    I mean, come on. Not only do people have to worry about what patents their newest idea is stepping on, but now when companies are bought, they may have large ramnifications which ripple around?

    I'm pretty tired of this rubbish. They should just throw away software patents - then we could still have good companies which actually develop stuff instead of simply being bought for their patents. Alas poor Sun.
  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:33PM (#34311356) Homepage Journal
    Well that puts my mind at ease now. ;-)
  • Re:Anyone else... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Konsalik (1921874) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:40PM (#34311452)
    Well I think the general consensus among slashdotters is that software patents have indeed been taken way too far. Problem is that most companies cling dearly to what they know i.e. patents. It is their assets, and for some (trolls) the sole reason for their existence. Thus there will always be a bunch of companies throwing money and resources to make sure they are able to patent ever more absurd things. Go watch http://patentabsurdity.com/ [patentabsurdity.com] if you haven't already done so.
  • Re:Anyone else... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:42PM (#34311474) Homepage

    1. Move away from America
    2. Develop whilst simultaneously not caring about software patents.
    3. Sales and profit.
    4. Get sued in America
    5. Don't turn up
    6. Don't go to America (or South Korea) ever again.

  • by TurtleBay (1942166) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:44PM (#34311490)
    While you may attribute Microsoft's cageyness to an effort to enhance royalty revenue by not being clear on what they own, it is much more likely their large corporate structure and lawyers getting in the way. If someone asked Microsoft's PR what patents they now hold, the PR guy has no idea. He needs to go to the M&A team who did the deal and ask what exactly they now own. When the PR guy hears back he needs to do his job and put some spin on it to make Microsoft sound cutting edge yet not monopolist with the new IP. Then the PR guy needs to forward his response to legal, who will circle back around to M&A to cross check the facts. The legal guys will come back with a list of things that the company can't say and the PR guy will need to apply another round of spin to get around what the lawyers told him would't be fit to print. All of this will probably take a couple of weeks, so don't expect an immediate answer regarding the implications of the specific of a deal to UNIX, especially during the holidays.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:45PM (#34311506)

    Linux Is Not UniX

    so what is the big deal?

    Because the FUD is that Linux somehow "contains" UNIX intellectual property.

    But since Novell/SuSE has a pass on UNIX IP, why can't everybody just fork OpenSuSE back into their own distros and continue on?

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:52PM (#34311562)
    Sooooooo they just bought a billion dollars worth of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt?
  • Enough! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:53PM (#34311570)

    Bill Gates Jr. retired from Microsoft some time ago. Couldn't you Slashdot guys at least update the silly icon so it shows Ballmer as a Borg?

    You could even make him the Borg queen...

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:53PM (#34311576) Homepage Journal

    There is a threat here, but it has nothing to do with the Unix copyrights. We have already established really, really well that the Unix copyrights are irrelevant at this late date. They can't be used like patents to enforce against other similar works. They were released under an unterminating BSD license and covered by a government standard. Forget them.

    What they got was 481 patents that were part of a portfolio that Open Invention Network had previously used to defend Linux against patent suits. So, this is escalation in the patent war they are running against Linux, because they just removed one of our defensive weapons.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:54PM (#34311596)

    Why can't the Linux community just develop a new operating system?

    They did. It's called Linux. The SCO trial was, in part, about convincing the court that, yes, Linux really, really, really isn't Unix.

  • Re:What if.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Life2Short (593815) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:59PM (#34311648)
    Noboby ever won a war by dying for his country, he won it by making the other bastard die for his - George S. Patton
  • Re:What if? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, 2010 @07:11PM (#34311780)
    Well played
  • by melted (227442) on Monday November 22, 2010 @07:14PM (#34311816) Homepage

    Miguel must be ecstatic. Seems like he always wanted to work for Microsoft, and now he will, albeit indirectly.

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday November 22, 2010 @07:55PM (#34312132)

    Linux is not using Unix.

    Yes and SCO did not own Unix and had no case against IBM. We all knew this. However, a litigious CEO bent on extracting extortion payments for IP that his company did not own as well as financial backing from the likes of MS, the case went on for seven years before it was resolved. Based on the history of MS, it's not that they need to ultimately win any legal battles, they just need to create enough FUD so that customers won't consider alternatives.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:34PM (#34312468) Homepage

    "Booting a rescue image is probably the most bullet-proof way to do it, unless the root fs is encrypted in which case you're screwed unless you had a password that can be dictionary cracked."

    Won't always work. Sometimes a system will have a filesystem that is not supported by the live CD. Having a clue, knowing Linux, and starting with the most simple and quick method, and then trying progressively more complex and time consuming ways is probably the most bullet proof way to do it.

    See, I can be a know it all naysayer too ;-)

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:37PM (#34312496) Homepage Journal
    That's not what I am talking about. When a company brought suit against an OIN member, or against Linux in general, OIN had the option of bringing suit against that same company using a patent belonging to one of its members. That is the capability that is probably being lost - as far as Novell's patents are concerned.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, 2010 @09:07PM (#34312780)

    Microsoft will not attack OSX, they need a "competitor" that is not a real competitor.

    Right, and Linux is not also exactly that.

    Microsoft is still in a good overall position and is the only company even wanting the open PC OS market, and Linux is still hostile to commercial ISVs with no end in sight. Apple knows its current strategy makes it hard/impossible to retain a majority share of PC or smartphone markets, and they don't care to with their margins.

    Microsoft has displaced UNIX in the past, and now it's back with... what GNU utilities? Get real. They only need to win back hearts & minds, they have the technology already.

    I like quality open source software, but I don't like software "because it's open source."

  • by Steeltoe (98226) on Monday November 22, 2010 @09:09PM (#34312802) Homepage

    In those seven years, knowledge and usage of Linux is now more widespread than ever before. Even in certain banks, Linux is now being used or researched, they now have pretty good alternatives to Sun OS (Linux, BSD) and Oracle (Postgres), if not DB/2 and core systems.

    It may never be the year of the Linux Desktop, but SCO did more for Linux than any Microsoft smear campaign could.

    First they laugh at you. Then they ridicule you. Then they attack you. Then you win.

  • Re:What if.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Monday November 22, 2010 @11:27PM (#34313570) Homepage

    The first soldiers storming the beach on D-day had slim chances, but they formed the beachhead for the rest of the invasion. In many cases when risking being surrounded or to cover a retreat soldiers will be asked to fight battles they can not hope to win or even survive. Overall sure, you'd better make sure the enemy dies more than you do but on the microlevel commanders can and do send people to almost certain death. If soliders wouldn't obey orders that involved great risk or sacrifice, the army would collapse under pressure. So on the grand strategic level you want the enemy to die, but on the operational level you need soldiers who accept the risk of dying.

  • by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:48AM (#34314082)

    Is it so difficult for you to believe that in 2010 we couldn't design and implement a better architected OS than something that was made in 1969 and has been duct-taped with add-ons ever since?
     
    Yes it is, actually.
     
    Linux/Unix/Posix is the product of 40 years of design work, thought and planning by some of the smartest people in the world.

"Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberrys!" -- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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