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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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  • What if.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by TechyImmigrant (175943) * on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:25PM (#34311268) Journal

    What if Novell sold them Unix, but didn't give them the root password?

    • by theY4Kman (1519023) <they4kman@gmail.com> on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:27PM (#34311282) Homepage

      Microsoft would still sell it to customers.

    • by Kraftwerk (629978) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:29PM (#34311308)

      I'm sure Microsoft can afford a $5 wrench.

    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:01PM (#34312206) Journal
      The Regents of Southern California would have a thing to say about that - the AT&T settlement made one thing clear - no one entity "owns" unix. [wikipedia.org]

      The University also claimed that similar lines of source code (which were presented during discovery) did not infringe on USL's copyright because they had become public domain by the actions of AT&T: AT&T had promoted UNIX as a standard, licensing it to universities and allowing UNIX source code to be published in textbooks. The University submitted briefs from the UC Berkeley students and staff, explaining how they had audited the code, looking for freely available copies of the source code and methods. When they could find none, they said, they removed the code and rewrote it using publicly known techniques—and so any remaining similarities existed because AT&T had effectively abandoned the copyright to them.

      Novell didn't have to show they owned the rights to Unix in SCO vs Novell - just that, whatever rights they had, they didn't convey them to Santa Cruz.

      So whatever they bought from AT&T, it wasn't "ALL right to Unix."

      • by sconeu (64226)

        Wow! When did my half of the state get Regents?

        You mean the Regents of the University of California.

        (The University of Southern California is a private university, having nothing to do with BSD).

    • by sconeu (64226)

      I heard that Novell would only give the root password to Gavin Newsome.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:27PM (#34311284) Homepage

    Novell's 8-K filing says that Microsoft's "CNPT" bought 882 patents.

    * What important patents did Novell have?
    * What happens now to Novell's contribution to OIN?

    Novell contributed some big patent sets to OIN, like the Commerce One e-commerce patents. What's their status now? Did Novell "give/transfer" them to OIN, or did OIN just have a transferable assurance of access to these patents via Novell?

    * http://en.swpat.org/wiki/CPTN_Holdings_LLC [swpat.org]
    * http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Novell [swpat.org]
    * http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Open_Invention_Network [swpat.org]

  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:27PM (#34311288)

    which is exactly what you don't want - if they said "we own it", no-one would believe them until it got to court. If they said "we don't own it", no-one would care.

    But, because they say "maybe", everyone starts to panic and worry, and think the problem is far worse that it ever could be.

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

    • I have serious doubts that MS would be interested in patents other than those with potential to hurt Linux (or even OSX). Was Novell known to own any other patents of significant importance to Microsoft? If they could get their hands on the SCO stuff wouldn't they try very hard? For me, there is no other reasonable explanation for Microsoft getting involved at all and none has been published anywhere as far as I can tell.
      So yes, expect a new series of boring attacks on Linux/Android (and perhaps OSX) by M
      • MS has two likely choices for patents they want to acquire:
        1. patents their competitors infringe
        2. patents they infringe
        With the large number of patents involved there were probably quite a few of both.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Microsoft will not attack OSX, they need a "competitor" that is not a real competitor. If OSX ever steps foot in the enterprise space then maybe they would, but for now OSX is a value to them not competition. Linux is competition, google is competition. Nothing that threatens the MS desktop market and operates in the enterprise space is safe, they protect that above all else.

        • by mevets (322601)

          IOS which is OSX which is UNIX (real UNIX, not Linux) is the smart-ass kid which is making MicroSofts Mobile OS feel stupid and lonely.
          MicroSoft are facing assaults on all fronts, their situation seems a bit reminiscent of Sun circa 2000. Don't put anything past their ability to "innovate" - it worked well to crush netscape and only suffer a tickle on the pinky.

    • by mikael (484)

      Remember, Microsoft bought a whole load of patents from SGI relating to 3D graphics and rendering - there was at least one related to shader languages implemented in hardware.

    • Horde as much source as you can, just in case.

  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Konsalik (1921874)
      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 Jugalator (259273) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:33PM (#34311352) Journal

    A Microsoft Unix 2013 Professional Edition doesn't exactly give me pleasant imagery.

  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:33PM (#34311356) Homepage Journal
    Well that puts my mind at ease now. ;-)
  • 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 Vahokif (1292866)
    Don't they already own it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenix [wikipedia.org]
    • No, they sold the rights to SCO, and they were just a licensee of V7 Unix
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Guy Harris (3803)

      No, they licensed UNIX from AT&T to make Xenix - AT&T still owned the rights. (Newer versions of System V licensed some code back from Microsoft - there's some code with Microsoft copyrights on it.)

  • 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 Lennie (16154)

      On Twitter he mentioned they'll continue the work on Mono.

      "After the Novell acquisition, Mono continues as-is, but our paychecks will come from Attachmate instead of Novell."

  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Monday November 22, 2010 @07:38PM (#34312022) Journal

    www.groklaw.net. Pamela Jones is the Empress, the rightful dispenser of knowledge on who goeth there regarding Linux, the Law, and the great game called Follow The Money.

  • That Russian guy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trogre (513942) on Monday November 22, 2010 @07:41PM (#34312036) Homepage

    Perhaps that Russian guy who a few days ago commented that Linux was near the end of its release cycle knew something!

    In all seriousness, given the FUD Microsoft spreads about Linux to their customers, I wonder if this purchase has been working its way into their propaganda engine for a while.

  • The bought and marketed something a PC version of Unix called Xenix in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I used to use UNIC on PdPs and Vaxen at that time. But Xenix was way under-powered on 16-bit CPUs. They sold to SCO after they developed IBM-DOS.
  • Net wide i mean. With all participants possible - from google to small companies, from ngos to individual donors. An international unix consortium or something can be created, and everyone can donate to that, and the consortium can buy and release unix as public domain or gpl, therefore ridding unix and linux and all the companies and individuals using them of all these troubles. There had already been such organizations founded back in 2005 or so to defend net neutrality. It can happen again.

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