OIN outmanuevers Microsoft, buys Linux patents

Summary:The Open Invention Network seems to have one upped Microsoft.  Or has Microsoft one upped OIN?

The Open Invention Network seems to have one upped Microsoft.  Or has Microsoft one upped OIN?

Either way, it's win-win for Linux.

Yesterday, OIN, whose mission is to defend Linux and open source from patent trolls, purchased 22 Linux related patents Microsoft recently sold to Allied Security Trust.

OIN chief executive Keith Bergelt would not say how much OIN spent on the patents but said it was a "meaningful amount."

He said the open source community lucked out because the seller, AST, is not a patent troll. AST, not an investment vehicle, recently purchased the patents from Microsoft to "ensure that they did not fall into the hands of non-practicing entities that could seek to assert the patents against Linux products," the press release stated.

Bergelt does not take issue with Microsoft's rights to assert and sell its intellectual property but he did question why the software giant blocked OIN from the bidding.

Was it an overight? Or an attempt by Microsoft to circulate potentially dangerous IP bombs into the patent troll community?

The patents covered open source software related to operating systems and desktop and broader applications, Bergelt said. Some of them were purchased from former Unix vendor SGI.

"I don't begrudge Microsoft's opportunity to generate a fair return on their IP but I'm concerned about a strategy of selling Linux related and open source software patents to trolls," Bergelt said to this blogger. No, they have not done this before and I'd hope it doesn't happen again."

He said it's possible that leaving OIN out of the bidding was an oversight on Microsoft's part -- but not probable.

"I can't imagine how they could justify it," Bergelt said about Microsoft's IP execs not being informed about OIN. "It [appears to be] an elegant way of insulating [the company] from criticism by [trying to]sell it to a troll."

Again, AST is not a troll, Bergelt emphasized. But did Microsoft know that?

Sure, Microsoft made some money on the Linux related patents. That has to be annoying to OIN members who paid for them.

But this is a win-win for Linux. It demonstrates that Microsoft has not been able to cook up an uber mega legal case against Linux (maybe?) if it is selling Linux related patents to smaller entities.

And the more Linux related patents Microsoft sells, the fewer it owns.

It also demonstrates that OIN is functioning very well in the marketplace. For the money it paid, the Linux defense organization -- which is backed by IBM, Novell and Red Hat, among others --  has gained more patents to its own growing portolio and prevented the trolls from gaining control of  22 linux related ones. The OIN protfolio is now just south of 300 patents and more are coming.

OIN created 45 of its own and has another 45 patent applications in the works designed to protect the Linux roadmap over time.

Topics: Software, Legal, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems

About

Paula Rooney has covered the software and technology industry for more than 20 years, starting with semiconductor design and mini-computer systems at EDN News and later focused on PC software companies including Microsoft, Lotus, Oracle, Red Hat, Novell and other open source and commercial software companies for CRN and PCWeek. She receiv... Full Bio

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