Add TurboLinux to the Microsoft patent-protection roster

Add TurboLinux to the Microsoft patent-protection roster

Summary: It's been a while since Microsoft signed up any more Linux distro vendors to participate as patent-protection partners. But on October 22, the Redmondians announced they've added TurboLinux to the fold.


It's been a while since Microsoft signed up any more Linux distro vendors to participate as patent-protection partners. But on October 22, the Redmondians announced they've added TurboLinux to the fold.

Add TurboLinux to the Microsoft patent-protection rosterMicrosoft's deal with TurboLinux -- like the interoperability/technology partnership arrangements it has cemented with Novell, Linspire and Xandros -- has several components. According to the Microsoft press release, the new Microsoft pact with TurboLinux, a Japanese vendor with a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific market, will cover the following areas:

  • Single sign-on collaboration: Microsoft and Turbo will develop a "single sign-on solution, enabling customers to use one set of credentials to log on to Windows-based and Turbolinux devices."
  • Protocol licensing: Turbo signed a Workgroup Server Protocol Program (WSPP) evaluation license in order to "evaluate additional technical collaboration opportunities on which to focus in the future."
  • An R&D interop lab: This one to be housed in the same building as Microsoft's Beijing office.
  • Windows Live marketing deal: TurboLinux desktops now feature Live Search. (Microsoft is billing this as an expansion of earlier desktop collaboration agreements between Microsoft and Turbo in the Open XML and WIndows Media Format areas.)
  • The aforementioned patent-protection agreement: Microsoft's explanation states that "this agreement will provide intellectual property assurance for Turbolinux customers who purchase Turbolinux Server." The unstated part of the agreement: Turbo has likely licensed for an undisclosed sum some of the 235 Microsoft patents upon which the Redmond software vendor claims free and open-source software infringe.

I asked Microsoft whether the Turbo deal will include a loophole via which Microsoft will not indemnify TurboLinux customers who are running GNU General Public License (GPL) v3 software. Microsoft has added riders to its agreements with Novell and Linspire, claiming that it does not believe it is obligated to cover users running GPLv3 software. No word back yet. Also no word on whether Turbo is licensing any technologies or patents from Microsoft as part of the arrangement.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently called out Red Hat by name as a violator of Microsoft patents. Red Hat officials have said they have no intention of signing a patent-protection deal with Microsoft.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Banking, Collaboration, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Security, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Here's a catchy one .

    Maybe APPLE should sign a patent protection deal with Microsoft ? Being that much of
    OS X came from the same place as Linux . Get real Microsoft , you can't cover your lies
    from the line of sight with a piece of string over a persons eyes .
  • Another one bites the dust

    Those who care about the future of Linux and FOSS should not touch the MS corrupted distros.
    Tim Patterson
    • I wouldn't get too worked up about it

      MS hasn't taken issue with anyone on their IP infringement claim against Linux. There's no corruption unless the source code headers indicate anything other than GPLv2 or OpenBSD.

      Novell on their own will decide on what merges to SLED/SLES as GPLv3 code.

      What's significant is that MS is trying to position themselves again with a 'player', TurboLinux, in Asian markets, most notably, China. As more and more choose Linux over Windows MS will do more and more 'legal posturing' to try to influence the market changes over which they have no control.

      They won't sue.
      D T Schmitz
    • Won't be possible in the near future.

      All the Linux distros will sign on or get left in the dust.
      • Poor, poor no_ax...

        ...was reality a casualty early in your life or is senile dementia setting in?
  • All The Wrong Moves

    These "moves" by Microsoft are not the stealthy calculated ones of a corporation in its prime; confident; deliberate. No. What we are witnessing is a giant stumbling in fear. Cowed by a competitor they dwarf in both revenue and market penetration. The reason behind their machinations is that they showed up to a gun fight with a knife. A very big knife, but the wrong weapon. And now they're making all the moves of an expert swordsman (just like in Indiana Jones), but they know they can't win with what they've got. They can only win by intimidation. Way to go big boy, swing that mighty blade!
    • Looks like the moves are perfect to me.

      They are working. Come on you lagging distros, sign up now!
    • Why would Microsoft be Cowering?

      Their market share versus Linux is doing as well as ever. The are losing some ground in home desktops against mac, but still enjoy over 92% marketshare overall. What this move reflects is that they are realizing that their solutions are best in many settings, but not all. Therefor they are furthering their compatibility with other solutions that are not really competing with their core products.
  • RE: Add TurboLinux to the Microsoft patent-protection roster

    M$ is taking CYA to a new level with this one. What I'm seeing here is a blatant attempt to play defense on a field where you're surrounded, outgunned and potentially underarmed.

    If they are attempting a divide-and-conquer, they have a lot more real estate to try to cover....mostly Europe (and we all know how well that will work). Else, they need to stick to the little proxy patent battles because even in Asia it seems that the best they can do is try to stave off the onslaught of the pirates.
  • I wonder how much

    MS had to pay for this one? The only one where the financial terms were disclosed was the Novell deal, and that cost almost as much as some of MS' patent-infringement settlements. I would think that TurboLinux would be less costly, but it still must add up to quite a pile eventually.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Chump change in the big picture.

      If there was any money at all.
  • M$ must stop this practice

    This is one of the murkiesk scams elaborated by the M$ crooks.
    The OSS must take legal action and the morons that signed the deal should be outcast from the community.
    Linux Geek
    • HAA...

      I hope Microsoft does more of these just to get your blood boiling. :)

      Grow up kid. It's software, not religion.
    • So,,, whats stopping you?

      Other than talent, skills, money, brains, backing and guts I mean...
  • Clarification from Novell

    Hi MaryJo:

    Bruce Lowry from Novell here. In the Novell deal, Microsoft's covenant to Novell customers not to sue over patents does cover customers running GNU General Public License (GPL) v3 software. Microsoft has added no rider to its agreement with Novell. Your statement to the contrary is factually incorrect.

      Answer me this:

      Is BayStar going to pay Novell's patent sue settlement that was levied again Novell and RedHat by Acacia.

      Inquiry minds wants to know? Please elaborate.
  • Question...

    On the premise that Microsoft must be getting something significant out of these deals, what exactly is the key item that each vendor has that isn't part of the GPL or GNU tree?

    That being said, another issue arises. Microsoft is getting quite involved with GPL/GNU/FOSS code. It would be interesting to see if they are setting themselves up for a suit by RMS and bunches of other people who's code may "somehow" be being included in the Windows source tree without their permission.

    Ah conspiracy theories in the morning, it's enough to make a person want to consider driving hybrid vehicles.
    • RE: Question

      Microsoft gain is what they got out of Novell, a tacit admission that Linux contain MS IP. In the Novell-Microsoft announcement Ballmer called it the "IP Bridge" -- in exchange for about $300M Novell agreed to pay Microsoft a ROYALTY for each SLES that it sells. Hovesepian repeatedly denies that MS IP is "in Linux" but Novell continues to pay royalties.

      Because Novell is paying royalties doesn't mean that MS IP is actually "in Linux".

      First, Ballmer has been making those claims for several years, and even threatened an Asian country with a lawsuit, but later denied that is what he said.

      Secondly, none of the 235 claims Microsoft made a fuss over several years ago have been validated and most probably wouldn't stand up to either prior art or court tests.

      Thirdly, Linux isn't a single entity. It is doubtful that Microsoft has any claim on the Linux kernel. That kernel has been under development for 15 years and if MS has had access to the source for that long. IF MS had a valid claim against the kernel they have let it go far to long to sue now.

      Fourth, while GNOME and KDE are used by Linux distros they are not "Linux". If Microsoft's IP is in either of those desktops then Microsoft has a legal responsibility to mitigate damages by informing them of EXACTLY where the infringement is so that it can be removed. Continuing to bluster and make threats isn't "mitigating" damages. After two years of blustering Microsoft has lost credibility and is only trying to intimidate. It isn't working.

      Fifth, if it isn't the kernel, GNOME or KDE then it is some secondary app that can be easily replaiced or worked around.

      No one is fooled by a lawsuit from a company that is staffed by former MS employees and served by lawyers who were working for MS a few weeks ago. Even by a proxy it is still Microsoft doing the suing.
      • I think you're racing on a different track

        I was wondering about distinguishing tech. Your response was nothing to do with my question.
  • Patent battle lines being drawn

    There are four types of "intellectual property." Each has a purpose and a means of protection and enforcement. The last one untested is now being deployed by Microsoft.

    Type 1: Trade secrets. These are protected by non-disclosure agreements and some industrial espionage laws. They are only "property" as long as they are secret. These don't apply to FS/OSS since the code is wide open. Also, if I develop something that duplicates your trade secret but I did not know your secret, you cannot go after me. No teeth here.

    Type 2: Trademarks. These are protect by various laws and generally only apply within the bounds of a specific industry or service. No teeth here to use against FS/OSS either.

    Type 3: Copyrights. These are protected by law and have teeth. But, if your opponent did not violate your copyright, you can't successfully go after him. SCO has learned this and MS knows they will have a hard time continuing to argue copyright infringement.

    That leaves Type 4: Patents. These are protected by law, have large teeth and allow you to go after others even if they independently implemented the same idea. MS is placing this weapon in it's attack forces hands now. It will probably do some real damage to FS/OSS too. At least in the US and anywhere else software patents are allowed.

    The deals with the various Linux vendors are revealing the patent battle line. The vendors taking the patent deal, such as Turbo Linux, Novell and others, are betting that the patent enforcers will win. Others like Red Hat believe that the software patent fortress will fall.

    Either way, damage to innovation will be done, lawyers will get lots of money and, for a while, the FS/OSS ride will be bumpy.

    I fear that the US and other software patent supporting countries will find they will loose in the long run because the war's collateral damage will be very high. When a large percentage of start-up cost is just paying off the patent trolls, what will happen to start-ups? They will start in Brazil or India or China instead of Silicon Valley. Maybe then politicians will see that protecting the big money interests is not in the best interest of the country.

    In the mean time, I'll continue to use Linux and other FS/OSS software and morn the damage to innovation our patent trolls will wreck upon the landscape.