Amazon becomes the latest company using Linux to pay Microsoft for patent deal

Amazon becomes the latest company using Linux to pay Microsoft for patent deal

Summary: Amazon.com has joined a host of other companies using Linux to pay Microsoft as part of a patent cross-licensing arrangement. Not surprisingly, the wording of the February 22 announcement by Microsoft regarding its latest IP licensing deal doesn't claim Amazon or Linux infringing (or even potentially infringing) on any Microsoft patents.

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Amazon.com has joined a host of other companies using Linux to pay Microsoft as part of a patent cross-licensing arrangement.

Not surprisingly, the wording of the February 22 announcement by Microsoft regarding its latest IP licensing deal doesn't claim Amazon is infringing (or even potentially infringing) on any Microsoft patents. Microsoft execs learned their lesson about doing that after CEO Steve Ballmer's remarks contradicted claims by Novell execs in a patent-licensing arrangement a few years ago. -- right around the time Microsoft officials said free and open-source software violated 235 Microsoft patents.

But like other similar patent agreements Microsoft has struck with companies ranging from TomTom and Melco/Buffalo, to Samsung and Fuji Xerox,  the deal with Amazon does cover open-source and Linux-based technologies -- including the Kindle e-reader, which runs Linux.

I asked Microsoft a few additional questions about the agreement and received the following responses from a corporate spokesperson:

MJF: Microsoft has said it doesn’t plan to enter the eReader market. Does this agreement signal a change in that strategy? Or is this more of a case where Amazon is paying for patent protection like Buffalo and TomTom did?

Microsoft: Patent cross-licensing agreements, like this one we have forged with Amazon, are an important means for recognizing and respecting IP rights and make it possible for us to be more creative and collaborative with others in the industry, and to bring new and compelling products to market faster.

MJF: Is Microsoft saying which patents from Microsoft that Amazon has access to?

Microsoft: Specific terms of the agreement are confidential.

MJF: Amazon is paying Microsoft, but is Microsoft also paying Amazon?

Microsoft: Specific terms of the agreement are confidential. However, Amazon will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of money under the agreement.

According to Microsoft's release, the Redmondians have entered into "more than 600 licensing agreements" for various pieces of its IP. The release cites not only companies who've signed agreements to head off potential patent-infringement cases, but also those who've done other cross-licensing deals, like Apple, HP and Nikon Corp.

Amazon recently introduced a version of its Kindle readersoftware for Windows. But this new agreement doesn't seem related to that project, from what I can tell.

Update (via TechFlash's Todd Bishop): Amazon isn't issuing its own press release, nor is it commenting on Microsoft's announcement about the deal. Interesting.

Topics: Amazon, CXO, Legal, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, IT Employment

About

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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  • Amazon becomes the latest company using Linux to pay Microsoft for patent d

    With all these companies striking a deal with Microsoft there has to be some truth to the patents. What I don't get is Microsoft saying they won't enter the e-reader market. They have had e-reader software for years now.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Not necessarily ....

      Remember that they get automatic license to any MS patent with the deal.

      Bezos probably just wants something else from MS and this was a cheaper deal.
      wackoae
    • Once again, Rockhead has ...

      ... rocks in his head.

      With these big companies, it's like buying insurance: you don't buy insurance because you believe you're going to get in an accident, or if you even SUSPECT you MIGHT get in an accident; you buy insurance either (1) to hedge your bets in case you ever DO get in an accident, and/or (2) more importantly because some somebody important to you REQUIRES you to buy the insurance (like the law or an important customer who won't do business with you unless you have it; and sometimes the latter is because of totally misguided reasons).

      MS has so much money that they can, and do, file lawsuits against companies for totally bogus reasons just to try to make sure those companies never DO get big enough to be a threat. Qwest sued a couple of my clients just because they were high tech companies and had the word "quest" in their names.

      Now, return that monthly shill check to MS, Lovey. Ya didn't earn it THIS month!
      OButterball
      • Two ways to look at it. You chose the cynical one.

        Companies, like Apple, Google, Oracle and, yes, Microsoft file lawsuits because it's business and they need to protect said business and it's assets. That's all there is to it. They can't let precedence be set that they are willing to let their IP be used uncontested. It tends to make it public property at some point.
        IP is as much an asset as is the company's cash reserves.
        xuniL_z
        • If they are trying to protect their IP ...

          ... then they wouldn't have any problem naming, specifically, what that IP was and launching a lawsuit if someone was infringing on it.

          The fact that they haven't done either of those two things, but just use the threat of a lawsuit to pad their bottom line with these "protection deals," says they OBVIOUSLY are doing what they are doing because of what cynical Ol' OhBee says they are doing.
          OButterball
          • Who do they go after?

            Novell is protected. Have they named Red Hat or any other company using Linux that provides some level of responsibility under one roof?
            It's not like a company going after MS, Apple or Google with large "war chests".

            It would obviously make Microsoft look worse than ever if they started to go after end users or trying to pinpoint the copyright holders of the infringing code. They would not get any compensation in those cases and the media coverage would be extremely harmful to MS since the biased tech media would paint it as the M$ empire going after the little guy who lives as a minimalist.
            I think the gnu/linux authors, or users would get sympathy in any court and it would be a last ditch effort, no matter how *true* their allegations are of the infringement.

            They are not going to open their code to the world and discuss what is being copied publically anyway, as many have suggested is the reason they won't do it. It would obviously be handled with total respect for their decision to use proprietary code. Not sure how it woudl be handled if they ever went through with it and could bring some group of offenders to court, but I'm sure the code review process and comparisons would all be done behind closed doors with a non biased expert or panel of experts.

            They don't have the Apple bonus of users who are drinking way too much of the kool-aid and can watch adoringly as Steve Jobs orders that very small companies have lawsuits filed because they have "pod" in their name, a word in the dictionary that Apple has not trademarked.
            xuniL_z
          • Bingo!

            "They would not get any compensation in those cases and the media coverage would be extremely harmful to MS since the biased tech media would paint it as the M$ empire going after the little guy who lives as a minimalist."

            Which is why they DON'T sue anybody, just have anybody they can scare into it paying this "protection money."

            "Ooooo," says the MS law/marketing team, "We're gonna SUE ya for violating our IP ... yeah ... we are ... pay up ... we will ... pay up."
            OButterball
          • You forgot to add the part about their thugs...

            threatening to break a few kneecaps. I mean it's obvious where you stand, but it might not be exactly as you are painting it.
            There are some obvious infringements and possibly all they claim there to be, and not being about to go after it is not a laughing matter.
            If they sell a patent, they can't guarantee what will happen. I'm not sure why you so against companies that are out to make money.
            Look at all of the mouths they have to feed.
            They have been great stewards of keeping their people gainfully employeed. That is a great thing for the country and families everywhere.
            It is healthy and makes for a much better standard of living.
            I'm sorry if you don't agree.
            And that extends to the millions who are employed because of the massive ecosystem.

            How can open source people claim software is just knowledge and should be free, but then tell us the switch to Linux would be a switch to a services based industry. For starters, there would a loss of millions of jobs if open source somehow replaced Windows and OS X.
            And there already is a very robust service industry built around this ecosystem.
            But how can the process of architecting, design, development and debugging, followed by years of software maintenance be considered "Free Knowledge" but when someone can't get a printer to work with their Linux system, they have to make a phone call and get out their credit card to Buy that knowledge?
            Seems to me the support side is more about just knowledge of the OS and applications. It is and should be the free side, if there were to be any free side.
            xuniL_z
          • @xuniL_z

            I've been using Linux for a year now. The only times I've had any trouble with support of any kind came from the proprietary vendors. i.e. when my Yahoo! messenger account wasn't working properly, I went to Yahoo, let them know I'd tried multiple versions of their messenger with multiple accounts and that only one account was not working, always the same account. They tried forcing me into Windows in order to use their newest client rather than actually paying attention.

            Before that, I've had plenty of run-ins with my ISP who continuously stated that they don't support Linux up until very recently. I'm thinking they just got tired of saying it.

            On the open source side of things, I've simply looked up what I was trying to do on Google, found what I needed in a minute, maybe two, and was done.
            tmsbrdrs
          • tmbrs....oh of course, bing or google is what I use too.

            It's rare when I can't find the answer to any problem on bing or google.

            But the forums and amount of technical information on microsoft.com dwarfs that of Ubuntoo's or any other Linux system's site.
            The number of webcasts on MSDN or technet are staggering. Thousands upon thousands of great webcasts, many are fully instructional series. And that is only part of the learning tools available at microsoft.com. There is enough to keep anyone at any level of any facet of IT with enough information to fix any problem learn any new technology or advance their careers. There is no comparison. Even completely green beginners can load up Visual studio express with SQL express and be programming decently in a few weeks.
            Support is not just talking to someone on the phone or sending questions via email or posting on a website, but the available resources to assist users.
            MS is definately a large cut above anyone in this regard in my opinion.
            xuniL_z
          • Doesn't the Kindle have a [b]page up[/b] and [b]page down[/b] button?

            I haven't seen one, so I couldn't say, but I do know for a fact that Microsoft patented those two features oh, about two years ago.

            http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-218626.html
            914four
          • I remember...

            Perusing Microsoft's Big List of patents, I picked one at
            random and studied it.

            They'd applied for, and gotten, a patent on a dialog
            box !

            It was something like "a window that appears based on
            user interaction and allows for text input".

            I have nothing in principle against patent protection for
            unique ideas, but they HAVE to actually BE unique !

            As in, 'not already in use for decades by your
            competitors'.

            It's pretty hard to get a patent on a physical device, but
            obviously a company like M$ can get any software
            patent rubber-stamped.
            Jkirk3279
    • Actually it's just the MS Mafia extoring the FOSS comunity

      MS isn't satisfied with just getting paid for their own work, they have to get paid for other people's work as well.

      I don't know why congress doesn't just change the tax laws and put a MS tax in there already. That way MS could collect their "royalties" without all of this ugly patent mess. It would save money too on the lawsuits.
      T1Oracle
      • You seem to willfully misunderstand

        Or flat out lie. Whichever.
        It is MS that has done the work, MS that has filed the patents, and FOSS leaching off the work of others.
        Amazon knows patents. They have what is needed to take on MS if they were in the right. They didn't.

        How long are you going to make up excuses? How long are you going to just pretend that your wishful thinking means anything?

        Amazon has stopped pretending and made the needed deal. You?
        mdemuth
        • See my conspiracy theory further below

          Keyword is UNDISCLOSED
          tripolitan
        • You willfully misunderstand the power of $$$

          and the underhanded nature of Microsoft.

          MS has money, they have enormous market share, they even have government lobbyists, they can extort whom ever they want and that is exactly what they are doing here.

          If MS patents had grounds the Linux distributors would have to pay not the users.
          T1Oracle
        • MS Did the work?

          Really?

          http://www.catb.org/~esr/halloween/

          History disagrees with you.

          Search the above referenced article for the phrase "de-commoditize protocols"
          SpikeyMike
        • Really? (A Jerry McGuire moment)

          MS has done the work? MS has filed the patents? Oh my! Which ones? I use, including modifying and redistributing, open source software all the time. Should I be concerned?

          I guess the only way to be certain that I'm not in violation would be for Microsoft to point out publicly exactly where the most common violations occur, and then we could be extra careful not to violate.

          No? Oh, I don't guess I understand. I thought it was bad to violate. I don't want to do bad things, MS.

          Help me, MS! Help me to help you. Help me, help you. I LOVE the FAT MAN!! SHOW ME THE CODE!!!
          jeverettk
        • B.S.

          "It is MS that has done the work, MS that has filed the
          patents"

          Prove it. Oh, but you can't.

          No facts are in evidence. All we know is M$ is
          threatening people.

          At least in Nokia vs. Apple Inc. we can look at the
          details.

          Let me suggest that you're biased in favor of Microsoft:
          you defend them as if their claims are true, without any
          proof.
          Jkirk3279
        • So, explain please exactly how...

          ...FOSS is leaching from Microsoft patents stuff that Microsoft stole from Xerox and IBM in the 70ies and 80ies?
          My first IBM XT keyboard had page up and page down on it back in the early 80ies, what [i]exactly[/i] in your opinion gives Microsoft the right to patent those features in 2008?
          914four