After the Microsoft-TomTom patent-infringement squabble -- settled by TomTom paying Microsoft an undisclosed sum -- I was wondering whether Microsoft might be more successful in unearthing new partners to sign Linux patent-protection deals. The answer seems to be yes.
On July 15, Microsoft signed a patent-coverage deal with Melco Holdings, the Japanese-based parent company of Buffalo Inc. and Buffalo Group. Buffalo makes network-attached storage (NAS) and routers, including the LinkStation and AirStation products.
Microsoft and Melco "have entered into an agreement that will provide Melco Group’s customers with patent coverage for their use of industry-leading technologies running Linux and other related open source software," according to Microsoft's press release. More details from Microsoft:
"Specifically, the patent covenants apply to Buffalo-branded Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, which run Linux, and Buffalo-branded routers, which also run Linux. Although the contents of the agreement have not been disclosed, the parties indicate that the only financial consideration in this agreement is royalties paid by Melco Group to Microsoft."
Yet again, no official word whether Melco has agreed that its Linux wares are infringing on Microsoft patents. (I guess we'll have to wait for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to be that blunt, as he was, to Novell execs' chagrin, when Microsoft and Novell signed a patent-protection deal in 2006.)
Here's Buffalo's statement, courtesy of Microsoft's release:
“'We are very pleased to be able to work with Microsoft on this matter,' said Hajime Nakai, director and member of the board at Buffalo. 'While we plan to increasingly adopt Windows Storage Server for our NAS business, we also wanted to ensure that our open source and Linux-embedded devices had the appropriate IP protections. By collaborating with Microsoft on a practical business solution, we are able to provide our customers with the appropriate IP coverage, while also maintaining full compliance with our obligations under the GPLv2.'"
As those following Microsoft's patent deals with Linux vendors may recall, the Softies have refused to provide IP protection for customers of Linux vendors uing the GNU General Public License v3.
I wonder which Linux OEM will be next to sign on Microsoft's dotted line. I wonder, too, if Microsoft will ever go public with which of its patents it believes Linux violates. It hasn't done so in the past three years, so I'm doubtful....