Linspire joins the Microsoft 'IP protection' racket

Linspire joins the Microsoft 'IP protection' racket

Summary: Beyond giving Microsoft more fuel for its claim that Linux and open-source software violates 235 of Microsoft's patents (which these Linux customers need patent-infringement protection against in order to maintain peace of mind), Linspire's newly inked patent-deal with Microsoft also furthers a number of other Microsoft goals.


Another week, another Linux vendor signs Microsoft's 'IP protection' clause, supposedly saving its customers from potential Microsoft patent-infringement lawsuits.

On June 14, Linspire -- the company Microsoft sued for use of the "Lindows" trademark a few years back -- signed a patent agreement with Microsoft. Linspire is the third Linux distro vendor (the other two being Novell and Xandros) to sign such a contract.

Beyond giving Microsoft more fuel for its claim that Linux and open-source software violates 235 of Microsoft's patents (which these Linux customers need patent-infringement protection against in order to maintain peace of mind), Linspire also furthers a number of other Microsoft goals with this deal:

* Linspire is joining with Novell and Microsoft to create more translators allowing Open Office to share documents with Office 2007. Because Microsoft has been dinged -- especially by government customers in the U.S. and abroad -- for its resistance to supporting Open Office ODF format, it has been working overtime to show how dedicated it is to Open XML-ODF interoperability.

* Linspire is making Live Search the default Web search engine in Linspire 5.0. Every little search deal helps, when you're trying to pull yourself out from a distant third place in search share.

* Linspire has licensed Microsoft TrueType fonts, "including Arial, Georgia®, Times New Roman and Verdana." However, as the fine press-release print notes, "Linspire customers only receive these three technologies (instant messaging, digital media and TrueType fonts) if they purchase a patent SKU. The technologies are not shipped with all Linspire 5.0 distributions."

My ZDNet blogging colleague Larry Dignan wonders whether Red Hat might be next to join Microsoft's patent-protection racket. I think Red Hat will continue to hold out from helping Microsoft plant more fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of customers who dare to use Linux alongside Windows. Do you think Red Hat will succumb?

Topics: Linux, Microsoft, Open Source


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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  • Linspire, Carmony, and ESR...

    Another foolish "Linux" company which couldn't seem to find any momentum sells their soul.

    Kevin Carmony attempted to appear sympathetic to the community when Novell worked their legal obfuscation of the GPL. Apparently he has no backbone or compelling core values.

    Now it appears, since he is now on Linspire's board, that ESR is firmly planted in the cathedral. The once respected ESR has shown us that he is nothing more than a out-spoken clown.

    How does this affect Canonical(parent of Ubuntu)? They recently signed a deal with Linspire to give their users legal access to otherwise encumbered WMF formats.

    The "Linux" companies which sign these deals are like a very destructive cancer on the community and they must be 'cut out'. Which is exactly how the community is reacting so far with regard to Novell and Xandros.

    In my mind this goes well beyond MS FUD. I think this strategy on the part of MS constitutes anti-trust behavior. Too bad our government is bought and paid for by the likes of MS.

    I think Torvalds will soon see the true implications of these destructive deals and he will move the kernel to GPL v3. Without the support of the community, these companies (Novell, Xandros, Linspire) will fail.
    Tim Patterson
  • Stirring up Trouble with Titles?

    You keep this up and the linux crowd will swear that you have changed over to their side.

    As for the Racket, this does worry me. Microsoft is proving that apparently you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The interesting thing is that they are not the least bit discreet with their efforts.
    • Message has been deleted.

      • Whoops

        I fell right into her trap.
      • re: clicks

        [b]And a title like that is guaranteed to bring the open source zealots faster than a fresh turd draws flies.{/b]

        maybe you should have added...

        And a title like that is guaranteed to bring the msft zealots faster than a fresh turd draws flies.


        gnu/ choice to the neX(11)t generation.
        Arm A. Geddon
        • Naw, the

          turds are all yours, enjoy...
    • She is just calling it what it is, a RACKET. Pretty obvious to anybody with

      at least half a brain.
  • What motivates these companies?

    1. Either MS has showed them proof or given them sufficient reason to worry.

    2. Or, they are just plain stupid.

    3. Or they take the much needed cash now and worry about going to trial later as it is unlikely that MS will prevail in court.

    What do you guys think? I am leaning towards 1 or 3.
    • MS not so dumb

      If MS really cared about patents they would have sued a long time ago

      They want MS technology and products in Linux

      They want Linux companies to depend on MS

    • You are thinking too small

      1 Protection from Lawsuit in written form
      2 Chance at getting some technologies that Linux needs
      3 Making a deal with an adversary in order to bury to competition
      4 Microsoft plays hell in the Court Room and companies do fear this.
      5 MS is playing Good Cop, Bad Cop since the whole SCO fiasco.
      6 Linux companies know that the way to victory is through partnerships, but they get confused as to who to partner with.
      7 Perhaps by playing by Microsoft's rules, Linux thinks they can get more of a market share.
    • Uh, common sense would be my guess.

      Customers WANT interoprability and these companies are finding ways to provide it.

      Yeah I know, its hard for an open source zealot to grasp that FOR PROFIT companies try to meet their customers needs instead of following the religion of Stallman...
      • Yes but alliances with Microsoft work so well

        Just ask IBM.
        • re: alliances

          or any of the other companies they(msft) worked with and borrowed(stole?) their code. I'm sure someone will provide a list.

          gnu/ choice to the neX(11)t generation.
          Arm A. Geddon
        • IBM is very happy with their partnership with MS.

          Well, as happy as any competitor can be that is. If that were not the case we would not see them partnering on an almost daily basis.

          However you are right about one thing. IBM didn't have the strangle hold on MS they enjoyed with others and MS beat them at their own game.
      • Yea right, we can trust Microsoft for our interoperability needs. You are

        really funny. It would really easy for MS to provide interoperability without the patent threats, and the "interoperability" agreements.
  • Where the proof?

    If I was a Linux company I would invite a lawsuit. Until Microsoft comes clean with what patents of their's are being use they are just strong arming Linux companies into making them do what ever they want.

    The US government should get in to this because it sounds like Microsoft is doing something dirty.
    • So whats stopping you?

      I mean anyone with a web site can be a "linux company". Whats stopping you???
  • Mary Jo, most biased "reporter" on the planet.

    Ok, your right, Mary Jo could not possibly confused with a real reporter, that would require basic tenants of journalism beyond her ablities.

    "Protection Racket" Gee Mary Jo, was it a "racket" when you signed up with ZDNet to carry your garbage?
    • Quite the contrary

      I find Mary Jo's characterization of the "Microsoft 'IP protection' racket" to be very accurate. This is exactly what it looks like to every intelligent, objective person because that is exactly what IT IS!

      Great job Mary Jo!
      Tim Patterson
      • couldn't agree more!! nt

        Arm A. Geddon