OIN outmanuevers Microsoft, buys Linux patents

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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Win-Win for Linux distro's!

    As long as the Open_Source movement steamrolls ahead little by little the M$ Regime will deteriorate over time.
  • RE: OIN outmanuevers Microsoft, buys Linux patents

    Is it fair to say that OIN out maneuvered MS if you cannot tell if the patents have value? Surely, the open-source community would have something great on their hands if they got ahold of something significant, but if these things can't be used then I believe its easy to see that OIN paid more than these things are worth and that will certainly be true if they cannot make money of these patents.
  • If they cared, why sell in the 1st place?

    "Outmanuvered?" If MS cared, or wanted to assert against open source, why sell in the first place?

    The theory of "patent troll" seeding is conspiracy theorization at its peak. Who is more likely to get sued? A company that makes lots of money, or a company that doesn't? How much money would a patent troll get suing an open source org?

    I suppose the next step in the conspiracy theory is that MS is desperate for the cash.
    • A likely scenerio is that OIN

      was tricked into purchasing patents with money they did not wish to spend.

      You are correct, if Microsoft really cared, they would have never sold them.
    • Your definition of an Open Source company is too limited.

      There is nothing stopping commercial entities from building very marketable products around Open Source technologies. Spring and Hibernate are two very obvious examples, albeit not ones directly related to these 22 particular patents. Or consider a company that sells a popular gadget that happens to run a Linux kernel internally, such as a Tivo.

      It is companies like these that fear becoming targets of patent trolls.
  • Linux buying patents?

    Stallman must be rolling over in his grave.
    • Hardly. Stallman isn't dead, for a start ;-) (nt)