Microsoft and Melco Group Sign Patent Agreement for Linux Devices

Jul 17, 2009

Microsoft has entered a patent agreement with Melco Group, parent company to Buffalo, Inc. of Nagoya, Japan, especially affecting the company's Linux devices.

According to the Microsoft press release, the agreement has Melco Group paying undisclosed royalties for embedded Linux and other open source software in Buffalo Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices and routers. Hajime Nakai, director and member of the board at Buffalo, is quoted:

"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 [intellectual property] 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."

Microsoft did not reveal exactly which software patents are involved.

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  • Software patents

    Reading between the lines of this news item and the original press release at MS website, it appears clear to me that since 2003 MS has managed to convince over 500 firms that Linux violates MS IP and that if they don't pay MS undisclosed royalties, they are going to face the menace of court attacks by Redmond.
    I'd call this blackmailing.
    Then, of course, MS talks about how "intellectual property (IP) plays [an important role] in ensuring a healthy and vibrant IT ecosystem" and calls these agreements "a reflection of both Microsoft’s decades-long commitment to R&D in the operating system space and the high-quality patent portfolio we’ve developed through our R&D efforts". On their part, Melco have probably also agreed to say that they are "very pleased to be able to work with Microsoft on this matter". While, in fact, the agreement is the outcome of threats of court aggression.
    The problem is that all these companies are building "previous jurisprudence", basically admitting that Linux violates MS IP, so that they have to pay MS to "to provide [their] customers with the appropriate IP coverage". With these precedents, it becomes more and more difficult for other companies to fend off MS attacks.
    Luckily, there is still the European Commission, which seems the only authority in the world that dares curb MS pretentious claims. (don't expect any organism in the US to damage a company that brings so much of the world's money into the Country).
    Note: one of MS arguments against the EU commission demands was that Windows could not operate without IE. Yet, now they are releasing Win7 without IE as a special edition for Europe.
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