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Microsoft and Amazon Ink 'Confidential' IP Deal

Microsoft issued an announcement on Monday stating that it had signed a "patent cross-license" deal with regarding Amazon's Kindle e-reader device and the "use of Linux-based servers."

Amazon will pay Microsoft an unspecified amount of money to settle intellectual property (IP) matters. The exact terms of the deal are considered to be confidential, but the announcement still put open source Linux in the cross hairs.

"Microsoft chose to focus on Linux and open source -- distinctly calling it out from 'proprietary software' and wasn't specific about any patents," noted Jim Zemlin, executive director of the nonprofit Linux Foundation, in his blog.

Zemlin discounted the deal as a "non-news event," saying that companies make such deals all of the time and don't issue press releases about them.

Microsoft's announcement stated that the Kindle electronic book-reading device relies on "both open source and Amazon's proprietary software components," plus it uses Amazon's Linux-based servers.

Microsoft elicited controversy among open source Linux advocates when it announced a deal with Novell in November of 2006 over IP used in Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server operating system. In May of 2007, Microsoft was accused of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt over Linux licensing after a Microsoft executive claimed that Linux violated 235 of Microsoft's patents.

Until this latest announcement with Amazon, Microsoft had been relatively quiet about alleged IP violations concerning Linux. Its last effort centered on TomTom's use of Microsoft's File Allocation Table technology in TomTom's Linux-based GPS devices. The case was settled in late March of 2009.

Not all of Microsoft's Linux deals have been about remedying IP violations. The company has tended to stress Linux interoperability with Windows as a means of meeting customer needs. To that end, Microsoft signed a deal in October of 2009 with Red Hat concerning Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on each other's virtualization platforms. No licensing or compensation agreements were announced with that deal.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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Reader Comments:

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Thu, Feb 25, 2010 Reader Kim

There may be sound e reading business strategies behind this but the annoying part is the propensity of these companies to hide the details. They should know by now that a "mere appearance" of anti-trust deals invite huge litigation stuff from gov'ts. They should have learned by now. By the way, who is next?

Wed, Feb 24, 2010 forred

This is a gang/mob kind of deal. It's a big f***up, because it's easy to be done and it serves the M$ intent to spread FUD over the FLOSS, opening the way for more of the like Novell deals. M$ fears competition from Linux and Open Source Softwaere in general, for good reasons. Lets suppose that every time that M$ negotiates a grant / cross licensing agreement with other big monopoly, in case they use Linux servers, the M$ guys tell them: ok friends, now we are prepared to give you a big discount on this deal, but you must authorize us to issue a press release that mention that our present deal also covers your usage of Linux servers. If you accept, lets just draft the related non disclosure agreement. What do you people think the other party would say? If this is not what happened, so who can explain the reason why there are so many companies that use Linux and M$ did not went over them? Of course its because they never went to M$ (yet) asking for any kind of patent deal. Now, the good question is: how to stop this scheme ?

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