Another Patent Protection Deal for Microsoft

Microsoft continues to push forward its program granting amnesty to potential patent violators, this time inking South Korea's LG Electronics (LGE) to a deal.

In an announcement yesterday, Microsoft and LGE agreed to a patent cross-license pact, with LGE paying Microsoft on an ongoing basis "for the value of Microsoft patents as they relate to Linux-based embedded devices that LGE produces," according to an LGE press release. LGE is an electronics giant that makes a host of different devices, including cell phones, notebook computers, optical storage devices, plasma televisions, and large home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines.

Microsoft will also have access to LGE's patents and will license other patents developed by LGE that are now owned by the MicroConnect Group, the press release stated.

“This agreement is another example of how Microsoft is continuing to build bridges with others in the industry through intellectual property licensing,” stated Horacio Gutierrez, vice president, intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, in the release.

Not everyone has seen it that way, however. In fact, Gutierrez helped spark a wildfire that has blazed out of control with an interview he gave to Fortune magazine in April that claimed open source software, and, in particular Linux and Microsoft Office competitor OpenOffice, have violated 235 Microsoft patents.

The LGE deal follows closely on the heels of a similar agreement Microsoft signed with Xandros Inc. on Monday. Andreas Typaldos, Xandros' CEO, said that his company approached Microsoft about a patent agreement following the announcement, last Nov. 6, of a patent-protection covenant with major Linux distributor Novell. In that interview, Typaldos said the deal wasn't made "out of fear" of possible legal action Microsoft might take against alleged patent infringers.

However, Microsoft has clearly sent a signal to companies that develop or use Linux in their products, and companies are getting that message. When asked directly during the interview Monday whether Typaldos believes that Linux has violated 235 Microsoft patents, he said, "I'm not going to say; I don't know the patents Microsoft is talking about. … I don't know the specifics" of the alleged violations. At the time of the interview, David Kaefer, Microsoft's general manager for IP and licensing, was part of the call.

Within a half hour of the end of the interview, Typaldos left a voice message for this reporter in which he said, "I wanted to make it very clear that your question about 'Do I think that Linux is infringing on Microsoft patents?' The answer is a categorical no. The answer is no."

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].