Amazon Makes Pay-Out To Microsoft Over Linux Patents

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The agreement is seen by commentators as another example of Microsoft applying pressure over patents it claims are violated by open source software

Microsoft has disclosed details of an agreement with Amazon which sees the online retailer pay an undisclosed sum to Microsoft over its use of Linux-based servers.

In a statement issued by Microsoft – Amazon has not issued its own statement on the issue – the computing giant announced that the two companies had entered into “an agreement” to access the other’s patents, including those related to the retailer’s e-reader Kindle.

Crucially, the deal also covers Amazon’s use of “Linux-based servers” according to the Microsoft statement. Microsoft has stated in the past that it owns a number of patents that are potentially infringed by Linux and other open source software, and has hinted that it might choose to enforce these at some point in the future. “Although specific terms of the agreement are confidential, Microsoft indicated that will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of money under the agreement,” the company said in the statement.

Commenting on the agreement, Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft, said the company’s patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry. “This agreement demonstrates our mutual respect for intellectual property as well as our ability to reach pragmatic solutions to IP issues regardless of whether proprietary or open source software is involved,” he said.

Author of Microsoft 2.0 Mary Jo Foley, blogged that the deal with Amazon was definitely related to Microsoft’s Linux patents although it is not explicitly spelled out. “Not surprisingly, the wording of the February 22 announcement by Microsoft regarding its latest IP licensing deal doesn’t claim Amazon or Linux infringing (or even potentially infringing) on any Microsoft patents,” stated Foley. “Microsoft execs learned their lesson about doing that after CEO Steve Ballmer’s remarks contradicted claims by Novell execs in a patent-licensing arrangement a few years ago – right around the time Microsoft officials said free and open source software violated 235 Microsoft patents.”

Microsoft made the declaration about patent infringement in 2007. Microsoft sued sat-nav maker TomTom in February 2009, claiming the GPS device maker infringed on Microsoft’s patents. “Three of those patents centered around FAT, Microsoft’s patented file-allocation-table technology – and TomTom’s implementation in the Linux kernel involving FAT,” Foley blogged at the time.

Last September Open Invention Network (OIN), a collaborative enterprise that enables innovation in open source, announced the acquisition of 22 Linux-focused patents that were marketed and sold by Microsoft.

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