Companies paying Microsoft for patents within GNU/Linux?

I just finished reading an interview by LinuxWorld in which they interviewed Jeremy Allison.

It was an interesting read, but the bottom of page two caught my eye.

LinuxWorld: One of the persistent rumors that’s going around is that certain large IT customers have already been paying Microsoft for patent licensing to cover their use of Linux, Samba and other free software projects.

Allison: Yes, that’s true, actually. I mean I have had people come up to me and essentially off the record admit that they had been threatened by Microsoft and had got patent cross license and had essentially taken out a license for Microsoft patents on the free software that they were using, which they then cannot redistribute. I think that would be the restriction. I would have to look quite carefully. So, essentially that’s not allowed. But they’re not telling anyone about it. They’re completely doing it off the record.

This both sicked me to read and also proceeded to further my undying hatred for software patents.

I wondered if this had anything to do with the Novell deal and upon reading Jeremy's next paragraph, I discovered that I was right and of course was not surprised by it (and who would).

Allison: The problem with the Novell deal is -- Novell gave Microsoft what Microsoft dearly wanted, which is a public admission that they think that Linux violates the Microsoft patent. So, that’s the difference between this and the sort of off-the-record quiet deals. This one is public. This one is Novell admitting, "yes, we think that Linux violates Microsoft patents." Now, of course, Novell has come out and said, "no, that’s not what we said at all. We don’t think that." To which, of course, Microsoft publicly humiliated them and said, "oh, yes, that’s really what you were saying." It’s kind of funny. They couldn’t even wait until the press conference was over to start threatening users with a Linux system.

The one thing I would love to know is if these companies asked Microsoft for any proof before bowing down and sending a check their way.


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