Microsoft to Shield Linux Developers From Patent Battles

From PC Mag: Microsoft is making peace with Linux developers by shelving a weapon it used to assault them with: the company's massive patent portfolio.

On Wednesday, Microsoft effectively pledged 60,000 company patents to Linux's open source development by joining the Open Invention Network (OIN), an industry trade group. Founded back in 2005, OIN's mission has been to shield Linux developers from patent lawsuits — a legal tactic Microsoft has used time and time again to extract royalties from industry vendors.

But on Wednesday, Microsoft said the company was adding its own technology portfolio to OIN's patent defense pool, which currently shields over 2,650 companies. This group includes startups, individual developers, and the biggest tech firms in the world.

"We know Microsoft's decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some," wrote the software giant's deputy general counsel Erich Andersen. "It is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents."

Andersen's mention of "friction" is putting it lightly. For a time, the software giant used its patent portfolio to assert that Google's Android OS, a Linux-based operating system, actually used Microsoft technologies. As a result, Android vendors were pressured to ink deals, forcing them to pay royalties to Microsoft. In 2001, Microsoft's previous CEO Steve Ballmer also famously derided Linux as a "cancer" on intellectual property.

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