Microsoft's Patent Deal With Samsung Includes Linux Protection - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Microsoft's Patent Deal With Samsung Includes Linux Protection

The cross-licensing deal covers a wide variety of computer and digital media products.

Microsoft and Samsung Electronics have agreed to a broad, cross-licensing patent agreement that apparently includes a controversial clause that protects against any legal claims Microsoft may have on technology used in Linux.

The two companies on Wednesday said the deal would cover patents related to Samsung's existing and future product lines, such as computer products, set-top boxes, digital media players, camcorders, televisions, printers, and home appliances. Microsoft, on the other hand, would get access to Samsung intellectual property related to digital media and computers.

Financial terms were not released, but the companies said they would receive payments for the use of their respective technology.

Within the joint press release announcing the deal, however, the companies said, "Samsung and its distributors and customers may utilize Microsoft's patents in Samsung's products with proprietary software, and Samsung will also obtain coverage from Microsoft for its customers' use of certain Linux-based products."

It appears Microsoft has extended to Samsung legal protection similar to what the software maker gave Novell in a deal announced in November 2006. Microsoft and Novell agreed not to sue each other over intellectual property within Windows and Suse Linux, Novell's distribution of the open-source operating system. Microsoft confirmed on Thursday that the Samsung deal related to Linux is "very similar" to the one with Novell.

The deal angered the Linux development community, which demanded that Microsoft identify its technology in Linux. Microsoft has yet to do that, but Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has said that a company using a distribution other than Suse Linux "sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability."

Such saber rattling has prompted the open source community to fight back. The Free Software Foundation, which controls a lot of the code driving Linux, has said that it may ban Novell from using new versions of its technology.

Microsoft's deal with Samsung is the latest in a growing number of cross-licensing agreements covering a range of computer hardware, software and telecommunications products. Companies that have signed such deals with Microsoft include Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd., NEC, Nortel, and Seiko Epson.

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