Computerworld reported yesterday
that Microsoft and Samsung have signed a new cross-patent protection agreement which specifically provides Samsung rights to any of the unspecified patents which Microsoft claims are being violated by Linux usage. In return, Microsoft is given rights to Samsung's extensive patent portfolio.Cross-licensing agreements such as this one have long been standard fare in the high-tech world, as companies agree not to sue each other for violating the other's patents. Microsoft has recently begun calling out Linux protection specifically in such deals. The first one, a bombshell announcement
concerning cooperation and cross-licensing between Novell and Microsoft, seems to have been a public relations move at least as much as a legal one, as it raised the possibility of legal action by Microsoft against Linux vendors and users for unsubstantiated patent infringement.
Microsoft has followed the same pattern of offering patent protection for both open source and proprietary products in two other contracts since the Novell deal, first with Fuji-Xerox, and now with Samsung.
The Computerworld story points the public relations/FUD value of these contracts in the story headline by noting that the "Provision raises specter of controversial claim by Steve Ballmer."
Dell has not, as far as we know, inked a similar cross-licensing deal with Microsoft, but perhaps for the protection of its founder, chairman, and CEO, Michael S. Dell, it should. According to his executive biography on the Dell corporate Web site, Michael Dell is running Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn on his Dell Precision M90 laptop, along with VMware, OpenOffice.org, Automatix2, Firefox, and Evolution, and thus may need protection against the alleged-but-never-specified claims of infringement.