Microsoft Convinces Yet Another Company to Cough Up 'Protection' Money

from the you-wouldn't-want-something-bad-to-happen,-would-you? dept

Neppe alerts us to the news that Microsoft has claimed yet another victory in its war on the Linux Operating System. According to multiple reports, including Thinq_, the Register and others, Casio has coughed up an undisclosed amount of money to “license” the Linux operating system from Microsoft.

Microsoft has been claiming since 2007 that Linux infringes on 235 patents. If you go back to 2004, it was just 228. Despite the lack of any public list of these patents, Microsoft has been able to use them quite skillfully in convincing a number of software and hardware vendors to pay licensing fees. Microsoft claims that such licensing deals are for the benefit of the companies who pay up.

So just what are the benefits of paying Microsoft a licensing fee for free software, especially when said software was not developed by Microsoft? If these quiet settlements are any indication, the sole benefit would be to avoid being dragged through the courts by one of the largest software developers in the world. Seriously, what other benefit is there? Is there a collection of patent trolls jumping at the chance to sue companies using Linux that have yet to surface thanks to Microsoft’s cradling licensing deals? Not that I have read about. The only patent holder jumping at the chance to sue over Linux is Microsoft itself.

What this really looks like to me is an old school protection racket in which the resident mob enters the new business or residence and demands protection money in order to protect said establishment from some malevolent threat.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: casio, microsoft

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Comments on “Microsoft Convinces Yet Another Company to Cough Up 'Protection' Money”

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48 Comments
Rikuo (profile) says:

Can someone clarify something for me here?
Let’s assume that Linux is infringing on the patents and Microsoft do have the right to go to court over it.
Why are Linux users paying money to Microsoft then? How can Microsoft take them to court?
What if, in the Apple v Samsung battle currently going on, Apple sued purchasers of the Samsung Galaxy? Isn’t this suing a third party?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: why assume the incorrect?

It’s probably built on the same “evidence” that SCO used when claiming that Linux violated its copyright – i.e. somewhere between “none at all” and “kind of similar if you squint the right way”. They’re almost certainly not naming the patents since that would result in an army of fans, digging up reasons for those patents to be invalidated.

Alas, we’ll probably never find the truth since Microsoft can easily tie up the courts for years before they’re even forced to name their evidence – again, look at the SCO fiasco for an example of this.

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Re: Re:

One of the exclusive rights of a patent is use. Anyone who uses a product with an infringing patent can be sued. So, technically, Apple could sue purchasers of the Samsung Galaxy. It is generally scene as counter productive and it would be hard to take all the users to court, so they mainly focus on the supplier.

BoredSysAdmin (profile) says:

FAT Strikes back

My best guess all android and other Linux mobile devices still use fat file systems (at least presented as such , while in Mass Storage Mode) to allow users to exchange files with their PC’s, which are vast majority Windows. If they’d use not-Microsoft file system then driver installation would be required and much less desirable on the end user.
Unfortunately there is no way around this

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: FAT Strikes back

The problem is that Linux is a kernel, nothing more. The various distributions (eg. Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu Linux, etc.) are simply operating systems that use that kernel. I’m a Debian man myself and the hoops you have to jump through after a clean install to get multimedia to work (because of patents in my beloved United States) is ridiculous. I kinda wish they’d leave the proprietary stuff out of the kernel and give users the ability (like with LAME and ffmpeg) to reintegrate it later.

Jon Henry says:

So, I own a company. Some guy down the street has a grievance with me…saying I owe him some money for letting me work on this street. He says pay me or something worse (IE broken legs and what not) will happen. I say ok and we sign paperwork saying such with no law deciding right or wrong. I spent money on something that brings me no added value.

I run Casio. Microsoft has a grievance with me saying I owe them money because a free OS I use uses some of their patents. they say pay us licensing fees or something bad (IE we go to court and spend more money on defense than they wanted to sell me licenses for) will happen. I say ok and we sign paperwork saying such with no law deciding right or wrong. I spent money on something that brings us no added value.

Why is the top situation illegal and the bottom not.

Maybe we should outlaw patent settlements, force them to be decided in court. That may stop the extortion from the likes of microsoft and apple who probably wouldn’t do well in court. The possibility of high legal fees as opposed to cheaper settlements is the deciding factor here. That environment will allow the extortion to run rampant. Force them to be decided in court and watch the frivolous stuff go away.

Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

This is a perfect example of FUD. Not the tripe that “FUDBuster” claims is FUD. This is good, old-fashioned, Microsoft FUD.

“We claim to own 235 patents on Linux, but you’re a sucker if you think we’re going to reveal them to you!”

So, the FUD is working overtime here. The fear, uncertainty and doubt of potential lawsuits is HUGE. If you don’t buy protection from M$, they “might” come after you. “We don’t want to sue a linux customer who could potentially be a Windows customer, too!” Well, isn’t that fucking special.

Matt Tate (profile) says:

I'd just like to interject.

What you’re referring to as Linux, is in fact, GNU/Linux, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux. Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX.

Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is often called “Linux”, and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project.

There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is just a part of the system they use. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine’s resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU with Linux added, or GNU/Linux. All the so-called “Linux” distributions are really distributions of GNU/Linux.

Tom Bourque says:

Microsoft: You don’t wants us to gets dem big city lawyers to comes over heres and messes yous up? Does ya?

Company X: Is that a threat? We haven’t done anything wrong.

Microsoft: Yous been usin’ dat other guyses stuff insteads of ourses.

Company X: So what? We don’t like your stuff. It’s expensive and doesn’t suit our needs.

Microsoft: Listens… Yous is gonna use our stuff or we’re gonna call in Johnny Two-Patents and Jimmy The Troll! Den yous is gonna be sorries.

Connie New (profile) says:

So free things are worth paying for...

The license payment is just a way to get out of hassle for companies not used to the American patent system. Now for a company to continue to use a free (whatever definition of fee you want to apply) piece software, despite having to pay some corporate marauders threatening some FUD, must imply
1) that the free software is worth something…
2) MS recognises this worth and chooses to monetise this using any means foul or fair, as the developers have opted not to…
Clearly unfair, but that is business without moral standards. We sponsor these practices, as we use MS products.

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