The Open Invention Network (OIN), which includes major corporate supporters of open source software, is close to an agreement to purchase 22 patents involving Linux that were once held by Microsoft. The patents are currently owned by Allied Security Trust (AST), which purchased them from Microsoft in a private auction. While it is unclear what the 22 patents cover, OIN claims they will protect Linux users from lawsuits brought by patent trolls — groups that purchase patents in order to earn money from lawsuits and settlements.
For years, Microsoft has claimed that Linux violates more than 200 of its patents. In the past, Microsoft has reached patent-licensing pacts with numerous companies. Just this year, Microsoft sued TomTom NV for using the open-source software in its GPS product. The case was settled out of court, but its message alarmed Linux users, who feared that Microsoft might target them next.
Some users suspect that Microsoft's patent sale is an attempt to dismantle the Linux market. However, Microsoft's David Kaefer denies such claims. He says if that had been the goal Microsoft would not have allowed AST to purchase the patents, as some of its members support the operating system. He says Microsoft sold the patents because they weren't necessary for corporate expansion.
From The Wall Street Journal
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