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Re: Patent issues highlighted by Linux kernel audit

From: Barry Margolin
Subject: Re: Patent issues highlighted by Linux kernel audit
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 2004 20:56:56 -0400
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.4 (PPC Mac OS X)

In article <>,
 Craig Kelley <> wrote:

> On Sun, 17 Oct 2004 22:37:34 +0300, Abdullah Ramazanoglu wrote:
> > begin  Yazid dedi ki:
>  [snip]
> >> hmm, when the barn is open and the sheeps eat freely on the grassfield, the
> >> wolf won't be far away. This is not good.
> > 
> > Exactly. I think we have a serious leadership problem.
> I disagree.  Both IBM and Novell have threatened to sue anyone who tries
> to use patents against "Linux" (as in the operating system).  Both
> companies have just as an unhealthy supply of patents as any
> Linux-detractor owns.  If Microsoft attempts to sue, say, Redhat because
> the kernel violates patent such-and-such -- it'll be an equal threat to
> all Linux companies.  Any patents that Microsoft violates would then be
> subject to litigation.
> Imagine that it's a huge poker game.  All these tech companies "own" so
> many patents, that nobody is willing to call; because once someone calls,
> then everyone will have to throw down.

What I think actually happens among the big companies is that they sign 
omnibus cross-licensing agreements for their patent portfolios.  IBM and 
Microsoft presumably have an agreement that allows each to make use of 
the other's patents freely.

But I wonder how Linux fits into this.  IBM might be safe from an 
infringement lawsuit, but that doesn't necessarily extend to the vendors 
that they purchase Linux from.  IBM might threaten to terminate the 
cross-licensing agreement if Microsoft goes after the Linux vendors; but 
if they did that, they would suddenly be infringing lots of Microsoft 
patents.  So this could be a dangerous step for them to take.

Barry Margolin,
Arlington, MA
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