In a mad dash to keep its bases covered in the volatile OSS
frontiers, Microsoft has developed a cross-license patent agreement with LG Electronics. The announcement comes just days after it released news of a similar agreement with Xandros
General Manager David Kaefer of IP licensing at Microsoft notes, "This agreement is focused only on exchange of patent rights."
And for Microsoft, patent rights -- and wrongs -- can be uniquely meaningful.
Acknowledging certain similarities in the language between the LG and Xandros deals, as well as a recent Novell deal, Kaefer added, "The open source elements of the deal do utilize a covenant model similar to the Xandros and Novell deals, but this deal is most similar to recent agreements with Samsung and Fuji Xerox."
The Samsung and Fuji Xerox relationships revolved around general access to intellectual property contained in patent portfolios. Each included protection clauses for customers utilizing Linux-based software.
The LG deal states that LG may use an undefined "patented Microsoft technology" in its products, which include a line of Linux-based devices. The patent language in the Xandros relationship was similarly vague, leaving the enigmatic "patented Microsoft technology" phrase open to inference.
LG also agreed to grant Microsoft access to its own patents, in particular those covering computer architecture typically used in gaming consoles. Other LG patents owned by MicroConnect Group, a system integrator out of Manchester, England, will be available to Microsoft in a licensing pact.
The context into which the respective LG and Xandros relationships were formed is decidedly turbulent.
Last month Microsoft threatened to pursue royalties for patents allegedly infringed-upon by Linux and other open source technologies. However, it suggested an openness to receiving just due through patent and cross-licensing relationships with open source distributors, rather than by seeking compensation in a legal entanglement.
The Free Software Foundation, disinclined to play by these rules, responded to the thorny olive branch by altering a final draft release of the GNU GPL 3.0, prohibiting the type of patent relationship Microsoft invited. The revision, GPLv3, will be published on June 29.
The action probably speaks volumes for the open source community in general. Microsoft's refusal to divulge which patents were violated by Linux and other software doesn't exactly suggest a friendly flexibility.
But hey, if the LG and Xandros deals are any guide, Microsoft has a no-kiss-and-tell policy when it comes to developing patent relationships and highlighting patent transgressions.
No financial terms regarding the deal with LG were released. However, Microsoft did state it would make a "net balancing" payment for patents related to operating systems and computer systems. In turn, LG will pay Microsoft for coverage of the patents it will be using in its Linux-based devices.