Having formed last year to provide Linux with intellectual property (IP) protection, the Open Invention Network has declared itself ready to respond to Microsoft Corp’s ‘baseless’ claims that Linux contains its IP.
The New York-based patent stockpiler was formed in November 2005 by IBM, Red Hat, Novell, Philips and Sony to acquire patents, offering them royalty-free to Linux supporters and using them as a defensive weapon against patent attacks.
The non-profit organization now finds itself in the surprising position of chastising one of its members. CEO Jerry Rosenthal has stated that Novell’s patent covenant agreement with Microsoft, which has prompted Redmond’s claims against Linux, was unnecessary.
Through the accumulation of patents that may be used to shield the Linux environment, including users of Linux software, OIN has obviated the need for offers of protection from others, he wrote, adding that the OIN has stockpiled more than 100 strategic, worldwide patents and patent applications.
As it happens, the collection was seeded with an initial set of business-to-business e-commerce patents that Novell quietly acquired from the bankrupt Commerce One for $15.5m in December 2004.
Waltham, Massachusetts-based Novell’s recent patent covenant agreement with Microsoft might have been designed to protect its own customers from potential IP infringement claims, but it has also seen Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, claim that Linux uses Microsoft IP and the company deserves to be appropriately compensated.
Rosenthal dismissed the comments, however. Those claims are baseless. In fact, there have been no patent suits against Linux, he said. While patent disputes are not unheard of between and among software developers and distributors, they are almost always resolved between these commercial entities not by dragging in end-user customers.
Novell has already maintained that Ballmer’s assertion is false. Our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property, wrote the company’s CEO, Ron Hovsepian in a recent letter to the open source community.
In response Microsoft claimed the two parties had agreed to disagree and that it had come to its own conclusions based on its own analysis of its patent portfolio.