back to article Microsoft's Linux patent bingo hits Google's Android

Talk about dissonance. On the day Microsoft crowed that it was letting its employees contribute code to an open-source project, Joomla, it fired another shot at Linux. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a patent agreement with phone maker HTC that provides "broad coverage" under Microsoft's patent portfolio for HTC devices …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Statute of limitation

    It's a shame there's no statute of limitation type restriction on this kind of patent FUD.

    MS keep spouting out this "Linux violates our patent portfolio but we won't be specific."

    If a company makes a public statement like this they would have a specific period of time to make it stick in court or lose the option permanently.

  2. Jesse Dorland
    Thumb Down

    Linux going banana

    It's just a matter of time before Linux world become part of Microsoft, or worst Apple!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thats a shame

    I was going to buy an HTC Android phone but I wont now.

    I will never support Microsoft's FUD campaign or any company

    stupid enough to believe it.

  4. Random_Walk
    Thumb Down

    Let the shakedown begin?

    *sigh*... if only there were a corporation that were not only bold enough, but big enough to tell Microsoft to name their claims or bugger off.

  5. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Boffin

    The "Greedy" Borg doesn't seem that greedy?

    One thing no-one seems to comment on is the number of these M$ patent deals that just get signed off without the usual bad press and court threats. Either M$ is really going at the target companies with an absolutely airtight case, or I suspect they are actually pitching a quite reasonable pricing structure which leaves the "victims" deciding it is cheaper to simply pay up rather than litigate. Whilst some will say that M$ is large enough to intimidate most companies, the total lack of counter-suits so far seems to indicate they have struck a good balance.

    It will be interesting to see how the Palm angle pays off now that they are in hp's clutches - will M$ ramp up the rate to punish hp for buying a competitor to Win Mobile or are hp and M$ so close it doesn't matter? It could explain why hp were keener on buying Palm OS than going with Google's Android.

  6. Antidisestablishmentarianist
    Gates Halo

    Nice one

    Microsoft are arse, but anything that can wipe a bit of smug off a open sourcerers face is just fine my me.

  7. ratfox Silver badge
    Flame

    Revolting

    Basically, Microsoft can lean on about any company in the world, and say:

    "We think that maybe you owe us money. Now there's the easy way, and that is very easy. You pay a license fee, and that's the end of it.

    Of course, you can also try the hard way. We have plenty of lawyers. We have plenty of money and we think nothing of a ten-years long legal battle, which would take 50% of your resources, and 0.1% of ours. Now which will it be?"

    Schoolyard bully... On the other hand, Vetinari would be proud.

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Gates Horns

      Bah! Humbug!

      I think you have hit the nail on the head Matt, of course it seems reasonable, it's all part of Pinky and the Bains's.... eh!... MickySoft's master plan to take over the world. This in classic Mickysoft extend, embrace, extinguish. HTC have developed a phone interface based on Google's android, so why don't MickySoft go after google?

      The simple answer is that is easier for bulliboy MickSoft to go the small soft targets like TomTom and HTC first as they probably do not have the resources to fight MickySoft in a legal war of attrition.

      The motivation for MickSoft is that they establish a legal precedent for receiving royalty payments and by not releasing the details of whet they claim a patent they create even more FUD with the third party innovators which in turn is another incentive for the third party creator to pay the license fee to MickySoft.

      Eventually MickySoft will have "established" patent "ownership" over a range of terminologies at which point they can raise the royalty payment to such a level so that it be economically impossible to compete with any MickySoft product.

      This is the way MickSofy is going, from a technology innovator (even if it is somebody elses idea) to a patent troll, because lets face it, since windows XP and Word 2000 etc. there is no real need to upgrade a MickySoft product unless it is out of warranty support. The only big revenue stream left to MickySoft is the license scam

      1. Craigness
        FAIL

        MS

        It's Microsoft, not Mickysoft.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Re: MS

          It's actually Mickeysoft, in tribute to another company who uses legislative instruments to undermine competition and genuine innovation.

          As for Mr Bryant's remark about forcing a pay-off, that's precisely what the modern patent system is all about: a bit of extortion and someone (albeit in a suit) coming round to collect "protection money".

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      Who owns Linux ?

      The point is that it is not owned by any one person, so it cannot be bought or whatever. This is deliberate.

      What could happen is that the in USA it becomes impossible to use Linux without payment to microsoft; but that will just damage the USA economy - the rest of the world where we do not have s/ware patents could happily continue.

    3. Marvin the Martian
      Paris Hilton

      Apple would be a candidate?

      What functionality is on a HTC android phone but not on an iPhone? So what patent claim did they wield at HTC which Jobs wouldn't be vulnerable to? I honestly can't think of something.

      [Obvious fact that there isn't linux/android on iphone is irrelevant to functionality-based patent claim exposure, AFAICS.]

    4. kissingthecarpet
      FAIL

      So

      judging by your nick, you are a supporter of a political position that originated in nineteenth-century Britain in opposition to proposals for the disestablishment of the Church of England, that is, to remove the Anglican Church's status as the state church of England, Ireland and Wales.

      And I thought my nick was a bit silly

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        FAIL

        Read the article

        It says the patents have to do with the Linux kernel. As the icultphone doesn't run Linux, Apple will simply not be affected by this bullshit. Even if they'd want to stand up against m$, they would have no legal standing in this case.

      2. Jerome 0

        Functionality

        "What functionality is on a HTC android phone but not on an iPhone?"

        Multitasking, background processes, multiple customisable home screens, widgets, folders, Flash support and installation of any application of the user's choice.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Sadly...

      ...it won't be the end of it. Something Don Tono-Con-Faggioli might well admire.

      "Tell you what, you pay us some money and we'll make sure nothing happens to you. Be a terrible shame if something happened to your business, eh? Fire, *tch* nasty, very nasty! No what what I mean John? See you next week, for the next payment eh!"

    6. Jerome 0

      Genius!

      That's right dude, stick it to the man. Microsoft will no doubt be devastated to learn that you are refusing to buy their competitor's product. I doubt they anticipated this turn of events! Perhaps you could really hammer the point home by purchasing a Windows Mobile device?

    7. Joe Montana
      Flame

      Slander/Libel

      Couldn't they be sued under current libel/slander laws?

      They are making derogatory claims and should be required to back those up in court or retract them.

    8. tonyoung
      WTF?

      Missing the point!

      I think a lot of you guys may have missed the point - just because MS has not publically announced which patents are the subject of these licencing deals, it certainly doesn't follow that the OEM/distros and their lawyers who are on the receiving end of this hot (and expensive) correspondence haven't been told.

      Confidentiality agreements will have almost certainly been built into the deals so that the next distro won't know what the last one had agreed to. That's the way it works, boyos, here and over the Pond.

      And to help those who have mentioned it, yes, anyone can search for a patent using the owners' name or applicable key words - and they can do it on the interweb, even!

  8. heyrick Silver badge

    El Reg would be a shadow of its former self...

    ...if it wasn't for all this patent nonsense to report on.

    .

    On a more serious note - are companies actually paying Microsoft for some sort of protection against patent infringements when Microsoft is failing/refusing to explicitly state what said infringements actually are?!?

  9. Penti

    Patents

    It's starting to look like SCO. Sure Microsoft probably owns patents recovering parts of Linux systems (they do own several multimedia patents, but those are licensed from mpeg-la, which official andriod phone makers license), but this none disclosure and ambiguous policy just is bullshit. Microsoft themselves have contributed Linux kernel code (for hyper-V), validating the project. Why would they give code and help to something infringing their property.

    TomTom where never convicted of infringing the FAT-patents either way. And with Microsofts involvement in the SCO affair this just reeks a revisit.

    Intellectual property is a bitch, and MS themselves known that, having gotten verdicts of billions of dollars against them, though successfully overturned them. The XML deal they had no option but to comply though. Either clearly state and reach out (like through licensing pools) or shut up and let them produce compatible software which is allowed by the copyright under the compatibility clause every country has. And if you produce ("open") documentation for technology you better damn well clearly state whatever terms comply for them. Any widely used patents need to be available through a none-discriminatory manner (RAND). Otherwise they are useless. And they are useless for open source projects if they can't be freely used without fees. Either let the community (which is IBM, Redhat, Novell etc) produce compatible software or state every patent which is infringed so it can be challenged. And any code which they themselves or through proxys (Novell or other contracted companies) has contributed should not be legally allowed to be claimed intellectual property by them if it was released under a open source license, not stating any restrictions, it then should be considered royalty free for any use if it's included in a project where there's no need to buy patent licenses, otherwise it's easy to stop free distribution of software by just putting in a vital piece of code which can't easily be replaced. And later claim infringement, by their own actions...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Monetization of Patents = Antitrust?

    I prefer the old business model of making money by selling a better product, not this new one where a company simply makes sure the competition is restricted from being better.

    When a company's business model turns to profit by restricting the innovation of others and charging another company for making a competing profit through patent trolling it's a strong signal of a failing business trying to scratch out every last cent prior to implosion.

  11. Tim Bates
    Go

    They'll never say until they are forced to.

    Why would they say which patents they are worried about? It would allow people to avoid them. Keeping quiet means companies pointed at just pay up rather than risk legal action.

    I'm hoping MS make the mistake of pointing at Google or someone like that soon. Once the fan meets with the faeces, they will have to say which patents are concerned... And the open source developers can get on with fixing the situation.

  12. Neoc

    WTF?

    "On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a patent agreement with phone maker HTC that provides "broad coverage" under Microsoft's patent portfolio for HTC devices running Google's Android."

    Someone please explains this to me: Company A (Microsoft) believes that a product (Android) produced by Company B (Google) infringes on their patent. Fair enough so far. Company C (HTC) uses the product from Company B, so Company A wants them to pay royalties. OK, this is where I lost the plot. Surely the chain is A -> B ->C... If Microsoft believes that Android is infringing on its patents, surely it should be suing Google (who make Android) and not HTC (who uses Android). Didn't make sense when SCO did it, why is it supposed to make sense now?

    That's be like asking a home-owner to pay a fine because the builder was using sub-par materials and breaking the law.

    Oh, and I *was* a happy returning HTC customer. Until now. If they're willing to cave in on something this stupid, I'm wondering about the rest of their business choices.

  13. Chris 155

    Open Source != Free Software

    Microsoft is at the moment at least pretending to care about promoting open source which runs on windows and doesn't compete with Office. It's in their best interests to do so as it enhances the Windows environment and makes their product more desirable. Open source is after all people doing development for free, and every corporation likes that.

    As part of this, they are willing to coexist at least nominally with open source software which doesn't benefit them. They want to make a buck off it if they can, but they're ok with it existing even if they don't. This is mostly because trying to destroy it cost them more than it gained them, but Microsoft are a for profit company after all.

    On the other hand, they would probably very much like the free software movement to cease to exist, which is perfectly fine since the free software movement would very much like to see Microsoft cease to exist. Free Software and Microsoft are fundamentally incompatible, and are likely to remain so for the forseeable future. There's still a war there, and there always will be.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Very nice...

    I don't want to get all Microsoft bashing, but if ever I have seen a great example of the old "extend embrace extinguish", this is it. They have obviously put the willys up those over distros, enough to make them want to sign a "safety' agreements. The last part may not be quite so much extinguish for the moment, especially if it proves to be a cash cow for them, but once they're bored with it, what then? Lock it away in a code vault never to be seen again, except to defend in litigation?

  15. zanto
    Flame

    it's not long before

    you buy the phone hardware, come home, connect it to a pc and load whichever fucking os you want it to run. give phones the ability to boot of a flash card and no pc required.

    1. Ryan Clark

      Not New

      James Watt was restricting competition using the steam engine patents hundreds of years ago. MS are using the old business model.

      1. elderlybloke
        Happy

        Dear Roger

        Patents were used more recently by the Wright Bros to try to get payment from anyone in USA who wanted to construct an aircraft.

        That left USA lagging behind Europe for a long time.

    2. tonyoung
      Thumb Up

      This all about cost

      Yep, it's ALL about cost:-

      1. The cost of MS developing the original code and having the ability to patent their innovations (nothing wrong with that and a granted patent is suggestive of novelty).

      2. The cost of researching a potential patent infringement by either party (see below).

      3. The cost of intellectual property litigation (the only winners are the lawyers and IP specialists are VERY costly)

      4. The (presumably) very low cost of licencing MS intellectual property for use with OEM hardware (MS has tied up so many of these deals - apparently quite easily - so there must be some substance either to the low-cost argument or in the strength of the MS patents).

      Just because the patents in question have not been publicly announced, it doesn't mean that the OEMs haven't been made aware of potential infringment by MS's lawyers.

      This is just a good tactic - if you can get away with it - and personally I always applaud innovation in all it's various guises!

      1. kissingthecarpet
        FAIL

        Just shows how software patents

        are just a way for lawyers to buy Ferraris. Only in America.....

      2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Patent != innovation

        I found one patent on making a blinking cursor by repeatedly XORing the cursor content with current screen content (DUH). In the US this is more than innovative enough to get a patent. The USPTO does a disastrously bad job of checking for prior art, leaving it to courts to find out which patents are innovative, and which not.

      3. Craigness
        WTF?

        Broad

        "Just because the patents in question have not been publicly announced, it doesn't mean that the OEMs haven't been made aware of potential infringment by MS's lawyers."

        That's an interesting way to interpret the term "broad coverage".

    3. MinionZero
      Unhappy

      This tactical game has far reaching long term implications...

      @ "Company A (Microsoft), Company B (Google), Company C (HTC)"

      So your question is, why would A go after C, but not B. The simplest literal answer is that B (Google) has much more money and a much higher public profile to be able to effectively fight off A (Microsoft). If Microsoft tried to ask Google to pay up, they know Google would very publicly tell Microsoft to F'off and where to go and jump, because Microsoft can't frighten Google. So the only chess move then open to Microsoft, is to move to take legal action against Google to force them to pay up (or back off in shame proving to the world Microsoft don't really have a case against Linux). So Microsoft know in a legal fight, A vs B is a lot harder to win than A vs C and such a legal battle would generate a huge storm of publicity. It would be so big just about every media outlet in the world would want a ring side seat to watch a Microsoft vs Google battle over Linux. So Microsoft don't want a high profile battle. They want lots of easy quiet victories, which collectively add up to an implied win over Linux.

      Microsoft are playing a very tactical game (targeting an audience of non-technical high up powerful people with their *PR battle* against Linux). The Microsoft tactical game is to imply Linux is copying them, rather than *proving* Linux is copying them, because lets face it, if Microsoft had strong grounds to take Linux to court to be able to prove such a direct violation, they would have done it many years ago without hesitation. Therefore Microsoft cannot prove wrong doing, so they are trying to imply wrong doing.

      This game has far reaching implications. The first thing Microsoft are achieving with this tactical game is to frighten companies into signing up with Microsoft. That is operating literally like a Protection Racket! ... its bullying people into giving Microsoft money. Thats bad enough, but worse its frightening other companies into complying with Microsoft's bullying tactics as well.

      But even worse the more companies they frighten into signing up to the idea Linux needs to license from Microsoft, the nearer Microsoft moves to winning the grand prize of saying to everyone, hey look all these companies say *in writing* they know Linux needs to license from Microsoft, so everyone must now license from Microsoft and sooner or later a non-technical judge will agree with this idea.

      After all the law already recognizes the idea that an unprotected idea falls eventually into the public domain. Therefore by constantly *implying* protection is needed against Linux violating Microsoft (as Microsoft are trying to say), then they are trying to prove that they and many companies all agree Linux violates Microsoft. Its a very underhanded attempt to imply wrong doing.

      Microsoft know they can't win a direct legal battle against Linux, because they would have tried already if they had a hope in hell of winning. They absolutely would have definitely tried, so its glaringly obvious that they haven't yet tried a direct assault on Linux and haven't tried a direct assault on Google. But make no mistake, sooner or later they will try a direct assault on Linux (and in doing so try to undermine Google), once they have enough frightened companies signed up to say in writing, they all think Linux violates Microsoft.

      So Microsoft are playing a very insidious tactical PR battle/game against Linux.

      :(

  16. ted frater

    dealing with a crook

    Well, this is bad news, but thats what one can expect from Microshaft.

    when is a Co that uses Linux, thats big enough to stand up to this bully?

    Mike Shuttleworth of Ubuntu was approaced by the evil empire and effectively told them to get stuffed.

    They havnt been back.

    Now if I was dealing with them, id ask what patents were infringed then blow the gaff on them by telling the rest of the world which ones they listed.

    When dealing with a crook and thief there are no holds barred.

  17. Glen Turner 666

    Only one side of the story.

    What is HTC's view of this? For example, is it a two-way license with settlement (in which case HTC get paid for HTC I.P used in Microsoft products)?

    The media release is very vague of the form of the patent agreement.

  18. Thomas 18
    Grenade

    More lawyers than coders?

    I wonder at what point Microsoft will employ more lawyers and patent clerks than coders. Course goes without saying Apple & Google are just as bad.

  19. P Saunders
    Paris Hilton

    easy money

    Just collect royalties for patents you may or may not own. Extortion with a suit and tie.

    Paris, 'cause I gotta think of something other than the sheer chutzpah of it all.

  20. Chemist
    Headmaster

    Renegade ?

    "Google's renegade operating system"

    I couldn't find a dictionary definition of renegade that fit with your usage !

    The two main definitions seem to be :

    1.a person who deserts a party or cause for another.

    2.an apostate from a religious faith.

    Google only ever seems to subscribe to the religion of Google and has never deserted itself AFAIK

    1. Kevin Bailey

      It's always been a lawyer based firm....

      It's always been a lawyer based firm - Billy boy's dad was a lawyer and set the tone from the beginning. Money first - use this technology stuff to screw clients who don't know any better.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Hopefully...

      ...someone anonymous at one of the "shafted" companies like HTC will post info onto Wikileaks about some of these MS patents involved in these deals. It would be an interesting show if we find that some of their "patents" only cover "obvious" stuff that should never have been allowed to be patented in the first place.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Mike Shuttleworth?

      Is that Mark Shuttleworth's "harder" younger brother?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    It's time to draw a line.

    Why don't we as a community gather behind the next victim of Microsoft's mafia offer "you can't refuse"?

    Wouldn't the F/LOSS community (including the "ecosystem" of companies that work on and support F/LOSS) be able to take Microsoft to court when all would chip in? I can imagine the goals would be something like:

    1) to get Microsoft to show which patents are violated, first for the victim then for all F/LOS software.

    2) cast doubt about Microsoft's "patent" portfolio and show the maturity of the F/LOSS community

    3) to keep the court(s) (?) busy for as long as possible and drag our feet as much as we legally can, so Microsoft will be bleeding lawyer fees for years to come. This will hopefully wake up Microsoft's investors.

    I for one would be more then willing to pay monthly donations for this good cause.

  22. Shagbag
    Thumb Down

    ***rolls eyes****

    I see MS hasn't managed to put together a case against Red Hat despite the latter's public "no thanks" to MS's offer of 'protection'.

    What upsets me is not so much MS's spin on these agreements (that they're somehow only cover use of Linux when they actually are a blanket agreement covering all OSes the counterparty is using) but the media's constant reporting of these claims which lend tacit support to them.

    The facts are these:

    MS has been making these unsubstantiated claims for several years now and no one has gone to court.

    The media continue to report these agreements whenever the MS press office announce them.

    The media never report on MS's failed attempts to negotiate these terms (save for the Red Hat case I mentioned previously), thereby knowingly or unknowingly lending further credence to MS's claims.

    MS has not negotiated such deals with the likes of IBM, Oracle et al who all actively Market Linux based products and services.

    IBM have said publicly that they will use their formidable patent portolio against MS if the ever try it on.

    It is clear to me that MS are simply using the mass media as a tool in their efforts to try and discredit the undiscreditable. C'mon guys, how about some balance in the reporting of these things?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Isn't there a law against this?

    I'm probably wrong (I usually am), but isn't there some law (at least in the UK - dunno about the rest of the world) on the lines of "if you know a patent of yours is being infringed but you choose to do nothing about it, then you loose the right to claim against the patent in the future". ie - you MUST defend a patent in order to maintain control over it.

    If MS "know" that Linux is infringing a MS patent, and chooses to ignore the problem then it follows it can not then (later) complain. I know that it isn't completely ignoring the problem (it's raking in cash from anyone who'll listen to it), but it's clearly not going for the obvious targets; the Linux distributions. It's only going for the big corporate users of Linux. I wonder what a court would make of this - why is MS not suing the SOURCE of the problem rather than the end user. We all know the REAL answer, of course, but what would it tell a court?

    On a side note, if we all dumped Linux and used something less eclectic like BSD then we wouldn't be in this mess. As far as I know, MS is making no claims against BSD. Considering the use of the GPL in Linux, and industry's general dislike of it, I do wonder why the huge embedded market uses Linux rather than something like BSD which doesn't suffer from the GPL problem.

  24. Andy Eastham
    FAIL

    Patently Rubbish

    Once again we see patents doing the exact opposite of what they are intended to acheive. The patents are clearly stifling innovation. Microsoft won't even tell us which patents have been violated until we violate them. This is indefensible, and the sooner we sort this stone age system the better.

    1. elderlybloke
      Grenade

      Isn't there a law against this?-Mk2

      You need to defend your patent to maintain it, so if you ignore others who use it ,you will loose it.

      1. Pinky

        Not patents - they're selectively defended..

        You're thinking of trademarks. Trademark dilution results in the effective loss of said mark (e.g Hoover). Patents can be licensed and enforced very selectively, which is why companies like Microsoft love to game the system like this.

        Personally, I would like to see the text of this agreement - I'd be willing to bet that there is no specific patent mentioned in the agreement, making this a no-sue covenant, not a patent licensing agreement (which should state the patents and covered products).

    2. Chris 69

      Of course they don't go after IBM, Apple, Oracle et al

      All the big players will inevitably be crossing each other's patents and there's no point trying to create a mutually destructive patent war. No point

      It is pretty obvious that the patent system is so badly busted that nobody can develop anything without falling over some bizarre patent owned by someone else. I once worked for a company which was attacked on a hugely wide-ranging (I think they had patented something like "managing stuff by using a computer") patent recently granted to another even though we could demonstrate that I personally had been using the technique for 10 years before the patent was applied for (and I'm pretty sure it wasn't entirely original then. I probably "borrowed" the idea from somewhere else.).

      So folks... keep amusing that cat with a laser pen and someone will be coming to get you!

  25. Thom Brown
    Unhappy

    They've sunk even lower

    So Microsoft has become a parasite now?

  26. lucmars

    GPL v3

    The GPL v3 has a clause about patent, no ? But not the GPL v2.

    Hence Microsoft would give some code under the v2 and riddle the community with patents. With this strategy I don't understand the last Zemlin' sentence: what is an open-platform when you have some code from Redmonds? It seems not enough to be open or free, you have to refuse any suspected Redmonds' code if not any code under the GPL v2 if you don't want to bother with patent?

  27. Piers
    Unhappy

    Innovator = Patent Troll

    How have the mighty fallen...

  28. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Flame

    How is this *different* from SCO?

    "You infringe a bunch of our patents."

    "Which ones."

    "If we tell you the judge can come down harder on you."

    "OK. W e give in."

    FFS Why won't *one* company stand their f&*(king ground and get them to specify *exactly* what patents they infringe?

    This sounds *remarkably* like a FUD lawsuite.

    1. chr0m4t1c

      Microsoft = innovator?

      Nope...

      Can't think of anything it's innovated. Lot's of stuff it's "borrowed", bought or just copied, though.

    2. Kevin Dwyer
      Happy

      Samuel

      "How are the mighty fallen, tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon".... but be sure to inform the readers of El Reg

  29. Wang N Staines

    HTC are cowards

    Those Chinese guys got very small balls.

  30. fn

    Apple's the aggressor here

    HTC's licensing agreement with Microsoft is probably more about protecting HTC from Apple than it is about Microsoft acting like the troll under the bridge. Apple is sueing HTC for violating some of Apple's core OS patents. Apple could've sued any of the other Android vendors. However, as Samsung makes Apples chips and provides Apple with lots of NAND, it wouldn't have been smart to sue them. Motorola also have lots of communicaitons patents. So HTC was a more suitable target. The Microsoft licenses will probably protect HTC from Apple.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      HTC

      They're from taiwan not china. I know china lays claim to taiwan but still.

      1. dr_forrester
        FAIL

        @Giles Jones

        Taiwan = Republic of China

        "China" = People's Republic of China

        Therefore "They're from taiwan [sic] not china. [sic]" is incorrect. Also, names of countries are capitalized, genius.

  31. Cameron Colley

    No HTC devices for me then.

    Looks like it'll have to be an N900 next time despite the cost.

    I can think of a great slogan fro Microsoft products "Buy this and make everything else a little bit shitter".

    Remember, every dollar paid to Microsoft helps stifle innovation and puts back the IT industry by another few weeks.

  32. Julian 4
    Pirate

    Mobstersoft

    It's what one normally calls a protection racket.

    But weren't MS always in the Mobster business - growing their empire by intimidation? It's not just at an individual level ("I'd better buy Windows, 'cos EVERYONE buys Windows..."), but at an institutional level. There's numerous accounts of US school districts suddenly deciding they needed to dump all non-MS computers for no apparent reason and despite the protests of school governers, teachers and parents.

    Didn't Al Capone once say "People hate us, 'cos we're successful." ?

    It's nothing but a Mafia computing... come to think of it Steve Ballmer does rather look and act like a gangland thug ;-)

  33. mhenriday

    One thing is clear from all this :

    patents must be made publicly searchable under the patent holder's name. Furthermore, when a patent holder approaches another firm for «discussions» regarding possible violations of its patent rights, the patents involved in the discussion must immediately be made known to the general public. Otherwise, these discussions, as is abundantly clear from situations like that described in the article above, simply become a cover for extortion, subsumed under the category «an offer you can't refuse»....

    Henri

  34. Lemartes
    Stop

    Why an attack on Linux

    When it's more likely to be something to do with the overlay, HTC Sense, that HTC ship on their Android handsets rather than the Operating System?

  35. serendipity
    Coat

    Freetards rule!

    The bottom line here is that consumers don't want to pay for software anymore (or music or videos). If they can't kick it, and can easily copy it, they see no value!

    Hence why this kind of story raises hackles. They only want to pay for software indirectly as part of a hardware purchase and/or through the hidden cost of advertising built into the price of every product.

    Its a challenging world for commercial (sorry to use that dirty word) developers!

    Final thought; Is Linux an OS, a religion, a political movement or all three?

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Thumb Up

      roflmho

      Mobstersoft ........ LOL

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Troll

      Danger Will Robinson, trolls nearby

      Yes, you are right, it is a challenging world for commercial developers, especially when you develop something and the patent trolls try to claim it.

      In answer to your question, Linux and Mickysoft are religious sects, crApple is a cult

    3. OSC

      So...

      ...what is that you know that others do not?

      Are you a patent expert? What information can you add (curious to know, not flaming)

      This is a market ploy by Microsoft deployment. Its publicity is anti-Linux.

      I think this is a good thing, hastening the demise of the rubbish that it the patent system. Roll on Bilski (i hope).

      Somewhere on the web someone American published a study showing that the basic cost of defending a patent suit, whether or not successful was $4 miilion.

      That's a lot of royalties for the defendant to consider.

      Also, on the one hand while all is all fair in love and legal systems, the rhetoric spewed up by Microsoft over i4i is worth comparing to their "measured tones" here.

    4. Ottoman
      Go

      "Is Linux an OS ...?"

      None of above.

      Linux is a kernel not an OS.

      1. the bat
        FAIL

        Linux is Linux - Kernel is Kernel

        Yes Linux is and OS. The kernel is the key component or abstract layer which sits between the Linux OS and the hardware layer .

      2. M Gale
        Badgers

        I believe I've said this before..

        ..you've just made God kill a kitten.

        I hope you're happy.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    surely this is racketeering

    just at an enterprise level... pay up for protection or else... so you pay without know what you're protecting yourself against...

    it's ridiculous that this sort of criminal activity is allowed to go on in plain sight of the law... I guess as long as it's committed by enterprises rather than gangsters in dark suits (what's the difference these days anyway?), it's fine by the law...

    the old saying is that two things are certain in life, death and taxes, I'd add greed to that list...

  37. Alan Denman

    Protection money

    You make it sounds very much like the mafia where no one dares speak.

    Protection money anyone?

    Best stay quiet of you do get a visit!

  38. Gert Selkobi
    Stop

    When will it end?

    I am utterly sick to the teeth of M$'s corporate bullying. Money comes to money and all that. All they do is stifle innovation to boost their coffers and levels of control. I have to use and support M$ crapware for a living. If it weren't for that, I would never use their software or anything they produce. Yet even as a non-M$ customer, I would still indirectly be helping to finance them? How is this right?

    It is nothing short of recketeering, which I was sure was thoroughly illegal. Maybe not?

    Protection money. Pay us a premium or we'll make sure you never trade again.

    Wish there was a general evil M$ icon for this. Bill Gates isn't the devil, it's the company he (partly) started and then lost control of. Little wonder he wanted to walk away.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Blackmailing, stealing. Yes, the real MS-way.

    When you have army (of lawyers) which can win DoJ, why wouldn't you use it for blackmailing and stealing?

    No-one has the firepower to resist that kind of attack (exept maybe EU/China) and MS knows that and uses that like any weapon. Primary target, Linux, is too hard so why not attack individual Linux users, that's much easier.

    In an honest country CEOs are shot for tricks like this. But there aren't many of those, the rest are thoroughly corrupted and if you have anough money, you can do anything you want. If you have to, you just change the laws so that it's legal. (You need just a handful of senators and some propaganda to back them up to do that, piece of cake.)

  40. steve75oz

    Hmmm

    Does this sound like a protection racket?

    Software patents should have a very short life span, this sort of transaction really limits consumer choices and stifles innovation whereby restricting access to the most basic of computer functions to a select few companies with the huge cash war chests to play into the big leagues.

    Really is just a boys club.

  41. bass daddy
    FAIL

    Microsoft - please, please, please, please, please

    just sod off!

    No-one likes you, no-one is interested in you and increasingly we're forgetting all about you so please take yourself off somewhere nice and quiet and blow your chuffing head off. We'll even supply your weapon of choice.

    Up yours

    Signed

    Everyone else

  42. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Haven't any of these companies heard of BSD?

    free, no gpl either

    1. M Gale

      I think "No GPL" is the problem.

      Investing countless man-hours making a BSD-licensed OS work nicely, so that some megacorp can then swipe the code and have no obligation to the community that did the work for them other than to stick a notice up saying "this uses BSD licensed stuff"?

      The GPL was designed around the methods that businesses like Microsoft like to employ. Frankly I'll have the GPL, LGPL where appropriate, and their anti-monopolist nature over completely public-domain software any day.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        @M Gale

        I understand what you were saying, but my post was FROM the point of view of the companies, not the developer!

  43. Rodrigo Rollan
    Thumb Down

    I hope Google....

    grew some inmense set of bollocs and went for Microsoft just for the fun of it. I know it is not likely to happened, but I'd really love to see their faces when someone with deep pockets called their bluff. It really pisses me off to read about how company's use Patent infringment as a means of extorsion

  44. Adair

    The answer to extortion rackets...

    ...is always the same: the 'little guys' have to get together to form a mob that's bigger than 'the Mob', then preferably take them down by law (so much more civilised, though maybe not so much fun).

  45. Neil Greatorex
    WTF?

    Has anybody considered

    The possibility that MS will pay HTC for each phone shipped, and the NDA was simply to allow the FUD?

    How many Android based handsets have HTC shipped? Cor, that'd be a lot cheaper than buying a page advert in the Times..

    Only speculation guys :-)

  46. pan2008
    Alien

    open source

    We need more info on this to understand why HTC agreed but I don't understand, why develop open source when some company can get the code make it much better and exploit it commercially. Did anyone of the BSD people make any money? NO Apple made all the money, does RedHat make money, YES and canonical?. if you like the glory of an anonymous code contribution go ahead. You are very charitable, shelfish and I congratulate you.

    1. Magnus_Pym

      It's not about the money

      You might as well say 'Why climb that mountain, no-one is going to pay you to do it?' .

  47. Geoff Smith

    MS's version of the Selden Patent

    Given this sort of behavior, one would guess their "Linux" patents were as about as valid as George Selden's "Road Engine" patent, granted roughly 125 years after Nicholas Cugnot built his steam powered wagons.

    http://www.bpmlegal.com/wselden.html

    As the article explains, after being granted the patent in 1895, Selden sold it to a holding company (patent trolls), the ALAM, who used it to bully a number of smaller manufacturers into paying a royalty on every automobile they built. In 1903, they sued Henry Ford and his company, which refused to cave, and eventually defeated the patent in court in 1911, overturning earlier rulings in favor of ALAM.

    If your patents are vague and their applicability is uncertain, it's wise avoid having the details go public. Looks like MS knows this, and stay away from those who are strong enough to mount a serious legal challenge. So they pick on HTC and others, not Google. I for one wish they would pick on Google. It would be a great spectacle.

    In other news, SCO reaches out of the grave in an attempt to grasp Novell's ankles. Has MS been giving them transfusions again?

  48. the bat
    Gates Horns

    Microsoft was built on the blood of VMS

    When MicroCrooks took VMS operating system and hacked it up and turned it into WinNT 3.0 they weren't thinking about patents nor copyrights (they were unrightfully copying). VMS -> WinNT push each letter of VMS down one and you get WinNT.

  49. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    @the bat

    "When MicroCrooks took VMS operating system and hacked it up and turned it into WinNT 3.0 they weren't thinking about patents nor copyrights (they were unrightfully copying). VMS -> WinNT push each letter of VMS down one and you get WinNT."

    I *really* hate saying this but this is a little harsh.

    The core of the VMS development team (lead IIRC by Dave Cutler?) actually approached MS to implement a modern pre-emptive multitasking OS. You're quite right that NT bears a *huge* debt to VMS (at least one web page indicates that many of the core data structures are *identical* to those found in VMS). given what has happened to IMHO one of the *key* DEC assets under HP's ownership this might seem to be only a sensible attempt to save a lifes work from being thrown in the bin by a bunch of accountants and box shifters.

  50. apexwm
    Jobs Horns

    Microsoft is scared of Linux

    Linux has been chipping away at Microsoft's market share for several years. Mainly since 2006, in various areas. Right now it's mainly mobile phones. And Microsoft has been left scrambling to find a way to couteract, since they have not been able to product a compelling product on the market. I think Microsoft is getting desperate at this point, they are using the legal system to try and undermine open source and Linux. I really hope no more companies pay Microsoft for the supposed patent infringements. Let Microsoft show which patents are being voilated, so that we can see them and rewrite Linux so that the patents are not voilated, and move on without Microsoft.

    Google is a great company, they release great software that uses open source and open standards, and Microsoft can't stand it.

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