Microsoft-Samsung pact includes Linux patent 'protection'
Provision raises specter of controversial claim by Steve Ballmer
April 18, 2007 (Computerworld) --Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday signed a broad cross-licensing agreement with close partner Samsung Electronics Co. that includes a controversial provision granting the Korean electronics conglomerate rights to patents that Microsoft claims have been illegally borrowed by the Linux operating system. Samsung is the third company to ink a similar cross-licensing pact, which critics said de facto advances Microsoft’s unproven claims to Linux-related intellectual property…[full story]
Well, there they go again. With the prolifieration of all these Linux "protection" cross licenses, one can't help asking a few questions. Such as whether Microsoft will ever reveal its mysterious patents, so that Linux users and distro vendors can decide whether or not they agree with Microsoft's contentions? And whether, if all of the terms of each deal were known, would it really appear that Microsoft's partners really thought there was much substance to those patent claims at all? And finally, where will it all end?
I don't know the answers to the first two questions, but I thought I'd take a crack at the last one. Here you go:
Microsoft-Kellogg's pact includes Froot Loops trademark 'protection'
Provision will protect breakfast cereal vendor and its customers form IPR liability
April 20, 2007 (BreakfastBowlToday) – Microsoft today announced that it had entered into a trademark cross license agreement with leading cereal vendor Kellogg's, granting the grocery giant the right to continue to use the name "Froot Loops" to describe its popular children's cereal. "Everybody knows computer software uses loops, and any one who has ever had their Windows-based computer freeze up knows it has infinite loops," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer stated that the Redmond giant had no choice but to threaten litigation in order to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation."
Trademark experts were taken by surprise that Kellogg's felt realistically threatened. Boston-based attorney Susan Mulholland, a partner at technology boutique Gesmer Updegrove, observed, "It's absurd for a software vendor to claim that there could be any confusion between a software bug and a colorful breakfast cereal." Not so, according to a Microsoft legal spokesman: "Microsoft has always cared about the total user experience. Developers enjoy breakfast cereal at their computers all the time, and many programmers I know are very easily confused."
As part of the agreement, Kellogg’s signed an affidavit acknowledging that the Linux operating system violates unspecified Microsoft patents. At a press briefing held to announce the agreement, Kellogg’s CEO and Ballmer golf companion David Mackay confirmed the admission, stating, "That’s what Steve tell’s me." Under the pact, Microsoft will pay Kellogg’s $440 million to place coupons entitling users to a year’s worth of maintenance and support on SUSE Linux in Kellogg’s product packaging. In addition, Microsoft agreed to recommend Kellogg’s products to its customers that enjoy breakfast cereal. The coupons will appear not only in boxes of Froot Loops, but also in boxes of other popular Kellogg’s products, including Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats.
According to Microsoft’s Ballmer, "This is really a win-win for our joint customers, who otherwise would have had undisclosed balance-sheet liabilities that could have dramatically decreased their ability to obtain consumer credit," and, he added, "they can enjoy their Froot Loops with peace of mind."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Microsoft-US Park Service pact includes Scenic Vistas trademark ‘protection’
Provision will protect government agency and visitors to popular parks from IPR liability
April 23, 2007 (ParkNews.com) – The US Park Service and Microsoft revealed a unique agreement today. Under that pact, the Park Service will be entitled to continue to display scenic "Vistas" to the many millions of visitors that are expected to arrive at its popular parks this summer.
As part of the agreement, the Agency signed an affidavit conceding that the Linux operating system violates unspecified Microsoft patents. Park Service Director Mary Bomar acknowledged the admission through a spokesperson yesterday, stating simply, "We needed the money." Under the terms of the accord, the cash-strapped agency will receive $440 million to distribute coupons to park visitors that will entitle users to a year’s worth of maintenance and support on SUSE Linux. In addition, Microsoft agrees to recommend lesser-used parks, such as the Alibates [Texas] Flint Quarries and the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. The coupons will be printed on the back of entry tickets at Yosemite, Mesa Verde, and other frequently visited National Parks this summer.
This latest in a series of agreements drew protests from environmental community members. A Green Peace spokesman argued that it was ridiculous for Microsoft to claim that the name of its new operating system release could be violated by preexisting landscapes. But they warned that the more such pacts Microsoft signs, the better its as-yet-unproven claims to trademark and patent violations may look in court if Microsoft someday tries to enforce them.
Meanwhile, the open source community expressed alarm as well. "This is totally bogus," said Pamela Jones, editor of the popular Groklaw.net blog. "Not even Maureen O’Gara could concoct such nonsense."
In related news, trading was heavy today in shares of home construction products manufacturer Anderson Windows [AWIN] on rumors of an imminent $440 million cash infusion from sofware giant Microsoft Corporation [MSFT].
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This sounds ridiculus. Threatening to use the term loop against Kelloggs for the cereal name fruit loops with that sort of justification from Steve Ballmer may allow them to use their size to intimidate, but I wonder if it crosses their mind there their should be an element of reputation management in their dealings with other companies. If only these sort of comments could become more public or reach some form of public media with a wide readership, it would be a nice justice to have them seen for these sort of tactics by a good number of people.
Maybe then, players like this might start to feel that they have to actually have some reasonable degree of sense in thier dealings rather than simply a bigger legal budget.
Thanks for finding this example.
One imagines that if Microsoft think a patent licence is required by a Linux user, Microsoft will publish the number of the patent and will quote the ‘list price’ for a licence.
Until then, it’s so much hot air, not really useful for making technological progress.
This is so hilarious! Thanks for making my day. The last line is really good.
This reads like a good Onion article.