Linspire Signs Patent, Technical Agreement with Microsoft

The two companies will work together to advance office document compatibility, enhance instant messaging interoperability and reinforce existing collaboration on digital media.

As Microsoft continues to try to build a bridge between its proprietary products and those of the open-source community, it has entered into a broad technical co-operation and patent agreement with desktop Linux company Linspire.

Under the agreement, announced June 14, the two companies will work together to advance office document compatibility, enhance instant messaging interoperability and reinforce existing collaboration on digital media. Windows Live Search will also become the default Web search engine in Linspire.

The agreement between the two companies has been several months in the making, David Kaefer, Microsofts general manager for IP and licensing, told eWEEK.

"For us, this is just a continued effort to build a bridge between Microsofts platform and open-source platforms, particularly Linux. These deals are premised on a win-win concept that allows us to grow together and look for opportunities in the market where we can all make money," he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read why Microsoft sees no conflict between its patent stance and interoperability outreach.

"This deal also shows, clearly, that we are not going to build a wall around our software and that we are going to work with all the other leading vendors in the industry to popularize this collaboration model first announced with Novell," Kaefer said.

Linspire desktop users will also be able to buy a specific distribution of the product going forward that includes the patent covenant from Microsoft.

"This is the same conceptual structure of a patent covenant for end users as found in the Novell and Xandros deals, and the design principle is respect for all of the licenses that are at play, including the GPL [GNU General Public License]," Kaefer said. "These patent covenants are foundational elements that allow us all to move forward.".

However, Linspire did not provide any of its patent rights to Microsoft under the deal, given that it held very few such rights, he said, noting that Microsoft would happily talk to the company about such a license if that situation changes.

Kevin Carmony, Linspires CEO and president, agreed, telling eWEEK that the few patents it holds are irrelevant to this deal. The patent agreement with Microsoft is also simply about choice, he said.

"This is obviously a complex issue, and Im not going to play judge and jury," he said. "I just do not want to limit choice. Some people are going to want this, and others wont. This is nothing new for Linspire: Over the last six years we have licensed technologies with dozens of different software companies to do QuickTime audio, Java, Flash, as well as for 3-D graphics drivers and Wi-Fi drivers."

/zimages/1/28571.gifMicrosoft claims that free and open-source software infringes on 235 of its patents. Read more here.

Linspire believes in reaching out and licensing technologies from others in those areas where open source has not yet reached. As such, the company approached Microsoft about 18 months ago with regard to cross-licensing so that it could interoperate better in that world, Carmony said.

Linspire will now join the group of companies—including Novell, Microsoft and Xandros—involved in developing and distributing open-source translators that allow OpenOffice and Microsoft Office users to better share documents.

These translators, which have an open-source license, will give customers greater choice by enabling effective translation between Ecma Open XML and OpenDocument Format documents.

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