Microsoft promises to defend-not attack-Linux with its 60,000 patents

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Microsoft has announced that it is joining the Open Invention Network, a collective that aims to protect open source software and Linux from patent issues.

The move will help protect open source software and projects from falling victim to patent lawsuits.

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This makes some 60,000 Microsoft patents available to OIN and the Linux community, which will likely make it easier for Linux developers to do further work without the threat of legal action. This can be done by supporting grassroots efforts like the FSF's End Software Patents campaign, or by Microsoft directly urging the US Congress to pass legislation excluding software from the effects of patents, or both. The group's CEO Keith said that apart from older Linux Kernel and Android patents, Microsoft's patent library also includes upcoming technologies like LF Energy (an open source initiative for power sector) and HyperLedger (an open source blockchain initiative). Attempts by Microsoft to heal the rift following Ballmer's departure have often been derided as attempts to 'embrace, extend, and extinguish', but of late the company appears to be having a little more success in convincing the world it has changed its ways: Microsoft has added Linux to Windows 10 via the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which left beta in July past year, joined the Linux Foundation in November 2016, and has even ported some of its server applications to the platform. This resulted in frequent clashes with the Android community and others but Microsoft is intent on leaving that behind. By pledging these patents to the group, Android OEM members of the pool should have that same royalty-free access to the relevant patents, which cover Linux and Android-related technologies.

This is a surprise to many in the developer community as Microsoft has been notoriously protective of its patents. In 2016, the company even became a member of the Linux Foundation.

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