Windows Thorn Now on Microsoft’s Side

UPDATED: And then there were three.

Microsoft and Lindows (now called Linspire) are putting years of legal sparring behind them now that the company has bought into Microsoft’s Linux patent covenants. Linspire is the third company after Novell and Xandros to enter into a patent covenant with Microsoft regarding open source applications.

“Over the years, in an effort to expand choice, we have entered into dozens of agreements with commercial software vendors,” Kevin Carmony, chief executive officer at Linspire, said in a statement. “It certainly made sense to collaborate with Microsoft, one of the most important partners in the PC ecosystem.”

As part of the deal, Linspire is licensing Microsoft’s RT Audio Codec, which is intended to help interoperability between Windows Live Messenger users and the open source Pidgin instant messaging client (formerly known as GAIM).

Linspire will also license the latest Windows Media 10 audio and video codecs, as well as popular Microsoft TrueType fonts, including Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman and Verdana.

As is the case with Novell and Xandros, Linspire will work with Microsoft to promote and develop office suite interoperability.

Then there are the patents.

Linspire users will now be covered under Microsoft’s open source patent covenants, under which Microsoft promises not to sue Linspire users for alleged patent infringement in open source applications. Microsoft has alleged that open source applications have over 200 patent infringements against Microsoft’s intellectual property.

David Kaefer, general manager of intellectual property and licensing, told that, like many commercial transactions, the
financial terms of the agreement with Lindows are not being disclosed.

Kaefer also noted that Microsoft will not be buying any Linspire
subscriptions for resale as part of the deal. In the Novell deal, Microsoft
acquired as many as 70,000 SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscriptions.

According to Kaefer, the deal with Linspire has been in the works for some

“Linspire originally contacted Microsoft about a year and a half ago to
discuss ways the two companies could work together,” Kaefer said. “Earnest
negotiations on the agreement started in November of 2006.”

Microsoft’s first Linux patent covenant customer was Novell in November, 2006, which was followed by Xandros earlier this month. Microsoft also has open source patent covenant deals with non-Linux vendors Samsung and LG.

Microsoft isn’t showing its cards yet concerning its next
partner on the patent covenant.

“We can’t discuss deals that may be in negotiations now, but we can say that
Microsoft is in active discussions with many other companies about how to
improve interoperability to better meet the needs of our customers,” Kaefer

Linspire and Microsoft have a history of legal sparring, prior to this deal.

In 2004, Linspire and Microsoft settled a three-year dispute over the use of the name Lindows. The settlement involved Microsoft paying $20 million to Lindows to give up the Lindows name and assign all related Web domains that it owns to Microsoft. The saga of Lindows and Microsoft began two months after Lindows launched in late 2001 by founder Michael Robertson.

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