IBM-Led Vendor Group Close To Linux Patent Deal

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The Open Invention Network (OIN), whose members include IBM and Red Hat, are negotiating to buy the patents from Allied Security Trust (AST), which bought them from Microsoft in a private auction earlier this year, according to a story in Tuesday's The Wall Street Journal.

Acquiring the patents, which The Wall Street Journal story said may relate to Linux, would supposedly provide vendors that sell Linux-related products and businesses that use them with improved protection against litigation. OIN holds onto patents and broadly licenses them.

AST also acquires patents to protect its members, including Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard, from patent lawsuits. But AST provides its members with licenses for patented technology and then resells the patents on the open market.

OIN and AST said their cooperation ensures that the patents won't be acquired by "patent trolls" -- companies that largely use patents to generate revenue from litigation, The Wall Street Journal story said.

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Microsoft executives have, on a number of occasions, said that technology built into Linux violates patents held by Microsoft. The Wall Street Journal said Microsoft claims that Linux may violate as many as 200 of its portfolio of 50,000 patents.

Earlier this year, the Linux world was shaken when Microsoft sued GPS device maker TomTom, which uses Linux in its navigation systems, for allegedly violating Microsoft patents. That case was settled out of court for undisclosed terms.

Published reports said the patents in question relate to three-dimensional computer graphics technology and were acquired by Microsoft from the now-defunct Silicon Graphics Inc.