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Software Freedom Conservancy Shares Thoughts on Microsoft Joining Open Invention Network's Patent Non-Aggression Pact

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Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it was joining the open-source patent consortium Open Invention Network (OIN). The press release the two shared this week was short on details on how the two organizations intend to work together and what does the move mean to, for instance, the billions of dollars Microsoft earns each year from its Android patents (since Google is a member of OIN, too.) Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit organization that promotes open-source software, has weighed in on the subject: While [this week's] announcement is a step forward, we call on Microsoft to make this just the beginning of their efforts to stop their patent aggression efforts against the software freedom community. The OIN patent non-aggression pact is governed by something called the Linux System Definition. This is the most important component of the OIN non-aggression pact, because it's often surprising what is not included in that Definition especially when compared with Microsoft's patent aggression activities. Most importantly, the non-aggression pact only applies to the upstream versions of software, including Linux itself. We know that Microsoft has done patent troll shakedowns in the past on Linux products related to the exfat filesystem. While we at Conservancy were successful in getting the code that implements exfat for Linux released under GPL (by Samsung), that code has not been upstreamed into Linux. So, Microsoft has not included any patents they might hold on exfat into the patent non-aggression pact. We now ask Microsoft, as a sign of good faith and to confirm its intention to end all patent aggression against Linux and its users, to now submit to upstream the exfat code themselves under GPLv2-or-later. This would provide two important protections to Linux users regarding exfat: (a) it would include any patents that read on exfat as part of OIN's non-aggression pact while Microsoft participates in OIN, and (b) it would provide the various benefits that GPLv2-or-later provides regarding patents, including an implied patent license and those protections provided by GPLv2 (and possibly other GPL protections and assurances as well).

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