Microsoft demands royalties for open source software

Microsoft general counsel claims open source software, including Linux, violates 235 of the company's patents

Microsoft reportedly wants open source software users to pay royalties on 235 alleged patent violations.

In an interview with Fortune magazine, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, and Horacio Gutierrez, the company's vice president of intellectual property and licensing, said open souce software, including Linux, violates 235 Microsoft patents. And Microsoft wants distributors and users of open souce software to start paying royalties for these alleged violations.

[See related blog post: Put up or shut up, Microsoft]

"This is not a case of some accidental, unknowing infringement. ...There is an overwhelming number of patents being infringed," Gutierrez said.

Microsoft executives in Singapore were not immediately available to comment on the article.

Smith broke down the alleged patent violations during the Fortune interview, saying the Linux kernel violates 42 patents and the operating system's user interface violates a further 65. He went on to claim that the OpenOffice application suite violates 45 patents and open source e-mail applications infringe on 15 more. Other open source software applications infringe on 68 patents, Smith said.

Microsoft has been laying the groundwork for patent claims against Linux and open source software for some time. Most notably, the Redmond, Wash., software company signed a Linux deal with Novell that indemnifies the company against Microsoft patent claims over Linux. Last week, Dell joined the deal, becoming the first hardware vendor to do so.

Microsoft has struck other deals with hardware makers. In April, Samsung Electronics and Microsoft signed a cross-licensing agreement that included a clause that indemnified Samsung against Linux patent claims.

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