Thoughts on Microsoft Joining OIN’s Patent Non-Aggression Pact

Post Syndicated from Bradley M. Kuhn original

[ A similar version
was crossposted
on Conservancy’s blog
. ]

Folks lauded today
that Microsoft
has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN)’s limited patent non-aggression
, suggesting that perhaps it will bring peace in our time regarding
Microsoft’s historical patent aggression.
While today’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
including an
implied patent license
and those protections provided
by GPLv2§7
(and possibly other GPL protections and assurances as well)