Open source group buys up Microsoft patents

After years of accusations from Microsoft that Linux violates its patents, open source group Open Invention Network (OIN) is buying a set of patents which used to belong to the company.

The group, which includes IBM, Red Hat and Sony, told the Wall Street Journal that it plans to acquire 22 patents that Microsoft sold to Allied Security Trust (AST) earlier this year. AST aims to protect companies from patent trolls, by buying patents to protect its members from litigation, licensing the technology to them and then reselling the patents on the open market.

“We have averted a scenario where these patents can be used for negative purposes,” said Keith Bergelt, chief executive officer of OIN.

The patents are believed to relate to Linux – at any rate, that’s the way they were presented when Microsoft sold them to AST. They’ve been around the block a bit, having originally belonged to Silicon Graphics.

Microsoft told the WSJ that the patents “weren’t important” – presumably true, as the company is hardly so strapped for cash that it would have sold anything too vital. It’s also generally pretty keen on extracting licensing agreements from open source organisations where possible.

The deal is expected to be signed this week, but no financial details have been disclosed.

 The WSJ article is here (subscription only).