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7/16/2009
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Linux Vendor Settles With Microsoft

Maker of Buffalo networking gear pays up in exchange for patent indemnification.

A manufacturer of Linux-based networking devices has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to Microsoft in order to settle a patent claim, Microsoft disclosed Wednesday.

Under the agreement, Melco Group will pay the sum to Microsoft in exchange for indemnity coverage for its Buffalo brand Network Attached Storage devices and routers. The patent indemnification covers Melco and its customers.

"We are pleased to reach this agreement with Melco Group," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's general manager for intellectual property, in a statement.

Microsoft did not state which patents were at issue, but the company in recent months has said that it believes certain parts of the open source Linux operating system, including versions distributed by commercial vendors like Red Hat, violate its Windows patents. "Many companies have entered into similar agreements with Microsoft covering their Linux-based offerings, something that is a reflection of both Microsoft's decades-long commitment to R&D in the operating system space and the high-quality patent portfolio we've developed through our R&D efforts," said Kaefer.

Melco officials said the company plans to increase its use of Windows in its products while continuing to maintain open source components.

"While we plan to increasingly adopt Windows Storage Server for our NAS business, we also wanted to ensure that our open source and Linux-embedded devices had the appropriate IP protections," said Hajim Nakai, a board member at Melco's Buffalo line.

"By collaborating with Microsoft on a practical business solution, we are able to provide our customers with the appropriate IP coverage, while also maintaining full compliance with our obligations under the GPLv2," said Nakai.

Among other things, GPLv2, or General Public License, version 2, requires vendors that use Linux to make the source code available to end users. Without indemnification, users who employ that source could be liable for patent infringement if it's later shown that the code infringes on third-party intellectual property held by a vendor such as Microsoft.

The Linux community has argued that their OS does not violate any patents, and has challenged Microsoft to publicly specify exactly which patents it believes are at issue. To date, Microsoft has declined to do so.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on the state of enterprise storage. Download the report here (registration required).

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