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HP Memo and Lindows
Tuesday, July 20 2004 @ 12:43 AM EDT

Here are two stories that seem unrelated at first glance, but I believe they are two sides of the same theme.

First, Microsoft and Lindows settled the trademark suit in the US and all the other European struggles as well. Lindows agrees to change its name to Linspire within 60 days and and in 4 years, it will turn over all its domain names, which it can keep using as redirects only for the 4 years, that include -indows or -indoz. MS pays them 20 million. They agree to put out a mutual press release in which Lindows will say it acknowledges MS's trademark's validity and will abandon its various trademark applications with prejudice. After that, mum's the word. Neither side can speak about the agreement.

But Lindows filed it with the SEC, so you can read it in full.

Here's the part that jumps off the page: Lindows agreed to remove four copyrighted Windows Media Files from its products, and Microsoft will enter into a Windows Media Format Components License with Lindows.

You can download and read the licenses Lindows has agreed to. Or read Microsoft's description of them here.

Here is part of what Lindows has agreed to:

"Lindows agreed as part of the deal to stop distributing five copyrighted Microsoft Windows Media technical files as part of its software, although Lindows said Microsoft also granted it a royalty-free license to other Windows Media software components that it can distribute."

What is a so-called Linux distro doing with Windows Media Files in the first place, and have they read the terms they just signed their name to? Putting that to the side, however, the bigger picture is that the Windows trademark is looking a lot more fragile, despite the settlement, or maybe I should say because of it. Winners don't hand over $20 million, and if MS wasn't worried about losing, I doubt they'd have done it. Lindows made what it calls a "smart" business decision. Those pure financial animals can't be trusted, naturally, and there is no bar to anyone trying to cash in on Linux. That's why you have media sites online with Linux in their titles that do nothing but report negative news about Linux. But everyone knows they are not representative of the community. Same goes for distros. You can't be in the community and not care about licenses, and specifically the GPL. Linux and the GPL are a team. Any "Linux" distro that doesn't get that isn't reallly Linux. Period.

So, on to our next story in our common theme. The HP leaked memo about MS planning on attacking Linux with its patent portfolio. What else is new? This is a surprise to whom? Anyway, memos like this don't leak. They *get* leaked on purpose. So, are we shaking in our boots? No. And here is why.

Patents when they are very narrow can be programmed around. If a patent is very broad, you have a shot at getting it declared invalid.

We will have plenty to do, no doubt about it. I'll be providing some details soon.


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