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Polygamist Microsoft picks Amazon as latest Linux wife

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Amazon has agreed to a cross-licence patent deal with Microsoft over the online retail giant's use of technology in its Kindle e-reader product and Linux-based servers.

The financial tie-up, terms of which have been kept secret, is the latest in a series of agreements Microsoft has struck with vendors that use Linux in their products.

In March last year it signed an IP licensing deal with TomTom after the companies exchanged sue balls in court. The pair eventually agreed to play nice, much to the chagrin of many in the open source world.

Under the latest cross-licence patent deal, Amazon will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of cash, presumably to prevent the Windows and Office vendor from accusing the retailer of infringing its patents. However, legal threats were kept out of Microsoft's latest statement on its demands for payment.

"The agreement provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio and covers a broad range of products and technology, including coverage for Amazon’s popular e-reading device, Kindle™, which employs both open source and Amazon’s proprietary software components, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers," said Microsoft.

"Although specific terms of the agreement are confidential, Microsoft indicated that Amazon.com will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of money under the agreement."

In the past Redmond lawyers have claimed that free and open source software violated some 235 MS patents.

“Microsoft’s patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry, and this agreement demonstrates our mutual respect for intellectual property as well as our ability to reach pragmatic solutions to IP issues regardless of whether proprietary or open source software is involved,” said Microsoft deputy IP legal counsel Horacio Gutierrez.

The Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin dimissed what some might view as Amazon making an unholy pact with Microsoft over patents.

"It is worth noting that most technology companies have invested heavily in patents and that a cross-licensing agreement is a non-news event. The fact that two entities with expensive stockpiles of outdated weapons felt the need to negotiate détente is not surprising," he wrote on his blog.

"Let’s avoid second-guessing and implication. There’s nothing to see here. We have real code to write." ®

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