Microsoft and Amazon have inked a cross-license agreement in which both companies have access to the other’s patent portfolio. The terms of the deal are frustratingly vague, although we do know that despite the symbiotic way the deal is presented, Amazon will in fact be paying Microsoft for this access.
Apparently the deal covers “a broad range” of products, with Amazon’s Kindle and internal servers named specifically. Both of those products run a version of Linux, which could be where the need for such a deal originates. Microsoft has in the past claimed that the open-source (and freely available) Linux violates several hundred of its patents, and has actually forced settlements with companies including TomTom and Buffalo over those discrepancies–it’s probable that Amazon is the latest in that line. For its part, Microsoft’s official statement is a masterpiece in avoiding specifics. Said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft corporate VP:
“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.”
These kinds of agreements are mostly designed to prevent patent battles down the line, which would be unnecessarily costly for both sides.