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Microsoft signs technology pact with Linspire

Users of the Linux operating system will get patent protection and access to updated Windows Media technology.

Announcing the latest in a series of pacts with Linux sellers, Microsoft said late Wednesday that it has inked a deal with Linspire, a company it once sued for trademark infringement.

The two companies made peace in 2004, with Linspire agreeing to shed its Lindows name and Microsoft paying the company $20 million. Linspire also got the right to use certain Windows Media codecs and settled Microsoft's trademark infringement claims.

Under the latest deal, the two will be working more closely in a variety of areas, including instant messaging and Web search. In addition, purchasers of Linspire's paid Linux version will get intellectual property protection against any legal action by Microsoft for using the Linux desktop software. Linspire doesn't plan to include either the Microsoft technology or the patent protection in its no-charge Freespire product.

"We're going to include it with Linspire, and we are not going to raise the retail price," Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony said Wednesday.

It's just the latest in a series of Linux-related deals. Things started last November when Microsoft and Novell struck a controversial arrangement that provided, among other things, patent protections for users of Novell's Suse Linux. Microsoft has since struck a deal with Xandros as well.

Microsoft also has noted that Linux protections have been part of its recent cross-licensing pacts, including patent-swap deals with LG, Samsung and Fuji Xerox.

"What this deal is evidence of is this continued effort by a variety of Linux providers and Microsoft to build a bridge between our different platforms," said David Kaefer, Microsoft general manager of intellectual property licensing.

The companies did not go into the financial terms of the deal, but Kaefer said, "Clearly both of us expect to make money on the arrangement."

As part of the deal, Linspire will make Microsoft's Live Search the default search engine in Linspire and will get an extension to its license of the Windows Media technology, including access to Windows Media 10 codecs.

Microsoft also will license some fonts and voice over IP technology for use in instant messaging, while Linspire will join an effort to create translators between Office 2007's XML file formats and the OpenDocument format.