If someone decides to crunch Linux for ever, isn't it as easy as just buy Novell and then demand royalties payments for every Linux distributed out there?
Novell hasn't exactly been a hotbed of Unix development during the time it has been holding the patents so chances are that most of them will have expired (or will soon expire). Not really a method for »crushing Linux forever«.
Also, whether the patents actually mean anything to you as a Linux developer depends on where you are in the world. The USA is probably one of the worse places to be in that regard.
Finally, going after »every Linux distributed out there« is probably not going to be an economically viable idea. Most Linux machines are run by people who wouldn't be able to afford a large royalty payment, while a small royalty payment would probably cost more to collect than it would bring in. Also there is the problem of figuring out exactly who ought to pay for what. This is why most patent lawsuits to do with Linux (see SCO vs. IBM, or Microsoft vs. Tom Tom) tried to go after a few commercial users with (presumably) deep pockets, rather than every Linux user.
In the 1970s, when Unix was being distributed for free to universities and so on, AT&T held a patent on the Unix Set-UID mechanism. They originally thought they might be able to collect on that but finally donated the patent to the public domain on the grounds that it would be too much trouble to try to collect royalties from all the Unix licensees.
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