It may be hard to believe, but the giant IT companies that are behind so much of the technology we consumers get to choose from aren't always at each other's throats in format wars, anti-competition lawsuits and wrangles over licensing, as evidenced yesterday when Microsoft and Samsung agreed to share many of their respective patents.

The cross-licensing deal , involving the world's largest technology company and Samsung, which registered more US patents in 2006 than any other firm, is intended "to accelerate their respective product development efforts." In other words, they'll work together to get one over on anyone not in their gang.

Linux in dispute

The Korean company is likely to bring its expertise in digital audio players and mobile phones to the US giant, which is struggling with much of its hardware line-up, such as the Zune, while Microsoft's return offerings are slightly more controversial.

As the deal gives Samsung the right to use some patents connected to Linux that Microsoft claims to have been its intellectual property all along, the implication for any future Redmond litigation against Linux vendors is clear.

If Microsoft signs more of these agreements - and this is the third such deal - with other firms heavily involved in Linux, it can only strengthen its case in further legal attempts to crush the open-source movement.

Samsung's concerns in making the deal obviously lie in the fact that its existing Linux-based products would leave both itself and end users liable should Microsoft's claims be tested in court and prove valid. With the two companies in bed together, and actually exchanging currency for each other's patents, this worry is now laid to rest.