Though many have thought otherwise, Novell’s recent deal with Microsoft is not an admission that Linux infringes on Microsoft’s intellectual property.
At least that’s the message Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian
is pitching in an open letter. Microsoft agrees and disagrees.
Hovsepian argues in the letter that the prime motivation for signing
the agreement on Nov. 2 with Microsoft was sales and
Details of the agreement, which became public nearly a week after it was
first announced, indicate that Novell will get $240 million from Microsoft
for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscriptions.
Microsoft is also
committing $60 million to joint Linux/Windows marketing and an additional
$34 million for a dedicated sales force to push the joint Linux/Windows
The deal also provides Microsoft and Novell with patent protection, which Hovsepian said Microsoft requested.
“In this agreement, Novell and Microsoft each promise not to sue the other’s
customers for patent infringement,” Hovsepian’s letter states. “The intended
effect of this agreement was to give our joint customers peace of mind that
they have the full support of the other company for their IT activities.
“Since our announcement, some parties have spoken about this patent
agreement in a damaging way, and with a perspective that we do not share.”
Among those who have objected to the agreement are Samba developers, some of whom are Novell employees.
In a recent open
letter of their own, Samba developers said the deal showed “…a profound disregard for the relationship that they [Novell] have with the Free Software community.”
Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has also noted that in some way Linux users
“We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of
Linux and patents,” Hovsepian said. “Importantly, our agreement with
Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any
Microsoft intellectual property.
“When we entered the patent cooperation
agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any
other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.”
In a response to Hovsepian’s letter, Microsoft issued a statement
that both refutes Novell’s claims and agrees with them.
“We at Microsoft respect Novell’s point of view on the patent issue, even
while we respectfully take a different view,” the Microsoft statement reads.
“Novell is absolutely right in stating that it did not admit or acknowledge
any patent problems as part of entering into the patent collaboration
Microsoft maintains that in some way Linux and/or other open source
offerings do in fact infringe on Microsoft’s intellectual property.