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Will Novell/Microsoft deal hurt Linux in devices?

Nov 3, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Long-time rivals Novell and Microsoft announced a Linux-centered, multi-tiered partnership yesterday. The deal involves enterprise software, but could have implications for Linux in general, because it sets a precedent for a Linux distributor paying intellectual property (IP) royalties to Microsoft.

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Another Linux rival in enterprise realm, SCO, sought much the same thing — royalty payments for intellectual property. However, SCO has yet to prove that Linux actually uses any of its IP, and hence has had very limited success to say the least in collecting royalties.

Like SCO, Microsoft has has not alluded to specific IP problems in Linux. During the Nov. 2 news conference announcing the deal with Novell, however, CEO Steve Ballmer and other Microsoft officials spoke half a dozen times about a need for Linux distributors to “respect” Microsoft's intellectual property.

Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, said, “As the largest investor in research and development in the software industry, Microsoft has the largest, or certainly one of the largest, software patent portfolios in the world.”

Leading enterprise Linux distributor Red Hat was quick to react to the Novell/Microsoft pact, in effect spitting on the notion that users of its brand of Linux could face IP suits, as implied by statements in the Novell/Microsoft conference. Red Hat has long indemnified customers against copyright infringements, and will add broader indemnification to cover other IP suits, it says.

Novell, meanwhile, formerly offered copyright indemnification as an upgrade to its SUSE Linux products.

It is not clear whether any commercial suppliers of Linux distributions for embedded systems and devices — for example MontaVista, Wind River, Timesys, and others — offer Linux IP protection to their customers, other than for code they write themselves, since they tend to keep the terms and conditions of their business arrangements confidential. On the other hand, insurance provider Open Source Risk Management evaluated the Linux kernel for the risk of IP property threats about two years ago — specifically with regard to software patents — and concluded that the exposure to be “quantifiable and manageable.”

Additional coverage about the Novell/Microsoft news can be found in this series of articles on our sister site, Linux-Watch.com:

The Novell/Microsoft Linux Deal Reading List

Additionally, a transcript of the Nov. 2 Novell/Microsoft news conference is available here.

Meanwhile, a conference on software patents co-sponsored by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) is set for later this month, in Boston.


 
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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