Novell publishes details on its Microsoft patent deal

Novell publishes details on its Microsoft patent deal

Summary: Novell has posted to the Securites and Exchange Commission (SEC) Web site redacted versions of the company's patent, business and technology agreements with Microsoft, which it signed in November 2006. Anything juicy make it past the "redcated due to confidentialty" edits?


Novell has posted to the Securites and Exchange Commission (SEC) Web site redacted versions of the company's patent, business and technology agreements with Microsoft, which it signed in November 2006.

Novell officials said earlier this week they would post these documents before the end of May. The company released the filings late on May 25, the start of a three-day holiday weekend in the U.S.

Did anything juicy make it past the "marked as confidential" cuts? Groklaw has highlightsof some of the documentation specific to the Microsoft-Novell patent arrangements:

"If the final version of GPLv3 contains terms or conditions that interfere with our agreement with Microsoft or our ability to distribute GPLv3 code, Microsoft may cease to distribute SUSE Linux coupons in order to avoid the extension of its patent covenants to a broader range of GPLv3 software recipients, we may need to modify our relationship with Microsoft under less advantageous terms than our current agreement, or we may be restricted in our ability to include GPLv3 code in our products, any of which could adversely affect our business and our operating results. In such a case, we would likely explore alternatives to remedy the conflict, but there is no assurance that we would be successful in these efforts."

So now it's even more obvious why Microsoft has been throwing around the "235 patents infringed by open source" claim. Novell is confirming that Microsoft may have to stop distributing SuSE Linux coupons if the Free Software Foundation's General Public License (GPL) version 3 goes through with the current patent language in place.

Having to eliminate the SuSE distribution part of its Novell agreement would hurt Microsoft's campaign to convince other open-source vendors to sign similar deals. It also wouldn't make Microsoft look too good to the handful of large corporate customers (that Microsoft touts every chance it gets) who Microsoft has convinced to go with SuSE Linux.

There is a lot more legal mumbo-jumbo on the SEC site regarding the Microsoft-Novell deal. Anyone see any other interesting nonredacted info?

Topics: Legal, Microsoft, Open Source, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Too Late

    Since the coupons don't have any expiration date, it won't matter if Microsoft stops distributing them.

    The only way out for MS at this point is to make sure that Novell never distributes GPLv3 software that they claim to be covered by their patents. Since Samba is the biggie there, that's going to put Novell in a serious bind.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • It seems like FSF is the spoil sport

    FSF have the GPL licence which they want everyone to follow. However FSF does not comply with others IP. To the FSF its their way or the highway.

    The FSF and other OSS, not respecting IP that belongs to others and to use politics in their justification of IP violation defense, just shows how ___,____,____ these guys are.
    • Oh really?

      I'm sure you have, like, a jillion examples to prove this claim. I mean, the FSF would love to respect these claimed 235 patents if they knew what the hell they were.
      • why dont you go ask Stallman

        why dont you go ask Stallman and and see if he denies.
        Now if you are not upto date with whats going on, it doesnt make sense for me to waste my time getting you up to date.
        • Again with the Stallman.

          If you can't be bothered to correlate the actual facts (instead of, apparently, taking no_ax at face value, assuming that's not you) it's not my job to tell you to shove it, that's just something I want to do.

          Stallman has nothing. OK, he has a mad beard, a weight problem and a vague idea from someone else's biased research that Linux [i]might[/i] have violated 283 patents (of which 27 belonged to Microsoft). Seeing, however, as a) the Linux kernel was considered not to have even the remotest possibility of violating any patents at that time and b) the number was not 235 could you please not post if you're not going to engage your brain.

          This link is what Stallman had in 2004. Let's see, uhhh, 235 minus 27 equals a difference 208 between the report Stallman referred to and what Microsoft are claiming. It's fairly basic [u]subtraction[/u], the kind a [u]five year old[/u] could manage but that seems somehow beyond your capabilities. Or maybe you're just too lazy to bother. Either way, you need to stop depriving those with more grey matter than white of their fair share of oxygen.
          • and if cant comprehend, you should stop barking like a mad dog for nothing

            "Stallman has nothing"

            Who the hell are you, a nobody. If you cant talk anything relevant maybe you should shut your mouth.

            "Let's see, uhhh, 235 minus 27 equals a difference 208 between the report Stallman referred to and what Microsoft are claiming"

            Why dont you ask Stallman.
            It could be that Microsoft decided to be more conservative.
            And you entire theory is based on the difference, 235 and 208. No wonder you bark like a dog for nothing, absolutely no substance to anything you say.
          • And you are, what, Mr Big?

            Seriously, who the **** are you? You too important to actually provide evidence to back up your claims? Insults and screeching may have worked in the playground but you're in the real world now, time to grow up.
          • PS

            Apologies for ****ing on your bonfire merely by having actual evidence to back up my claims and showing you up to be the fraud you are.


            Sincerely, Nobody.
          • Doesn't matter

            defconvegas posts the same sad ole story everywhere he can. Facts don't mean anything, pushing that Open Source is vile, steals IP, etc is the only goal.

          • Oh, I figured that,

            but it's the same with Republicans isn't it? They only gained so much power because their views remained unopposed and so people believed them.
        • Oh wait, my bad. That was [i]in[/i] the kernel, not asides from it.

          So, the real disparity is OSRM's claim of 27 patents [u]in the kernel[/u] against Microsoft's claim of 42 [u]in the kernel[/u].

          Secondly, as the transcript at shows, all Stallman knows is:

          "One large program has been carefully studied by a lawyer in the US, who looked for all the software patents that might prohibit some part of it. That program is Linux, the kernel of the GNU+Linux operating system. He found 283 different patents applying to various techniques and features implemented somewhere in Linux."

          What's he referring to again? Oh yeah,

          Potential infringement. [u]Potential[/u]. "Because of the effect that knowledge of potential infringement has, OSRM isn't releasing its list of patents." What does that mean? Stallman has a number. not a patent number, just a three digit one of "potential infringements".

          PS Stallman does not control the Linux Kernel,, Xorg or any e-mail programs. They are all other people's projects so it's also moronic to assume he knows anything about their code seeing as he may never have even glanced at it. The mysterious 'others' category will have to be left to everyone's imaginations, much like the nature of the claimed patents.
          • everybody obeys the law

            "Stallman does not control the Linux Kernel,, Xorg or any e-mail programs. They are all other people's projects "

            Including the people in the so called peoples project.
            Secondly whoever said they are the peoples project, they definitly dint ask the people, just do something and say it the peoples project and so we get a free pass to everything and we are above the law. Maybe the fooled you, not the majority of the people.
          • In English please. NT

      • Blowfish & Fugu guts

        Reading such articles conjures up some thoughts when DOS and Windows got started. There were two windows systems competing, Microsoft and DeskView (if I can recall correctly). In the 80's most software was copy protected, and the biggest hobby for many was to crack the copy protection. Then Microsoft brought out it's software without copy protection, and a licence. It was quickly copied and most had a private copy. Companies bought the software, and the employees had pirate copies at home. Some believe that this was intended by MS, or maybe MS realised later that the lock-in mechanism may be the best marketing ploy to help all users to get to know how to work with Windows _only_. Soon all other systems disappeared; like DeskView. Presently, schools and learning institutions get the software donated to prepare the future users and decision makers for using MS; company decision makers buy what they know and what most people can use, saving on costly training the users do at home in their own time.

        Just having a possible "IP patent infringement" stick with which MS threaten to litigate is large enough for many; but many keep pirating. Companies with any sense will not risk pirating in their offices, they buy MS products and write it off as expenses. Most private individuals can't/won't write it off every 2-3 years.

        On the one hand MS threats, on the other it does not do enough to stop piracy, intentionally keeping users locked into its products. Giving MS the benefit of the doubt, they could do it but don't; for the money they spend on R&D, they must have enough expertise to write code to prevent piracy. This has been the most successful subliminal marketing ever (besides only being able to buy hardware with MS pre-installed). In this way it will not scare off enough people to go to OSS, keeping them hooked to buying and using only what they already know.

        The threat may be real or not, but once MS comes out with what the so-called IP patients theft entails, it will get into a quagmire. Keeping it under cover and treating is like a blowfish (Tetraodontidae), fooling the adversary of it's 'size/power'. Most adversaries evade a conflict it cannot estimate the cost of. A legal process may overstretch most companies' financial resources - then they rather licence (or do the MicroVELL/NOsoft trick). Who is going to call the bluff on this probable patents FUD with some Fugu? IBM? HP? Guess MS will not take them on, their pockets are just as deep. They may force MS to eat blowfish guts.
    • Hot air

      And stinky hot air to boot.

      Your statements only prove one of three
      things, if not three of three things.

      1. You have never read the GPL license
      and don't know anything about.

      2. You have read the GPL license but you
      still don't know anything about it.

      3. Makes no difference if you have or
      have not read the GPL license, you don't
      care what it says and you're really only
      blowing hot air.

      If you're not blowing hot air, please
      list the IP that "The FSF and other OSS,
      not respecting". We would like to see
      the list, please. And exactly what
      political philosophies the FSF and OSS
      are using?

      Thank you.
      Ole Man
      • FSF and another organisation have gone over this

        Even Stallman has admitted to the IP violations.
        Even Schwartz from Sun has claimed OSS violated its IP.

        Its pretty evident that you dont want to face the truth/facts.
        • Keep pushing the FUD

          There is no computer system anywhere, no OS, no program that does not infringe on someones (probably bogus) patent. Like I posted before, MS infringes on Sun, the OIN network, Novel patents, just like IBM on all, and Open Source on all, etc. The key here is, which patents are valid. MS is scared to disclose because don't want them invalidated. 235 untested bogus patents is worth more than 14 valid patents.

          The FSF did an analysis and found that of the patents it found it thought it likely infringed on were all prior art, too vague or otherwise invalid and would not stand up to a challenge. The verdict, ignore it, it is a non issue.

          One point you always keep ignoring as I throw it back into your "face", which company has been found guilty of infringing over and over and over again? Think there are no more infringements? What does that say about a companies' respect for the IP of others?

        • First of all, before you can see the truth

          You must remove your head from whatever
          dark hole you have it in and open your
          eyes (well, maybe wipe the crud out of
          your eyes before opening them).

          Why do you keep making asinine
          statements about the FSF license?
          Why don't you read it and post the parts
          that is violating anything of yours or
          Microsoft's property?

          How would you know what Stallman or
          Schwartz has claimed? How would you know
          what they are claiming now? Have you
          consulted with them daily? Weekly?
          Monthly? Anything you didn't hear from
          them is heresay.
          Ole Man
    • There are plenty of

      alternative licenses to use, the GPL has always been considered restrictive compared to the BSD license.

      No one is forcing anyone to use the GPL unless you are building against a GPL licensed library for example, and even then existing ones are licensed via the GPLv2. So it would only affect newer releases.
  • Clarification from Novell

    Hi Mary Jo:

    A quick point of clarification. The language you mentioned as having been picked up by Groklaw is not part of the agreements with Microsoft. It's language from our 10-K annual report document, which we also filed yesterday. It's in the section of the 10-K which addresses risk factors, and it's one of many factors listed (others include, for example, the risk that our shift to an indirect model might result in revenue fluctuation, slower that anticipated growth in our varopis businesses, and a negative outcome in the SCO case). This is a standard part of an annual report, designed to alert investors to any potential risks the company is aware of that could have an impact on the business.

    I wanted to clarify this, since your post, and the Groklaw language, would mistakenly lead readers to think this language was somehow included in the agreemeents we struck with Microsoft.