The meat of the Microsoft-Novell deal is in the patents

The meat of the Microsoft-Novell deal is in the patents

Summary: The most meaty part of the November 2 cooperative-technology deal between Microsoft and Novell is also the hardest to understand: The patent portion.

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TOPICS: Patents
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The most meaty part of the November 2 cooperative-technology deal between Microsoft and Novell is also the hardest to understand: The patent portion.

Luckily, Jason Matusow, Microsoft's Director of Corporate Standards, breaks it all down in his posting today. The highlights:

* Novell and Microsoft are providing covenants to each other’s customers, therefore releasing each company from the other’s patent portfolio. "This may sounds odd vs. a traditional patent cross-license agreement but it is one of the things that makes this deal so unique," Matusow said."What it really means is that customers deploying technologies from Novell and Microsoft no longer have to fear about possible lawsuits or potential patent infringement from either company."

* From the start, a design principle of the agreement was to be compatible with the GPL.

* Under the patent agreement, customers will receive coverage for Mono, Samba, and OpenOffice as well as .NET and Windows Server. "All of these technologies will be improved upon during the 5 years of the agreement and there are some limits on the coverage that would be provided for future technologies added to these offerings," Matusow noted.

Questions? Qualms? Quibbles?

Topic: Patents

About

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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17 comments
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  • Hovespian Fell Into the Trap

    Mary Jo is correct. It's all about the patent agreement.

    After the Q&A segment it was clear that the patent agreement was a defacto acknowledgement by Novell that Linux violates MS patents. Ballmer made it clear that the patent agreement protects ONLY users of SuSE Linux. When questioned about wether the patent agreement covered technology which will be developed or if it covers MS patents already existing in Linux the attorney made it clear that the agreement protects existing Linux in the form of SuSE.

    So MS has found the big Linux vendor foolish enough to "legitimize" a patent claim on Linux by Microsoft. This makes it easier for MS to claim that Linux infringes their "IP" and claim that Novell recognized this "fact" and struck a deal.

    Now it's only a matter of asserting claims against all distributors except Novell thereby thinning the herd and finally, deal with Novell SuSE last.

    Nice going you Novell morons.

    After using SuSE for years it looks like it's time for a change.
    Tim Patterson
    • and violating patents is okay with you

      MS patents that were violated were technical patents. Not the kind that IBM wants Amazon to pony up cash for.
      zzz1234567890
      • No def

        I do not acknowledge that Linux infringes any MS "IP".

        I'm merely pointing out the FUD which MS has created. Some people are just too simple to "get it".
        Tim Patterson
      • So it's okay with you that Microsoft is inducing copyright infringement

        Without the GPL being valid and adhered to then under copyright law the distributor has no rights to distribute GPLed code.

        Have you never read the GPL? It has this language in the current, not V 3.0, version:

        in the preamble.

        [i]Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all. [/i]

        then again in section 7.

        [i]7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program. [/i]

        Also read Moglen's, the FSF's attorney, take on it http://news.com.com/2061-10795_3-6132156.html?tag=tb

        The patent pact , if it does not extend to all Linux distros, for GPL code in fact violates the GPL, thus causing a copyright infringement.

        Microsoft is inducing copyright infringement.
        Edward Meyers
        • You know better.

          The GPL covers the kernel, nothing more and no one is talking about changing the kernel.

          Oh, you mean there may in fact be patented tech in the kernel? Well yes, but it's up to Microsoft who they decide to sue.
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Ah no

            The GPL covers any software which is licensed under the GPL that includes products like Zend PHP or PostGRE SQL or Apache or Open Office. Saying that the GPL only protects the kernal is just plain incorrect. Now MS can decide to sue anybody it wants but if they are suing over software protected by the GPL then they are going to lose. That tactic has been tried a few times in the past by companies such as SCO.
            maldain
          • Samba is GPLed

            No, the kernel is not all that is GPLEd. KDE, Gnome, ABIWord, EMACS, VI, SAMBA, ect ect is all GPLED.

            And no... if they have alicense deal only with SuSE, that violates the GPL.
            Edward Meyers
  • Yes, it's ALL about the patents.

    And gawd help all Linux distros but Novell.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Never read the GPL-

      This is from version 2, and not V 3.... (Samba, and other listed software here, is GPLed by the way)

      here:

      [i]Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all. [/i]

      and here;


      [i]7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

      [/i]

      So in short if it only covers SuSE and no other distro it violates the GPL and is a copyright violation.

      In short if it is GPLed, SAMBA is GPLed, then it's all Linux distros or none of them!!!

      But of course you knew that right?
      Edward Meyers
      • Sorry but it doesn't mean anything

        as long as they don't touch the actual kernel. That is all that the GPL covers.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • GPL is a licensing structure

          The GPL is a licensing structure that can be issued for any piece of software. Basically, software distributed under the GPL are protected by it. It's not specific to the Linux Kernal though the Kernal being software is protected by that GPL. Nice try on the spin though.
          maldain
        • Wrong again

          The GPL is much much more than just the kernel. You really don't believe that the kernel is the only piece of GPLed software in a Linux distro do you?
          Edward Meyers
  • Something I don't understand

    Okay so, Ballmer says that the deal ONLY protects users of Novell's Suse Linux from patent claims against Microsoft.

    So in essence, I guess he means that they could sue all other brands of Linux users.
    Fine.

    I run a RedHat and fedora shop (mainly), so say MS wants to go after me. Cant I just take an old box out of dusty storage, slapp SuSe on it and leave it installed in a closet in a room somewhere, and then if MS ever wants to go after me, I just tell them that if I'm not infringing their patents running on one box, then they can't go after me for the same patents running on all my other boxes?
    beaner1111@...
    • No intention of going after users

      Other distros are the target. Once they are gone all MS has to deal with is Novell.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
  • Patents

    I've blogged about the linux patent topics, such as:
    <a href="http://kevinclosson.wordpress.com/2006/10/27/unbreakable-linux-theft-of-patented-technology/">http://kevinclosson.wordpress.com/2006/10/27/unbreakable-linux-theft-of-patented-technology/</a>
    kevinclosson
    • The GPL itself kills the patent issue

      The GPL is a copyright license that actually forbids patents unless they provide the same privileges granted to everyone in the GPL, read section 7, which would in effect destroy most of the reason to patent in the firs place. To patent GPLed code would create a situation where you would infringe copyright to enforce your patent against other vendors offering derivatives from the same code.
      Edward Meyers
  • MS/SuSE merger

    I sat through the news broadcast with dawning horror as the extent of Novell's betrayal sank in. I have used SuSE for 4 years, my enjoyment of it growing constantly. It is now going to be scrubbed from my machine. I despise the MS monopoly system of business and want nothing to do with them, ever. That Novell can ignore the GPL and open source community in such a casual manner is reprehensible in the extreme. Greed, greed, greed.
    Rhodie