Microsoft takes swipe at Linux vendors' legal story

Microsoft takes swipe at Linux vendors' legal story

Summary: Microsoft has criticised Novell, Red Hat, IBM and HP for not offering enough protection against IP lawsuits. Red Hat, for one, takes a different view

Microsoft has criticised the IP indemnification offered by Novell, Red Hat, HP and IBM -- the main vendors of the Linux operating system.

It claims that Microsoft offers better indemnification than any Linux vendor and has highlighted specific problems with the indemnification policy of each vendor, although it has not yet divulged the specific details of its own policy.

"Microsoft is doing more to stand behind its products with meaningful indemnification than the leading distributors of the Linux operating system, namely Novell, Red Hat or HP," a Microsoft spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "IBM has never indicated it offers IP indemnification for Linux."

This follows Microsoft's initial criticism of IP indemnification in an executive email written by its CEO Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft focused its criticism on Red Hat, saying that the Linux distributor does not assist customers with legal expenses.

"Red Hat doesn't offer indemnification; instead, they offer a limited warranty," said the spokeswoman. "The warranty does not offer any compensation for legal fees if a customer is caught in the middle of an IP dispute."

Bryan Sims, the vice-president of business development at Red Hat, told ZDNet UK that it does not offer legal expenses to customers, but claimed the threat of legal action was not the main concern of its customers.

"The warranty programme was set up so customers would have uninterrupted use of software -- customers were not as interested in protection against lawsuits," said Sims. "The main risk for the end user is that they have deployed something and won't be able to use it for a mission-critical function."

Sims claimed that it was more likely for the software company responsible for the product to be sued, rather than the end user of a product. "It is very rare that an end user is sued by another software company," said Sims.

Struan Robertson, a lawyer with law firm Masons, agreed it is unlikely for the end user to be sued, but is possible -- as was seen when SCO Group attempted to sue DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone for using Linux.

Red Hat does provide legal protection to those who develop applications for the Linux platform.

Microsoft criticised HP for only providing protection against a SCO lawsuit and claimed that HP used its indemnification to force customers to continue using its hardware.

"HP's indemnification covers only claims brought by SCO. HP uses its indemnification provision to lock customers into buying both HP hardware and HP support agreements. Plus, if you modify one line of your Linux code, you waive your entire coverage."

HP was unable to comment in time for this article. Lock-in is an issue which Microsoft has been criticised for numerous times in the past, including this week when it was announced a nine-year contract with the NHS.

Microsoft also pointed the finger at Novell for only offering protection against copyright-related claims.

"Novell's public statements indicate the indemnification only covers copyright-related claims -- it does not provide any coverage for patent-, trade secret- and trade mark-related claims," said the spokeswoman, "In contrast, Microsoft's indemnification covers all four of these claim types"

Novell was unable to comment in time for this article. Richard Penfold, a partner in the IP practice of law firm DLA, told ZDNet UK that copyright is the most common IP claim against software, due to the nature of software. He said that although software is patentable, infringement claims can be difficult to prove.

Penfold said that Novell offers up to $1.5m in damages, while Microsoft has not yet revealed at what level it caps damages.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • Microsoft is soooo desperate to draq Linux into the mud that forgets that it is actually advertising it with stupid comments and reports.
    Everybopdy knows Linux is more mature and more stable than Windows. I for myself have been using Slackware on a 99% basis and can do whatever I can do in Windows. M$ is going down badly :)
  • IP lawsuits are mounting against PROPRIETARY Vendors and NOT on open source vendors. The latest case was Kodak suing Sun Microsystems for Java IP infringements. Next to be sued is Microsoft for its use and implementation of it's own Java. Micorsoft talks about lawsuits? They are the most sued company in the world. The are even sued be many governments around the world for their monopoly. We all should worry about Microsoft's business practices and monopolies, not to mention it's security holes that lead to thousands of viruses to attack users and corporate systems that contain our personal information and privacy. Think about it. Microsoft is the security hole. Microsoft is in the way of innovation. Microsoft is ripping all it's customers with ridiculously high costs. Research their business model and you will see that Microsoft is really bad for your business.
  • $5 is the maximum amount Microsoft specifies in its EULA's when it comes down to composating for the problems it causes.

    Microsoft is just making wild claims as they go along while milking this new PR item of theirs. Totally ignoring our greatest hurts (security, value for money, avoiding lock-in, working well with others including older and newer versions of Microsoft's own products) in the mean time.

    Interesting to note that Microsoft hasn't made public the 'fine print' details of this newest vaporware product of theirs: 'indemnification'.

    A lot of questions are still unanswered. Will this Microsoft 'indemnification' be fully available to all, existing, customers or just new ones that purchase the full package? What are the exact requirements? Might Microsoft offer 'alternative' solutions (as they see fit) rather then fighting in court till the very end? Etc, etc.

    Leave it to Microsoft to announce the upcoming existance of the fullfilling of our wildest dreams to then, overdue, deliver some half baked product that still needs patching yet requires major overhauls to get it installed to somewhat full functionality. No wonder companies with their own commercial agenda love it so much. There's no end to it.

    Microsoft's 'indemnification' will turn out to be, once closely examined and put to the test in real life, maybe half of what you think it is about at the moment. As is usual with all their other products.
  • "Struan Robertson, a lawyer with law firm Masons, agreed it is unlikely for the end user to be sued, but is possible -- as was seen when SCO Group sued DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone for using Linux."

    a high school student could do enought research into this to point out that both of these were not about linux as it is protrayed by SCO and lazy press. in fact DC has been dismissed in just a few minutes of time in front of the judge. and more relivent to the point in this article, the Judge in AZ case has put is on a rolling Stay untill the Redhat, Novell and IBM cases are resolved - showing that while it is "possible" for end users to be sued the court is not so easliy fooled as the media. If you don't beleive me about these cases not having to do with Linux, look at the transcript of the July AZ hearing - where that is what the SCO lawyer says. please do the research and don't allow your article to perpetuate FUD.
  • In response to the Anonymous feedback, Struan Robertson said that it is "unlikely for the end user to be sued", although he pointed out that it was possible, as could be seen from the SCO lawsuit. The SCO lawsuit took place and therefore shows that it is possible.

    However, I do agree that the SCO lawsuit was put on hold so to clarify the issue I have changed the article from:

    "Struan Robertson, a lawyer with law firm Masons, agreed it is unlikely for the end user to be sued, but is possible -- as was seen when SCO Group sued DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone for using Linux."


    "Struan Robertson, a lawyer with law firm Masons, agreed it is unlikely for the end user to be sued, but is possible -- as was seen when SCO Group attempted to sue DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone for using Linux."

    Thank you for your feedback.
  • Timeline inc. can legally sue all MSFT MS SQL develoers. Why Because MSFT doesn't indemifiy it's customers.

    They may not of sued any yet, but they can. How can MSFT allow this, because they don't care about their customers or developers, and didn't license the products correctly anyway.
  • Do read this: article2/0,1759,1714680,00.asp (Is Microsoft Ready to Assert IP Rights over the Internet?)

    And then read this comment: or every comment at

    Food for thought, isn't it?
    Who's legal story should be swiped? Or at least significantly clarified to the fullest? Let's not forget that Microsoft has deep pockets and a history of taking a case all the way to the highest court possible for no other reason, some say, to frustrate justice being served or crush rivals.

    Now some say this all boils down to legal speak meaning nothing but when was the last time Microsoft's lawyers went sweating over nothing?

    Any reporter out there interested in following this up?