Microsoft and Novell clash over patents

Just 18 days into their partnership, the two companies are 'agreeing to disagree' over alleged patent infringements within Linux

Novell and Microsoft have clashed over the question of whether Linux infringes Microsoft's intellectual property, just 18 days into their controversial partnership.

Earlier this month the two companies formed an alliance to "improve interoperability" between Windows and Novell's Suse Linux. This includes Microsoft offering Novell products to customers who wish to deploy a mixed proprietary/open-source environment. As part of a complicated series of payments, Novell is also paying Microsoft $40m to ensure Microsoft won't sue Suse customers for patent infringement.

But following Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer's claims on Friday that Linux used Microsoft's intellectual property, Novell has hit back. Posting an open letter on his company's website, Novell's chief executive Ron Hovsepian strongly refuted Ballmer's claims.

Hovsepian said that Novell did not agree that it is infringing Microsoft patents. "We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents," wrote Hovsepian. "Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgement that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property."

But Microsoft was antagonised, and responded within hours, publishing a letter in a similar manner on its own website. With no name attached, Microsoft wrote, "Microsoft and Novell have agreed to disagree on whether certain open-source offerings infringe Microsoft patents and whether certain Microsoft offerings infringe Novell patents... The agreement  puts in place a workable solution for customers for these issues, without requiring an agreement between our two companies on infringement. We respect Novell's point of view on the patent issue, even while we respectfully take a different view."