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Novell Responds To Microsoft's IP Claims 317

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-can't-help-themselves dept.
Azul writes "Ron Hovsepian, Novell's CEO, has posted an open letter to the Community, where he explicitly states Novell's disagreement with Steve Ballmer's claims of Linux infringing on Microsoft's intellectual property. From the letter: 'We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property. When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.'"
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Novell Responds To Microsoft's IP Claims

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  • by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:40PM (#16924876) Journal

    Driving that train, high on cocaine.
    Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed.
    Trouble ahead, trouble behind
    And you know that notion just crossed my mind.

    With a beginning like this, who knows? They got the O.J. special and book release canceled!

    Goodness, if the heads of the two "agreement" corporations are on pages so far apart for this deal, how can this possibly work? Reminds me of the IBM/Microsoft marriage for work on OS/2, which Microsoft continued to claim was blissful right up until the time they got enough ideas for their own Windows replacement and unceremoniously dumped IBM. Too bad, too... OS/2 (while not my fave) was a pretty decent system for its time.

    • by Salvance (1014001) *
      Hehe ... wouldn't that be funny if Microsoft folks were viewing this as another OS/2, where they'd steal enough technology to create their own Linux-like server product? Unlike with Windows, I doubt Microsoft could pull it off though ... the Linux advocates are too anti-Redmond to adopt a M$ linux clone.
      • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:02PM (#16925068) Homepage Journal

        Unlike with Windows, I doubt Microsoft could pull it off though ... the Linux advocates are too anti-Redmond to adopt a M$ linux clone.

        The advocates (zealots?) wouldn't be the target market. MS would market it to the MCSEs and other who are MS-centric as 'Linux Done Right', offer full MS support, ease of installation and a sole-source supplier (MS themselves).

        It would make MS billions of dollars.
      • by postbigbang (761081) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:34PM (#16925292)
        Although I'll give them credit for a lot of code, good old BSD is the well from whence many operating systems drink.

        Given re-invention of code, or code I can 'steal', I'll look at good code and glean the best from it any time. So did Microsoft. So did IBM. So did Novell. It's the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
        • by countach (534280) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:23AM (#16925600)
          I don't really see the problem with all this. Microsoft and Novell can say and do anything they like about patents, but it doesn't make a patent problem arise where there was none, nor does a lack of agreement make one disappear if there was one. Novell got a few hundred million bucks out of MS, and it doesn't affect anybody else one whit. Why not let em have it?
    • Rule of thumb... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:18PM (#16925192) Journal
      A rule of thumb when dealing with Microsoft.

      Microsoft ALWAYS shafts their partners.

      I've watched it happen repeatedly with big-name and little-guy companies here in the valley, and seen news of it elsewhere.

      Cutting a deal with Microsoft is an invitation to big trouble and I fail to see how companies keep falling for it. (Perhaps there IS something to the PHB stereotype.)

      Cutting a deal with Microsoft for (limited) licensing of their patents is an invitation to accusations of IP infringement - and the first shoe has just dropped.

      But (like reading Microsoft source code) it's also an invitation to accidentally contaminating the open-source code base with actual Microsoft IP.

      I expect THAT to be the second shoe - with Microsoft first FUDding up the customers, then going after Linux ala SCO, but with their ducks correctly aligned before filing the first suit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It's reasons like this why Debian is so anal about the definition of "free". This is why I stick with Debian.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:23PM (#16925222)

      Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed.

      Is this a commonly misheard lyric or something? It's "Casey Jones you better watch your speed.".

      The lyric as you wrote it doesn't even make sense.

    • Some of us think OS/2 is still pretty decent, at least given its age. :-) Given the functionality of the OS/2 desktop, one wonders exactly how XP and Vista manage to use all of those resources...

      (Posted using Firefox 1.5.0.8 under Warp 4 FP 15)
    • by stox (131684) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:55PM (#16925422) Homepage
      Dear Novell Executives:

      How many company's have entered into collaborations, with Microsoft, that did not end up with a rectal aperture far exceeding that of goatse? How many did? So, do you actually fell that lucky? Talk about a long shot. Well, I'm sure you are all busy packing your golden parachutes, and will be long gone before the fecal matter hits the rotary device.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172)
      There is no such thing as a "pact" with the Devil.

      KFG
  • Isn't the following statement in effect confirming Ballmer's ascertation that Linux users are violating Microsoft's patents?

    "In this agreement, Novell and Microsoft each promise not to sue the other's customers for patent infringement. The intended effect of this agreement was to give our joint customers peace of mind that they have the full support of the other company for their IT activities."

    If Novell did not believe that Linux users were accountable to Microsoft for using these technologies, why would they look to protect these users? Sure, it's great to offer this indemnification clause for the largest of corporate clients (who have at least some reason to be cognizant of the risk of MS litigation), but by doing so he seems validate Ballmer's views.

    I can see it now ... The next big legal battle will be Microsoft vs. the world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rodgster (671476)
      Why has there been now news of Balmer's delusions until now?????

      If was posted @ http://www.wservernews.com/ [wservernews.com] back on Friday?????

      Here we go again. SCO part II only this time it a direct attack. Not a proxy attack.

      Novell is a pawn in the action.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)
      It's really a no-win situation for the Open-Source crowd. If there are patent violations, and no doubt there are some areas of code that bear more than a slight resemblance to patented software design, then Linux users are the ones that will be held accountable. Yeah, users. Funny how that works, but it's the way it goes.

      If Novell tells customers that "we'll indemnify you against patent claims", then that brings up the distinct possibility that there may be patent-violating code in the source. It doesn't pr
      • by ldj (726828) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:02PM (#16925070)
        The best move would be for users to ditch distributions that do not provide patent indemnification or to seek out third-party indemnification. If anything, Novell ought to be cheering Ballmer for steering more people in their direction.
        I think the best move would be for people to revolt against the silly software patent insanity and refuse to play that game. The sooner we bring the software patent stew to a boil, the sooner we can move towards a balanced and healthy legal system in which to grow new technologies.
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Nah. If Microsoft were to actually sue someone (which they won't) the first order of business would be for them to say *exactly* which patents are being infringed and where.. you then have a period of time to come into compliance.. i.e., to code around the patent. Coding around a patent is almost always, pretty easy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 10Ghz (453478)
          "Coding around a patent is almost always, pretty easy."

          No, it isn't. It's easy to code around copyright-infringment. But how do you write around a patent? Suppose MS has a patent that covers writing files to a disk. How do you code around that? That's the difference between copyright and patent. Copyright covers the actual code, and it's easy to fix: just re-write the offending part. But patents are a whole different ball of wax. To use the file-writing example: MS could say that code in Linux that is respo
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        I'm not sure how a user could be in held acountable for using a legal product they obtained thru normal distribution methods without knowing something was wrong with the product untill someone makes a claim on it. If I buy a CD player for my car and the company that produces it violated sony's pattent somehow, They cannot come back on me, they would have to go after the person(s)who made and distributed the product instead. Why would Linux be any different?

        Novel has been making products before microsoft has
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "If Novell did not believe that Linux users were accountable to Microsoft for using these technologies, why would they look to protect these users?"

      Oh, I can think of at least 348 million reasons why...
      • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:44PM (#16925362)
        And for a company that broke even last year on an operating income of $100M and has a total market cap of about $2B dollars, that payment was not at all a trivial matter. Hovsepian would have been remiss to his shareholders to not sign it. Patent cross-licensing agreements are pretty damned commonplace.

        I think the Novell guys probably realized there was some bad PR potential, but didn't see anything particularly bad in the agreement and saw lots and lots of greenbacks, plus the opportunity to use MS as a distribution channel. This seemed like a sweet deal when they looked at it. I just don't think they realized quite how negative the reaction would be.
    • I can see it now ... The next big legal battle will be Microsoft vs. the world.

      And soweth the fabled Microsoft Lawyers marched from their barracks in Redmond, Wa, headlong into the world's courtrooms to wage the biggest legal war of their lives. But, they know they are brave, strong willed, money filled and are large in numbers. They march with patent documents in their briefcases, and they sing their fabled Microsoft Lawyer Battle Cry:

      "We are protectors of IP, saviors of the MS pocket books".

    • by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:33PM (#16925278)
      "Isn't the following statement in effect confirming Ballmer's ascertation that Linux users are violating Microsoft's patents?"

      Consider the symmetry of the contract:

      Novell and Microsoft each promise not to sue the other's customers for patent infringement

      Therefore, using your assertion, it must be equally true that Microsoft is admitting that stollen Novell code is in Microsoft's codebase.

      ;-)
    • The agreement says nothing about real issues of patent violation or the validity of such potential lawsuits.

      It just says it's a lot cheaper to just swap money now and cut the lawyers out of the loop.

    • No, he's saying that his customers can be assured that Microsoft won't sue. As displayed by SCO, one does not need a valid claim of intellectual property infringement to cause massive litigation costs. This deal assures Novell customers that nothing like that will happen to them.

      I'm not saying the deal was good; I'm just pointing out the error in your reasoning.
  • Deal Novell Out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:43PM (#16924906)
    Novell is feeling the backlash of their decision to cozy up to Microsoft, but this is just spin, it means nothing. The business arrangements that Novell made with Microsoft are what counts, and they still stand. It's time to deal Novell out of the Open Source pie, we must not allow them to taint Linux with "Microsoft IP".
    • Re:Deal Novell Out (Score:5, Insightful)

      by strider44 (650833) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:07PM (#16925116)
      On the contrary. I think this is a great tactic of dealing with Microsoft: Take a few hundred million dollars from them and at all the parties say "I'm not with him!" Lets face it, Novell's been paid a few hundred million dollars to give the impression that there are patent problems with Linux, yet they've spun around and said "We don't think there are patent problems in Linux" and started talking about how Microsoft got the better of the deal by licensing Novell's patents!

      For some reason this really tickles my funny bone.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by hawkbug (94280)
        Yeah, until somebody from Novell contributes something to the linux kernel - and then RedHat uses it, and M$ sues the snot out of them. I realize every decent open source developer works on the honor code - where they can't contribute code after seeing source from a closed source vendor. Think back to the NTFS in the linux kernel debacle from a few years back. I can see some jerk-off from Novell doing this intentially to open the flood gates for M$ litigation. Does anybody else think this is possible? I
        • Re:Deal Novell Out (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @04:38AM (#16927836)
          I work for SUSE/Novell and my job involves working on GPL'd software.

          Do you really think that Microsoft is going to be handing us source code to their proprietary applications? Seriously? Because that's not ever going to happen and I'm not sure what makes you think that it would. I mean, this is Microsoft we're talking about. They don't even like to share source internally from what I hear, and none of us have any interest in seeing closed source in the first place.

          Do you really think that any of us engineers, us "jerk-off[s] from Novell", are going to intentionally harm Linux? Seriously? The same Linux that many of us use at work and at home, the same Linux that many of us have been using for upwards of sixteen years? No, we're not going to intentionally "open the flood gates for M$ litigation" because that doesn't make any sense. I know, I know, you're enjoying the hysterics and you don't actually know what's going on so you're stirring up the pot all the same, but, really, why would we do that? Honestly, ask yourself, why would those of us who get to have the dream job of writing open source software intentionally poison Linux? Calm down.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mkcmkc (197982)
            I don't think you will do this intentionally, no. But the fact that the agreement was signed in the first place, and the fact that you're denying that anything bad could possibly come of it, suggests that you're wide open to being tricked--big-time--by Microsoft. And in a way that may cause a lot of collateral damage in the wider Linux community.

            Your subsequent apologies, should this happen, won't really help anything. The time to fix things is now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jrumney (197329)

        Novell's been paid a few hundred million dollars to give the impression that there are patent problems with Linux.

        Since when did the patent holder ever pay an infringer a few hundred million dollars? The only impression this has given me is that Microsoft must be infringing on Novell's patents.

    • What did novell expect? Time to boycott Novell, and GPLv3 should be re-written to forbid these sorts of deals.
    • by no-body (127863)
      Microsoft did not suceed with SCO to hurt/eliminate Linux.

      Since that fell flat, they went fishing again. Now they have another fish on the hook: Novell.
      No matter what is written or said. The facts are clear. Microsoft is trying to destroy Linux!

      They have to, or they are lost. The only remedy against their monopoly, clout and billions of money is free software - on equal grounds, within the capitalistic money system, it's impossible to compete.

      There has been something going on between Microsoft and Novel
      • by james b (31361)
        Is there any strong evidence that Microsoft was actually behind the SCO incident?
        • Re:Deal Novell Out (Score:5, Informative)

          by spisska (796395) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:45AM (#16925770)
          Is there any strong evidence that Microsoft was actually behind the SCO incident?

          Sort of.

          It's been known for a while that to help out with the lawsuit SCO recieved a massive cash injection to the tune of $40 million or so from Baystar Capital. Baystar is a VC company that controls a lot of Microsof money.

          Since the time of the investment until a few weeks ago, the offical line was that Baystar acted on its own, and the fact that it was Microsoft capital being used to bankroll SCO's legal team was a mere coincidence.

          But then maybe a month ago, the court heard testimony that not only did Microsoft know about Baystar's investment into SCO, but that the investment was at least encouraged (at worst, ordered) by Microsoft.

          You can find all the relevant court documents, commentary, and links on Groklaw.

          Not quite a smoking gun, but very compelling evidence that Redmond was putting its money where its mouth was, at least in a roundabout and obfuscatory way. There are no serious suggestions that what Microsoft did is actionable, yet it is pretty clear that they were up to their same old dirty tricks

  • Who notices a typical CYA mentality here? Have the cake and eat it, too?
  • It does no one any good to alienate Novell. Seeing the open source community and MSFT working together is a step in the right direction.
    • by pembo13 (770295) on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:53PM (#16925002) Homepage
      If some highly infectious disease infects your leg, I'm pretty sure the doctors will advise you to amputate it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by EvanED (569694)
        At the same time, if the doctor says "there's nothing we can find wrong with your leg at the moment, but there's a chance that it will become infected later", I'll wait for it to become infected to amputate...
    • by cryptoluddite (658517) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:01PM (#16925054)
      Alienating Novell sends a signal that Microsoft's patent extortion will not be tolerated by the community. It says that, should Microsoft press patent claims, that companies and people using Linux will retaliate -- with countersuits, civil disobedience, lobbying, bad PR, and whatever else.

      You can bet that Novell is only coming out with this "open letter" because of the pressure they are feeling. Contracts being canceled or not renewed, bile and bad PR everywhere, FSF lawyers looking into filing suits, etc. They are probably getting the most pressure from SuSE developers, who can't be at all happy about being periahs.

      The best step for the OSS community would be for Microsoft to document their protocols and formats. For instance if we had documentation on how NTFS lays out the filesystem we'd have a safe r/w driver in under a month. This Novell-MS deal is bunk. The European trustbusters have already done more than this deal ever will.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ivan kk (917820)
        if we had documentation on how NTFS lays out the filesystem we'd have a safe r/w driver in under a month.

        Such as say, http://www.ntfs-3g.org/ [ntfs-3g.org]?
      • Alienating Novell sends a signal to businesses that setting up an interoperable IT infrastructure that includes Linux is not tolerated by the Linux community. It says that any enterprise level Linux vendor can suddenly be marginalised on a whim, and thus it is probably better to stick with a safe vendor that supplies a solution that doesn't use Linux.

        Actions don't always convey the intent that the perpetrator envisioned. That's why there are advisors, marketers, and PR departments whose whole purposein lif

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:01PM (#16925056)
      Microsoft licenses proprietary code.

      Linux is under the GPL.

      Is the "right direction" for Linux to become a little bit proprietary?

      If not, Microsoft has 100% access to the source code. Microsoft can be as "interoperable" with Linux as they want to be. Any time they want to be.

      Microsoft can release whatever specs it wants, whenever it wants.

      Now, why don't you go listen to Ballmer talking about how Linux users owe Microsoft money before you start talking about the "right direction" and "working together"?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, it's not. MS is a buncha lying crooked morons. They have been proven so, over and over and over again, even in court, over and over and over again. Lying weasels, no scratch that, that's an insult to weasels.. Not sure what computer-sphere you inhabit, but I think most people have noticed this little factoid. They have had more than ample opportunity, decades now, to change their views and complete sleazoid business practices, and they *still suck*. Novell stepped in deep shit and took their silver, the
  • What the fuck? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:44PM (#16924928)
    Our interest in signing this agreement was to secure interoperability and joint sales agreements, but Microsoft asked that we cooperate on patents as well, and so a patent cooperation agreement was included as a part of the deal. In this agreement, Novell and Microsoft each promise not to sue the other's customers for patent infringement. .....
    When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.

    So you signed a deal with Microsoft ... over patents ... that you claim do not exist?

    Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

    Here's a free clue, you idiot. That last company that talked about "protecting" end users from being sued was ... SCO.

    You might want to look at how beloved they are at the moment.
    • by sumdumass (711423)
      Linux isn't the only product Novel produces. What if thier deal was to cover something from there?

      Wouldn't it be even more ironic if Novel droped some of that into GPL territory and claimed that thier deal with microsoft allowed and potected thier abilities to do so, then Novel the liability and mocrosoft cannot do anything due to the deal they made.

      Looks like a win-win there. But my guess is that they deal was about the other products they sell that have rode on top of microsoft operating systems for longe
    • So you signed a deal with Microsoft ... over patents ... that you claim do not exist?

      Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

      It may seem crazy to you, but executives try to protect themselves against potential patent litigation in the US all the time. The hazards of not doing so were well demonstrated recently by RIM. Of course, you may be convinced that Microsoft is such a clean, ethical company that they would never stoop to initiating baseless patent litigation. However, if I was Novell trying to migrate

  • by strider44 (650833) on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:46PM (#16924938)
    Microsoft just wasted a few hundred million dollars? Congrats to Novell...
  • by phrostie (121428) on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:50PM (#16924978)
    even giving them the benefit of the doubt, they should have read the fine print.

    they've sold the community for 30 pices of silver.
    • by myowntrueself (607117) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:19PM (#16925200)
      they've sold the community for 30 pices of silver.

      Except that in the case of Judas the 30 pieces of silver were a legal requirement; had he refused the money then his evidence would have been inadmisible under the Law.

      The idea was that in order to prove that the evidence was given in good faith, the witness had to accept payment.

      In Novells case, I don't think this holds...
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:51PM (#16924984) Homepage
    Novel seems to be essentially saying that they agree and disagree at the same time on a topic which was part of their formal agreement. This may make sense to a lawyer or CEO, but seems highly illogical to me. Furthermore, it seems safe to say that any business agreement with Microsoft ultimately benefits only Microsoft, the people over are great at that. I may dislike many aspect of the Microsoft Corp. but they are darn skillful business men. I'm just happy that I don't use Suse.
  • Empty words (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Augusto (12068) on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:52PM (#16924996) Homepage
    What matters is what Novell agreed with Microsoft, and that says it all.

    Novell can say all it wants, but you can't fool everybody all the time. This makes this company look either totally naive and stupid, or blatant liars.
    • Or both. Neither Microsoft nor Novell has really said *anything*
      about the various agreements with any specificity.
      And that would be by design to generate the maximum amount of FUD.

  • Encouraged... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TropicalCoder (898500) on Monday November 20, 2006 @10:59PM (#16925050) Homepage Journal
    I for one feel at least encouraged by the fact that obviously Novel is very sensitive to criticism over this. I would like to even believe that they are reading Slashdot. If nothing else, that would be a very positive development. If major players and decision makers begin reading Slashdot and become sensitive to it, that would be a very positive thing for us all. Though the first few comments to this latest news show considerable skepticism, many others in previous discussions had come to the conclusion that there is really nothing to worry about.
    • by Raul654 (453029)
      "If major players and decision makers begin reading Slashdot and become sensitive to it, that would be a very positive thing for us all." - actually, they have an even more pressing sensitivity - their responsibility to their corporate shardholers. This deal has turned SUSE developers into pariahs, and I'm sure a great many people are pissed off enough to avoid doing buisness with Novell. Both of these are enough to have a significant impact on Novell's bottom line (or at the very least, I hope to hell they
      • by carpeweb (949895)
        cause whatever moron cooked this up to lose his job

        Have you ever worked for a large corporation? Those morons usually get promoted, not fired ...
  • by samrolken (246301) <samrolken AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:01PM (#16925060)
    They've agreed to disagree, or so they say.
    We at Microsoft respect Novell's point of view on the patent issue, even while we respectfully take a different view. Novell is absolutely right in stating that it did not admit or acknowledge any patent problems as part of entering into the patent collaboration agreement. At Microsoft we undertook our own analysis of our patent portfolio and concluded that it was necessary and important to create a patent covenant for customers of these products. We are gratified that such a solution is now in place.
    http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/nov0 6/11-20Statement.mspx [microsoft.com]
    • by weston (16146)
      At Microsoft we undertook our own analysis of our patent portfolio and concluded that it was necessary and important to create a patent covenant for customers of these products.

      "So we signed a deal that provides that coventant, and we just didn't want you to worry your pretty little heads about it SO MUCH that we won't even tell you what those patents were. That way, you don't even have to think about it!"

  • by Augusto (12068) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:01PM (#16925062) Homepage
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200611202 03431766 [groklaw.net]

    In that case, with all due respect, you should not have signed an agreement called a patent cooperation agreement that gives Microsoft the opportunity to say the things Mr. Ballmer has been saying. I believe that is obvious now. And you should have considered the GPL, its importance to the community, and considered what paying royalties means in that context. And we hope you will fix this.

    And MS ...

    Microsoft and Novell have agreed to disagree on whether certain open source offerings infringe Microsoft patents and whether certain Microsoft offerings infringe Novell patents....

    We at Microsoft respect Novell's point of view on the patent issue, even while we respectfully take a different view. Novell is absolutely right in stating that it did not admit or acknowledge any patent problems as part of entering into the patent collaboration agreement. At Microsoft we undertook our own analysis of our patent portfolio and concluded that it was necessary and important to create a patent covenant for customers of these products. We are gratified that such a solution is now in place.
    • And read on, for PJ's wonderfully to-the-point response to Microsoft's spin malarkey:

      I hope everyone will please think about what software patents are doing to the industry. Microsoft didn't have to deal with them when it was building its business, but now it has them in hand to try to bully Linux, the better mousetrap that endangers its monopoly, to death. Yes. To death. Think about whether that is the patent policy you really want, and if it isn't, you need to change it. Because the community will not l

  • by chill (34294) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:05PM (#16925092) Journal
    The bigger the corporation, the more lawyers work for it. Novell, while just a shadow of what they once were, still thinks like a big corporation. Threat or not, they knew that many of their corporate customers -- you know, the paying ones -- had their own lawyers whispering in their ear. It was worth a certain amount of money to them to not have to put the effort into figuring out if they were violating patents or not. The perception was there and that money now gives the perception of safety.

    What the suits didn't understand is that while Linux is moving more and more into the corporate space, at its core it is still a community driven project. They drastically underestimated that community's dislike and distrust of Microsoft.

    Good luck to them trying to serve both masters.
  • by astrashe (7452) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:06PM (#16925100) Journal
    My gut reaction to this deal is very negative.

    I really like a lot of what Novell has done on the desktop, and some of the mono desktop apps are pretty terrific. But I sort of feel like I ought to be moving toward KDE now, and distancing myself from anything mono.

    The question I have, though, is about the patents. Either MS has patents that can be used to attack linux or they're pulling another SCO on us.

    So much of the argument against Novell hinges on the fact that they're enabling MS with this deal. As I understand the argument, it says that corporate customers will buy Novell, to be safe from potential lawsuits. If MS can pick off a critical mass of commercial users who are willing to pay, they can start to sue other people without damaging relationships with their large corporate customers. Even non-novell customers will have a way out -- they can buy Novell.

    If MS has these patents, do we really believe that fear of alienating their customers is enough for them to refrain from suing people? Couldn't they sue IT companies -- linux companies, IBM, etc., without damaging their relationships with large corporate customers? And aren't those large customers so locked in that they really don't have anywhere to go if they're alienated, anyway?

    To me, this really isn't about Novell. I don't pay them, and I don't code for any projects, so I understand that they don't really care about me. It would be irrational for them if they did. But this sort of burns the bridge to Novell and mono as far as I'm concerned. That's done.

    But how big is this threat? Is this the beginning of legal threat spanning years and years. with fronts opening up in legislatures, in anti-trust enforcement agencies around the world, etc.?

    Is this real, or is this a bunch of baseless stuff that's going to dog us for years?

    If a free OS that's built from scratch by volunteers can't be allowed to exist in the current intellectual property law environment, what then? Does this mean we either have to give up and finally take on the intellectual property framework at some really fundamental level?

    • by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @03:06AM (#16927106) Journal
      If MS has these patents, do we really believe that fear of alienating their customers is enough for them to refrain from suing people? Couldn't they sue IT companies -- linux companies, IBM, etc., without damaging their relationships with large corporate customers? And aren't those large customers so locked in that they really don't have anywhere to go if they're alienated, anyway?

      Err, wouldn't Microsoft suing IBM over patent infringement be the legal equivalent of shooting themselves in the foot with a bazooka? IBM, according to their own website (http://www.ibm.com/news/us/en/2006/01/2006_01_10. html), has more patents than any other tech company and they've been around since long before Gates was in diapers--I would hazard a guess that Windows infringes on far more IBM patents than Linux infringes on Microsoft's. I'm not saying Microsoft wouldn't have the balls (and lack of brains) to try this, but the resulting shitstorm would likely take 10+ years to resolve and could very well result in the downfall of M$ or patent law reformation... and I'd be overjoyed to see either. And even if M$ somehow prevailed, I'm willing to bet a significant portion of the EU and Asia would say "fuck you!" if asked to pay royalties on Linux.
  • by Freed (2178) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:09PM (#16925130)
    Read the interview Moglen: How we'll kill the Microsoft Novell deal [theregister.co.uk].

    Alright that's the legal piece. There's also www,boycottnovell.com [boycottnovell.com] and the Samba disapproval. Other links and ideas welcome.
    • I read that Register article.

      Interesting points, especially


      The tool chain required to build so much free software, including the Linux kernel, will almost certainly adopt GPL 3. While the Linux kernel is licensed under GPL 2, and Linus Torvalds has indicated his personal intention to stay with the older version, it's difficult to envisage a licensee such as Novell being able to distribute a product it can't build in binary form.


      I'm wondering if Novell could do a clean-room reimplementation of the toolchain
  • I was kept wondering how on earth did steve balless say that linux is infringing microsoft's patent? Did he really know what the heck he is saying? Linux is the kernel not the whole system. I dont think novell even owns THE KERNEL! I am very very pissed. and yet I am still using windows :(
  • What's next? EV1Servers announces a deal with Novell?
  • by NZheretic (23872) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:19PM (#16925196) Homepage Journal
    A customer enters a Novell Office.
    Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
    (Novell does not respond.)
    Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?
    Novell: What do you mean "miss"?
    Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
    Novell: We're closin' for lunch.
    Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this Linux Distro what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
    Novell: Oh yes, the, uh, the Novell OpenSuse Linux...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
    Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. According to the terms of the GPL you can no longer distribute it, that's what's wrong with it!
    Movell: No, no, it's uh,... part of the service agreement.
    Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a violation of the GPL when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
    Novell: No no it not violated, it's , it's cirumvented'! Remarkable OS, the Suse Linux, idn'it, ay? Beautiful eye candy with GLX
    Mr. Praline: The eye candy don't enter into it. your in violation of the GPL.
    Novell: Nononono, no, no! it's just slightly cirumvented!
    ...
  • Microsoft has a handful of patents could apply to open source. They'll give you a patent for putting the OK button on the bottom right of the diagbox because the eye scans it first. There have to be some.

    As big a gun as Microsoft is, it needs a few things in place in order to be able to leverage its IP. First, there are a couple big companies with massive patent portfolios that could be leveraged to counter-attack Microsoft software (since there are enough ridiculous patents that nobody with much software c
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr@telebod[ ]om ['y.c' in gap]> on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:36PM (#16925310) Homepage Journal
    I gave the man the benefit of the doubt, even though I am extremely angry at Novell, and read his letter. It is very well written and makes the reader think, "Oh, that's all right then". But it isn't. He is not acting in a vaccuum and this is not a textbook case study (yet). Why?
    1. Novell obviously needed cash quite badly, enough to risk a PR backlash.
    2. Microsoft was a key driver behind SCO and this is their next highly visible move against Linux.
    3. Microsoft has linux people in-house. If they wanted linux they could make their own distro for free, plus hiring a team to add interoperability which presumably should be easy since they would be the only team on the planet with the inside knowledge of how to do that.
    4. Of course, this expert knowledge would be copied by other distros if it was GPL, so they wouldn't want to do that.
    5. And, they wouldn't be able to easily infect other distros a la SCO, which is another reason.
    6. Finally, if they distribute GNU/Linux under GPL then they are finally saying everything is already under the GPL. (possibly including nonencumbrance by patents but IANAL).
    7. Novell cannot leash the dragon once it begins to rampage. In fact, this patent agreement clearly removes potential weapons of OSS-friendly vendors like IBM against possible future SCO-like lititgation from Microsoft. It means that Novell may likely enter the role of indeminifying vendors and users against Microsoft litigation (if the patent agreement allows that).
    8. Novell's CEO claims their actions prove they are honorably. I am sure he would like to think so. However if actions are louder than words, then surely this deal with Microsoft proves Novell is only in business for Novell, especially if it means all other OSS vendors get poisoned by their actions.
    9. It also proves that Novell's CEO is intellectually and/or ethically unfit for his position due to his blithe ignorance of SCO and Microsoft's role in SCO, smoking gun and all.
    10. The only reason imaginable is that Novell is really on the brink of bankruptcy and some threat from Microsoft would push them over the edge. Possibly Novell has some proof of OSS in Windows but who will ever know? Novell's actions cast a pall of smoke and brimstone over all OSS-related activities, projects, and products they have.
    11. Unfortunately this makes me and lots of other people very scared of what may end up in Suse and strongly suggests that Novell will be Microsoft's key tool for attempting again to destroy Linux and the OSS world, no matter what Novell ever says.
    12. That is why Novell cannot be trusted, and anything they ever contribute to OSS projects must be painstakingly analyzed and thrown in the garbage at the least worry. Even so, there is no way to be sure anything they offer will not be either a fragment of patentable data, or a fragment of a potential vulnerability to either access from microsoft or attack by a windows virus. It would be a much different story if Microsoft was going to provide all necessary documentation and experienced OSS programmers could plan how to interface with those APIs for best performance and security. Of course the same goes for anybody who ever thought of buying Novell or maybe making a contract with Novell. I don't see how anybody can ever trust Novell again.
    • by sumdumass (711423)

      12. That is why Novell cannot be trusted, and anything they ever contribute to OSS projects must be painstakingly analyzed and thrown in the garbage at the least worry. Even so, there is no way to be sure anything they offer will not be either a fragment of patentable data, or a fragment of a potential vulnerability to either access from microsoft or attack by a windows virus. It would be a much different story if Microsoft was going to provide all necessary documentation and experienced OSS programmers co

  • ...to see Ron just flapping in the wind... ...I wonder how many users he's lost already.

    sigh.
  • Dear Novell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by div_2n (525075) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:03AM (#16925466)
    As a member of the Linux community, I personally am disappointed by your maneuvers. While I can only speak for myself, I feel confident others share my sentiment.

    Let's not beat around the bush on this. Your actions reek of the proprietary and closed mindset--not open source. It is clear this is a deal meant to benefit you first and foremost. While your customers may (or may not) benefit, the community at large seems to be left pissing in the wind. This is profoundly confusing since the vast majority of the Linux product you purport to protect has been written and continues to be written by that community and not your engineers.

    While I'm not anyone famous, I am one of surely many decision makers looking for well supported open source solutions. I had been considering you for several projects and would have considered you in the future. Given that you push your idea of what is best for the community despite fairly blatant protests to the contrary from prominent community members, I cannot include your products in any projects until you correct your course of action.

    Until that day comes, good luck making deals allegedly protecting a product with a company that has shown enormous contempt for and a desire to kill off that product. I find it overwhelmingly ironic that the market dominance you enjoyed long ago was taken by the very company with which you are now spooning. I guess you didn't learn your lesson the first time around.
  • The simple translation for all this rhetoric is as follows:

    MS: uhm, er, oh yes, there are IP issues to be cleared up, but we have _agreements_ to provide protections for our customer bases.

    Novel: There are no IP issues, we simply wish to be paid fairly for surrendering to the borg^H^H^H^H constant unrelenting pressures of Redmond, and in an attempt to bail out our stock holders, we have to pretend that this pig's ear is a silk purse.... er, we have worked out a reasonable agreement with Redmond to protect o
  • by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:09AM (#16925496)
    Watching MS over the years, they have had good moments, and bad moments, done good things and done things that make your skin crawl...

    The sad part of this is the 'business' model that Ballmer and his crew use as an Ideal are at the heart of almost every failed and every skin crawling activity MS has done.

    MS was a good company at various times after the past 30 years, but if you notice those fleeting moments, Ballmer and his 'ideals' were the recessive thought mechanism in the company at those times. The 'older' Gates ideals and people emulating him are a lot less likely to hae ever pulled a lot of the crap MS has done in the past 15 years.

    This new Linux scare from Ballmer is just another mark in the 'oh crap he did not say that' box. I'm sure there are technologies in Linux that come from MS, even if you take distributions that read FAT32 drives, but on the same note, MS has also taken a lot from the *nix community and it would be so petty to drive the market into this type of war.

    Ballmer's words remind me of Oracle's CEO (Ellison) a few years back, at every event or launch, instead of telling us how great their software was, he spent most of the time complaining about MS,and yet MS's products were slammin them in the market because they just worked better. If he or his people would have just spent more time making their products 'better' then could of actually been on stage showing us how much better they were, rather than only pitching how awful MS was.

    Maybe ol' Steve is a nice guy, but he is just not helping MS. MS needs to put back in power 'idealists' that believe in 'consumers first' thought and not how they can squeeze the extra nickels out of their business models.

    Even look at Vista, in a lot of ways it is a revolutionary OS if you look at the intelligence it implements and the architecture, yet marketing and the 'business' people don't get the genius from the development teams, and will have trouble selling it.

    This is evident with the marketing and business people creating five freaking versions of Vista for consumers. It creates more confusion and is less profitable and could hurt the 'standard windows' base because of the differences. It would have been better for MS to have just added $20 to the cost and do only one version. In fact the Vista release like XP is in contradiction to the 'design' ideals of the NT group in having a shared code base to 'reduce confusion'. (Of course the code base is still shared, but the confusion is artificially added by the business and marketing people.)

    My two cents for today...
  • by Sfing_ter (99478)
    Too Fucking Late...
    and...

    Them what lies with dogs, gets fleas...
    or do you disagree with that too?
  • by symbolset (646467) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:49AM (#16925818) Journal

    Microsoft has lawyers. Lots of them. If they have IP that's infringed and they know it, they have to sue to protect it or they lose it by neglect. If they had something, the money would have gone the other way. So, they haven't got cause for a suit or they'd have to sue.

    What Microsoft does have is a fat wad of cash. That is exactly what a company like Novell that backdated Waaay too many stock options needs. The bonus is Novell gets $400M to promise to not sue a company they've got no grudge against.

    The sad part for us is that Novell must now and forever be a leper. They've done great deeds in the past. There was great hope for their future. They're trying to fight the FUD now but you can't unring the bell. A shame they had to get weak kneed in the end. It's also sad Ballmer gets to say things like "Gee, that's a nice linux webserver you got there. Be a shame if one of our IP lawyers had to have it admitted as evidence." Makes you wonder if he was shaking down kids for their lunch money in school. I hope Novell's development teams have litte trouble finding honest work before the end.

    The upshot is that we've got $400,000,000 worth of proof that Microsoft's got nothin. Nothin, that is, except a metric ton of coupons good for one free SLED install they couldn't unload even as wrappers for free ice cream cones. Can you imagine the sales call? "Yeah, I got this coupon for a Linux install we can sell ya, but after five years if you're still running it we have to sue ya. Oh, and our BSA thugs will be around regularly to make sure you don't exceed your linux quota, k?" They'll have to paper the halls of One Microsoft Way with expired coupons. The companies that adopt Linux under Novell's indemnity will discover that Linux is rock solid, swift and sweet. When they realize Microsoft's always had nuthin, they'll migrate painlessly to a distro that's less tainted. Perhaps this is the dirty trick that convinces them to get all the way out of business with these creeps.

    I blame Ransom Love for this whole mess, because he killed Unix. Him and all the chowderheads that think this indemnity nonsense has more value than six inches of used dental floss. It's a bad thing to be mugged at the point of a lawyer. It's cowardly to be blackmailed with lawyers that have nothing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chromatic (9471)
      If they have IP that's infringed and they know it, they have to sue to protect it or they lose it by neglect.

      This is why the term "intellectual property" is, at best, vague and meaningless. What you said only applies to trademarks. It does not apply to trade secrets, copyrights, or patents.

  • Here we go again. (Score:4, Informative)

    by houghi (78078) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @05:44AM (#16928216)
    And again all the posts that are +5 are those that say the same thing over and over again.

    The deal is done. Live with it. At least Novell tries to answer the questions people have. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. People asked that they wanted the details of the deal, so they gave them. They gave a lot of promises.

    The IRC meeting will most likely also just be a lot of copy-cats yelling: Yes, but you signed a deal with M$ and we are so anti-M$ that we don't care about anything else.

    So instead of yelling that it is so bad, come up with a realistic alternative what you want and what questions you want answerd. Be at the IRC meeting and/or see that your answers are asked on the site if you can't be there.

    It is very much fun to react emotionaly, yet it is only spreading the FUD further, no matter who started that FUD.

    The useal links:
    http://lists.opensuse.org/archive/opensuse-announc e/2006-11/msg00004.html [opensuse.org]
    http://dev-loki.blogspot.com/2006/11/call-to-dump- suse-linux-wtf.html [blogspot.com]
    http://www.linux-watch.com/news/NS4287912423.html [linux-watch.com]
    http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2168151/novells- opens-microsoft [vnunet.com]
    http://en.opensuse.org/Meetings/Status_Meeting_200 6-11-08/transcript#The_Novell.2F_Microsoft_deal [opensuse.org]
  • by brokeninside (34168) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:07AM (#16929790)
    I'm crossposting this from my comment at Groklaw.

    Sun Microsystems did exactly the same thing in 2004, except it took a lawsuit to get the settlement out of Microsoft.

    Under the 10-year pact with Microsoft, the software company will pay Sun $700 million to resolve antitrust issues and $900 million to resolve patent issues, the companies said. The companies will pay royalties to use each other's technology; Microsoft is paying $350 million now, with Sun to make payments when it incorporates technology later.

    FromSun settles with Microsoft, announces layoffs [groklaw.net]

    Note especially this bit in the linked article which sounds quite a bit like the original press release: The goal of the technical collaboration between Sun and Microsoft is to improve interoperability between the companies' respective products, according to Sun.

    I think it is tremendously inconsistent to be pounding Novell for this agreement and not pound Sun or any of the other many companies that have do-not-sue covenenants over patents. The only difference as far as I can tell between this most recent deal between Novell and Microsoft is the extension to end users.

    The most likely scenario is that Novell is sitting on software patents (my guess is that it has something to do with Active Directory) and floated a feeler into Microsoft that they were considering a lawsuit. In return, I'm guessing that Microsoft offered to settle right up front rather than go through yet another lawsuit. On the agreement itself, there is probably a meeting of the minds. The only disagreement comes from the spin. Microsoft likes to construct deals so that they can put a their own unique spin. Like when they settled with Apple quite some time ago, instead of a simple cash payment, Microsoft bought 150M of non-voting Apple stock. On its balance sheet, Microsoft lost no money on this settlement so that they could spin to investors that they lost nothing. They're doing the same thing here by requiring that Novell return the licensing deal.

    All the people out there taking a hard line against Novell ought to be taking the same hard line against Sun, IBM and Apple (just to name a few of the companies that have similar deals with Microsoft).

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