Novell has posted an Open Letter to the Community, in which they defend their deal with MS and reaffirm their commitment to Free Software and attempt to clarify their position.
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. 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. Novell has a significant patent portfolio, and in reflection of this fact, the agreement we signed shows the overwhelming balance of payments being from Microsoft to Novell.
Since our announcement, some parties have spoken about this patent agreement in a damaging way, and with a perspective that we do not share. We strongly challenge those statements here.
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.
“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.”
I can’t believe that two parties can negotiate a deal for months and still have diametrically opposed viewpoints as to the significance of the deal. I am inclined to believe the Novell has just learned what the folks at Baystar Capital and the myriad others learned when dealing with MS. Now, more than ever, Novell must pull out of this deal.