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Novell Has Accepted the Legal Threats of OpenXML

Posted in Formats, IBM, Interoperability, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents, VBA at 12:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A couple of days ago, Shane mentioned proprietary extensions which Microsoft embeds in its OpenXML implementation. That, as a spurious reminder, is the standard which Novell agreed to embrace. It is a standard which fits an application; not a case of applications being built to support a standard. The 6,000+ pages which describe this bizarre ‘standard’ do not include any documentation of these ‘extensions’ and, to make matters worse, according to Sam Hiser, there are legal barriers as well.

In short, Microsoft promises not to sue you for using the Microsoft Office Open XML formats in your software. But this promise only applies to patents Microsoft may have in the explicit parts of the Microsoft Office Open XML specification and which are described in detail there. It would not cover those parts essential to implementation which are merely referenced in the specification and lying outside the specification. See the language, “only the required portions of the…specification”, emphasized below.

It is not surprising that two supporters who are willing to implement Open XML are already in Microsoft’s hands. Corel is one of them, Novell is another. Sun Microsystems has already criticised (even “slammed”) Open XML, as did IBM, among many more people. who comprehend the value and importance of standards.

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  1. shane said,

    January 12, 2007 at 12:36 pm


    Stafford Masie, Novell Country Manager for South Africa also alluded to the ‘issue for everyone’ that Open XML’s legal problems would pose:

    We’ve published that out, there’s nothing proprietary there, ok now people are saying the open xml format itself is, y’know Microsoft has a little covenant associated with that and that is where the issue is, well y’know that’s an issue for everyone. we’re going to work on the interoperability aspects and we’re going to publish that innovation, that interoperability under the GPL so that shows you how this is going to play out, we’re not going to do things and violate the GPL

    But, it’s only a problem for those who accept Novell’s Danaergeschenk of Open XML support

  2. Ian said,

    January 12, 2007 at 3:34 pm


    “Novell is another. Sun Microsystems has already criticised (even “slammed”) Open XML, as did IBM, among many more people. who comprehend the value and importance of standards.”

    Just a question, how is any of this different than what Samba does? Correct me if I’m wrong, but Samba is a re-implementation of cifs/smb, so it’s a re-implementation of something isn’t a standard. How does supporting OpenXML differ from Samba beyond reverse engineering as opposed to an official partnership with Microsoft? Samba continues to bring relevance to cifs/smb beyond the Windows World. If Longhorn Server breaks Samba in some way, will Samba not directly react to that? That seems pretty well tied to Microsoft to me.

    I’m not saying it’s a bad thing from a user standpoint even though the domain controller model is stupid and cludgy and makes me cry every time I have to deal with it. I just don’t see how the two are wholly different beyond the means to an end.

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