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09.15.08

Microsoft-Novell: Leaving It to the Lawyers

Posted in Law, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Tivoization at 5:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It was almost two years ago, several weeks after the devious deal had been signed, that the following message was posted to USENET. Looking back, it’s worth quoting verbatim:


    From: Geico Caveman
    Newsgroups: alt.os.linux.suse,comp.os.linux.advocacy,comp.os.linux.misc
    Subject: Novell / OpenSuSE admit they paid protection money
    Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2006 15:21:22 -0500

http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/11/27/2113210

“Q: Novell claims to have not acknowledged any patent infringements by
Linux. But Novell is now paying a tax to Microsoft on the Linux
distributions it ships. What, exactly, is Novell paying for?

Nat Friedman: We’re paying for the promise that Microsoft made to our
customers not to sue them.

Q: Not to sue them for *what*? For problems you don’t acknowledge exist?

Nat Friedman: We put together an agreement with Microsoft to make Linux and
Windows work better together. Now, as everyone knows, Microsoft has spent
the last 10 years saying negative things about Linux, including implying
that there are IP issues in Linux. It didn’t make sense for us to do a
partnersihp with Microsoft on interoperability issues and still have this
patent cloud hanging around for our customers, so Microsoft asked us to put
together a patent agreement as well. And so we promise Microsoft’s
customers that we won’t sue them and they promise the same thing to our
customers. They pay us for our promise and we pay them for their promise.
It doesn’t matter if the allegations from MSFT are true or not. People can
sue each other anyway, and a patent lawsuit is very expensive to defend
against. ”

So, essentially what they are saying is :

“”We do not acknowledge any M$ patent violations in stuff we distribute, but
we will pay M$ a lot of money so that they do not sue us for things we are
not guilty of. We want a partnership with them at all costs even if we have
to pay that illegitimate protection money.””

Apparently, its not costly for Novell to fight SCO when it has no case, but
it is costly to fight Microsoft when they have none either. Pretty clear
who badly wanted this deal – it was Novell (agrees with Microsoft
statements that they were approached). As for Microsoft, it was just
Christmas that came early.

This deal is just like a gift that keeps on giving for Microsoft and makes
less and less sense for open source users as revelations keep coming. At
best, it is an industrial shakedown that Novell capitulated to. At worst,
Novell decided to become Microsoft’s underling (the most polite word I
could think of in this context) just for a partnership that lasts 5 years.


Ever since, Novell has committed to a lot more partnerships and collaborations with Microsoft. According to what Novell’s CEO said last month, “we originally agreed to co-operate on three distinct projects and now we’re working on nine projects and there’s a good list of 19 other projects that we plan to co-operate on.”

It sure sounds like the difference between Novell and Microsoft will be blurring further, does it not? Matt Asay returns to his concerns about Novell when he posts a strong statement: “A sign that Microsoft is becoming the world’s biggest law firm.”

There was some distressing news buried in Sean Michael Kerner’s look into Novell’s and Microsoft’s virtualization partnership. The news, however, had nothing to do with virtualization, and everything to do with Microsoft job titles.

[...]

When you have someone whose job it is to come up with “intellectual property and licensing products,” you’ve lost your way. Most software companies focus on selling (gasp!) software. Not, apparently, Microsoft.

Ken Hess is again raising those personal speculations about a Microsoft-Novell merger.

I foresee VMWorld bringing some significant surprises to light this year. Whether it’s a Microsoft-Novell merger, a Sun-Microsoft partnership, or simply that the whole world goes virtual Desktop mad; there will be an abundance of high fiving, glass clicking, and from me — some “I told you so’s.”

What will it eventually be? Those who dare to predict that allies will roost under the same roof are being labeled “conspiracy nuts”. Novell is very cheap to acquire and its worth keeps sliding.

No Patents in Linux

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