Bonum Certa Men Certa

What is a Clone Product? And Other Questions...

Here is a great write-up aptly entitled "nobody reads this stuff" on the Patent Covenant aspect of the Microvell deal, with a little input from Novell's perspective, however clouded it may be.

The article provides further analysis of the covenant to Novell customers provided by Microsoft, ranging from simple things like misspelling Novell and some syntactical errors, to serious and seemingly unanswerable questions (either due to non-disclosure aspects of the deal, or due to lack of knowledge by the parties involved, no one can tell for sure) such as what exactly is covered by the covenant, and what is not?

The covenant makes distinctions between "covered" and "clone" products, even though the definition of a "clone product" is never provided. The author approached Novell for some assistance with this term, but all we have is Justin Steinman's best guess:

Justin Steinman: "Two examples of what might be considered a clone product might be OpenOffice.org and Samba, to be specific. Both of those are open source technologies that mimic technology offered by Microsoft."

But no, you don't get a list of what is and isn't a clone product, and Steinman says, "All the end customer really cares about is if they are using anything that is part of the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform they have a covenant not to sue from Microsoft."

You have a Covenant, so you're all squared away, right? But the Covenant says it covers Covered Products, and Covered Products doesn't include Clone Products, and you don't get a copy of the definition of Clone Products. Covered or not? You're just as mystified about the answer to "Will Microsoft sue me?" as you were before.

So, what do you think a "clone product" is, and are there any in SUSE or your favorite distro? And, given Mr. Ballmer's increased hostility and public statements ever since the deal, are you more or less uneasy about their disposition than before Novell approached Microsoft to make this deal on your behalf?

Update: Just wanted to add in this quote from Steve Ballmer at the press conference announcing the deal on November 2, as another instance of Ballmer's threats (his response to the second-to-last question, scroll way down):

Steve Ballmer: Novell is actually just a proxy for its customers, and it's only for its customers. This does not apply to any forms of Linux other than Novell's SUSE Linux. And if people want to have patent peace and interoperability, they'll look at Novell's SUSE Linux. If they make other choices, they have all of the compliance and intellectual property issues that are associated with that.

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