Open Letter to the Community from Novell
November 21, 2006 1 Comment
Novell has released an Open Letter to the Community. From the letter:
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.
Our stance on software patents is unchanged by the agreement with Microsoft. We want to remind the community of Novell's commitment to, and prior actions in support of, furthering the interests of Linux and open source, and creating an environment of free and open innovation. We have a strong patent portfolio and we have leveraged that portfolio for the benefit of the open source community.
I think it's clear that Novell may have underestimated the negative response from the community. They may also not have expected Ballmer to do this, which certainly made the situation worse for them. Having Novell stand up clear on the issue is a good thing, and should help to quell fears that Microsoft is using the agreement to plan something. Microsoft has already responded:
“Microsoft and Novell have agreed to disagree on whether certain open source offerings infringe Microsoft patents and whether certain Microsoft offerings infringe Novell patents. The agreement between our two companies puts in place a workable solution for customers for these issues, without requiring an agreement between our two companies on infringement.
“Both of our companies are fully committed to moving forward with all of the important work under these agreements. The agreements will advance interoperability between Windows and Linux and put in place a new intellectual property bridge between proprietary and open source software. Customers and participants throughout our industry will clearly benefit from these results.
“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.”
On the bright side here, if Microsoft was using this to test the water then the decisive and united response from the community and the rapid public response from Novell should have sent the correct message. We will fight for what we believe in, and will do so in an educated and organized manner.
Novell, Microsoft, MSFT, Linux, GPL, Open Source