Red Hat CEO Says He Talked Patents with Microsoft

It comes as absolutely no surprise that Microsoft approached Red Hat before any other Linux vendor (including Novell) about the patent agreement. It also comes as no surprise that a discussion took place and that no agreement was reached. Was is a bit of a surprise to me is:

The developer of Linux software, has yet to sign such a deal which could see Novell, its biggest rival, woo customers away from Red Hat and work on product development and sales with the world’s No.1 software maker.

In an interview with Reuters, Szulik declined to say whether his company is now in negotiations with Microsoft over signing such a patent agreement.

“I can’t answer the question,” he said.

When recently asked a similar question, Mark Shuttleworth gave an emphatic No:

For the record, let me state my position, and I think this is also roughly the position of Canonical and the Ubuntu Community Council though I haven’t caucused with the CC on this specifically.

We have declined to discuss any agreement with Microsoft under the threat of unspecified patent infringements.

Allegations of “infringement of unspecified patents” carry no weight whatsoever. We don’t think they have any legal merit, and they are no incentive for us to work with Microsoft on any of the wonderful things we could do together. A promise by Microsoft not to sue for infringement of unspecified patents has no value at all and is not worth paying for. It does not protect users from the real risk of a patent suit from a pure-IP-holder (Microsoft itself is regularly found to violate such patents and regularly settles such suits). People who pay protection money for that promise are likely living in a false sense of security.

Red Hat had also given a more deliberate “No” in the recent past, so the change of attitude to the “no comment” variety is a bit worrying. Here’s hoping that it’s just due to corporate disclosure rules (or something else innocuous) and not an actual change of opinion. Red Hat signing an “infringement of unspecified patents” type deal would be very bad IMHO.


One Response to Red Hat CEO Says He Talked Patents with Microsoft

  1. corey says:

    I don’t think that the first response was particularly off. I think that they wanted to see what Microsoft would offer and what they wanted before committing to an answer to Microsoft. Perhaps that was the reason for the public “No”.

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