Red Hat CEO Says He Talked Patents with Microsoft III

A quick final follow up on this post (for those of you who still have a little doubt). From eWeek:

Microsoft and Red Hat are no closer to a deal involving intellectual property cooperation, Microsoft has confirmed.

“Red Hat and Microsoft have previously had conversations about interoperability, but none of our recent conversations have included discussions about intellectual property cooperation,” Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s vice president of intellectual property and licensing, told eWEEK.

This effectively puts to rest—for now—the speculation that the rival operating system vendors might actually be talking about a deal that includes some kind of intellectual property provision and/or patent covenant.

Enterprise customers, however, have a great deal of interest in seeing the two companies work together because of their investments in both sets of technologies. Bob Muglia, Microsoft’s senior vice president for server and tools, admitted that interoperability and support for major Linux distributions have come up repeatedly at the company’s Interoperability Executive Customer Council.

“Our message [from customers] was really very simple: ‘Go and talk to Red Hat because we very much would like to [work with both systems],'” he said.

Both companies say they hear their customers, but remain camped on opposite sides of the argument.

Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s executive vice president of engineering, told eWEEK that the company is still willing to work with the Redmond, Wash., software maker on the interoperability front, but that it wants to limit those talks to pure interoperability between Windows and Red Hat Linux, with the goal of solving real customer problems.

But Microsoft’s official position is that interoperability and intellectual property are not completely separate issues and have to be considered together.

Gutierrez emphasized that Microsoft remains “open to exploring a deeper collaboration with Red Hat that includes intellectual property cooperation for the benefit of our mutual customers.”

But while Microsoft is committed to building bridges with the open-source community, “collaboration on interoperability and intellectual property are important foundations for those bridges,” Gutierrez said.

That approach will not work for Red Hat; Cormier’s position has been, “I want to talk to the folks at Microsoft about our two operating systems and how we can work together to solve real customer problems without attaching any unrelated strings, such as intellectual property.”

Cormier also ruled out any possibility of Red Hat doing a deal with Microsoft like the controversial patent agreement and covenant not to sue that Microsoft penned with Novell last year, especially after viewing the limited information that is publicly available on that deal.

That’s a pretty definitive answer. Whether Microsoft will concede and work with Red Hat on interoperability without the IP strings remain to be seen. It’s clear that Microsoft customers want this, however. Kudos to Red Hat for holding their ground.

–jeremy

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