Feeds

Microsoft makes claim on Linux code

And sets alarm bells ringing in open source community

Mobile application security vulnerability report

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that every user of the open source Linux system could owe his company money for using its intellectual property. The statement will confirm the worst fears of the open source community.

Microsoft recently signed a deal for SUSE Linux, a Novell-owned distribution of the Linux operating system. The two companies pledged that they would improve the interoperability of their products. Open source advocates were amazed at the deal, but Ballmer's comments could vindicate the suspicions of some.

Ballmer said in a question and answer session at a technology conference that Microsoft signed the deal because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and it wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation".

Those claims to rights in Linux will set alarm bells ringing in the open source community. Some had argued that the deal was a sophisticated way of claiming rights over the software.

The deal involved a payment of $440m from Microsoft to Novell for coupons which Microsoft users can redeem against support for SUSE Linux. A payment that now looks to be more important, though, is a $40m payment from Novell to Microsoft, reported to be a pledge that Microsoft will not sue its users for patent infringement.

Ballmer was explaining the rationale behind that deal. "Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered," he said, according to Computerworld. "This is important to us, because we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance sheet liability."

The comments will provoke fury amongst open source advocates who believe that Microsoft has no claims at all on the intellectual property contained in Linux.

In explaining the deal before Ballmer's comments, Roger Levy, vice-president of open platform solutions at Novell, told a Paris press conference that the deal solved a problem which was costing both firms money.

"Customers were afraid they'd get sued if they crossed platforms and this meant that they were hesitating on buying decisions," said Levy. "As part of the deal Microsoft will agree not to sue our customers and we agreed not to sue their customers. This is not an agreement between companies – we can still sue each other for any number of reasons – but ultimately our respective customers needed peace of mind to make decisions."

Red Hat, which also distributes commercial versions of Linux, refused to sign a similar deal with Microsoft. Red Hat "does not believe there is a need for or basis for the type of relationship defined in the Microsoft-Novell announcement", deputy general counsel Mark Webbink told news agency Bloomberg in a statement.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
DARPA-derived secure microkernel goes open source tomorrow
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.