Feeds

Microsoft makes claim on Linux code

And sets alarm bells ringing in open source community

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

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.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
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.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.