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Novell has moved to quell growing concerns that it has sold Linux out to Microsoft as part of its Attachmate deal.

On Wednesday, Novell chief marketing officer John Dragoon issued a short statement saying that Novell – not Microsoft – owns the copyrights on Unix.

Sentence two of Dragoon's terse, three-sentence statement said simply: "Novell will continue to own Novell's Unix copyrights following completion of the merger as a subsidiary of Attachmate."

Dragoon's statement came two days after Novell said that it is being sold to Attachmate for $2.2bn. Under the deal, the barely-known Attachmate is selling 882 Novell patents to an even lesser known Microsoft-backed consortium called CPTN Holdings LLC for $450m in cash. Novell's SEC filing on the deal did not specify which patents are going to Microsoft, and Microsoft has not coughed up details either.

Ownership of Unix was a critical issue in SCO's prosecution of IBM and others. SCO contended that it – and not Novell – owned Unix and that its IP had been used without its permission in Linux.

Novell's statement comes after Jeff Hawn, chairman and chief executive officer of Attachmate - a company with no meaningful history of participation in Linux or of running an open-source project - tried to sooth concerns over the future of the SUSE Linux disto.

Hawn said Novell's SUSE business would be operated as a standalone business until the deal closed. After that? "Attachmate Corporation anticipates no change to the relationship between the SUSE business and the openSUSE project as a result of this transaction," he said. ®

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