Novell backs away from Ballmer comments on Linux


The comments appeared to confirm the suspicions of open-source community members, many of whom criticized the Novell-Microsoft tie-up, arguing that the deal violates the General Public License (GPL) version 2 under which Linux is licensed, and gives Microsoft ammunition in case it chooses to press its patent claims.

In his letter, Hovsepian reiterated Novell's prior stance that the patent deal with Microsoft does not imply that the Linux source code infringed on Microsoft's patents. "When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft's patents. We strongly object to the usage of our agreement to suggest that members of the Linux community owe Microsoft any remuneration."

In a conference call late in the day, Novell and Microsoft executives emphasized that the two companies remain committed to their unlikely alliance. "We are not distancing ourselves from the agreement. We think it's an outstanding agreement," said John Dragoon, chief marketing officer at Novell. "We are not distancing ourselves from Steve [Ballmer]. He can comment however he likes."

"Steve's comments are a perspective we do have at Microsoft," said Dave Kaefer, Microsoft's general manager for intellectual property licensing. He said latent patent violations -- and agreements to indemnify each other against them -- are common.

"Where we compete with some company with similar technology, it is common for there to be overlap," Kaefer said. "It's not because one is a good party and the other is a bad party, it's because we have both created a lot of value."