Microsoft/Novell Patent Deal Opens Up Opportunity

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-11-02 Email Print this article Print

As Microsoft and Novell collaborate on Windows/Linux interoperability, companies like Black Duck and Palamida say there will be a growing need to check code bases carefully for licensing issues.

Microsoft's agreement with Novell to collaborate on Windows/Linux interoperability sheds light on the many patent issues surrounding open-source and proprietary-source development, opening opportunities for those who can help sort those issues out.

As part of the deal with Novell, Microsoft said Microsoft will not assert its patents against individual noncommercial open-source developers.

Moreover, according to Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel at Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash., software giant has promised not to assert its patents against individual contributors to whose code is included in the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform.

A Microsoft news release on the matter said, "The patent cooperation agreement enables Microsoft and Novell to give customers assurance of protection against patent infringement claims. It gives customers confidence that the technologies they use and deploy in their environments are compliant with the two companies' patents."

At a news conference announcing the agreement in San Francisco, Smith said, "Novell has an important patent portfolio and Microsoft has one of the largest software patent portfolios in the world … We wanted to figure out how we could build a bridge between open source and proprietary source … and we built that bridge."

Smith added, "If you buy SUSE Linux, you also get a patent covenant from Microsoft."

Mark Tolliver, chief executive of San Francisco-based Palamida, who was on hand at the news event to support Microsoft's play, said, "I think this just raises the idea that people who use software need to be informed customers."

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Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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