Novell CEO Rebuffs Microsoft Claims

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-11-20 Email Print this article Print

Updated: In an open letter to the Linux and open-source community, Novell repudiates suggestions that its recent collaboration agreement with Microsoft acknowledges that Linux infringes on Microsoft's intellectu

Just weeks after its controversial patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell is hitting out at statements made by Microsoft executives that the deal acknowledges that Linux infringes on its intellectual property.

Novell has been under fire from many members of the Linux and open-source community since entering into a set of broad collaboration agreements with Microsoft to build, market and support a series of new solutions that will make Novell and Microsoft products work better together, including providing each other's customers with patent coverage for their respective products.

Recent statements from Microsoft officials like CEO Steve Ballmer that the deal effectively acknowledges that Linux infringes on his company's intellectual property have exacerbated these criticisms from the open-source community.

The brouhaha culminated in Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian releasing an open letter to the Linux and open-source community on Nov. 20, in which he says the company "strongly disagrees with and disputes" these Microsoft statements.

"Since our announcement, some parties have spoken about this patent agreement in a damaging way, and with a perspective that we do not share. We strongly challenge those statements," he said.

"We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents…Our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property," Hovsepian said in the letter.

When Novell entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, it did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violated Microsoft patents, he said, adding that the agreement with Microsoft in no way changed Novell's stance on software patents.

John Dragoon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Novell, based in Provo, Utah, told eWEEK in an interview following the release of the open letter that when a customer is making a decision whether or not to deploy in certain environments and there are impediments to that deployment, whether real or imagined, "It is in Novell's interest, selfish interest, I will admit, to advance-remove whatever those inhibitors be to the advancement of Linux and open source."

The agreement with Microsoft removed a lot of those inhibitors, in that it addressed technical collaboration issues, business collaboration issues and some customer concerns, he said.

To read what Novell's John Dragoon had to say on his blog when the deal with Microsoft was announced, click here.

"Some customers, for whatever reasons, decided they did not want the hassles of addressing intellectual property issues. Our doing this agreement with Microsoft is not an admission that we believe Linux is impugned in any way, but it is an admission that we wanted to remove whatever impediments there are to the adoption of Linux and open source and do that on behalf of our customers," Dragoon said.

"For some customers, not all, this was an impediment, and we addressed it. Some customers had [reason to] pause because of these reasons and we have now removed that pause for them and that's good for Linux and open source," he said.

Read the full story on Novell CEO Rebuffs Microsoft Claims.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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