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Novell distances itself from Ballmer IP claims

Tash Shifrin

Linux distributor Novell has openly distanced itself from claims by Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer that the open source operating system uses his company’s patented intellectual property.

In a letter to the open source community posted prominently on the Novell website, chief executive Ron Hovsepian argued that the controversial patents deal between Novell and Microsoft was aimed at fostering interoperability between Linux and Windows.

Alarm over the deal has been stoked by Ballmer’s claims at at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) summit in Seattle, US, that Linux “uses our patented intellectual property”.

Ballmer said the deal with Novel meant there would be no patent issues between the two firms. “They've appropriately compensated Microsoft for our intellectual property, which is important to us,” he told the conference.

But in an apparent reprimand, Hovsepian said, “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 here.

“We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property. When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.”

The Microsoft-Novell deal means the two firms will provide each other’s customers with patent coverage for their respective products. It will also see Microsoft officially recommend Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise platforms.

Novell has come under fire from rival Linux distributor Red Hat and from the open source community for signing the deal.

Last week, the team behind the open source Samba software charged Novell with “exchanging the long term interests of the entire Free Software community for a short term advantage for Novell over their competitors”.

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