Software for the Open Enterprise™

Novell Answers Questions from the Community

Since the announcement of the Novell-Microsoft agreement on November 2, we have been flooded with questions from the open source community about what this deal means to the Linux, the open source community, and even what this deal means for Novell. We will use this page to answer as many of those questions as possible. Check back frequently, as we will continue to add more answers as quickly as possible.

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Q1. How is this agreement compatible with Novell's obligations under Section 7 of the GPL?

Our agreement with Microsoft is focused on our customers, and does not include a patent license or covenant not to sue from Microsoft to Novell (or, for that matter, from Novell to Microsoft). Novell's customers receive a covenant not to sue directly from Microsoft. We have not agreed with Microsoft to any condition that would contradict the conditions of the GPL and we are in full compliance.

Novell's end user customers receive a covenant not to sue directly from Microsoft for their use of Novell products and services, but these activities are outside the scope of the GPL.

Q2. Why did Novell make this deal with Microsoft? Was Microsoft threatening a lawsuit?

Novell started discussions with Microsoft in order to solve problems for our customers by improving Linux/Windows interoperability in areas like virtualization, heterogeneous server management, and office document compatibility. By securing a commitment from Microsoft to support the use of Linux and open source software, we have allayed any potential concerns for our customers and removed a barrier to enterprise-wide Linux adoption.

There was no threatened litigation.

Q3. Is this agreement an admission that Linux products from Novell infringe Microsoft patents?

No.

Patent concerns did not drive our entry into this agreement. Novell makes no admission that its Linux and open source offerings infringe on any other parties' patents. Our position has not changed as a result of this agreement.

Q4. With this agreement, will Novell include Microsoft patented code in its contributions to the open source community?

No. Novell will not change its development practices as a result of this agreement. It has always been our policy in all development, open source and proprietary, to stay away from code that infringes another's patents, and we will continue to develop software using these standard practices. If any of our code is found to infringe someone else's patents, we will try to find prior technology to invalidate the patents, rework the code to design around the infringement, or as a last resort remove the functionality.

Novell is committed to protecting, preserving and promoting freedom for free and open source software.

Of course, it should be understood that under the patent agreement each party will promise not to assert patents against customers. The patent agreement does not cover the development activities of Novell or Microsoft, and Novell has no plans to changes it development policies relating to patents.

Q5. Novell's November 2 press release states that, "Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products." Are these payments for a patent license to Novell?

No. Novell has no license or covenant not to sue from Microsoft under this agreement. The payments are for Microsoft's covenant directly to Novell's customers. By the same token, Microsoft's customers receive the same covenant from Novell in return for payment from Microsoft to Novell.

Q6. Will Novell's involvement with the Open Invention Network (OIN) change due to this agreement with Microsoft?

No. The Open Invention Network is an independent organization formed to protect many commonly distributed open source and free software packages, including Linux, from legal attacks, no matter where an attack comes from. OIN provides coverage to the entire Linux industry by providing a form of retaliatory protection for Linux distributors and users that might be targeted in patent litigation.

Novell is a founding member of the OIN and remains strongly committed to its mission. We have contributed valuable resources to OIN and will continue to participate in OIN in the future. Novell remains firmly in support of the goal of creating an environment of open innovation in the Linux world, without worry about the threat of patent lawsuits.

The value of OIN's patents as a deterrent remains critical to the entire Linux industry, including Novell, and is not affected by our agreement with Microsoft.

Q7. What does your investment in Office Open XML mean to your commitment to the Open Document Format?

Open Document Format ("ODF") is the default file format of OpenOffice.org, and Novell is firmly committed to advancing ODF as a file format and a standard. We devote the bulk of our OpenOffice.org development efforts to ODF.

We also understand the need for Linux desktop systems to provide compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats. By supporting Office Open XML in OpenOffice.org, and by contributing to efforts to translate between ODF and Office Open XML, we will achieve better interoperability between Linux and Windows desktop systems. This will allow more businesses to choose Linux desktops freely.

Read Novell's statement on file formats for office applications.

Q8. What does this mean for Mono and its inclusion in non-SUSE distributions? Does Mono infringe Microsoft patents?

We maintain that Mono does not infringe any Microsoft patents. This agreement does not impact the rights and abilities of other distributions to bundle and ship Mono.

Novell is the leading contributor to Mono and we remain committed to the Mono project. Mono is a community project with many constituents and collaborators from companies, universities, governments and individuals.

The Mono project has a set of rules it uses to handle patents that might read on its implementation. The general policy is to work around, remove, or find prior technology on any patents that might read on any implementations in Mono. We continue to support this policy.

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