Microsoft Corp’s CEO Steve Ballmer has claimed that the Linux operating system contains Microsoft intellectual property, despite repeated claims to the contrary from its Linux partner Novell Inc.
Speaking at the Professional Association for SQL Server summit in Seattle, Ballmer suggested that Linux makes use of Microsoft intellectual property and the deal it struck recently with Novell was compensation.
We’ve had an issue, a problem that we’ve had to confront, which is because of the way the GPL works, and because open-source Linux does not come from a company – Linux comes from the community – the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders, he said.
We agreed on a, we call it an IP bridge, essentially an arrangement under which they pay us some money for the right to tell the customer that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered, he added of the arrangement with Novell.
There will be no patent issues. They’ve appropriately compensated Microsoft for our intellectual property, which is important to us. In a sense you could say anybody who has got Linux in their data center today sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability, because it’s not just Microsoft patents, Ballmer continued.
Since agreeing to the patent covenant agreement with Microsoft, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Novell has repeatedly denied that it is an admission that Linux infringes Microsoft’s patents, but that has not stopped Microsoft taking that position.
We’ve struck a deal under which we can provide patent agreements to Linux customers in which Microsoft’s intellectual property is respected, and we are appropriately compensated for the use of our intellectual property, said Ballmer during the announcement of the peace deal.
Novell’s VP of worldwide sales and president of EMEA, Tom Francese, told ComputerWire last week that there is no intellectual property problems with Linux and no IP threat had led to the patent deal.
He also promised that Novell would not raise fear, uncertainty and doubt about the potential risks associated with rival Linux distributions to drive interest in SUSE Linux Enterprise but conceded that the company could do little to stop Microsoft taking that line.
Ballmer had previously claimed that if people want to have patent peace and interoperability, they’ll look at Novell’s SUSE Linux, and repeated his view that as far as Microsoft is concerned, Novell is the only safe option. Only a customer who has SUSE Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft, he said.
Under the terms of the patent covenant Novell will pay Microsoft at least $40m over five years – an undisclosed percentage of its revenue from open source products. If, as Microsoft claims, that is to pay for Microsoft’s intellectual property, one wonders what the $108m Microsoft has already paid Novell was for.