Is Microsoft’s Covenant Not to Sue Enough?

While full details are still sketchy, Microsoft’s new license for its Office Open XML formats will include a “covenant not to sue” users of the formats. But the question remains: will that be enough for the proposed standards to become compatible with open source software? Will it appease the concerns of open source software developers?

Details of the new license have not yet been published, although a number of Microsoft executives had expressed their hopes that it should steady the jangling nerves of open source software developers, who clearly do not want to support a standard that has any IP questions hanging over it.

But Microsoft’s Office program manager, Brian Jones, wrote in his corporate blog that the “irrevocable commitment not to sue… should clear the way for GPL development,” while Jason Matusow, manager of Microsoft’s Shared Source Initiative noted in his blog that “the terms of this submission should be broadly appealing to developers of all stripes.”

With the details of the license not yet published, it remains to be seen if that will be the case, but a promise not to sue users of the format would not appear to circumvent the problems with the original license that meant that it was incompatible with some open source software licenses.

The license offered royalty-free access to the XML schema, which will become the default formats used by the Office 12 application suite, but included a requirement to attribute the format to Microsoft, making it incompatible with the GNU General Public License.

The plot ‘thinnens’, but not a lot.

For an in-depth look at this issue, click here.

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