SUSE safe from Novell patent sale: Linux Australia

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SUSE safe from Novell patent sale: Linux Australia

Novell to sell 882 patents to Microsoft.

Novell's open source SUSE Linux range would likely be protected from the company's plan to sell 882 patents to a Microsoft consortium, according to Linux Australia.

The US$450 million (A$456 million) patent purchase agreement was announced this week alongside Novell's $2.2 billion acquisition by US-based Attachmate.

Attachmate planned to operate Novell as two business units - Novell and SUSE - and would join them with its other holdings, Attachmate and NetIQ.

According to US Securities and Exchange Commission documents, the acquisition was subject to the conclusion of Novell's dealings with Microsoft consortium CPTN Holdings.

Novell agreed to sell "all of Novell's right, title and interest in 882 patents" to CPTN, which was reportedly registered as a company on November 4.

Neither Microsoft nor Novell would comment on technologies encompassed in the Patent Purchase Agreement.

Microsoft declined to disclose which other technology companies were part of CPTN, stating only that it was "pleased to be a part of the acquisition of certain intellectual property assets of Novell."

"Microsoft looks forward to continuing our collaboration with Novell into the future, to bring mixed source IT solutions to customers," stated its corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, Horacio Gutierrez.

Linux Australia president John Ferlito did not expect the deal to negatively impact the open source community, as SUSE Linux was protected by the General Public License v3, which excluded "discriminatory patent licenses" like those issued by Microsoft.

That clause was inserted to the GPL following Microsoft's 2006 partnership with Novell, which was heavily criticised by the open source community at the time.

Ferlito speculated that Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and IBM were more likely buyers of Novell's Unix-related patents.

The new patent agreement was likely related to ongoing antitrust litigation (pdf) between Microsoft and Novell over the latter's WordPerfect software, he said.

Novell's 'firestorm' over 2006 partnership

Last week, Novell's senior vice president and general manager of open platform solutions Markus Rex told iTnews that the company suffered a "small firestorm" over the 2006 partnership.

Microsoft spent a total of US$434 million on the Novell partnership, including sales and marketing initiatives, SUSE Linux licenses, and improving interoperability.

"I am not religious at all," said the former Linux Foundation CTO, referring to the vehemence that proprietary giant Microsoft often elicited from open source advocates.

"Initially, there was a small firestorm from the open source community," Rex recalled. "It has really calmed down."

"I think we could have done a better job communicating what our intentions were," he said.

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