The deal that Microsoft struck with Novell late last year seemed like a peace offering at first, but very quickly the staunchest open source advocates were speaking out against patent provisions of the agreement, under which Novell paid for Microsoft's promise not to pursue Novell's customers in patent infringement suits arising out of their use of SuSE Linux.
Esteemed developer Jeremy Allison was so disturbed by the patent pact and what it might mean that he left Novell's employ.
Novell representatives insist their participation in the agreement is not an admission that any part of SuSE Linux violates Microsoft's intellectual property rights, but someone needs to tell Steve Ballmer that. He told a conference audience last November that the whole deal is about IP from Microsoft's point of view, and that Novell had paid Microsoft for the right to use Microsoft's code in SuSE Linux.
And if that wasn't enough, boston.com says today that Novell has made it easier for Microsoft to sue other open source vendors that haven't signed agreements similar to Novell's. Free Software Foundation executive director Peter Brown says those who haven't struck a deal with Microsoft are "somehow under a cloud."
The Free Software Foundation is taking steps to ensure that other vendors aren't penalized by the Microsoft-Novell deal. Under the yet-to-be released GNU GPL v3, the story says, if a company waives its right to sue one distributor of GPL'ed software for IP infringement, that company waives its right to sue any distributor of that GPL'ed software for IP infringement.
Is that possible -- to extend a contract to parties that weren't part of the negotiation process? Something about it seems odd; we'll pursue the question with IP experts and let you know what we find out.