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Novell Slams Microsoft Patent Licensing Agreement

Novell Vice President Miguel de Icaza slammed his company’s cross-patent licensing agreement with Microsoft for the lack of patent protection. Under the current agreement, third parties can distribute his company’s Moonlight project, which ports Microsoft’s Silverlight technology to Linux.

Speaking on a panel at the MIX 08 conference in Las Vegas, de Icaza said that Novell has done the best it could to balance open-source interests with patent indemnification. However, he expresses regret when his company entered into a cross-patent licensing deal with Microsoft in November 2006. He said Novell made the wrong choice and should’ve remained strictly open source.

“I’m not happy about the fact that such an agreement was made,” de Icaza said. He was speaking on a panel that also included representatives from Microsoft and open-source companies Mozilla and Zend.

De Icaza’s comments came as he received questions from an audience member about the Moonlight project.

During the discussion, de Icaza explained that while anyone who downloaded Moonlight from Novell was protected by the company’s own cross-licensing agreement of Silverlight codecs from Microsoft.

Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering from Mozilla, then raised the relevant question that if he downloads and then distributes the code for Moonlight, would he get the patent protection?

“There is a patent covenant for anyone that downloads from Novell,” answered de Icaza, who then acknowledged that “as to extending the patents to third parties — you have to talk to Microsoft.”

Microsoft touts Silverlight as a cross-platform technology that will run on any browser or OS platform — such as Windows, Mac or Linux. However, instead of offering an abridged version for Linux itself, it has chosen to let Novell do it through the Moonlight project.