I’ll try to resist saying I told you so, but despite the debate in my previous post, Ballmer (Microsoft) and Levy (Novell) have pretty much confirmed that much of the recent agreement between them was to a significant degree about technology patents, of which I bet a significant amount is .Net. Ballmer is basically saying that Novell and its customers were using Microsoft technology and Microsoft shareholders deserved to be compensated for it. Bottom line is that if you use .Net technology or derivatives, you’re only safe from litigation if you pay Novell or Microsoft for the privilege. Otherwise you may well be on borrowed time. In the words of wonderboy Ballmer himself:
Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered. This is important to us, because we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance sheet liability.
RedHat et al are trying to say that MS is mistaken, that Linux has no IP of Microsoft’s in it, and if you excluded Mono, you’d be right I think (as far as I know). But including Mono, given the number of patents MS has filed on .Net I think there could well be a problem. We can argue whether or not their patents are valid of course, and whether they would bother persuing them, but IMO this is a clear indication of how MS sees the matter, and clear proof that they’re positioning themselves for potentially leveraging these patents at a later stage. Even their attempt to smooth the ruffled feathers doesn’t change the position (it maybe even strengthens it), and Novell’s response looks much like a damage limitation exercise (we haven’t made a devils pact, honest).