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Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Open-source Violates 235 Patents: Microsoft

Microsoft made its broadest challenge to date against open-source software, including Windows rival Linux, claiming that such programs violate 235 Microsoft patents and saying it will seek license fees.

The company said that various open-source packages violate patents it holds in areas related to graphical user interface, e-mail programs and other technology.

"The real question is not whether there exist substantial patent infringement issues, but what to do about them," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft vice president of intellectual property and licensing, said in a statement.

Linux is the most popular type of open-source software, or computer programs that developers can download and modify as long as they share those changes with the public.

While dozens of versions of the Linux operating system are available for free download, Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc. develop and sell versions of Linux used to run servers and mainframe computers in corporate data centers.

Last year, Microsoft signed a marketing, technology and patent agreement with Novell, saying it wants to enter into similar pacts with other open-source software companies.

That agreement, which includes a clause that Microsoft will not sue Novell's Linux customers, incensed the community of open-source software developers, because they said Microsoft would use it to back claims that its intellectual property is being violated by code in Linux and other open source software.

Novell Chief Executive and President Ronald Hovsepian said Linux did not infringe on any patents. He told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York on Tuesday that the deal with Microsoft was focused on not suing each other's customers.

Novell had not endorsed Microsoft's patent claims, he commented. "We just both agreed to disagree," he said.

In its statement on the issue, Microsoft played up its partnership with Novell, saying that customers worried about intellectual property claims should buy their Linux software from Novell.

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