CyberTech Rambler

July 5, 2007

Is Intellectual Property separate from Interoperability

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:47 pm

It appears that, when RedHat was talking to Microsoft about interoperability, the talk breaks down because RedHat does not want to link it to the question of intellectual property. They believe it is a separate issue. Not surprisingly, Microsoft begs to differ. Bob Muglia, Microsoft’s senior vice president for server and tools, is quoted to say that both are not completely separable.

While I will say both are highly related and life will certainly be easier if both are settled together, I do not think interoperability and Intellectual Property cannot be completely separated. Difficult thing to achieve, but can be. A while ago, using “clean room” approach, someone reverse engineered someone else codec, and it was completely legal. The person’s whose codec got reverse-engineered was obviously not happy,but IP laws could not come to its rescue.

More closer to home is project Mono. Ironically, it is a Novell Project. So far, it works based on interoperability information Microsoft had released on its .NET framework and the project claims it did not infringe on any of Microsoft patents. Another irony is that that project is not covered in Microsoft-Novell pact.  (See comment 1 below. Serve me right for not checking the facts before hand but rely on my memory) Hence, it can be done.

One clause that I find it strange in the MS-Novell agreement is that any product in Novell’s repertoire that is too similar to any Microsoft’s offering are not covered. Originally I dismissed a small point, merely this is a standard Microsoft clause of saying you cannot compete with it written in a different way. And that Novell is not interested in replicating Microsoft offering anyway so it agreed. It is an anti-competition clause but no more than that. Now I think I am starting to understand the significant of this exclusion. By signing on this clause, Novell implies that it completely give up the rights to replicate and replace Windows with SuSE Linux. Most significantly, this actually restrict interoperability, as part of the point of interoperability is that I can legally “clone” your product and replace it.

Hence, it certainly looks like Red Hat is the smart one here. Novell’s interoperability deal with MS looks like it is worth less than what meet the eye.



  1. The Mono project *is* covered by the Novell/Microsoft agreement.


    Comment by Miguel de Icaza — July 5, 2007 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  2. Sorry. Corrected.

    Comment by ctrambler — July 5, 2007 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

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