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Xandros CEO doesn't agree that Linux is patent violator

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June 07, 2007 07:40 PM ET - Xandros CEO Andreas Typaldos said Thursday his company did not agree that its Linux distribution violates any Microsoft patents nor did the software giant ask Xandros to do so as part of the patent cross-licensing deal the two signed Monday.

But he says feedback from the Linux community has been on the order of “you shouldn’t really be talking to the devil.”

Typaldos told Network World that at no time did Microsoft reveal to Xandros, which develops Linux desktops, servers and management tools, any of the 235 patents that Microsoft says Linux violates.

Microsoft has yet to detail publicly specific patents violated by Linux and some critics think the statement is a smoke screen in order to undermine the open source community.

“We did not discuss patents [with Microsoft] and we don’t think Linux violates any patents and we were not asked about it,” Typaldos said. “It is a non-issue for us.”

Linux and open-source advocates believe it is a big issue and say the Xandros deal, and another signed by Novell with Microsoft last year, erodes open source licensing provisions especially around intellectual property issues.

Indeed, the Free Software Foundation is rewriting its GNU General Public License (GPL) 3.0 to prohibit such patent deals in the future.

In terms of the forthcoming GPLv3 and its changes, Typaldos said, “We do not enter into agreements if we don't believe we can handle them. We plan to honor whatever agreements we have in GPLv2, and will have under GPLv3 or with whomever we are licensing stuff from. When you create agreements you cannot anticipate the future, but you have to be comfortable you can deal with whatever happens one way or another.”

He added that since GPLv3 is not yet completed (the final version is due June 29) that he can’t really comment on the impact it will have on the Xandros/Microsoft deal.

“[Our deal] is a forward looking thing, we are licensing certain technologies,” said Typaldos.

He said the technologies will help Xandros integrate its Linux-based server and management software with like software from Microsoft.

But he acknowledged that customers have concerns they could be hooked by patent claims and may want some insurance to protect themselves.

“Linux says it does not infringe on patents, Microsoft say otherwise. But customers say let me buy some insurance because if there are any flying sparks I don’t want to be caught in the middle of that.”

Typaldos says that was the genesis of Monday’s deal with Microsoft that covered interoperability and IP licensing and included “covenants” to protect customers using Xandros software from any potential patent-infringement claims from Microsoft.

Microsoft said last month it would seek royalties for patents that it says are being infringed upon by open-source technologies such as Linux. The company, however, said it would prefer to sign patent and cross-licensing deals with open-source distributors rather than seek payments via litigation.

On Wednesday, Microsoft inked a patent deal with LG Electronics. It also has signed patent contracts Novell, Samsung and Fuji Xerox among others.

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