Mandriva latest to reject Microsoft

Company follows other Linux distributors in publicly spurning Microsoft's interest in a patent protection agreement.

Mandriva has followed the lead of other Linux distributors, such as Canonical and Red Hat, in publicly spurning Microsoft's advances for a patent protection deal.

Last fall, Microsoft and Novell signed an agreement in which Microsoft agreed not to sue Novell for patent infringement. This agreement has since been followed by similar deals with Linux firms Xandros and Linspire.

The Windows maker claims that open-source applications infringe hundreds of its patents, but it has so far failed to specify which patents are involved.

Francois Bancilhon, Mandriva's chief executive, wrote in a blog this week that, despite rumors to the contrary, Mandriva was not next on the list for a deal with Microsoft.

"Interoperability between the Windows and Linux world is important and must be dealt with, and anything that helps this interoperability is a good thing," wrote Bancilhon, adding that "the best way to deal with interoperability is open standards."

"As far as (intellectual property) is concerned, we are, to say the least, not great fans of software patents and of the current patent system, which we consider as counterproductive for the industry as a whole," Bancilhon continued. "We also believe what we see and, up to now, there has been absolutely no hard evidence from any of the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) propagators that Linux and open-source applications are in breach of any patents. So we think that, as in any democracy, people are innocent unless proven guilty, and we can continue working in good faith."

Bancilhon said bluntly that Mandriva did not believe that it is necessary to pay "protection money" to Microsoft or anyone else.

His words echoed those of Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu distribution. "A promise by Microsoft not to sue for infringement of unspecified patents has no value at all and is not worth paying for...people who pay protection money for that promise are likely living in a false sense of security," Shuttleworth wrote in a blog last week.

Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution in the world, according to open source-monitoring site Novell's OpenSuse is second most popular. Red Hat's Fedora is No. 3, followed by Debian and then Mandriva.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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