Novell worries that GPL 3 could foil Microsoft pact

In document posted to SEC site, Linux seller outlines ways new version of open-source license could hurt its business.

Novell is concerned that Microsoft could stop selling Suse Linux coupons if the third version of the General Public License remains in its current form.

Its worries were aired on Friday in the delayed regulatory filing of its annual report for the fiscal year ended October 31, 2006.

The 144-page document posted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Web site contained redacted versions of Novell's business, patent and technology agreements with Microsoft, which it signed in November 2006.

While much of what was officially released is known, Novell did express concerns that the final draft of GPL 3, which slipped past its March 2007 deadline, could see Microsoft halting the distribution of Suse Linux, having a financial impact on Novell.

"If the final version of GPLv3 contains terms or conditions that interfere with our agreement with Microsoft or our ability to distribute GPLv3 code, Microsoft may cease to distribute Suse Linux coupons in order to avoid the extension of its patent covenants to a broader range of GPLv3 software recipients," Novell stated in the document.

Another worry is that Novell may be restricted in its ability to include GPLv3 code in its products.

Novell admits in the statement that if its fears become reality, its business and operating results will be adversely affected.

According to the statement, certain software programs are not covered in the Microsoft-Novell pact, opening the door for Microsoft to pursue patent litigation. The programs named include, StarOffice, Wine and Open-Xchange.

Scott McKenzie of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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