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Novell faces ban by Linux group

Software firm Novell could be banned from selling new versions of Linux after the body that controls the source code criticised its partnership with Microsoft.

The Free Software Foundation, which controls intellectual property rights to key parts of the operating system, said last week it was reviewing Novell's right to have access to the latest versions of the source code. Novell sells the SuSe Linux variant.

The Foundation told Reuters that members of the open source community were concerned about a wide-ranging partnership that Novell announced last November with Microsoft to make their product lines more interoperable.

Part of the deal concerns an agreement not to sue each other over patent issues.

Members of the open source community appear to be concerned that Microsoft will use the agreement to undermine Linux's patent position. "They have every reason to be deeply concerned that this is the beginning of a significant patent aggression by Microsoft," Eben Moglen, the Foundation's general counsel, told Reuters.

That provision has already caused discontent between Novell and Microsoft themselves; Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian took his counterpart at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, to task for suggesting that the deal amounted to an admission that Linux infringes on Microsoft's patents.

"When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux... violates Microsoft patents," Hovsepian said in an open letter in November.

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