[Mono-list] Uncertainty and Doubt about MONO

Jonathan Pryor jonpryor at vt.edu
Sat Nov 4 20:56:08 EST 2006

On Sat, 2006-11-04 at 23:12 +0200, Alexandru Nedelcu wrote:
> Didn't Miguel de Icaza assured us that Mono was safe, that there are no 
> known patents that Mono infringes, that .NET is an ECMA
> standard, that even if Mono infringes on some patents then the Open 
> Inventions Network will protect it ?

Yes.  Though Miguel also mentioned that if Mono is ever determined to
actually infringe a patent, Mono will be rewritten to work around the
patent as well.

> Didn't Miguel said that Novell conducted a whole investigation on 
> Microsoft owned patents and no infringed patents where found ?


Both of these are still true and unchanged by this agreement.

> And Novell is the owner of the Unix copyrights (I am no lawyer, so 
> please correct me if I am wrong) ... and Novell just
> admitted that GNU/Linux has pieces that infringe on Microsoft's 
> intellectual property ?

*Where* did Novell admit anything similar to this?  To paraphrase the
SCO case, provide file & line numbers for confirmation. :-)

Microsoft & Novell only appear to have signed a statement saying that
neither company will sue the other companies customers over *any*
patents.  This would likely apply to Novell Netware and eDirectory as
much as it applies to openSUSE.

> True or not true ... there are many companies that might stand up and 
> demand the same royalties that Microsoft is asking.

Also true.

> The solution is to fight  the whole software patents system, not getting 
> around it by a minor deal with the devil himself.
> What if companies like IBM or Oracle or Apple take a stand and demand 
> the same thing ?

Sadly, if you look at Europe you'll see that IBM & co. are asking that
Europe *permit* software patents instead of outright rejecting them.
(At least IBM and Oracle are, I'm not sure about Apple.)

So I think your belief in this approach is misguided -- IBM doesn't want
to remove software patents --  they're a major source of income.

> Miguel says in his blog something like:
>     "So today we have secured a peace of mind for Novell customers that 
> might have been worried about possible patent infringements open source 
> deployments"
> But doesn't anyone at Novell notice that the REST of the open-source 
> landscape is now in a greater danger than before ?

The rest of the open source landscape is unchanged by this announcement.
For my reasoning, see:


Short summary: a patent holder can sue the original developer, the
distributor, and/or the customer over patent infringement.  The Open
Invention Network (OIN) only protects the original developer and anyone
who actually belongs to OIN, which (usually) won't include the
distributor and the customer (unless they're also the developer).

So Mono is still protected to some extent by OIN, just as it was before,
but Mono's customers were also potentially liable (unless they somehow
got protection from OIN, such as by getting protection from their

Remember: Microsoft isn't the only patent bogeyman.  There's also any
number of Eolas-like companies running around who'd love to purchase
some patent already used within an open standard and start charging for
the previously free patent.

This was done recently with JPEG, and they just settled for $8 million.

OIN will protect Mono from these other companies as well as from
Microsoft, but (again) only for those who belong to OIN or can otherwise
get protection from OIN.  Joe Schmoe living in the middle of nowhere is
still unprotected.  At the same time, Joe Schmoe living in the middle of
nowhere is also unlikely to have lots of money, and thus isn't likely to
be a target anyway (why sue the poor?).

Nothing major has changed with the Microsoft/Novell agreement.

> Frankly ... nobody gives a shit about Mono as a comercial product, Mono 
> is only interesting as an open-source product,
> that can be innovated upon by anyone, and that can be freely distributed.

This isn't changing.

> What is happening ?
> I already invested in Mono, I also switched to Gnome the whole network 
> that I am managing, Gnome which is tainted with
> Novell's products.

For those keeping score at home, Novell bought SuSE, which was a major
backer of KDE, and openSUSE 10.2 is getting several improvements within
KDE, so it's fairly likely that KDE is similarly "tainted" by Novell.

So KDE isn't an option either, by this logic, and neither is anything
else that Novell's developers have ever contributed to.

Which is why I believe this logic is bunk.  (Along with the reasons
stipulated above.)

> Please Miguel ... give me an explanation on why this move was necessary, 
> and also keep in mind that a lot of us value
> Free Software, and won't trade it for anything else.

It was necessary because people like peace of mind, and this deal
removes a major patent bogeyman from the playing field for Novell
customers.  Red Hat customers are as safe today as they were last week
(as they belong to OIN), and anyone _not_ belonging to OIN or some
similar construct is still majorly screwed if they're ever the target of
a patent lawsuit.

 - Jon

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