With Microsoft agreeing not to sue Novell SLES Support Subscription customers for patent infringement issues, maybe it’s time to reconsider the value of OSS indemnification?

I’ve stated previously that indemnification is not as valuable as the work that your OSS vendor does to ensure that you’ll never need indemnification. I still believe that 100%. It looks like Red Hat questions the real value of indemnification also:

“Our management and board looked at it and said, ‘Look, this isn’t worth a hill of beans, but if saying it will make people feel better, we’ll say it.’ We’ve added it to the program”

To judge the real value of OSS indemnification, we need to consider what the person/vendor that is claiming that their patent is being infringed really wants.

Is it a big payout from the end customer? Maybe, but how reasonably can they expect that to be the outcome?

Much more likely, the patent-claiming individual/vendor could use the lawsuit to force the hand of the OSS vendor in question to license the patented code and make a payment to cover all the copies of the software distributed to date. This is clearly one of Microsoft’s strategies around Linux & their deal with Novell.

Since a IP-related lawsuit against an end customer is really about going after the OSS vendor that provided the possibly patent infringing software, what’s the real value of indemnification to the end customer