Clearing Up the Novell ClearType Controversy

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2007-04-11 Print this article Print

A close look at the openSUSE ClearType situation shows that the problem isn't to be found in Novell and Microsoft's partnership, but in the tangle of Microsoft patents around ClearType.

A recent story on the "Boycott Novell" Web site reported that "Novells Linux is losing features which supposedly infringe on Microsoft software patents." That, according to Novell Director of Public Relations Bruce Lowery, is not at all the case. The story got its start as a bug report on an openSUSE mailing list. This report was about FreeType, a program enabling better display of fonts, not delivering sub-pixel anti-aliasing. In the discussion, a FreeType header file was shown. Part of this file read:
    /* Uncomment the line below if you want to activate sub-pixel rendering */
    /* (a.k.a. LCD rendering, or ClearType) in this build of the library. */
    /* Note that this feature is covered by several Microsoft patents */
    /* and should not be activated in any default build of the library" */
For all intents and purposes, this has the effect of knocking out ClearTypes main functionality. Novells CEO says he has no regrets about the Microsoft deal. Click here to read more. ClearType is a Microsoft technology. Microsoft claims that "With ClearType running on an LCD monitor, we can now display features of text as small as a fraction of a pixel in width." The company released ClearType under a "shared source" license in 2003. However, Microsoft also claims that ClearType is covered by no less than 10 patents. Microsoft also claims that there are more patents to come for ClearType. Read the full story on Clearing Up the Novell ClearType Controversy
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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