The news comes just as the Linux and open-source faithful are gathering here for the annual LinuxWorld conference and expo this week.
The plan, to be known as the Open Source Assurance Plan, is designed to protect customers Linux investments and ensure they are legally able to continue to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux without any interruption.
Red Hats move comes just a week after Novell, of Provo, Utah, set up a Linux Indemnification Program for its SuSE Enterprise Linux customers, under certain conditions, with protection against intellectual property challenges to Linux and to help reduce the barriers to Linux adoption in the enterprise.
Red Hats and Novells indemnification moves also follow that of HP, which in September announced that it will indemnify its customers against any legal liability from the use of Linux.
At that time Martin Fink, a vice president at Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, said the company will indemnify new customers who buy Linux from HP, agree not to make unauthorized changes to the source code and sign a standard support contract.
The need to indemnify enterprise Linux users follows legal action by The SCO Group against IBM for allegedly incorporating parts of proprietary Unix code into Linux. SCO holds the rights to Unix.
Red Hats move will also intensify the pressure on IBM to consider indemnifying its Linux customers, something the Armonk, N.Y., company has not done. Scott Handy, a Linux vice president at IBM, told eWEEK there is "no change in our policy toward customer indemnification."
Bryan Sims, vice president of business development at Red Hat, said in a statement sent to eWEEK on Monday night that a key feature of the Open Source Assurance Program is an Intellectual Property Warranty, which ensures that, if an infringement issue is identified in Red Hat Enterprise Linux software code, Red Hat will replace the infringing code.
"Red Hats warranty assures customers that they can use Red Hat Enterprise Linux and related solutions without interruption. The warranty is available for all customers having a valid registered subscription to Red Hat Enterprise Linux or related solutions," Sims said.
"Enterprise platform deployments are key investments that should be protected. We have provided this guarantee to many of our large enterprise customers and we are now extending this guarantee to all customers who use Red Hat Enterprise Linux," he said in the statement.
The Open Source Now Fund, created by Red Hat in August to help companies with legal expenses associated with litigation related to the development of software under the GPL or other open-source licenses, will now become a feature of the Open Source Assurance program, Sims said.