Novell's Chief Marketing Officer John Dragoon said on Wednesday that UNIX copyrights are in Novell's hands, quieting fears that Microsoft had clinched its UNIX copyrights.

Dragoon said in a statement: Novell will continue to own Novell's UNIX copyrights following completion of the merger as a subsidiary of Attachmate allaying open-source community's fears.

The announcement came two days after Attachmate acquired Novell for $2.2 billion in cash. The deal also involved the sale of some 882 Novell patents to a Microsoft-led consortium CPTN Holdings for $450 million.

It was this part of the patents deal that had raised questions among FOSS community regarding the future of UNIX and OpenSUSE. UNIX was at the center of a 7-year lawsuit with SCO over the ownership of UNIX. However, the case was settled in March with the court affirming that Novell was the rightful owner of UNIX.

Microsoft's interest in UNIX IP was also cited to its claims that every user of open source Linux - which is a modular UNIX-like OS - owes it money over the use of its IP related to Linux. However, Microsoft has not clarified which portions of the Linux code are parts of its IP.

Microsoft had also signed an interoperability deal with Novell for SUSE Linux for mixed Linux and Windows computing. Also in 2006 The Register reported that Microsoft signed the deal with Novell because Linux uses our intellectual property, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had said.

The deal included a $40 million payment from Novell to Microsoft which guaranteed that Microsoft will not sue its users for IP infringement.

However, the motivation behind the Microsoft-led consortium's bid to buy 882 patents is still an object of scrutiny. Some surmise that it's a pre-emptive measure to hold back its competitors VMware and IBM from laying hold of the patents. It could also be an attempt to foolproof itself from companies that buy patents to sue rather than make  products based on patents.