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Linux vendor Novell Inc. is no longer a standalone company, but Microsoft today announced an agreement with its successor, Attachmate’s SUSE unit, to extend by four years the technology collaboration agreement and controversial patent protection deal that the companies announced nearly five years ago.

As part of the extended agreement, Microsoft agreed to spend an additional $100 million on support certificates for SUSE Linux Enterprise, as a way of helping customers run both Windows and Linux servers. Microsoft and SUSE say their collaboration has served more than 725 customers worldwide to date.

Under their pact, the companies agreed to not to sue each other’s customers for patent violations. That provision was criticized in the open-source community as an implicit concession by Novell that Linux violates Microsoft’s patents, although Novell executives said repeatedly that wasn’t the case.

Attachmate Group acquired Novell in April, after announcing the plan last year. A consortium led by Microsoft attempted to acquire Novell’s patents but ultimately ended up entering into a licensing deal instead, after the Department of Justice raised objections.

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