JBoss expanding indemnifications against IP claims

JBoss on Tuesday is strengthening indemnification against intellectual property-related claims, seeking to mimic what customers have expected from rival commercial software vendors.

The open source software company will take three steps to improve coverage for users of its middleware products such as the JBoss Application Server, JBoss Cache, and the company's Hibernate object-relational mapping software. The first step involves defending customers on an unlimited basis if any complaints are lodged pertaining to infringement of copyright or software patents.

"Those are areas that are of concern to large enterprise customers," said Brad Murdoch, JBoss vice president of services. Copyright infringement has been at the heart of SCO's litigation against IBM over Linux, Murdoch noted.

The second part of JBoss's plan is to repair and replace any infringing code on an unlimited basis. In the third step, JBoss will provide damage coverage of as much as four times the value of a customer's support contract, based on the company's Gold and Platinum support levels. Gold support, for one, starts at US$15,000 a year.

Previously, the company limited coverage for defense, damage and repair, and replacement to the value of a customer's contract.

JBoss, however, is confident it will not have any problems with its code. Most of the code is developed by JBoss employees and the company has a lot of control over contributors' code, Murdoch said.

With its new indemnification policies, JBoss is addressing a concern customers have had with open source software, said Laura DiDio, senior analyst at The Yankee Group. Providing indemnification lessens the burden on customers to buy coverage from third-party open source risk management vendors, she said. "There's going to be an incremental cost associated with that, so clearly, the more you can get from your open source or Linux vendor, the more money you can save," DiDio said.

"It (indemnification) is such a big issue because we live in a litigious society, number 1, and number 2, anybody [who] gets sued, regardless of the outcome of the case, you lose," DiDio said, citing the cost of litigation.

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