RALEIGH, N.C. – Yes, you read the headline correctly. And lions are now ready to sleep beside sheep.

(NYSE: RHT) legal team has taken to the web to praise Microsoft, the Borg of the software world, for a contribution to the Linux development kernel.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MFST) claims that Linux violates a host of its patents yet made the General Public License (GNU) version 2 contribution last week.

“An objective observer looking at these developments should take them for what they are: real-life proof of Microsoft’s desire to build new bridges among industry partners for the benefit of customers, relying on patent licensing agreements as a means of opening up collaboration opportunities by ensuring mutual respect of IP rights and the innovations they protect,” wrote Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel “This approach is not unique to Microsoft, but is instead the prevalent model for enabling open innovation in the technology world, consumer electronics being an excellent case in point. IP licensing will also continue to play a key role in facilitating the emergence of new categories of exciting devices that embody the convergence of previously disconnected technologies, such as new generations of mobile phones, mini computers like netbooks and smartbooks, and eBook readers.”

Gutierrez said companies must cooperate in what he called a “mixed source world.”

“:Some observers question how a company can contribute to open source projects while, at the same time, insisting on respect of its intellectual property rights by its competitors,” he wrote. “In fact, these two things are not inconsistent, and striking a balance between them is one of the key things every commercial technology company must do in order to compete effectively in a mixed source world.”

Here’s the post as it appears on Red Hat’s web site:

“Red Hat Welcomes Microsoft’s Kernel Contribution

“Now is the Time for Microsoft to Show Its Commitment to the Community Process”

By (Red Hat’s) Legal Team

“Microsoft has offered a significant contribution to the Linux kernel under the GNU General Public License version 2. This is important news. It seems like only yesterday that Microsoft was declaring Linux, open source software and the GPL to be the axis of evil. Now Microsoft is making a credible opening bid to become a member of the Linux community. As the largest corporate contributor to the Linux kernel, Red Hat would like to acknowledge this and encourage Microsoft to continue on this path.

“The new contribution consists of three Linux device drivers directed at interoperability. They are designed to allow Linux to run as a virtual machine on top of Hyper-V, Microsoft’s hypervisor. Such interoperability is to Microsoft’s benefit, of course, as a selling point for Windows. But it’s also good for Linux users, in providing more choice and flexibility. So it has win-win elements.

“In the past, Microsoft has been critical of GPL licensing, but it has evidently accepted the reality that copyleft licensing is here to stay. The GPL is still by far the most used open-source license, and it has been a major contributor to the growth of free and open source software. As far as the kernel community is concerned, at this point there’s simply no viable alternative. Microsoft’s acceptance of the GPL suggests a new level of thoughtful realism in Redmond. This too is encouraging.

“But there is still an important issue that needs to be addressed before Microsoft can be considered a full-fledged member of the Linux community – the issue of patents. Over the years, the individual and corporate members of the community have through formal and informal steps made clear that they will not pursue or threaten patent litigation in the Linux area. Patent threats are irreconcilable with the norms and values that are at the heart of Linux. To win the respect and trust of the Linux community, Microsoft should unequivocally disavow such conduct and pledge that its patents will never be used against Linux or other open source developers and users.

“So we congratulate Microsoft on its recent step. In the meantime, we will stay tuned and look for good progress on the interoperability front, together with real engagement with the open source community.”