Feeds

Open source campaigners urge investigation of Novell patent sale

OS advocates concerned about possible cartel of software giants

Mobile application security vulnerability report

Open source software advocates have asked a German competition law regulator to investigate the purchase of patents owned by Novell by a consortium led by Microsoft and including Apple, Oracle and EMC.

US-based open source advocacy body the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has said that it was informed that the German Federal Cartel Office was "open to receive comments from the public" about the purchase. It has written to the office to express its concerns.

"The fact that Microsoft was leading the takeover of Novell’s patents was itself alarming to the open source community, but when it was revealed that Microsoft had recruited Oracle, Apple, and EMC to be co-owners of the patents, the OSI Board felt compelled to request that competition authorities take a closer look at the proposed transaction," said a blog post by Michael Tiemann, the president of the OSI.

Novell is being bought by Attachmate. The deal involves the separate sale of Novell's patent portfolio to CPTN, the consortium headed by Microsoft. Novell has agreed to sell 882 patents to CPTN for $450 million.

Novell had previously acquired SuSE, a commercial open source software distributor. Patents involved in that deal make claims over open source software but have never been used against open source developers, the OSI said.

In its letter to the German authorities (four-page/180KB PDF), OSI said that it is concerned because the deal with CPTN puts patents with claims on some elements of some open source software in the hands of companies that compete with that open source software.

"The founders and leaders of CPTN have a long history of opposing and misrepresenting the value of open source software, which is at the heart of Web infrastructure and of many of the most widely used software products and services," it said. "The sole or leading competition for several products from the CPTN principals are open source."

The letter continued: "Principals have acknowledged that Linux and Open Source is a major threat to their business and have made hostile statements towards open source. Microsoft and Oracle both call out open source as a competitive threat in their most recent [regulatory] filings."

The letter warns of "potential collusion" between the competing proprietary software companies and said that competition would be well served by an investigation by the German authority.

"The Open Source Initiative is concerned that the proposed recipient of Novell’s patent portfolio, CPTN, represents a serious threat to the growing use of open source software throughout business, government, academia, and non-profit organizations worldwide," it said. "We urge the regulatory authorities to recognize the significance of open source software as they consider the CPTN transaction and urge them to investigate it further."

Though the patents at issue are the same, the OSI said that the use of them by CPTN might be quite different, and dangerous, compared to the use made of them by Novell.

"The creation of CPTN represents a MAJOR disruption to the competitive landscape," said the OSI letter. "Whereas Novell was sincere in promoting and participating in open source software development and had an incentive to maintain their patent assets as a defensive portfolio, CPTN has all the motives and opportunity to do the opposite."

"They have no incentive to support open source as a competitive alternative to proprietary software. CPTN creates a cover to launch patent attacks against open source while creating for each principal a measure of plausible deniability that the patent attack was not their idea," it said.

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
DARPA-derived secure microkernel goes open source tomorrow
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.