Software groups urge probe of Novell patent sale

Open Software Initiative and Free Software Foundation ask Justice Department and German Federal Cartel Office to look into the sale of Novell's 800-plus patents to Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and EMC.

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Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
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The Open Software Initiative and the Free Software Foundation yesterday released a joint statement, urging the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as the German Federal Cartel Office, to investigate the sale of Novell's more than 800 patents as part of its multibillion dollar sale to Attachmate in November.

In December, the OSI sent a position paper to the German Federal Cartel Office. That paper has been updated to name both software groups as the concerned parties and filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Since making that filing, we have been joined by the Free Software Foundation and have updated that statement to represent that both our communities--the open source community and the free software community--are concerned that CPTN represents a potential broadside not against any particular product in the market today, but against one of the only viable sources of competition for these companies in software today: the free, libre, and open source software (FLOSS) communities."

The OSI now says the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department has acknowledged receiving the groups' contention.

At the heart of OSI and FSF's complaint are the patents that will be handed over to CPTN Holdings, which made up of Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and EMC. The two software groups point to Microsoft and Oracle in particular being major competitors to the FLOSS movement, as each company cited it as a "competitive threat" in their 10-K SEC filings.

Furthermore, the group goes on to say that there is an inherent danger in having all those companies under the guise of a consortium. "That is, they have no incentive to support FLOSS as a competitive alternative to proprietary software," the letter said. "CPTN creates a cover to launch patent attacks against companies delivering solutions based on FLOSS while creating for each principal a measure of plausible deniability that the patent attack was not their idea."

Earlier this week the sale of the patents to CPTN Holdings got the go-ahead from the European Commission vice president and competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia. Almunia said that it would be "unlikely" for the transaction to raise any eyebrows from the EU's merger regulation commission, or be infringing of the EU's competition rules.

(via PC World)