Novell's patent sale: FSFE's input to competion authorities
On April 6, FSFE provided the German competition authorities with its views on the sale of Novell's patents to CPTN, a joint venture of Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle. According to the German authorities, the terms of the sale have been slightly modified since we registered our concerns with them on December 22, 2010.
Despite these modifications, the transfer of a substantial number of patents to firms with a history of using them against Free Software remains a worrying prospect. Both documents are available on our overview page for the case.
In our reply , we make clear that this modification does not allay our concerns that Novell's patents may be used to limit competition. There are several reasons to be worried, notably:
- access to more patents will increase the respective dominant positions of the CPTN investors;
- What will Attachmate do with those patents? The company does not have an established track record in Free Software, and there is nothing to keep Attachmate from either selling the patents on to a third party, or trying to turn litigation into a revenue driver. Could Attachmate become a second SCO?
- Any financial relationship between Attachmate and Microsoft needs to be clarified.
As a remedy, we propose that the Novell patents which CPTN is seeking to acquire should be made available under conditions that allow implementation in Free Software, including under the GPL. This would be a royalty-free, perpetual license. Their owners could still enforce the patents against proprietary implementations. But there would be no further danger that they would be used to limit competition from Free Software.