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Microsoft Businesses Novell Patents Your Rights Online

DOJ Limits Microsoft's Purchase of Novell Patents 35

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
itwbennett writes "Novell, distributor of the SUSE Linux OS, has agreed to change its proposed deal to sell patents to CPTN Holdings, a Microsoft-organized consortium of companies, in order to satisfy DOJ concerns about the impact on open-source software, the DOJ said. The agreement will require Microsoft to sell the Novell patents back to Attachmate and Microsoft will receive a license to use those patents and patents acquired by the other three owners of CPTN."
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DOJ Limits Microsoft's Purchase of Novell Patents

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  • by stating_the_obvious (1340413) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @03:08PM (#35884796)
    ...at least until (if ever) the US PTO has a better solution to software patents. Now, MSFT (and consortium partners) are protected without limiting patent availability to the FOSS community. Sometimes win-win is more than a draw...
    • by icebike (68054)

      According to the agreement,

      In addition, all of the Novell patents will be subject to the GNU General Public License, Version 2 and the Open Invention Network (OIN) License, a significant license in Linux, the DOJ said. CPTN will not have the right to limit which of the patents are available under the OIN license, and CPTN and its owners will be prohibited from encouraging Novell or Attachmate to modify which patents are available under the OIN license, the DOJ said.

      So what exactly is MSFT and CPTN buying here?

      I suspect that they will get a license PRIOR to it being subject to the GPL2, and may work to allow them to use these unencumbered by the GPL. Otherwise, there is exactly zero value to these patents because they could gain access via the GPL.

      Microsoft abhors GPL code in anything they put into windows itself (they still do use some GPL items). So obtaining a license that was not GPL encumbered might still be worth while to them.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I have never seen a synopsis of what is contained in these patents. did anyone ever release the patent numbers? or did no one have the patents to sift through 800+ documents?

      • by M. Baranczak (726671) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @03:53PM (#35885244)

        How can a patent be subject to the GPL? That doesn't make sense.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          afaik, if you license something, implementing one of your software patents, using gpl v3 you also grant users of your code the right to implement your patended idea. thus making the patent subject to the gpl v3.

      • They are buying the patents, so they could use at will and license to third parties that do not want to abide to the GPLv2 or OIN terms. That also means they can't stop people from using the patents while abiding to the GPLv2 or OIN terms, so for Microsoft that may be in fact useless, but for a normal company that could be useful. IANAL, by the way.

      • More importantly, how does this affect other open source projects that are not GPL based? Can *BSD's use them?

        Remember, the term "viral license" was not coined by Microsoft, but rather BSD proponents.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I suspect that they will get a license PRIOR to it being subject to the GPL2, and may work to allow them to use these unencumbered by the GPL.

        There can be multiple licenses for a single patent. There's not need for it to be "prior" it is simply an additional license.

  • May I just take this opportunity to say that I don't like Attachmate. Thanks.
  • Isn't Novell one of the companies in the Open Invention Network [slashdot.org] that collects patents for defensive purposes? Shouldn't that pool get these MS-can't-own patents?
    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @03:51PM (#35885224)

      They will. Read TFA.

      Microsoft is essentially getting a slurp of the licenses before the OIN or GPLv2 gets its hands on them. The get all the advantages of OIN membership without giving anything back.

      • There are many more patents that are in the OIN portfolio than what M$ is getting a license to. M$ will not be able to use any OIN patents against anyone belonging to OIN, or against someone using GPLed software. Novell has been a member of OIN, so those patents that M$ is buying are already licensed to OIN. OIN has nothing to fear from these patents. The position now is that M$ also has nothing to fear about these patents. Other patents that OIN has can still be used against M$. But I am not a lawyer
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What does it mean that the Novell patent suite will be "subject to GPLv2"? Does that mean that software licensed under GPLv2 will be given a free pass from possible infingement of these patents? What about software licensed under GPL v3?

    Hopefully it does not mean that everyone gets to be a lawyer and create their own modified versions of the patents....

    • by icebike (68054)

      What does it mean that the Novell patent suite will be "subject to GPLv2"? Does that mean that software licensed under GPLv2 will be given a free pass from possible infingement of these patents? What about software licensed under GPL v3?

      I speculated above it gives MSFT free use of these patents PRIOR to them becoming subject to the GPL, and therefore releases MSFT from having to follow the terms of the GPL.

  • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @04:11PM (#35885386)

    WTF is that damn auto-updating twitterish piece of shit beside the article? It's like they are actively trying to make their site as hard to read as possible. It's worse than most advertisements. Please don't ever link to this website again.

    In the meanwhile here is a non-ADD version [itworld.com] of the article.

    • by antdude (79039)

      Complain to the webmaster/web site people. I wonder if there is a way to block it with Ad Block Plus.

  • by yuna49 (905461) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @04:31PM (#35885524)

    I think that's the real headline here however the actual patents get worked out. I can't recall a decision from the Department of Justice, or indeed any Federal regulator, that expressed a concern about the impact of some private business decision on open source software.

    Here's a key line from TFA:
    "The patent sale, as originally proposed, would have jeopardized the ability of open source software to innovate and compete in middleware, virtualization, and server, desktop and mobile OS markets, the DOJ said."

    • by dave562 (969951)

      Believe it or not, the DoJ is actually pretty savvy when it comes to technical issues. They went over Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg with a fine toothed comb. It is next to impossible to do any sort of M&A activity in the technology sector without drawing some sort of scrutiny from the DoJ.

  • I hope that the MS-Novell deal will finally expire without renewal.

    • by dhammabum (190105)

      If that happens, they will just sell to some other troll. They've shown they will follow the money anywhere.

  • <nit-picky>
    not only US regulators were involved but also the Bundeskartellamt [wikimedia.org], pushed by the lobbying efforts of the FSFE (see press release [fsfe.org]).
    </nit-picky>

    The president of the German agency stated that "in individual cases, the acquisition of patents can also result in significant anticompetitive effects" (source [bundeskartellamt.de]).

    OSS came a long way - the decision was not based on some ethical "free software is a value itself" reasons but showed the commercial impact and relevance of open source. Great!

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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