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12.17.10

New Details Surface About Novell/Microsoft/AttachMSFT [sic] Deal

Posted in Apple, Deals, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Patents at 2:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

V for vendetta

Summary: The real face of CPTN, the entity which got Novell’s software patents; more revelations about how Novell’s deal came about

WE HAVE written over 20 posts about the subject since Novell was sold (despite impending litigation) and it was never known to the full extent just what Novell did and where assets were being passed. First there was turmoil over the assumption that Microsoft may have acquired UNIX from Novell. Shortly after Novell was publicly flogged for it the CMO of the company came out with an important statement denying this claim (AttachMSFT [sic] might still sell UNIX though). It was still assumed at the time that CPTN was merely a Microsoft shell [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] as no company other than Microsoft was named as a member. Well, none until now anyway. A group of Microsoft proponents [1, 2] says that Apple, Oracle and EMC are also part of CPTN (not principal ones though) and Groklaw theorises that it’s ill-intended and dangerous to Linux. From its new post on the subject:

So what’s the common interest? “Let’s all kill Android”? There’s a limit on that, in that Google is also an Open Invention Network member, so it has a license to these Novell patents already. Of course there could be more than one theme, virtualization, office suites.

Don’t forget that if you sign up with Open Invention Network before this deal closes, you will have a license in perpetuity to all those patents, and more, and these Machiavellian dudes won’t be able to mess with you. Here’s the article that provides information on where to sign up and who qualifies and what is required.

By the way, Oracle is a member of OIN, so it knows how it works. If it wanted to prevent patent litigation, all it had to do was buy all the patents. So I will assume they plan to use these patents, claiming they belong to the consortium and are therefore not donated to the OIN pool. Alternatively, looking at matters more positively, perhaps it wished to exercise some control over what Microsoft does with the patents.

Groklaw also thinks it’s an anti-Android plot despite the fact that VMware recently released software for Android and all we know about Oracle-Apple is not a sufficiently strong link [1, 2, 3, 4]. Moreover, Oracle has too much to lose if it harms Linux (Solaris notwithstanding). Groklaw is very familiar with the SCOracle [sic] case, which it has been tracking quite closely so far, so Groklaw’s opinion is nothing to sneeze at. From the latest status report at Groklaw:

The Oracle v. Google Java litigation now begins in earnest, with each side offering a proposed protective order, along with a handy table of the disputed provisions. Say, I think Groklaw has a claim for prior art on that kind of table.

Could some rival of Android have motivated Oracle to sue? It’s not possible to tell with any conviction at this moment. The same goes for the Traul Allen case from Interval — a case that was dismissed [1, 2] but Groklaw declared the end of it before it was over for good. By the way, the MSBBC’s coverage of this dismissal was atrocious, as expected. It even glamourised Traul Allen for this pathological, irrational, antisocial behaviour.

In addition to the news about CPTN, there is also news from the VAR Guy, who sheds lights on what exactly was going on behind the scenes when Novell looked for buyers:

Overall, Novell representatives contacted 52 potential buyers. Roughly nine official bidders emerged. So how did Attachmate wind up buying the bulk of Novell’s assets? And what happened to rumored SUSE Linux bids from VMware? In a preliminary proxy statement dated December 14, Novell offers an extensive time line describing how the company’s board of directors, executive team, and external financial advisors pursued potential buyers for the company. The filing is more than 100 pages. Here are some of the highlights, paraphrased by The VAR Guy. Please note:

* The vast majority of the info below is based on information within Novell’s SEC filing.
* Novell protects the names of several bidders, referring to them as Party A through Party E. In some cases, The VAR Guy makes some educated guesses about the actual identity of each company. But The VAR Guy’s educated guesses could be wrong.

Regarding anti-Android lawsuits, Mac Asay [sic] wrote this new article where he claims the lawsuit are evidence of Linux and open source success (it is embedded in almost everything).

Google came up with two on its own – Android and Chrome OS – to cover its bases on encouraging geeks to contribute to Google’s total world domination. And while Chrome OS never quite got out the gate in 2010, despite assurances that it would ship in late fall, Android more than made up for Chrome OS’ delays, with Google’s Andy Rubin tweeting: “There are over 300,000 Android phones activated each day.”

That’s a heck of a lot of phones running open source. Even more than Apple ships.

Apple, of course, didn’t let this open-source momentum go unnoticed, and launched a lawsuit against Google’s Android through its licensee, HTC. Not to be outdone, Microsoft and Oracle also sent lawyers to the Googleplex. About the only company that didn’t is Research in Motion. Nice Canadians.

Not only Linux is a target of such mobile phone lawsuits. There are more new lawsuits right now and they come from Symbian giant Nokia to apply pressure on Apple:

Nokia has just released a press release announcing that it has filed claims in the UK, Germany and Holland, alleging that Apple has infringed on Nokia products sold in those respective countries in regards to technologies used it the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

In response, writes Rupert Goodwins (UK-based journalist): “I find this profoundly depressing. Does history mean nothing in the face of short-term reactive capitalism?

The patent lawyers are watching this carefully (still afraid of losing software patents) and TechDirt jokes that creating flight plans on the Internet is now patented. Hilarious! Sane judges can view this as further evidence of BM/SW patents needing abolition.

Thanks to Kiran Lightpaw for alerting us to yet another example of patents being used to stifle innovation, rather than enable it. It involves a company called FlightPrep, that secured a patent (7,640,098) a year ago, covering generating a flight plan online and filing it online. Basically, it’s one of your typical “just add online and patent it!” patents that never should have been granted. In fact, the patent, which was first applied for in 2001 was rejected repeatedly, and many adjustments had to be made before the patent examiner finally gave them the patent.

Once they got the patent, they apparently started hitting up all sorts of online flightplan services for licenses — even ones that appear to have been online predating some of the claims in their patent. Nelson Minar, who knows more than a little bit about software development, does a nice job highlighting that there appears to be a fair bit of prior art to the claims that were actually approved.

Free software would have won far more easily if there were no software patents, which cannot be justified on economic grounds anyway. Everyone needs to demand elimination of software patents to hasten development and research efforts. Patents help society as much as Wall Street does.

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