Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G


In 2006, Novell signed a deal with M$ that M$ would not assert any patent threats against Novell if they wouldn't assert any patent threats against M$.  This "patent swap" didn't exactly violate the letter of the GPL, but it sure as hell violated the spirit.  People like me declared Novell a bunch of sell outs and I refused to ever use SuSE ever again.  The entire time, there was a very vocal section of the FOSS movement that said we were overreacting, Novell is our friends.  The knowledge about their darkness tainted a lot of good stuff about their success in hammering SCO.  In fact, in the past three years, Novell has seen their revenues drop as prospective buyers of SLED have gone with Red Hat (just for the record, Linspire and Mandriva, two of the other four "dark" Linuxes, have also been hemorrhaging users).

Today, the other shoe dropped.  Novell has been looking for a buyer.  The most likely target was VMWare, which makes software to allow other operating systems to run sandboxed in another operating system, like running a full-blown Windows install under Linux.  That has suddenly broken down.  Novell is being acquired by Attachemate.  They are also selling 882 software patents to CPTN Holdings, "a consortium of technology companies organized by Microsoft".  CPTN holdings, as far as anyone call tell, did not exist until a few days ago, and yet they have $450 mil to cough up for those patents.

It's a safe bet that part of the patents are WordPerfect patents, so it's safe to say the WP litigation against M$ is over.  Then again, that was a dead horse, anyway.

What will Attachemate do about the SCO litigation?  I'm actually hoping they drop their case.  That leaves IBM and its lawyers.  This would be best, because then it drags Linux and Unix out into the open to prove there is no copying and that will kneecap any further hanky panky instead of this technicality that Novell scored with.

SuSE goes to Attachemate.  Well, it would have to.  If M$ acquired SuSE, then, under the GPL, M$ becomes a Linux distributor and gives up all rights to sue for patent infringement.  Shit, the lawyers knew to watch out for that.

The Unix patents are presumably going to CPTN.  Could M$ be targeting Apple?  Remember, OS X is a desktop on top of Unix.  Apple's marketshare was originally 10%, dropped to about five when they switched to Intels, and are about 10% again now.  But Apple is just stomping M$ in the mobile phone, mobile media, and tablet PC market.  They could be trying to make a nuisance of themselves with the only option.  After all, their R&D can never compete.

Also, they might be targeting Oracle.  Oracle and M$ have never gotten along.  Now that Oracle has gotten aggressive with their patents, and Oracle's acquisition of Sun gives them a Unix OS,, MySQL, know, an entire boxed solution for businesses looking for reliable computing without the security vulnerabilities and lousy service of M$, Oracle could make serious inroads.  M$ will have two sets of office suite patents and Unix patents.

What about Linux, the most likely target?  They could try, nothing is stopping them.  However, M$ likely (I Am Not A Lawyer) can't do anything.  If they suddenly say, "We have these patents now and we say you can't do anything with them anymore", the FOSS community will just say, "Estoppel."  That's basically legal talk for, "We've been allowed to do it all this time, you can't just instantly make us stop."  It's one of Google's primary defenses in the Oracle litigation.  Besides, M$ already folded like a cheap tent against TomTom because of the OIN.  It doesn't matter if M$ has more patents, what matters is if the OIN can target specific ones that hurt M$, and based on how TomTom worked out, it looks like they can.

There is a bright side to this, and it's that Miguel de Icaza is likely to finally take it up the ass like a bitch.  M$ doesn't need two sets of patents for Silverlight, their own and Mono's, so guess who gets the axe.  de Icaza says nothing is changing immediately.  However, just last week, he was asking for ideas on how to raise venture capital for a new business idea.  Gee, that's not a lot of confidence in job security for someone so chummy with M$.  There's an old Polish proverb that says, "When you play with matches, you shouldn't be surprised when you light one."

Stay tuned, this is going to get interesting....
Tags: computers, digital rights, foss, haven't we suffered enough, linux, open source, patent law, technology is a beautiful thing
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