Microsoft patent move may be defensive

Microsoft's plan to purchase 882 patents from Novell may be as much a defense move as an aggressive affront to Linux.One observer pointed out that the Redmond, Wash software company --and the so-called CPTN consortium acquiring the portfolio -- may want to prevent VMware, IBM or other rivals from gaining access to the multitude of software patents, especially those related to the Microsoft-Novell interoperability agreement.

Microsoft's plan to purchase 882 patents from Novell may be as much a defense move as an aggressive affront to Linux.

One observer pointed out that the Redmond, Wash software company --and the so-called CPTN consortium acquiring the portfolio -- may want to prevent VMware, IBM or other rivals from gaining access to the multitude of software patents, especially those related to the Microsoft-Novell interoperability agreement.

Or, it could be the overture to serious litigation against a Linux provider or another rival in the operating system or applications space, the observer noted.

"This Microsoft connection caught my eye ... it's an intriguing deal," said Ira Cohen, managing director at Signal Hill Updata, of New York, NY, a banker who helped negotiate a sale to Novell several years ago. "Microsoft wanted this consortium to control patents and did not want them to get it in the hands of VMware or IBM."

Still, it's difficult to predict since no one seems to know which group of companies is represented by this mysterious CPTN, he said. No doubt, the U.S. government will likely scrutinize the deal once more details are released to the SEC, Cohen added.

" If we know who the other companies are, it would be easier to guess what's in it for [Microsoft]," said Andrew Updegrove, a principal at Gesmer Updegrove in Boston who focuses on open source and M&A. "Of course, there could be other consideration going from Microsoft to them as well, such as license rights to other technology. All in all, though, I think that it's very hard to guess what is up on the IP and litigation side, given that Novell has acquired a lot of IP over the years."

Chris Maresca, an industry consultant with lots of experience in the open source world, offered up his take.

"As far as asset sales to Microsoft, I'm going to guess that it's tied up with the old Netware business, probably IP around Netware over TCP or some such. [It] could be related to SCO/Unix - wouldn't that be fun?"

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