What's Microsoft's role in the Novell-Attachmate deal?

Summary:Seattle-based Attachmate Corp. is buying Novell for $2.2 billion, the companies announced on November 22. At the same time, Novell announced the "concurrent sale of certain intellectual property assets to CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of technology companies organized by Microsoft Corporation, for $450 million in cash."

Seattle-based Attachmate Corp. is buying Novell for $2.2 billion, the companies announced on November 22. At the same time, Novell announced the "concurrent sale of certain intellectual property assets to CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of technology companies organized by Microsoft Corporation, for $450 million in cash."

So far, Microsoft is saying little about its role in the deal.

"We are pleased to be a part of the acquisition of certain intellectual property assets of Novell. Microsoft looks forward to continuing our collaboration with Novell into the future, to bring mixed source IT solutions to customers," said the company via a statement from Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing.

I asked Microsoft officials for more information about which Novell IP assets they're purchasing. I also asked who else is part of CPTN Holdings. Microsoft officials haven't yet responded to my query. are providing no information beyond the statement above. For the record, there are no court filings for CPTN or any record of the consortium until today. CPTN doesn't turn up in any documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission, either.

There is an 8-K which notes that Microsoft and its unnamed CPTN partners bought 882 patents as part of this transaction, however.

I'm also wondering whether the Microsoft IP purchase means that Novell's plan to appeal its antitrust case against Microsoft involving WordPerfect is now DOA. I'd assume so, but Microsoft officials are not commenting, they told me.

Novell and Microsoft's shared IP history has been tumultuous. Novell, the company behind SuSE Linux, entered a patent-protection deal with Microsoft in 2006. Via that deal, Microsoft agreed to distribute to its customers certificates for Novell’s SuSE Linux, and Novell basically conceded that its implementation of Linux violated Microsoft patents and agreed its customers needed patent-enforcement protection. That pact was designed as a five-year deal (which would expire in 2011). As part of the 2006 arrangement, Microsoft and Novell also agreed to improve interoperability between Windows and Linux.

Attachmate officials have said they plan to operate Novell as two business units, Novell and SUSE, and join them with their Attachmate and NetIQ businesses.

Update: It sounds like Mono development will continue under the new Attachmate owners, as well.

Update 2: One IDC analyst suggests that Microsoft may have had designs on the Novell Platespin datacenter management/virtualization technology. Here's more on Platespin.

Topics: Legal, Banking, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Open Source, Software

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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