Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

Summary: Records at the Germany's federal anti-trust authority "Bundeskartellamt" reveal that Novell's patents were bought by a consortium of Microsoft, Apple, EMC, and Oracle. Even so, Microsoft still seems to be calling the shots in the Novell deal.


When CPTN Holdings appeared out of the blue to snap up Novell's patent portfolio, the only thing anyone knew about them was that Microsoft was behind the group and that's all Microsoft had to say about its Novell intellectual property (IP) purchase. Now, thanks to Germany's anti-trust body, the Bundeskartellamt, we know that Microsoft's CPTN Holdings partners were Apple, EMC, and Oracle.

As my buddy Mary Jo Foley pointed out, this means that "CPTN Holdings isn't just a front for Microsoft." It's easy, of course, to see why Microsoft would want Novell's IP. While we don't exactly what patents came with this deal, we do know that Novell owns significant networking, directory, virtualization and data center patents.

Still it's hard to see exactly why this quartet of companies would work together on this IP purchase. As Florian Muller, who first revealed CPTN's members in his FOSS Patents blog wrote, "I don't know much about EMC other than that it's a very significant company. I do know that Apple and Oracle are clearly companies who have different approaches to some important issues than Microsoft. Within the consortium, the four players will have to agree on a common denominator concerning the patents to be acquired. They've apparently been able to agree that those patents are valuable assets to own."

I do know EMC. Ironically, EMC is VMware's parent company. You know the other company that wanted to buy Novell. EMC and VMware both have deep interests in virtualization and the data center. Apple is the company that I don't see fitting into the CPTN partnership.

For that matter, I, and others, are still hearing rumors that VMware may yet be in running to buy Novell despite the Attachmate/Novell deal. Indeed, I was to talk to Novell's brass about the Attachmate acquisition this week, but that conversation was put off because there were still acquisition-related meeting happening.

Whether the Attachmate's dark-horse purchase of Novell goes through or not, CPTN Holdings will end up with Novell's patents. As Andrew 'Andy' Updegrove, a founding partner of Gesmer Updegrove, a top technology law firm, explained if the Attachmate deal doesn't go through because VMware or another buyer steps in, "CPTN has the right to cherry pick the Novell patent portfolio. Of course, Novell will also have $450 million in cash, so assuming that this is fair value, the Novell stockholders should be happy."

I should point out at this point that, regardless of how this part of the deal works out, the Unix copyrights stay with Novell and its eventual new owner. Microsoft and its CPTN partners get some patents, not Unix's IP.

That said, I still see Microsoft as the real winner in the Novell deals. No, Microsoft didn't buy Novell-that would have triggered an anti-trust suit that Microsoft needed like a hole in the head.

Nevertheless, the deals do keep Novell's SUSE Linux out of Microsoft's rival VMware hands. Yes, VMware and Microsoft are more enemies than friends these days. VMware has made it clear that they'd like an operating system to bundle with their virtualization systems and Microsoft wants VMware customers for its Hyper-V virtualization and Azure cloud offerings. Indeed, today, December 16th, it was announced that Novell "had joined the Microsoft Windows Azure Technology Adoption Program to address cloud security challenges through the Novell Cloud Security Service."

You see, I think Microsoft needs a friend, a junior-partner if you would, in Linux, and Novell, under the nominal ownership of Attachmate is it. As for the patents, Microsoft, EMC and Oracle will all find good uses for them, or at least, can avoid lawsuits based on them. And Apple? Darned if I know what they're doing in this deal. Any guesses? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Topics: Legal, Apple, Virtualization, Storage, Software, Oracle, Open Source, Microsoft, Hardware, VMware

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  • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

    Apple didn't want Novell's patents to fall to Google. Apple has an arrangement with Microsoft, while both fear Google.
    • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

      Google already has a license to the patients.
  • EMC - Storage Giant, Owns VMware

    EMC is a storage giant that owns the Virtualization superstar VMware. VMware would be the first in line to get their hands on any of the XEN source patents. Then you also have the ZENWorks Patents which would also be something of Interest to VMWare and their Vapp system. Then you also have some other patents that relate to deployment by Novell's other acquisitions. Ximian was also in the application deployment business with Red Carpet.

    So to see EMC involved in this is pretty much a no brainer.

    Microsoft clearly wanted any patents to Mono as Mono could put on the android which would make Android that much better at taking market share away from Windows Mobile.

    Sorry to say, but Novell's IP was far more than just their valued UNIX copyrights.
    • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

      @nucrash The Unix thing is incredibly valuable to MS because now MS has the ability to get extortion money out of every Linux vendor...

      Plus Mono on android is probably a non-factor anyhow... I don't know any android developers who care about Mono. Personally, I just use the Java/Dalvik environment. Why would someone want to rely on a third party library when something just as good already exists?
      • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

        Unix patients still belong to Novell and Attachmate.
        How is Microsoft going to extort money from every Linux vendor?
      • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

        @snoop0x7b if the UNIX patent Novell had would let them, for example, as you say, extort from Linux vendors, why didn't Novell do that? No need to go bankrupt then, right?
  • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

    So, Novell patents obtained as "protection" from lawsuits by Microsoft and other proprietary software houses can now be used by Microsoft, EMC, Apple and Oracle to sue FOSS projects?
    • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

      @GreyGeek77 That was probably the idea...
      • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

        Bad news, indeed... :(
        search & destroy
    • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

      Might work unless you already have a license to the patients.
  • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

    All roads lead to Google.

    Its all about the cloud and mobile. Therefore search as in search the clouds on the go and you monetize it with ads. Hence its all Google.

    Somehow, somewhere all this is aimed at Google. Thats why Apple is in there.

    • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

      @emkamau Identity Management would be a big plus for each of these companies. This is one thing that makes the cloud possible. Identity Management has been the core focus, more than eDirectory, Groupwise, or SuSE has been in recent years for Novell. So while Novell couldn't market themselves out of a paper bag, they happened to have a treasure trove of IP that was coveted by at least four companies. Probably more, but these four put aside their differences to deal with what they consider a bigger threat.
  • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

    The reasons Microsoft wants the patents are obvious. Novell was one of the players who ended the SCO lawsuit by proving that they only licensed some of the Unix patents and didn't sell every patent to them.

    Make no mistake about this, Microsoft is going to use this as a way to reopen the Linux lawsuits.
  • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

    Is this an indicator that Oracle will hinder open source projects, like OpenOffice which it controls now?
  • What we have here

    Is Apple innovating, while Microsoft is stamping out the competition by unfair practices. ;)
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Now you're catching on

      It's about time, Nicholas. We knew you were a widdle slow.
      search & destroy
  • forget patents, what about the quality of what you can create.

    all this talk and complaining about patents, copyright, who has what, and why... THAT'S that POINT !!!!...

    Who freaking cares, is the Open Source world so incapable of developing their own technology, and so reliant on being able to beg, borrow, AND steal anything they like to use it for themselves..

    That IS the OSS way !!!...

    I wonder how many people who have been in the technology, computer, and software worlds for any period of time.

    This is the question:

    Do you consider the advancement in software techniques and methods to have kept up with the state of the art of ANY other technology you would like to compare it too.

    Lets compare it to hardware,,

    So has the rate of software advancement been able to
    1. keep up with hardware development
    2. stay even with hardware development
    3. has fallen 40 behind the advancement in hardware development..

    So after 50 years of computer development, hardware is still holding mores law..

    What is software doing,, why is software so HOPELESS, why are the massive communities of 'programmers' not capable of advanceing the state of the art of programming..

    ALMOST NOTHING, has changed in software design and development for the past 50 Years, Linux is still tied to Unix, and that is ancient, even when it was not ancient, it most certainly was not the 'best'.

    Why on earth in almost 2011, we are still trying to work out trivial details, and bugs in a system that has been under development continuously since the 1950's.

    60 years, and you still cant get it right, and there is simply no way software development has been able to keep up with the advancements in electronics, mechanics, movies, music, well everything actually..

    And what is the software's excuse for this massive gap in software development, refinement and application ???

    why are we still in nappies with software, and mature with hardware, and everything else ?

    its all this constant worrying about what the 'other' guy has invented, and is making profit from.. as if, you are not capable of original thought, therefore you JUST HAVE to STEAL off everyone else..

    Ofcourse, you do.. you are OSS, your idea is to take something old, rewrite it, or make it look different (lipstick on the pig), and call it your own..

    You did it with Unix, you did it with everything, what has OOS done that is original.. innovative, and state of the art ?

    The state of the art of software development is still in the cave man days, when hardware is flying overhead, the cave men can hardly comprehend what is happening...

    its sad, because software is much more flexible, you should be able to do great things, easier than to achieve those advancements in hardware..

    but you cant do it,, no one seems to be able too,

    at least some proprietary companies, are trying to advance software.

    Try LabVIEW for example,, but NI.. excellet advancement, why cant OSS do that, you've had 25 years ??

    Oh, thats right, it would require innovation, and invention, and even taking out some patents.. cant do that...

    even if it does advance the state of the art..

    It's just sad, and annoying, all you see when you read open source blogs with complaining about proprietary.

    Nothing about yourselves, nothing about how you are going to make OSS better, or anything like that..

    Making OSS better, is not a priority, its not even a goal, and it certainly is not a requirement..

    so what does OSS do ?? they dont create new things, or new technologies, they dont create new products, they dont create new operating systems, what do they do again ?

    I know they can whine long and loud when they see someone else doing what they should be doing but appear incapable.. they are good,,,, nay,, VERY good at that...
    • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle

      @Aussie_Troll I'll take a wild guess here: You believe MS invented word processing, spreadsheets, databases, TCP/IP, email and the Internet, right?
      Truth is MS needs these patents to protect themselves from their copyright infringements: Their NTP client is an open source port to Windows, Aero is a compiz port, etc.
  • RE: Novell's patents bought by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, & Oracle


    NO,, a company owning a patent, that you want to use (illegally) will not hinder open source projects.

    Unless you are incapable of original thought, and unless you NEED people to show you what to do for you to do it..

    If will hinder you if you are incapable of original thought, if you are not a software engineer, or programmer you might be screwed.. because yes, it is much easier to copy someone else's idea, or invention than it is to work out how you can do it..

    An invention (and patent) is a METHOD or achieve a specific thing. If you can come up with your own METHOD to achieve that thing.. you can patent that..

    But that is ONLY if you are capabable of original thought, and ONLY IF you are skilled in software devleopment etc..

    But if you lack those skills, then you have no choice but to steal idea's from other people, (you have no idea yourself)..

    So in a way, these patents might prompt you to pull the digit out, and actually learn how to code, and learn how NOT to have to rely on waiting for someone else to solve the problem before you can 'magically' solve the problem as well..

    Apart of being illegal, its immoral, it is also impracticle, ie, it DOES NOT WORK..

    Thats right, after 25 years of OSS, copying everything in sight, what has OSS does by itself that could be considered a significant advancement of software development ? freaking nothing.. nothing at all..

    everything of ANY is proprietary, every thing in OSS that is even slighly usefull, was stolen from proprietary, including your flagship Linux itself..
    • Has the Open Source movement ever invented anything?

      In a word, no.

      Great at copying, lousy at original thought.
      When they can't invent, they whine about how restrictive intellectual property rights are to their movement.

      that's one constant in the movement.