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OSI and FSF link up against CPTN patent threat

The Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundations - two organisations fighting for the same cause, but traditionally in very different ways - have joined forces in an attempt to prevent Novell patents falling into Microsoft's hands.

Novell, which ended months of speculation by announcing its acquisition by Attachmate in November of last year, made $450 million by selling 882 patents to a consortium known as CPTN - a group of technology companies including Apple, EMC, and Oracle, headed up by Microsoft.

While the precise details of the patents has not been made public, Novell's heavy activity in the open source community - both as primary sponsor of OpenSUSE and with its own Linux distribution SUSE Enterprise Server - have lead many to worry about the threat the patent portfolio could pose if it fell into the wrong hands.According to freshly filed documents, that threat is great enough for the OSI and FSF to temporarily join forces, writing a joint request to the US Department of Justice to investigate CPTN's application for approval - a minor technicality which, if denied, would prevent CPTN from purchasing the patent portfolio.

The latest request (PDF) for an investigation, which comes as CPTN re-files its application following a temporary withdrawal late last year, is based on the original complaint written by the OSI and states in summary: "The Boards of our respective organizations are concerned that the proposed recipient of NovellŠs patent portfolio, CPTN, represents a serious threat to the growing use of free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) throughout business, government, academia, and non-profit organizations worldwide.

"The founders and leaders of CPTN have a long history of opposing and misrepresenting the value of FLOSS, which is at the heart of Web infrastructure and of many of the most widely used software products and services."We urge the regulatory authorities to recognize the significance of FLOSS and to investigate the threat posed to it by the CPTN transaction."

The request has been acknowledged by the US authorities, but no response has yet been forthcoming.

Tags: fsf, cptn, osi, microsoft, novell, open source initiative, patent, software patent, attachmate, free software foundation