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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  2. <html newsdate="2011-04-20">
  3. <head>
  4. <title>Free Software crucial to competition, regulators in Novell patent deal say</title>
  5. </head>
  6. <body>
  7. <h1>Free Software crucial to competition, regulators in Novell patent deal say</h1>
  8. <p newsteaser="yes">Competition authorities in Germany and the
  9. United States today highlighted the fundamental role that Free
  10. Software plays for competition in the software market. After
  11. several months of discussions, the <a href="http://7thspace.com/headlines/379849/usdoj_cptn_holdings_llc_and_novell_inc_change_deal_in_order_to_address_department_of_justiceandaposs_open_source_concerns.html">US Department of Justice</a>
  12. (DOJ) and the <a href="http://www.bundeskartellamt.de/wDeutsch/aktuelles/presse/2011_04_20W3DnavidW261.php">German Federal Competition Office</a> (FCO) have
  13. allowed a consortium of Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and EMC to
  14. acquire 882 patents from Novell only subject to conditions
  15. clearly intended to prevent their use against Free Software
  16. players.</p>
  17. <p>
  18. "This is an historic step", says Karsten Gerloff, President of the
  19. Free Software Foundation Europe, which was involved in the FCO
  20. investigation <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20101222.html">since the beginning</a>. "The regulators acknowledge that
  21. Free Software is crucial to competition; that patent aggression can
  22. well be anticompetitive behaviour; and that fear, uncertainty and
  23. doubt serve to push smaller competitors out of the market."
  24. </p>
  25. <h2>Parallels to Microsoft case - no patent privilege</h2>
  26. <p>
  27. "FSFE has been highlighting the danger of software patents for a
  28. decade," says FSFE's legal counsel Carlo Piana. In the present
  29. transaction, patents play a similar role as they did in the European
  30. Commission's antitrust proceedings against Microsoft. Microsoft was
  31. forced to disclose its secret protocols, but refused to make them
  32. available under conditions that would allow their use in GPL-licensed
  33. Free Software. FSFE is glad to see that conversely in this situation
  34. antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are recognising
  35. the power of copyleft Free Software licenses to preserve competition.
  36. </p>
  37. <p>
  38. The decisions by the FCO and the DOJ are also an acknowledgement that
  39. regulatory intervention can be necessary to overcome vendor lock-in
  40. and create a level playing field for all market participants. "Patents
  41. are not an excuse to avoid antitrust scrutiny. Today's announcements
  42. make that clear as daylight" says Piana. In a hearing at the European
  43. Court of Justice next month, FSFE will state its objections to
  44. Microsoft's strategy of using patents to limit competition, as
  45. Microsoft is appealing the fine of 899 million Euro imposed by the
  46. Commission.
  47. </p>
  48. <p>
  49. FSFE will carefully review the actual decisions as they become
  50. available. "Today's announcements point in a very interesting
  51. direction. It is a success for the <a href="/work.html">intense work done</a> by FSFE and
  52. others, such as the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source
  53. Initiative. But the conditions we've seen are no panacea. The devil
  54. will be in the details," says Gerloff. Intense monitoring by the
  55. competition authorities will be required to ensure that the conditions
  56. for the transaction will have the intended effect.
  57. </p>
  58. <p>
  59. See also <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20110406.html">FSFE response to questions</a> by German FCO from April 6, 2011
  60. </p>
  61. </body>
  62. <tags>
  63. <tag>front-page</tag>
  64. <tag content="Software Patents">patents</tag>
  65. <tag>Competition</tag>
  66. </tags>
  67. </html>
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