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