An Infoweek news article broke late last week shedding some additional light on the patents that are part of the CPTN deal. When Novell and Microsoft struck the patent cross-license deal back in 2006, undoubtedly the terms and conditions of the cross license included clauses indicating what was to happen should either party be acquired. I had suspected that this is what spawned the CPTN deal, and now with an additional hint from Novell that the patents focus on "enterprise-level computer systems management software" and that Novell continues reiterate that Unix copyrights are not part of the deal tend to lead one to believe that these patents are probably related to Novell Directory Services, identity management and other infrastructure software Novell sells or has sold in its past and not its Linux business.
I received a number of comments to my previous post that merit addressing. First comment was that I was wrong in that Novell actually did obtain seven patents as part of its UnixWare deals (see attachment D at Groklaw). Unfortunately three have expired already, three more were abandoned, and only one stands until 2014. We do not know if any of these are part of the CPTN deal, but the Infoweek article indicates that 20 of the 882 had expired with one being counted twice after Novell had done due-diligence on the patents included in the deal. What do you think? Having been on the inside of Novell (granted – 4 years ago now), I don’t think Novell would have included any Linux/Unix patents in the deal. Remember that Novell helped co-found the Open Invention Network in 2005 and had donated Linux related patents to that network. If the same patents donated are also included in the CPTN deal, Linux already has those patents in its portfolio.
Secondly, some of my co-workers rightfully pointed out that an industry exists around buying/selling patents and prosecuting other vendors or entities for royalties due to infringement. In my previous post, I had attempted to paint the picture of how Novell has historically used its patents and how it views the whole patent sub-culture. The Infoweek article supports my point. Novell and some other vendors think of those organizations that buy/sell and prosecute infringement as trolls – a negative connotation of what they do that is actually a legitimate business as per the concept of patents. So while some vendors may dislike other organizations actions with respect to patent law, it does create thriving business that does help the economy move forward (again, vendors may argue this point.)
Your thoughts are always welcome – what do you think?