Microsoft, EMC, Apple and Oracle have made major concessions in order to proceed with buying hundreds of Novell’s open source patents as part of its merger with Attachmate.
The original deal would have limited the ability of open source software to innovate and compete in server, desktop and mobile operating systems, middleware, and virtualisation , the Department of Justice’s anti-monopoly division said on Wednesday.
Under the amended deal, Microsoft agreed to sell back to Attachmate the Novell patents it would buy. In return, it will receive a licence to use those patents and those that Oracle, Apple and EMC bought or that Novell retained.
EMC also agreed not to buy 33 virtualisation patents held by Novell.
The concessions allowed CPTN Holdings, owned by the four giants, to proceed under the condition that Novell’s patents remained subject to the GNU General Public License, Version 2 and the Open Invention Network License.
That latter licence announced ahead of the department's statement, had seen a 28 percent surge in members over the past three months, including Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Juniper and Fujitsu General.
The department's anti-monopoly division vowed to watch how the companies handled the patents.
CPTN does not have the right to limit which patents were available under the open invention licence, and cannot force or influence Novell or Attachmate to modify which are available.
“Although we recognise that the various changes to the agreement recently made by the parties are helpful, the department will continue to investigate the distribution of patents to ensure continued competition,” said Sharis Pozen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s anti-monopoly division.
The original plan involved CPTN acquiring 882 patents and patent applications, then divvying up the loot between each vendor in the group.