Last year the big news was that Attachmate was buying Novell, but that Novell's patent portfolio was being sold separately to a little known buyer named CPTN Holdings LLC. It was known that Microsoft was one of the companies behind CPTN, but then it came out that CPTN was not just a single company, it was a consortium, and more importantly, it was a consortium of competitors. Included in the CPTN fold were Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle. Their common enemy? Google.
But Google was not the only entity concerned about this alliance of the largest companies in the information technology sector, almost all of which compete with each other on some level. The Free Software Foundation and Open Source Initiative filed complaints with competition authorities in the U.S. and Germany. In the end German and U.S. competition authorities extracted changes in the transfer, ownership, and licensing of the Novell patents to assure a level playing field that allowed room for free and open source software.
Now we have the Nortel patents being sold out of the bankruptcy estate. And who are the buyers? Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion, and Sony. And their common enemy? Google.
So why is the Nortel deal different? Why aren't competition authorities looking at its structure in the same way they scrutinized the Novell deal? This group allegedly got pre-clearance for the purchase from the FTC. How could that be in light of the concerns over the earlier Novell portfolio?
Google got pre-clearance from the FTC and DOJ to buy the Nortel portfolio. Supposedly, Apple did, as well, but individually, not as part of a consortium with its direct competitors. Of course, the real irony is Microsoft expressing concern over a possible Google winning bid.
This deal has got to attract more scrutiny than this.
The question is, will anyone stand up with Google to question it?
FOSS community and consumers, time to speak up.