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14 February 2012, 10:51

US DoJ investigation into Novell/CPTN deal over

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Patent icon Even though the US Department of Justice allowed the CPTN deal to go ahead, it continued investigating Apple and Microsoft. In its announcement that the Google/Motorola Mobility acquisition could go ahead, the DoJ also announced that the CPTN investigation was now over. Its investigation into the acquisition of Nortel patents by RIM, Microsoft and Apple is also over.

CPTN was the name of a holding company – owned equally by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and EMC – created to purchase the patents of Novell when it was being acquired by Attachmate. In its announcement, the DoJ noted that Novell patents that Apple had acquired were "important to the open source community and to Linux-based software in particular". But it also pointed out that Novell was a participant in the Open Invention Network, a patent pool which requires patent-holders to offer a perpetual, royalty-free license for use of their patents in the "Linux-system". The DoJ looked into whether Apple would be permitted to use the change of ownership to avoid OIN commitments and concluded it would not. Apple also committed to honour Novell's OIN licensing commitments.

In the case of Microsoft and the patents from the Nortel deal, the DoJ concluded Microsoft's presence in the mobile market was too small to make it economically feasible to become litigious. With Microsoft, it was concerned that it would try and exploit SEPs (Standards Essential Patents) from the portfolio of patents it acquired from Nortel, but could not see how reducing access to those SEPs would attract new customers. The DoJ also noted that as Microsoft now has cross licensing deals with many Android OEM device vendors, such a strategy would be "even less plausible".

The DoJ, as with the Google/Motorola Mobility deal, said that although these deals were cleared and investigations over, it would continue to be concerned over the possibility that standards essential patents would be drawn into competitive conflict. It outlined its belief that SEPs and standard setting in the wireless device industry was important to ensure interoperability.


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