[FSFE PR][DE] Free Software crucial to competition, regulators in Novell patent deal say

press at fsfeurope.org press at fsfeurope.org
Mi Apr 20 18:03:11 UTC 2011

Free Software crucial to competition, regulators in Novell patent deal say

Competition authorities in Germany and the United States today
highlighted the fundamental role that Free Software plays for
competition in the software market. After several months of discussions,
the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the German Federal Competition
Office (FCO) have allowed a consortium of Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and
EMC to acquire 882 patents from Novell only subject to conditions
clearly intended to prevent their use against Free Software players.

"This is an historic step", says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free
Software Foundation Europe, which was involved in the FCO investigation
since the beginning. "The regulators acknowledge that Free Software is
crucial to competition; that patent aggression can well be
anticompetitive behaviour; and that fear, uncertainty and doubt serve to
push smaller competitors out of the market."

== Parallels to Microsoft case - no patent privilege ==

"FSFE has been highlighting the danger of software patents for a decade,"
says FSFE's legal counsel Carlo Piana. In the present transaction,
patents play a similar role as they did in the European Commission's
antitrust proceedings against Microsoft. Microsoft was forced to
disclose its secret protocols, but refused to make them available under
conditions that would allow their use in GPL-licensed Free Software.
FSFE is glad to see that conversely in this situation antitrust
authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are recognising the power of
copyleft Free Software licenses to preserve competition.

The decisions by the FCO and the DOJ are also an acknowledgement that
regulatory intervention can be necessary to overcome vendor lock-in and
create a level playing field for all market participants. "Patents are
not an excuse to avoid antitrust scrutiny. Today's announcements make
that clear as daylight" says Piana.

In a hearing at the European Court of Justice next month, FSFE will
state its objections to Microsoft's strategy of using patents to limit
competition, as Microsoft is appealing the fine of 899 million Euro
imposed by the Commission.

FSFE will carefully review the actual  decisions as they become
available. "Today's announcements point in a  very interesting
direction. It is a success for the intense work done by  FSFE and
others, such as the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source
Initiative. But the conditions  we've seen are no panacea. The devil
will be in the details," says  Gerloff. Intense monitoring by the
competition authorities will be  required to ensure that the conditions
for the transaction will have the  intended effect.

== Contact ==

  Karsten Gerloff
  President, Free Software Foundation Europe
  Phone: +49 176 9690 4298
  Mail:  gerloff at fsfeurope.org    

== Resources ==
  US DOJ announcement:
  German FCO announcement:
  FSFE statement to German FCO from December 22, 2010
  FSFE response to questions by German FCO from April 6, 2011
  Overview of FSFE's work

== About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit,
  non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
  involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
  participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation
  in the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
  Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
  furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
  modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these
  issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving
  people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are
  central issues of the FSFE.

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