=== Nortel/Rockstar, Google/Motorola deals create balance of terror on software patents===

[Read Online: http://fsfe.org/news/2012/news-20120214.01.en.html]

On Monday, the US Department of Justice approved the sale of Nortel’s
patent portfolio to a consortium led by Apple and Microsoft. At the same
time, the DOJ and the European Commission allowed Google to buy Motorola
Mobility, thus giving the search company a sizable patent portfolio.

“We appreciate that competition authorities in the US and Europe
continue to take software patents seriously as a risk to competition,”
says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe.
“However, we believe that the commitments made by Google, Microsoft and
Apple regarding their patent licensing policies are not sufficient to
allow everyone to compete on equal terms.”

The terms of those commitments do nothing to ensure that the software
patents in the portfolios in question can be implemented in Free Software.

While Microsoft has said that it will not seek injunctions against
companies using its standard-essential patents, this policy merely
restates the commitments Microsoft has already made to standards
organisations. Microsoft will only license its patents on so-called
“RAND” terms (short for “reasonable and non-discriminatory”). These
typically require the company that implements the patents to pay a
licensing fee per unit.

Despite their name, such conditions are largely incompatible with Free
Software based on Open Standards [1], standards which can be implemented
by anyone in any business or software model. This means that Microsoft
remains free to use its patents to block or harm some of its most
important Free Software competitors, such as the GNU/Linux operating
system and the LibreOffice productivity suite.

“By greenlighting both the Google and Nortel transactions, the DOJ has
merely created a balance of terror where patents are concerned,” says
Gerloff. “Small companies and individual software developers don’t have
the deep pockets required to play the patent litigation game. They will
suffer as a result of this deal, along with the shareholders of Google,
Microsoft and Apple. When elephants dance, the smaller wildlife gets
crushed.”

FSFE submitted a comprehensive statement of concern to the US Department
of Justice in September 2011. [2]

Links:

[1] http://fsfe.org/projects/os/def.html
[2] http://fsfe.org/projects/swpat/nortel.en.html

== Contact: ==

Karsten Gerloff
President of the Free Software Foundation Europe
E-Mail: gerloff AT fsfe DOT org
Phone: +49 176 9690 4298

== 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.

http://fsfe.org/
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