Novell and Nortel Patent Sales Boost Linux Group Membership

Open Invention Network expands its membership base as large patent sales potentially raises the risks for Linux.

The Open Invention Network (OIN) got its start in 2005 as an organization tasked with creating a patent commons to help Linux.

Over the years it has grown, and in the second quarter of 2011, the organization added 35 new member companies. That number is down from the 70 new members that the OIN added in the first quarter of the year.

As to why growth was faster in the first quarter, the reason has to do with an event that caused many organizations to consider their patent positions.

"The first quarter was somewhat extraordinary as there was the hangover from the Department of Justice's investigation of the Novell patent sale," Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network told

As part of the $2.2 billion dollar acquisition of Novell by Attachmate, Novell held a separate sale for 882 OF its patents. The Novell patents were acquired by a group called CPTN Holdings for $450 million. CPTN Holdings includes Microsoft, EMC, Oracle and Apple among other stakeholders.

"There was concern around Microsoft and Apple's potential acquisition of patents that could be relevant to their offensive licensing strategies," Bergelt said.

According to Bergelt, at this point it is still unclear as to where the former Novell patents will land within the CPTN member companies.

"There was a draw where members of the CPTN group set a date sometime in June where they drew cards, much like Fantasy Football, to draft patents," Bergelt said. "That process yielded some patents for Apple, Oracle, EMC and Microsoft but it's unclear who owns what."

Moving forward into the third quarter of the year, Bergelt expect another uptick in OIN membership as the sale of Nortel's patents kicks in. The bankrupt telecommunications giant sold its patent portfolio to a consortium of vendors including Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion and Sony for $4.5 billion in July.

"We've been purchasing patents before since before Android was even announced that are supportive of the mobile Linux space," Bergelt said. "We're trying to support all platforms that support Linux."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Linux, Novell, Nortel, Open Invention Network

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