The Open Source Initiative (OSI) Board of Directors announced today that it has taken the unprecedented step of referring the proposed sale of Novell's patents to the CPTN consortium (led by Microsoft and apparently including EMC, Apple and Oracle - unlikely bedfellows) to the German competition authorities. In a statement on the OSI web site, OSI President Michael Tiemann said:
"The fact that Microsoft was leading the takeover of Novell’s patents was itself alarming to the open source community, but when it was revealed that Microsoft had recruited Oracle, Apple, and EMC to be co-owners of the patents, the OSI Board felt compelled to request that competition authorities take a closer look at the proposed transaction. We found that the German Federal Cartel Office was open to receive comments from the public about this transaction during the month of December, and so we drafted and sent a letter (see attached), outlining our concerns and requesting that they investigate this transaction thoroughly."
I'm a member of the OSI Board, who were all involved in the drafting process. This is a significant new step for OSI, who have not previously referred a matter to competition authorities. It reflects the changing emphasis for the organisation, shifting from a role focussed almost exclusively on approving licenses to a more general role representing the interests of the open source movement.
Taking positions on important issues internationally is a valuable counter-balance to the influence of computer industry trade associations, and I hope OSi will keep doing it. That's one of the reasons we're shifting to a representative governance - a process which just progressed to the next step in the volunteer Governance Commitee, and which I hope will be completed before mid-2011.