In my previous post on Novell’s answer to Elliott Associates unsolicited offer, I indicated that I’d talk about Novell’s assets that many may not be considering.
For those of you following the (yet another) SCO vs. Novell UNIX copyright trial, the verdict came down in Novell’s favor yesterday (again). Novell’s ownership of the UNIX copyrights is just one asset of many to discuss. A comment to my blog came from Otto: “The big problem, IMHO, is that Novell owns the Unix patents. If Elliott Associates sells those to, let's say, some hyper-aggressive monopoly it could cause the Linux community still more pain.” It’s not just a hyper-aggressive monopoly to be feared, it’s any company looking to make a buck. This brings up the subject of patent trolls.
Elliott Associates would be interested in recouping its investments in Novell, and would sell assets to the top bidder – regardless of who that was. Novell not only owns the UNIX copyrights, but has a number of patents that prove very important in the software industry. It must be noted that with patents, it’s not the number, but the quality of individual patents. It only takes one extremely good patent to inflict a sales halt on a multi-billion dollar product line if that patent were to fall into the wrong hands. There are individuals and organizations that make their business in collecting patents from failed companies and then using those patents to extract royalties from deep pocketed vendors. These are patent trolls.
Novell has key patents in many areas, but most importantly in the areas of directory and identity services, operating system kernels, file services and systems, document management, and collaboration. You can bet that the large software and hardware vendors in the IT market have their legal departments watching closely what is transpiring with Novell. They would all prefer that Novell remain an independent company that they can partner with. Savvy vendors have already struck partnerships with Novell and understand the value and protection it brings to their businesses.
For the sake of the IT industry, let’s hope that Novell stays independent, or is acquired by a friendly vendor.
[Posted by: Richard Jones]