Open source advocates are breathing a sigh of relief this afternoon — and that’s not because the iPhone has reched Verizon, but because a Microsoft-led, Apple-supported consortium has withdrawn from attempts to buy a host of Novell patents.

Early in December Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle notified the German regulator that they planned to form CPTN Holdings with a view to purchasing 882 of Novell’s patents. It has now been revealed this filing was withdrawn at the end of that month.

Meanwhile open-source advocates have been writing letters in protest at any such move, voicing their alarm that “patents with claims on some elements of open-source software could fall into the hands of companies that compete with that open-source software,” a report informs.

Naturally, they look back at Microsoft’s somewhat patchy competitive record: “Microsoft has used patent lawsuits to stifle competition from Free Software (e.g. TomTom), and has long used unsubstantiated patent claims for a continued campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt against Free Software,” said Karsten Gerloff, FSFE president.

Microsoft has issued no comment on this, though it is thought Novell’s $450 million patent portfolio remains for sale.

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