Unlikely cronies Apple, EMC and Oracle are part of the Microsoft-led consortium CPTN Holdings, which acquired 882 Novell patents as part of Attachmate's $2.2 billion acquisition of Novell.

German antitrust body Bundeskartellamt published the names of members on its website on Dec. 9.

The acquisition of Novell patents acquired by Microsoft led CPTN has made the FOSS quarters nervous. The open source community is primarily concerned about the future of UNIX and OpenSUSE. And now with word out that Oracle is part of the consortium is sure to further stoke fears among the open source community, who are already jilted with Oracle over its handling of Sun Microsystems products like Java, OpenOffice, Open Solaris and Hudson project.

Last month's announcement by Novell that UNIX copyrights will remain with Novell came as relief to FOSS community. The primary reason for the concern was because of Microsoft's claims that every user of open source Linux - which is a modular UNIX-like OS - owes it money over the use of its IP related code in Linux. However, Microsoft has not clarified which portions of the Linux code are parts of its IP.

Though the names of the trio who are involved in the deal have been revealed, the actual content of the patents is still under wraps. However, irrespective of the patents involved the report that Apple, EMC and Oracle are hands in glove with Microsoft is enough to raise concerns.

Questions are abuzz as to whether it is a preemptive measure to protect self from patent trolls and competitors, or a bid to exercise intellectual property rights as assets on their balance sheets to generate revenues like patent trolls.

Recently patent collecting company Intellectual Ventures which was started by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, came under limelight for filing patent lawsuits against nine companies which included names like McAfee, Symantec, Hynix and Elpida.

While ambiguity related to the plans of Oracle, EMC, Apple and Microsoft remains, issues like Oracle's handling of open-source assets, Apple's closed-walled approach and Microsoft's business model which is built around licensing that remain at large raising concerns among FOSS.

Or, it could be about Linux about which Microsoft has made its interests clear recently that Linux users owe it money over the use of its IP-related code in Linux. Microsoft had also signed an interoperability deal with Novell for SUSE Linux for mixed Linux and Windows computing. Also in 2006 The Register reported that Microsoft signed the deal with Novell because Linux uses our intellectual property, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had said.

Also, Oracle now has a big stake in Linux with its Sun Microsystems purchase. It will now attempt to keep its field secure. Apple wouldn't support Linux as it competes with Linux for a share of OS market. But it's the EMC connection that leaves the puzzle unsolved.

However, EMC did acquire some assets of SourceLabs, a provider of tolls and services used to support open source software like Linux and Java in January 2009, which left the pundits wondering about EMC's aspirations about open-source.