I've said it before and I'll say it again: Software patents are evil. They allow the work of innovators to be ambushed and raise the cost of technology innovation. But finding a viable solution to the software patent mess isn't easy.
Software patents have been an agent of change in open source over the last decade, as I explained in my keynote at the 8th International Conference on Open Source Systems this week. Most notably, the astonishing proliferation of software patents has forced technology companies to spend a lot of time and energy assembling defensive portfolios.
Recent news that Microsoft and Barnes & Noble agreed to partner on the Nook e-reader line rather than keep fighting over intellectual property suggests the prospect of more settlement and fewer IP suits in the industry. However, the deal further obscures the blurry IP and patent landscape currently impacting both enterprise IT and consumer technology.
It is good to see settlement — something I’ve been calling for, while also warning against patent and IP aggression. However, this settlment comes from the one conflict in this ongoing war that was actually shedding some light on the matter, rather than further complicating it.
See the full article at TechNewsWorld.
The open source community should feel a little safer from software patent attacks today. The Open Invention Network (OIN), a consortium of Linux contributors formed as a self-defense against software patents, has extended the definition of Linux so that a whopping 700 new software packages are covered, including many developer favorites.
Just one hitch: The new definition also includes carve-outs that put all Linux developers on notice that Phillips and Sony reserve the right to sue over virtualization, search, user interfaces, and more.
Friday night, I tweeted a link to a Guardian article stating that app developers were withdrawing apps from Apple's app store and Google's Android market (and presumably also Amazon's app store), because they feared becoming victims of a patent trolling lawsuit. That tweet elicited some interesting responses that I'd like to discuss.
The insurance solution?
One option might be to rely on the insurance industry to solve the problem. "Isn't this what insurance is supposed to be for? Couldn't all these developers set up a fund for their common defense?" wrote @qckbrnfx. An interesting idea, and one I've considered. But that's a cure that seems worse than the disease. First, it's not likely to be a cure. How many insurance companies actually defend their …[Read more]
from the Peer to Patent initiative shows
that the project is having salutary effects on the patent system.
Besides the greater openness that Peer to Patent promotes in
evaluating individual patent applications, it is creating a new
transparency and understanding of the functioning of the patent system
as a whole. I'll give some background to help readers understand the
significance of Manny Schecter's newsletter item, which concerns prior
art that exists outside of patents. I'll add my own comments about
Let's remind ourselves of the basic rule of patenting: no one
get a patent for something that was done before by someone else. Even
One might have thought Microsoft was back rattling the patented software sabres against Linux and open source this week, reading some of the recent reports regarding Redmond’s patent infringement suit against automotive navigation and GPS player TomTom. However, upon further review, it seems that Microsoft is making a point to say that these suits are not aimed at the Linux OS or open source. In response to my own query, the company offered this:
First, to answer your earlier question on how the suit with TomTom involves the Linux Operating System, three of the infringed patents read on the Linux kernel as implemented by TomTom. However, open source software is not the focal point of this action. …[Read more]