[NCLUG] The Microsoft vs. Red Penguins Thread

Chad Perrin perrin at apotheon.com
Wed May 16 11:35:08 MDT 2007

On Wed, May 16, 2007 at 11:16:08AM -0600, John L. Bass wrote:
> Just as GPL is based on Copyright protections, open source needs to think
> about similar IP protections and build a software patent library as well.
> In the corporate world, the biggies trade patent licenses to mitigate violations,
> as a currency. The better a patent library you have, the easier it is to
> deal with your competitors patents.
> The more software development there is under open source (free of corporation
> sponsors) the more likely software patents can be successfully filed and
> won. Just need a major open source sponsor to back creating the pool, and
> change the mindset that software patents are all bad, thus avoiding creating
> a protective pool.

That only works as intended if it's accompanied by a patent license,
separate from copyright licenses such as the GPL, that applies somehow
only to open source software.  That would allow for litigation to target
proprietary software vendors while guaranteeing that those using open
source software will never find themselves in the crosshairs of patent
litigation -- since, any time there's a software patent, there's
potential for one of the "good guys" to get sued.

Just as I don't trust IBM to refrain from suing me for violating one of
its patents, even if IBM is hip-deep in open source software these days,
I don't really trust anyone else I don't know personally to refrain from
suing me over a patent unless there's a patent license involved that
provides me with a legal guarantee of protection.  IBM has provided such
statements of license for a few patents in the past, of course, but in
doing so it has not differentiated between open source developers and
developers of proprietary software in such a manner that the patents
could still be used as you suggest -- and I'm not sure it's really a
practical possibility, either, the way patent law works and with the
wide range of open source licenses out there.

I'd love to be wrong about that.

CCD CopyWrite Chad Perrin [ http://ccd.apotheon.org ]
Larry Wall: "A script is what you give the actors.  A program is what you
give the audience."

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