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Perens Dismisses Torvald's Patent Pool 286

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the he-should-start-a-non-profit-asap dept.
ficken writes "Open source activist Bruce Perens has dismissed as inadequate a new IP initiative backed by Linus Torvalds. The Open Source Development Labs' (OSDL) patent commons project is intended to provide patent protection to open source developers. Perens, speaking at LinuxWorld, compared the patent pool to "spitting in the wind" -because the patents it contained come from "the wrong people.""
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Perens Dismisses Torvald's Patent Pool

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  • by Yo Maing (721828) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:30PM (#13312183)
    It's dissapointing to hear this event played up for the media's benefit. I read this article yesterday and while Perens' comments seem out of place, the open source community needs to work together instead of becoming splintered with bad press like this.
    • by KiloByte (825081) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:34PM (#13312203)
      Wrong. Having the community work together doesn't really help here -- IBM cannot use its patents to attack any possible foes due to agreements and mutual assured destruction.
      • by BillyBlaze (746775) <tomfelker@gmail.com> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @04:37PM (#13312902)
        Maybe it's time some large company does launch a patent missile. Frankly I'd prefer a patent winter to what we have now. All the fallout might convince Joe Public to oppose software patents.
        • I agree with this. All those "patents for the open-source movement" look like a way to reduce the strain so that there will never be a major crisis forcing the system to change drastically.

          In Europe especially, instead of playing that insane game of the US-patent system, it is time to use our rights [european-p...office.org] and implement algorithms for which the EPO granted illegal patents.

          Freedom gets worn-out when you don't use it.

          Cheers!

          --
          FF

    • by Qzukk (229616)
      Perens is right though. The idea is a good one, but what's needed isn't patents from IBM and Sun, but patents from regular human beings who have never signed an agreement with Microsoft that would keep the patents from being usable in a lawsuit.
      • Actually they're both wrong.

        Let's face Linus may be a great project manager (although that's dubious: I'd expect a pm to be a bit more of a diplomat and have a lot less ego) but he's clueless when it comes to the basis of FS/OS: look at the Bitkeeper debacle: a tool he mandated blew up in exactly the way fs advocates would predict. And now he's promoting a patent pool on the same basis which is: if you can't beat them join them.

        If I want to hear an informed opinion about OS/FS issues Linus is pretty muc

        • "look at the Bitkeeper debacle: a tool he mandated blew up in exactly the way fs advocates would predict. "

          Because of those FS advocates. It's no different if a friend (and I use the term loosely) tells you not to buy a new Ford Mustang, and then steals it when you do. That's what we call fucked up.

          "And now he's promoting a patent pool on the same basis which is: if you can't beat them join them. "

          Which works. Face it, with MAD agreements with half the software companies out there, patent litigation is some
          • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @03:54PM (#13312743)
            Because of those FS advocates. It's no different if a friend (and I use the term loosely) tells you not to buy a new Ford Mustang, and then steals it when you do. That's what we call fucked up.

            Your analogy and attribution of blame are both nonsensical. The FS advocates claimed that granting a single individual whole and absolute control over revision control system was foolish. The individual in question, Larry, did prove them right by going off and demanding that 3rd parties cease and desist doing what was not only perfectly within their rights but what is the cornerstone of the whole FS movement: providing compatibility based on reverse-engineering of protocols.

            To come back to your "analogy", it would be as if a friend advised you not to use a Larry's Specially Converted Ford Mustang which runs only on Larry Gas (tm). Following which some unrelated party attempted to produce a compatible version of Larry Gas to which Larry reacted by coming over and smashing the Mustang to pieces.

          • "look at the Bitkeeper debacle: a tool he mandated blew up in exactly the way fs advocates would predict. "

            Because of those FS advocates. It's no different if a friend (and I use the term loosely) tells you not to buy a new Ford Mustang, and then steals it when you do. That's what we call fucked up.

            Hey - wait a moment !

            If closed-source vendors want to play nice then this should be mutual and, in particular, I expect to see no clauses in EULA that prohibit me from writing any kind of software I choos

          • See, the thing is, Mutually Assured Destruction is a very non-optimial solution. It has worked in the nuclear arms race, (provided only sane governments get the bomb, a big if), but much better would be simply not having nuclear weapons. It's not possible to get all countries to stop building nukes, forget how, and destroy the ones they have. It is, however, possible to put an end to software patents. (Or in the short term, to keep them from proliferating.)
            • Why is it not possible in the case of nukes, but possible in the case of software patents? You say it's possible to put an end to software patents, why don't you tell us how that is possible.
          • Because of those FS advocates. It's no different if a friend (and I use the term loosely) tells you not to buy a new Ford Mustang, and then steals it when you do. That's what we call fucked up.

            No. Bitkeeper was a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode. Sooner or later, it would have come right back to bite everyone in the ass.

            The situation is analagous to Linus accepting a booby trapped Ford Mustang, gratis from McVoy, and then getting irritated when Tridgell safely detonates the device while he's in the sto
        • FWIW Groklaw had some commentary on this a few days ago.

          http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200508092 21240129 [groklaw.net]
        • I'm not sure why people can't accept Linus Torvalds as a great systems coder, or even a man who was in the right place at the right time and did the right thing.

          I guess some primitive drive for leaders and heros causes us to put Linus upon a pedestal and burn TechNet mailings in homage.

          It probably drives him crazy.
    • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:50PM (#13312518) Homepage

      I agree.

      Perens is simply keeping his name in the press.

      While some of his remarks may be partially correct - namely, that it's not terribly useful to have a patent portfolio built from people who already support OSS - his primary mission here is simply to denigrate some useful work.

      Where are his solutions to the problem? I see lots of criticism and no ideas from him.

      Eben Moglen, at LinuxWorld this past week, outlined a program involving not merely the Patent Commons Project, but attempts to change patent laws and to actually reverse patents that are of particular threat to OSS.

      Perens concentrates only on the Patent Commons Project, and ignores the rest. This proves his only motive is to start a flame war.

      Nothing like handing Microsoft some talking points, Bruce. Way to go.
      • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @07:27PM (#13313598) Homepage Journal
        I support Eben's efforts to change patent law. Daniel Ravicher has been successful at reversing a Microsoft patent, and we need to do a lot more of those. I don't support the pool at this time because I feel it can actually hurt the overall effort. Note that I am not alone in this, Florian of NoSoftwarePatents.org, an organization that has been incredibly effective in saving our butts in Europe, said the same thing.

        When OSDL has an effective patent pool, they will show us how it can be effective. Until then, I believe that belief in the pool only diverts people from solving the problem.

        Bruce

        • When OSDL has an effective patent pool, they will show us how it can be effective. Until then, I believe that belief in the pool only diverts people from solving the problem.

          Bruce


          Ok, I'll buy that Bruce, but can you or someone privy to the info tell us frogs, if for example, the 500 patents IBM donated have in fact been transferred to the full ownership of the EFF?

          If that was the case, and I highly doubt it, the the EFF & Eban would be relatively free to take any detected violations to court, with a dec
          • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @09:23PM (#13313990) Homepage Journal
            if for example, the 500 patents IBM donated have in fact been transferred to the full ownership of the EFF?

            What we had from IBM was a covenant not to sue, not any sort of transfer. It was not useful for defensive purposes. And Stu's remarks in Business Week led me to believe that the 3000 patents were all that sort of covenant. I asked him to clear this up in email. He did not put anthing concrete in writing and offered to talk with me on the phone. That probably won't happen until late this week.

            I surmise that there is no strength to the pool at this time.

            Thanks

            Bruce

            • I was afraid of that Bruce. So the EFF has in fact, no standing in regards to defending these patents. Unforch, if anything concrete is developed in the next month, I probably won't hear about it as I'll be netless during that time, working on location in upstate MI. Its kind of nice that they think an old (70) fart like me can walk on water when it comes to fixing tv related stuff, in this case a dual Harris 50kw transmitter that got zapped by lightning a couple of weeks back. I get a nice take home th
  • by skynare (777361) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:30PM (#13312189) Journal
    I'm not a prograwyer...
  • by rob_squared (821479) <rob.rob-squared@com> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:32PM (#13312196)
    ...submit stories that read as flamebait on slashdot.

    (since I've been modded in all sorts of directions today, this is an observation, not a troll, flamebait, or anything else negative)
    • ...submit stories that read as flamebait on slashdot.

      Flamebait is also known as the catalyst to heated debate. And while there is a difference between something being said just to stir up the bee hive and constructive pondering and comments, I think its important that people don't automatically dismiss a subject with "strong" proponents and opponents as flamebait.
    • Might take bravery, but it doesn't take much intelligence to quote the first two paragraphs of a story from The Register word for word!
  • by cc-rider-Texas (877967) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:37PM (#13312215) Homepage
    He noted open source infringes on "tens of thousands" of patents granted in the US and that companies taken to court over these would "lose some of the cases."

    I sure wish he would have given some examples of these "tens of thousands" because IMHO that is just a thrown out figure aka FUD.
    • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:02PM (#13312321) Homepage
      A patent only gives you the legal right to sue somebody. It doesn't give you the resources to succeed in your suit. Nor does bringing suit prevent the plaintiff from implementing a work-around for the patent. Look at what Keith Packard did with his font renderer. It avoids Apple's TrueType patent by rendering the font in a non-infringing manner.

      Patent infringement isn't a serious problem for open source projects. It might be a problem for open source companies, but that's their problem.
      -russ
    • At a talk RMS held in Germany a year ago or so, he mentioned that a *friend* of his had gone through the Linux source in an attempt to find possible patent infringements. RMS mentioned his friend found thousands, so regardless of Perens being a d*ck or not, there might be some substance to the claim.
  • ...advocated by enviromentalists and peace activists to defend their position. Perens is right, that the means are wrong although i do not agree with his numbers.

    Open source advocates should lobby for no software patents, because by using the "enemy's" weapon it validates it. Do not give credibility to patents, lobby against them.
    • Using the "enemy's weapon" does not always invalidate a defense. After all no-one is hurt by the use of the enemies weapons in the GPL, maybe with the exceptions of those whose power of abuse is limited by the existance of the GPL.
    • They should horde up as many "duh" and stupid patents that as possible, just to show how stupid the idea of software patents is, in my opinion.
    • If I may, I will abuse your analogy a little.

      If you are a country, and a potentially hostile country gets nukes, then it makes sense for you to have them too - it means that attacking you with nukes is a bad idea. Of course, another good choice is to enter an organisation such as Nato or the Warsaw Pact, where nuclear-capable nations agree to launch nuclear retaliation against anyone who starts a nuke-fight with any of them. Now, imagine that there is another player in this game, one who lives in an orbi

      • I've wondered if business method patents couldn't be used against some of these IP-only firms. Since there are thousands of trite business method patents to go along with all of the trite software patents, surely some of these could be stretched to apply to any business. Even a so-called business like a IP troll firm should be vulnerable to some of these.
    • You have a nice sounding analogy there but i think you made the wrong correlation. This would be more akin to stealing the enemy's weapon stock pile or designs and destroying them. rendering them powerless. also, there is no reason to assume that by taking patents you are condoning them. Condoning them would require holding them over someone to prevent them from doing their work, or, gettng paid for it. However, I believe the idea here is just to protect those who WANT to give their work away for free.
    • Open source advocates should lobby for no software patents, because by using the "enemy's" weapon it validates it. Do not give credibility to patents, lobby against them.

      Idealists don't win wars. MS is taking a war to linux, and as a linux user, I'd like Linux to stick around as a strong, viable OS. I don't really give a shit about the software patent movement - I think it has little chance in the US - and I don't really see a reason to weaken Linux's position and legal strength to satisfy idealists of


    • OSDL and the other OSS organizations intend to lobby to change patent law. And they intend to actively reverse patents that threaten OSS.

      So what's your point?

      Eben Moglen laid out a program at LinuxWorld this past week. Perens has laid into ONE aspect of the program - the Patent Commons Project - and ignored the rest - presumably just to start a flame war.

      I agree that ALL so-called "intellectual property" should have absolutely NO legal protection. But in the real world, this isn't going to happen. So OSS ne
  • by tsm_sf (545316) * on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:50PM (#13312273) Journal
    Obviously should have read "Perens poo-poos penguin patent pool".
  • by Quirk (36086) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:53PM (#13312287) Homepage Journal
    The Reg has a pertinent piece on the venerable insurance company Lloyd's [theregister.co.uk] being close offering..."independent insurance protection worldwide against potential IP litigation involving Linux and open source software".
  • If there is a patent war, this will assure the dominance of China, India, Brazil, and Eastern Europe in both open source and software innovation in general.

    A cynical part of me almost wants to see the West shoot itself in the foot with patents, but then I remind myself, "Oh wait, I live in the West."
    • Maybe you are a bit late, but didnt you notice that "eastern europe" has become "the NEW europe" and is whoring itself to the usa like no tomorrow?
      • whoring my ass. If you didn't notice - Putin has decided to keep the oil reserves Russia has secret.

        There is an energy war happening right now. While hopefully energy issues will not be linked to patent and OSS issues - the idea that Eastern Europe wants to hitch its wagon the the faltering USA economy and legal mess is very unlikely. Quite the opposite.

        The US can do whatever it wants to and the rest of the world will put its feet up - grab a beer and vie for the popcorn stand.
  • by Roland Walter Dutton (24395) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:08PM (#13312349)
    Oh Ghod, here we go again. Since the submitter hasn't given a remotely useful summary of what Bruce Perens' actual problem with the patent pool is, I will explain it here for those of you who won't RTFA.

    THE ARGUMENT ---

    There are two main types of possible patent agression: 1) from patent trolls and 2) from big companies with lots of software as well as lots of software patents. Let's see how our new patent pool does against each of them.

    Case 1:

    PATENT TROLL: Your software violates my patent on the letter 'g'. Pay me $40,000,000 to go away.

    LINUS: Your software violates several thousand patents in *our* patent arsenal.

    PATENT TROLL: I don't own any software; all I have is this portfolio of groundbreaking, original patents. Pony up.

    Now *nobody's* patent pool is useful in case 1 (unless it just happens to contain prior art on the troll's patent). Patent pools are generally for use in case 2.

    Case 2:

    MICROSOFT: Your software violates 42,000 of our finest patents. Go to jail.

    LINUS: Your software violates several thousand patents in *our* patent arsenal.

    MICROSOFT: Oh, that's too bad. Would those be the patents loaned to you by other major software companies? The same major software companies who have given us an unlimited, perpetual license to use all their software patents in exchange for a similar license from us? Yes? Gosh, now I'm scared.

    So if the Linux patent pool is no use in case 1, and no use in case 2, it's no use at all, correct?

    THE POINT ---

    Now I don't really know how correct Bruce Perens' position is, although on the face of it it does seem highly reasonable. What I do know is that whether you think Bruce Perens suX0r, or whether he founds too many nonprofits, or whether or not he could defeat the fscking Green Lantern, is *completely* *irrelevant* to the actual question, which is really pretty damned important. So: can we talk about the *actual* *issue* now, and not whether we like Bruce Perens?
    • I'm not familiar with Linus' proposal (or existing tool?) but thank you for the explanation of Perens' position. I am extremely familiar with both programming and the patent system.

      Your summary seems extremely plausible. Having an arsenal of patent leverage could easily be useless leverage in the scenarios you describe.

      I think that first and foremost is fulfilling the need in the software world for a patent liability analysis/consulting industry. The patent system is widely misunderstood by the average

      • I think that first and foremost is fulfilling the need in the software world for a patent liability analysis/consulting industry.

        No, that's just pandering to the lawyers. What's really needed is to convince the government that it should reform the patent system. It shouldn't be possible for anyone to be granted patents for some of the crap that the USPTO recently granted, and it should be easier for patents to be challenged and revoked.

        Unfortunately, that would require a degree of maturity that big bus

        • Perhaps the easiest patent reform would be to disallow corporate ownership of patents.

          Yeah, maybe. That suggestion is just a shade less radical than dismantling the entire system. You go ahead and promote that idea, I'll continue to suggest identifying your patent liability before you're sued, and we'll see who comes out ahead.

          Slashdot IS the Fox News of the patent system. All the ranting and raving about how stupid the system is will get nothing done. Nobody who gets sued out of business will be in

      • See, the big problem with that is that we really don't want to turn the IT industry into the medical industry, where some huge fraction of your wages has to go to malpractice or patent infringement insurance, and where innovation is difficult because of the legal risks involved.
        • See, the big problem with that is that we really don't want to turn the IT industry into the medical industry, where some huge fraction of your wages has to go to malpractice or patent infringement insurance, and where innovation is difficult because of the legal risks involved.

          And if this were 1995 before Diamond v. Diehr, I'd say you are very insightful.

          But since this is 2005, my response is that you're roughly 10 years behind the hard facts of the industry. If you refuse to compete in the reality of

    • He's right that it would be far better to somehow magically remove software patents. Nobody is arguing with that. Unfortunatly, Perens is advocating a course of action that has been underway for ten years or more and has gotten exactly nowhere.

      The reality is that the U.S. will not get rid of software patents. Even if we are able to prevent more software patents from being issued, there are still the existing patents which need to be dealt with(*).

      As usual, Linus has created contovesy by suggesting we tra
      • A corporate-funded legislator might back voting up on a bill which would discontinue issuing any new software patents and preclude any term extensions on extant software patents. In other words, the aim of the bill would be to let the current software patents expire. The mega-corporations investments in these patents would not be adversely affected and then we could get on with the job of competing without this particular problem. This approach would not pay off for 20 years, but that's considerably bett
      • As usual, Linus has created contovesy by suggesting we trade ideological purity for practical matters. While it's not exactly consistant to rail against patents and hold them yourself, it's a plan that at least hasn't been tried yet.

        Not so fast. Eben Moglen (basically the FSF's head legal guy) is one of the people extolling the patent pool in the original press release [prnewswire.com]. And the whole idea of using software patents against software patents is classic FSF tactics, like the GPL "judo throw" of using "copyle

        • the FSF have been quietly mentioning that the new version of the GPL will contain anti-software-patent language.

          The present GPL has it. The only increase in anti-software-patent language I can think of would be the addition of a mutual-defense clause.

          Bruce

      • I'd be happy with a trade of ideological purity for practical matters if the trade showed some prospect of working. So far, this doesn't. OSDL's controlling members (the big ones with board seats) for the most part are cross-licensed with MS. They are also some of the world's biggest software patent holders, and a solution to the problem isn't in their interest.

        Thanks

        Bruce

    • by lma (109377)
      Case 1 is always a problem, and no one expects a patent pool to solve it. The argument here reads a bit like this to me: "Your solution to problem A doesn't solve problem B, therefore your solution is bad." Huh?

      Case 2 is solvable by a patent pool. The argument made here that a patent pool is ineffective depends on the fallacy that patents in that pool have already been licensed to a potential aggressor through some other means. Again, I think that everyone recognizes that to be effective, the pool mus

      • Case 1 is always a problem, and no one expects a patent pool to solve it. The argument here reads a bit like this to me: "Your solution to problem A doesn't solve problem B, therefore your solution is bad." Huh?

        No, no. I was just laying out what the patent threats are and what a strong patent pool does and doesn't do. As you say, no-one expects a patent pool to be much use against threat 1. I wasn't attempting to score a point here; the humour wasn't directed at anyone (except perhaps the /. ad hominem f

      • Larry,

        A pool operated by OSDL may simply be ineffective because OSDL's controlling members, the big ones who have board positions, for the most part already have cross-licenses with Microsoft.

        There is also the fact that OSDL's controlling members are some of the world's largest software patent holders, and a real solution to the problem simply isn't in their interest. When we fight against the embedding of software patents in standards, we are generally fighting IBM. This has been true at W3C, OASIS, and

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @07:42PM (#13313640) Homepage Journal
      Folks,

      My office phone number is 510-526-1165 and it rings in my home too. I leave it off the hook when my family is asleep, so you don't run the risk of bothering us. If you feel I'm doing the wrong thing, call me and discuss it. I may convince you otherwise.

      Bruce

      • I get your argument Bruce however I don't think I agree with you that the purpose of the patent protection is to use it in defense of the "evil" companies. The main advantage in my opinion is for the programmers who see a patent that they infringed on. If it's owned by IBM, widely seen as a friend of open source, then even so you wouldn't really be sure you're not pissing them off by using it. IBM might want some patents be free to use by open source developers but they might also want to keep some for t
      • There seems to be a fair amount of character assassination attempts on slashdot, and you seem to be one of the victims.
            I hope that slashdotters will read your post here and realize your commitment to rational debate and perhaps take you more seriously.
    • I'd add to your analysis that OSDL's controlling members - the folks who pay the most and get board seats - have agreements with MS.

      Regarding Rob's snotty remark about the non-profits I've created, most are successful, so I don't see his point:

      • No-Code International - helped eliminate Morse code tests for ham radio licensing in 25 nations so far, got the ITU treaty fixed.
      • Software in the Public Interest - managing Debian's assets and those of a number of other projects. Recently awarded $6000/year grant an
  • News for Nerds... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Whafro (193881) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:09PM (#13312352) Homepage
    That doesn't mean that it's okay to forget how to assign possession to words. Please, editors and posters, realize that his name is Torvalds, and when he owns a pen, it's "Linus Torvalds' pen."

    Word choice, grammar, and punctuation matter. If you're one of those people saying "I'm a nerd, I don't have to know how to write" then please, spare the rest of us, and don't submit stories to major "news" sites.

    Editors who don't catch these things are simply pathetic, and it's inexcusable.

    That is, unless we're talking about someone else named Torvald, in which case I move to strike my previous comments.
    • Re:News for Nerds... (Score:2, Informative)

      by The Axe (93018)
      Actually, I believe it would be "Linus Torvalds's pen."

      You put an apostrophe followed by an s to indicate ownership for singular nouns, even if the noun already ends with an s. With plural nouns, you omit the s after the apostrophe.

      Singular example: The class's discussion lasted an hour.
      • There's contention as to this rule, and while you're not completely wrong, many would say that you're not completely right, either.

        Most people go with what sounds right vs. what sounds awkward:

        "The Jones's House" (said "The Joneses House")
        "In Jesus' Name" (said "In Jesus Name")

        In this case, I'd posit that Torvalds falls into the latter case, and therefore would be Torvalds'
    • Re:News for Nerds... (Score:2, Informative)

      by soma_0806 (893202)

      I consider this pretty pointless and anal in general, but if you're going to be critical, you must also be correct.

      While it is true that the possessive in the title is incorrect, according to MLA formatting as well as Strunk's Elements of Style, which is pretty much the authority on such matters, your suggestion is acceptable, but more correct is to add an apostrophe s. ex. Torvalds's. It's actually rule number one in Strunk's Elementary Rules of Usage.

      Aside from all that clap-trap, I notice gramatic

  • A solid plan? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GenKreton (884088)
    Perens seems to fail at laying out a solid plan or alternative to the open source patent portfolio Torvalds and others are trying to accrue. While criticism is good, without proposed solutions it is only negative.

    With that said nobody claimed this open-source patent portfolio they are developing would be the be-all end-all solution to patent problems but it is a step in the right direction. Sometimes you need many lines of defense. Lobbying our political leaders costs more money than most FLOSS supporter
  • A few points (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HiThere (15173) * <`charleshixsn' `at' `earthlink.net'> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:21PM (#13312398)
    1) The patent system is unjust, broken, and appearently intentionally so.
    2) Software patents are a bad idea
    3) Patents are expensive to get and expensive to assert...but not as expensive as having to defend against
    4) Even if a patent you hold in your pool can't be used to counterattack, it still can't be used against you.
    5) Things start small. The current roster of patents donated may have all of the faults that Perens cites, but that doesn't mean that the ones that follow will.
    6) You got a better idea? Go to it. I'm not stopping you.

    Perens is right that this isn't a cure all. It's not the defense we want. This doesn't mean it's totally worthless.
    • Re:A few points (Score:2, Informative)

      by prof_tc (774589)
      I agree that it's not what we want, but it is a stopgap. While the patent system is screwed up, its all we have to work with until we get people to see the truth.

      Until they do, we have to defend ourselves with the weapons we have.

  • He can make anything sound like the end of the world, can't he?

    The patent pool is a START. Having "big names" contribute to it strengthens the
    pool's credibility. In a couple years the pool may be very very useful and
    contain patents from the RIGHT people.

    Even Microsoft relies on Open Source sometimes. There is no reason why they
    wouldn't or couldn't contribute; for instance they may have a bunch of patents
    they might want to let people use in order to increase interoperability with
    Windows (as this is, ironical
  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:50PM (#13312511)
    Patents as used today are tools of intimidation.


    All a patent (or a library of them) buys you is pretext to go to court. I think the term is "standing".

    After you get onto the battlefield, you still need to actually defeat your opponent. In civil court in the US, this is accomplished with money and popular appeal.


    While it's possible for the free software movement to appeal to the public as David to [whoever]'s Goliath, technical people don't do a good job of selling ourselves. Maybe it's our natural distaste for sophistry and our intellectual arrogance. My point in this paragraph is to dismiss the court of public opinion. Even if David wins here, Goliath has to give a crap about their image in that particular instance. And Goliath will be back.


    Which leads to the real issue. Money. David's got a couple dozen patents and a few grand (hell, give him a couple hundred grand). Goliath has hundreds of times the resources in both arenas. So David wins a battle or two. Goliath wins by sheer attrition.


    The solution here is for David to bind his interests to the interests of a powerful party. Convince business and government that:

    --The continued existance free (as in beer) software,

    --drastic changes (back to reasonable limits) to the patent process,

    --and the development and business models promoted by the GPL, LGPL, BSD-license, (pick your favorite)

    benefit them in a direct, immediate, and measurable manner, and you have a battle you can win.


    Co-opt the resources of your opponent. Better still, convince your opponent that you are his friend and he needs you in order to achieve his goals.


    Folks, we (the OSS community, developers, testers, users) need to realize we're doing a terrible job of selling ourselves. Take a lesson from our favorite whipping-boy. Get governments, schools, businesses dependent on open source software. Dependent on the fact that it is free and open-source software, not just on a particular app. Hell, convince Microsoft that linux is not competition, but a resource they can benefit from only as long as it's free. Why not?


  • Obfuscation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foonf (447461) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:52PM (#13312526) Homepage
    It sounds like Perens is attacking this proposal for not doing something which it never claimed to do. If Microsoft or some other anti-OSS software company wants to use their patent portfolio against open source projects, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it except perhaps get the patent invalidated, if there is a case for doing so. What it sounds like this was intended to do, and seemingly does do, is present patented technologies that open source projects unambiguously CAN use without fear of retribution.

    So what does Perens want? The only way to securely eliminate the threat of Microsoft, etc. using patents agressively against open source would be to eliminate patents altogether, at least on software and anything related to software. That might be a reasonable position that deserves consideration, but if that is what he is advocating he should say so openly so that it can be reasonably debated, rather than making insinuations like this.
    • If Microsoft or some other anti-OSS software company wants to use their patent portfolio against open source projects, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it except perhaps get the patent invalidated, if there is a case for doing so. What it sounds like this was intended to do, and seemingly does do, is present patented technologies that open source projects unambiguously CAN use without fear of retribution.

      No. What you do to protect yourself against software patent lawsuits from a software c

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @02:55PM (#13312542)
    Unless "ficken" is "Gavin Clarke in San Francisco", a writer for The Register, "ficken" didn't write it at all. He just copied and pasted it verbatim from the article without providing attribution.

    Article submitters need to give proper attribution when they quote another article, and /.'s editors really need to make sure that the articles they approve provide that attribution when the submission does nothing more than quote another article verbatim. You editors do read the linked pages before you approve the articles, right?

  • Just ASK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UnrefinedLayman (185512) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @04:03PM (#13312781)
    The guy posts here on slashdot all the time; instead of infighting so much, why doesn't someone just ask him to clarify the details of an article written in a newspaper [theregister.co.uk] that's barely above being a tabloid?

    Anyone that reads too deeply into "news" snippets like these which happen to always be adversarial and use creative verbs like "slams" and "rails against" needs to have his head examined. The Register is the UK tech equivalent of E! [eonline.com] television.
  • Who will Linus use them to sue first?
  • software is honestly patentable,

    Its NOT, I've commented on this enough recently, just look at my previous posts...

    In short, those who support software patents inherently support fraud and public deception.

    And I don't give a shit who does. They are wrong.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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