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Tridgell Recommends Reading Software Patents 173

Posted by timothy
from the you-may-read-the-article dept.
H4x0r Jim Duggan writes "Andrew Tridgell rejected the common fears about triple damages: 'If you've got one lot of damages for patent infringement, what would happen to the project? It's dead. If it gets three lots of damages for patent infringement, what happens to the project? It's still dead.' Tridge then explains the right way to read a patent and build a legal defense: 'That first type of defence is really the one you want, it's called: non-infringement. And that is: "we don't do that. The patent says X, we don't do X, therefore go away, sue someone else, it's not relevant for us." That's the defence you want. [...] Next one, prior art: [...] Basically the argument is: somebody else did that before. It's a very, very tricky argument to get right. Extremely tricky, and it is the most common argument bandied about in the free software community. And if you see it in the primary defence against a patent, you should cringe because it is an extremely unsafe way of doing things.' There are even some tips in the talk specifically for Slashdotters."
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Tridgell Recommends Reading Software Patents

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  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @01:39AM (#31594598) Homepage

    In the same way that there is always a bigger fish.

    And what you have to fear are overly broad patents and patent trolls.

    Many patents are there not for suing the ass off the competition but to protect yourself from getting attacked.

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:04AM (#31594690)

      Many patents are there not for suing the ass off the competition but to protect yourself from getting attacked.

      Which only became a problem with the invention of patents in the first place and keeps getting worse.

      http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/againstnew.htm [ucla.edu]

    • by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:06AM (#31594696)

      Many patents are there not for suing the ass off the competition but to protect yourself from getting attacked.

      And since free software competing with yours is definitely an attack, why not attack? The very idea of patents, after all, is to encourage people to share their inventions by protecting them from competition in turn. That failed miserably, but can't be helped anymore, there's too many financial interests milking the current system for all its worth.

      Anyway, the real defence is moving to a (software patent) free country.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:34AM (#31594786) Journal

        And since free software competing with yours is definitely an attack, why not attack?

        He answers that in the article, he says we need to make the OSS community the hardest, meanest thing possible to attack with a patent, and he explains a way to do it:

        Every time an open source project gets sued, we need to find a workaround for the patent, and publicize it loudly, so anyone can use that workaround. The great thing is, after that, the suer would no longer be able to collect royalties from anyone for that patent, because they will just use the workaround. Suing the open source community will be equivalent to losing all potential revenue from your patent. No one will want to do it.

        • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:58AM (#31594874) Journal

          Every time an open source project gets sued, we need to find a workaround for the patent, and publicize it loudly, so anyone can use that workaround. The great thing is, after that, the suer would no longer be able to collect royalties from anyone for that patent, because they will just use the workaround.

          Yeah, because that worked out so nice and easy with PNG vs GIF, didn't it?

        • That's a workable solution to proprietary resources under active copyright, since copyright protects the expression of the idea, not the idea itself.

          Patents are more problematic because they have become so broad in their scope can not only cover a specific method for implementation of an idea, but the idea itself. In such cases, even a clean-room reverse-engineered re-implementation of the idea may still be vulnerable.

          • Based on the fact that you don't seem to understand the issue, I am going to suggest that you didn't actually read the article. It is a workable solution for many patents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Improv (2467)

      It would be great then to come to an understanding with companies regarding patents that if they ever attempt to enforce (or transfer their patent to another to enforce) a single patent, we will take notice and consider them hostile to our interests. Defensive patents, sure, we can live with that.

      I think some earlier drafts of the GPL3 attempted to have this kind of reasoning - I think those clauses were removed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @01:43AM (#31594614)

    When I'm writing code, I don't have to worry about patent infringement, because the stuff isn't patentable. That way I can write code just like you write anything else; without looking over your shoulder.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by aussie_a (778472)

      Here's an idea. When I'm trying to feed my family, I don't have to worry about money because the stuff can't be owned.

      As nice as the world might be if food was free and software had no patents, that isn't the world we live in. And no amount of wishful thinking on slashdot is going to change it. If you want to get rid of software patents, start saving up to buy a politician. Or find one that can't be bought. But I'd say option 1 is more realistic.

      • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:18AM (#31594740) Homepage Journal

        In the meantime, we can keep spreading the ideas of IP abolitionism, encouraging people to ignore it when they can get away with it and to push for legal change. A movement is important when fighting such established interests - buying or convincing one politician won't really do (and isn't really doable on this issue)

        • For every problem, there is at least one solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

          And that, my friend, is the perfect answer to your suggestion.

      • by Cochonou (576531) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:45AM (#31594830) Homepage
        There are countries in which there are no software patents [google.fr]. But the copyright law still applies.
      • by renoX (11677) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:38AM (#31594910)

        > As nice as the world might be if food was free and software had no patents, that isn't the world we live in.

        Remember that software patents are basically non-existant in Europe..
        Growing food is labor intensive, so it cannot be truly free(*), software patents are only a self-inflicted wound.

        *: unless you can convince people to give their work for free, _someone_ has to pay for the tools and the labor used to grow food.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jimicus (737525)

          > As nice as the world might be if food was free and software had no patents, that isn't the world we live in.

          Remember that software patents are basically non-existant in Europe..

          Not strictly true. Certainly the UK patent office (and I believe some others) have been merrily awarding software patents for some time. Though I don't know of any infringement lawsuits.

          • In the EU and the UK software patents are awarded. However no lawyer will claim that you can enforce them. However its also true that the same lawyers will not claim you are safe from international software patents. Well not quite.

            However many of the offending patents are US patents. They are not enforceable here anyway.
            • by jimicus (737525)

              However many of the offending patents are US patents. They are not enforceable here anyway.

              But they are enforceable if you want to sell a product based on them in the US.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                Any EU patent is *not* enforceable in the US any more than a US patent is enforceable in the EU. You need an international or world patent to do that, which IIRC requires that you get the patent in at least 3 "member" countries as well.
              • Sorry post to fast for my own good. I didn't read your comment properly. Yes of course the are enforceable when selling in the US.
        • by radish (98371)

          Growing food is labor intensive, so it cannot be truly free(*), software patents are only a self-inflicted wound.

          *: unless you can convince people to give their work for free, _someone_ has to pay for the tools and the labor used to grow food

          Huh? Last time I checked writing software was pretty labour intensive too. And requires someone to pay for that labour and the tools needed (unless you can convince people to give their work for free). There are many good arguments against software patents, this doesn't

          • No, you missed the analogy.

            To “duplicate” food, you cultivate and fertilize some soil, put the food in the ground, water it, wait, cultivate it and fertilize it some more, spray it with pesticides to keep bugs and animals from eating it, wait some more, water it, spray it, wait, water it, harvest it, process it, and package it.

            To “duplicate” software, you click the “burn” button.

            • by Americano (920576)

              No, you missed the analogy.

              Could be that your original analogy was poor.

              You're comparing the effort required to produce a crop with the effort required to copy an existing piece of software, once it's already been produced. You omit the whole "design, write code, test, debug, package, distribute, support" effort involved in software - all of which takes time, effort, money, tools, and a significant amount of skill & knowledge.

              There are certainly great arguments against software patents. Your analogy i

              • your original analogy was poor

                The original analogy was made by aussie_a [slashdot.org], not myself. He claimed that Anonymous Coward’s statement:

                When I'm writing code, I don't have to worry about patent infringement, because the stuff isn't patentable.

                is analogous to his own statement,

                When I'm trying to feed my family, I don't have to worry about money because the stuff can't be owned.

                And yes, it is a poor analogy.

                You're comparing the effort required to produce a crop with the effort required to copy an existing piece of software, once it's already been produced.

                That’s the whole point. It is difficult to produce a crop. It is easy to copy software. That is why it was a poor analogy.

                I of [slashdot.org]

                • by Americano (920576)

                  The original analogy was made by aussie_a, not myself. He claimed that Anonymous Coward’s statement:

                  You're right - my apologies. I misread the headers and thought you had made the original analogy as well.

                  And for what it's worth, your analogy *is* better. Though since it wouldn't fit on a bumper sticker, it'll probably be modded down.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Most cities spend a great deal of money on paving everything, and then a great deal more on cutting little squares out of the pavement and planting trees. Why don't they plant fruit trees? Food DOES grow on trees!

      • by sgtrock (191182)

        Here's another idea: Let's recognize that software is the _only_ form of creative expression covered by patents _and_ copyrights. Let's further recognize that this conflation was and is a HUGE mistake. Let's choose one or the other and move on.

        I suggest copyright is the appropriate protection to rely upon as the process of software development is much closer to writing a screenplay than it is to inventing a new widget. Care to debate my reasoning? ;)

        Now, as to buying a politician or four, I'm willin

        • by NekSnappa (803141)

          Let's recognize that software is the _only_ form of creative expression covered by patents _and_ copyrights.

          Really? Software is more a form of creative expression that designing a unique and elegant physical mechanism to perform a task?

          Writing code that manipulates bits in a black box is no more creative than designing a set of cogs and wheels inside a metal box.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        "Here's an idea. When I'm trying to feed my family, I don't have to worry about money because the stuff can't be owned."
        That is not the point and frankly just silly.
        I like FOSS and have written some. I make my living from Closed Source software and I have a hardware patent. I see a place for both.
        But what we are talking about here is patents. The idea that you can patent software just insane.
        You can patent a book? Or a Song? Or a set of house plans? Or a set of Homebuilt aircraft plans? Or a movie? Or a sto

        • You can patent a book? Or a Song? Or a set of house plans? Or a set of Homebuilt aircraft plans? Or a movie? Or a story? No all of those are protected by copyright law as should software. It is just that simple.

          Your comparison to books, plans, stories, etc. misses the point a bit - those are tangible embodiments of an idea, which are protected by copyright. Patents protect the idea. For example, that homebuilt aircraft may incorporate some new inventions... just because you can't patent the blueprints doesn't mean that you can't patent a new type of aircraft engine.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            But software is intangible. You could patent some item that the program makes say if you used it to run a CNC machine but you can not patent the program.
            That is what software is. A tangible embodiment of an idea. That is why in the EU they don't have software patents and why we should not in the US.
            The very fact that software is completely intangible means that it must be protected with copyright and not by patent.

            • But software is intangible.

              So is the idea of an aircraft engine. It's just an idea.

              You could patent some item that the program makes say if you used it to run a CNC machine but you can not patent the program.
              That is what software is. A tangible embodiment of an idea. That is why in the EU they don't have software patents and why we should not in the US.

              They totally have software patents in the EU, you just don't call them software patents. They have a doctrine that's like the Bilski rule, so tying the software to a specific machine makes it patentable. The software - just like a method not tied to a machine or causing a transformation in the US - is unpatentable, but the idea certainly is.

              The very fact that software is completely intangible means that it must be protected with copyright and not by patent.

              Nope, because by definition, intangible things cannot be protected by copyright. Copyright only protects fixed ta

          • by jbengt (874751)

            Patents protect the idea.

            No, no, no - that is wrong

            Patents require (or at least they're supposed to) that you reveal the ideas, and that you publish how to turn the ideas into practice.
            Patents do put up a legal roadblock to making specific novel machines, processes, and materials. But the trade off for that is to encourage the spread of knowledge that otherwise might be kept as trade secrets.

            • Patents protect the idea.

              No, no, no - that is wrong

              Patents require (or at least they're supposed to) that you reveal the ideas, and that you publish how to turn the ideas into practice. Patents do put up a legal roadblock to making specific novel machines, processes, and materials. But the trade off for that is to encourage the spread of knowledge that otherwise might be kept as trade secrets.

              No, that's right. Protection doesn't require secrecy, as you assume. I can put up a fence to protect my house, but my house is still visible to the public. I can exercise legal action to remove trespassers, but they're not walking on my invisible lawn. The patent protects an exclusionary property right in the idea.

      • Terrible analogy.

        Better analogy:

        Here’s an idea. When I’m trying to plant my field, I don’t have to worry about GMO patents because the stuff isn’t patentable.

        Just because I don’t think software algorithms should be patentable doesn’t mean that somebody should be able to go into Micro Center and walk out with a rack of software CDs without paying for them. And just because I don’t think it should be legal for Monsanto [wikipedia.org] to own a patent on a particular variety of cotton

      • by sjames (1099)

        Here's an idea. When I'm trying to feed my family, I don't have to worry about money because the stuff can't be owned.

        If we as a society devoted as much effort to making food clothing, and shelter freely available (through mechanization) or close to it (through fair business dealings and efficiency) as we do on making hair sprout on bald heads, we'd likely have succeeded by now (except for the inevitable political squabbles from right wingers who would prefer to starve out half the planet rather than risk having even one poor person get "something for nothing").

      • As nice as the world might be if food was free and software had no patents, that isn't the world we live in.

        You may want to distinguish between the country you live in and "the world". Most european countries, for instance, still do not allow software patents at all.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When I'm writing code, I don't have to worry about patent infringement, because the stuff isn't patentable

      I don't think software patents need to go away altogether, it just needs a bit of reform. Software engineering is a very complex, confusing, and quickly growing field. Without patents, the best algorithms are going to be kept secret and that helps no one Copyright protection doesn't cut it if I can rewrite your concept in language foo and claim it as my own. Whether you're selling something for $1,000,000 or $0 dollars, the same rules apply; legally use someone else's patented ideas or come up with your

      • Sorry, dude. Perhaps there are some 0.01% of software patents that are truly worthy of patent protection. But the other 99.99% of unworthy software patents do far more damage than the tiny set of brilliant useful software patents, so it's better overall to just get rid of all software patents.

        I don't trust politicians to be able to reform the patent system to raise the threshold for innovation so that only the worthy 0.01% (or whatever) would be patented. And even if they did, I don't trust the USPTO and

      • the best algorithms are *already* kept secret.
        Or as secret as they can be given that there's hordes of people with talents with debuggers.

        a distressing number of software patents completely fail to contain any source code or even decent pseudocode.

        I can imagine rare situations where a patent on software might be justified but as it stands there's no requirement that source code be provided.
        Instead they patent the general idea and use vague flowcharts instead of explicit code.

        It's possible to innovate your w

  • Stupid System (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why is the legal system so fucked up that it's easier to win with "We don't do X" instead of "X has been done before" when it's extremely obvious that X has been done before?
    • Re:Stupid System (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:05AM (#31594694)

      Because it is as close as anyone is going to get as far as logical watertightness goes. Let P be "You are using a patented idea" and Q be "It's been done before". Enforcing a patent requires P.

      Patent owner: "P is true of you." (Initial threat)
      You: In fact Not-P is true of us.
      Patent owner: OK, Not-P so we can't enforce patent.

      vs

      Patent owner: "P is true of you."
      You: P is true but Q is true also. (You try to stop legal wrangling with Q.)
      Patent owner: OK, P so we can try to enforce patent, regardless of Q. We'll try to show Not-Q.

      • In criminal defense, you can use multiple strategies to try to show innocence, even if those arguments are not mutually exclusive:

        For example, if you were trying to defend yourself against a murder charge, I believe you can argue the following:
        1. I wasn't even there
        2. Even if I was there, I wasn't the actual person to killed him
        3. Even if I did kill him, it was an accident

        If any one of those holds, you're a free man, but logically you can't argue all three (from a non-legal perspective). In the court room,

        • by Jenming (37265)

          The Burden of Proof in a civil case is much looser than in a criminal case.

          So in a criminal case you argue all three of those and if any of them stand then there is reasonable doubt.
          In a civil case the jury just needs to believe that it is more likely that one party is in the right then the other. So if you make a bunch of different arguments and some seem to hold water but others don't your not really helping yourself.

      • Shoot, you got my wheels turning...

        Definitions:

        • A=Activity
        • K=Knows that P might reasonably apply to A
        • O=P is to obvious to be valid.
        • B=P is to broad to be valid.
        • E=Earlier prior art invalidates P
        • P=Valid Patent: Courts assume True if has been issued going forward, but can be negated if at least one O, B, or E successfully argued before court.
        • I(A)=Infringement: True if (A infringes on P)
        • Li=Liable for innovent infringement:True if (P & I(A) & !K)
        • Lw=Liable for willful infringement: True if (P & I(A)
    • Why is the legal system so fucked up that it's easier to win with "We don't do X" instead of "X has been done before" when it's extremely obvious that X has been done before?

      Because "we don't do X" is a very easy, black and white conclusion. Whether something is obvious or not is a very difficult analysis, requiring examining multiple factors, the state of the art at the time of invention, the ease of combining different prior art references without undue experimentation, how skilled the average person in the profession is, etc. Compare it to other areas in the legal system - it's much easier to beat a murder rap if the victim is still alive, than to try to show that your quest

  • Hidden costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pablodiazgutierrez (756813) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:12AM (#31594710) Homepage

    The cost of searching for patents whenever you're doing something, anything, really, is a huge burden on any R&D department. By forbidding employees to look at patents, companies make then focus on the important stuff: making things.

    • Re:Hidden costs (Score:4, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:28AM (#31594770) Journal
      I don't think that's what he meant, he didn't say we should spend our spare time reading through patent applications, he was saying we should know how to read them, and not be afraid of reading them if the need arises. He also suggested a perfect open source defense that would scare even patent trolls away from suing open source projects, and that is to come up with a workaround. After that, the patent will be useless, and all the people licensing that patent won't want to pay anymore, they will just use the workaround. Because the open source community is willing and able to find a workaround for any patent, the trolls will be afraid to attack the community.

      But you can't really find a workaround if you can't understand the patent, right? So he goes through and explains how to read the patent. He carefully explains that most people on Slashdot don't know how to read a patent, and explains the right way to do it. My wish is that every mod reads the article and then mods down those commenters in stories that don't have a clue how to read patents. That would raise the level of discussion here. But it probably won't happen (sigh).
      • by shentino (1139071)

        Reading patents is a good idea.

        Since unlike with copyright, originality is not a defense to a patent infringement claim.

        • by shaper (88544)
          Reading patents is a very bad idea. It opens you up to willful infringement and treble damages.
          • by shentino (1139071)

            Only if you read the patent and then push on ahead anyway. By reading them you get a heads up of what not to implement.

            You shouldn't be infringing patents to begin with anyway, so what's the difference?

    • He made some assertions whose validity is questionable for small companies, and which are generally false for larger companies with deep pockets.

      'If you've got one lot of damages for patent infringement, what would happen to the project? It's dead.

      Not necessarily, since the product may already be released, and the project to create it may be already completed. The damages award is typically made after lengthy legal proceedings, and it's not likely that the development project is still active. Those involved have probably moved on to other projects, been promoted, or changed employer. Paying tens or hundreds

      • by Americano (920576)

        Not necessarily, since the product may already be released, and the project to create it may be already completed.

        You work at places where the software is released, and never touched again? That's amazing. You should probably patent your process for creating complete v1.0 software.

        • Not necessarily, since the product may already be released, and the project to create it may be already completed.

          You work at places where the software is released, and never touched again? That's amazing. You should probably patent your process for creating complete v1.0 software.

          Perhaps that's why I said the project to create it is completed. Software maintenance (bug-fixes and interoperability enhancements) occurs sporadically, but involves effort which is orders of magnitude less than the initial development. In general, there is nobody assigned until an issue arises, and then only for as long as it takes to resolve the issue.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Patent searches may not be cost-effectife; this is second hand info so of course be wrong (sometimes I'm wrong with 1st hand info), but a fellow I knew several years ago (actually my ex-wife's brother in law) worked at a place where they manufactured mechanical gizmos. His boss would bring a competetitor's gizmo and ask "can you make one of these?" Once he asked his boss "can't we get in trouble for violating their patent?"

      The answer was "that's why we have lawyers on the payroll."

      He said that often they co

      • Someone mentioned GIF vs PNG earlier, the patent on GIF is almost over.

        The GIF patent *is* over: [wikipedia.org] The US LZW patent expired on June 20, 2003.[19] The counterpart patents in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy expired on June 18, 2004, the Japanese counterpart patents expired on June 20, 2004 and the counterpart Canadian patent expired on July 7, 2004.[19] Consequently, while Unisys has further patents and patent applications relating to improvements to the LZW technique,[19] the GIF format may now be used freely.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:38AM (#31594794)

    I think that the best overall defense is if someone can take a case all the way to the supreme court, and argue that the threshold for obviousness
    is way out of whack in the granting of software and business process patents.

    The goal should be to get a test mandated by the supreme court along the lines of: If three out of four average 3rd year comp sci students
    could design and code it up in a month, having heard only the requirements and not the design, then it's f***ing obvious to a competent practitioner
    in the field, and should be dismissed.

    Who knows. There may actually be algorithms clever enough to deserve patent protection for 5 years or so. But right now those would probably be
    1 out of 100 of the patents granted, so the whole system is in total disrepute and it is the duty of a responsible practitioner in the field, as a protest,
    to ignore and not view and thus not heed any USPTO software or business process patents, until they entirely revamp the standards and
    throw out all patents granted under the existing broken standards.

    • by rodgerd (402)

      Yeah, taking it all the way to the Supremes worked really well in killing off infinite copyright extension, didn't it?

  • Can we just allow companies to patent everything they want and let them be effective for like only 5 years so we can all get on with life? Innovators should not be rewarded for how "clever" they are, but rather compensated for how much it costs to do R&D. Patent duration should depend on the costs associated with innovation in each industry.
  • Bah Humbug (Score:4, Interesting)

    by baadfood (690464) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @04:24AM (#31595028)

    Reading patents with an eye to identifying "Technologies" to use is an exercise in futility:
    Most are stupidly obvious. The others written in leagalease.

    Reading patents with an eye to identifying "technologies" to avoid is also an excercise in futility. Again, you need the mind of a lawyer, combined with the approach of a security researcher, to "see" the ways a patent could be exploited to somehow map to your own problem domain. That you were happily solving without resorting to the giant database of solutions to micro problems no one is interested in.

    Next, theres just too damned many of them. If anyone took the time out to exhaustively read and analyse each patent enough to determine if the possibility for collision existed, well they wouldn't have a problem with patents as they'd never write any code.

    Lastly, it takes courts a long time to determine if a particular product does conflict with a patent. This means theres a lot of grey area around the edges of a patent to determine if a particular approach is covered or not. Which means, of necessity, that, like Chinese ISPs, developers who read a patent would have to defensively eliminate huge swathes of potential solution space from their investigations, to avoid getting "too damned close".
     

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @06:10AM (#31595572) Journal

    I see several problems with Tridgell's approach.

    1st, his talk assumes patents cover only a specific, narrow implementations of ideas. And if some patent troll challenges you, all you have to do is show your idea is slightly different. He says we've gotten it all wrong, because there isn't any such thing as an overly broad patent. I don't know. Isn't the point of a patent to cover an idea, no matter how it is implemented? What is a business method patent, if not that? But if he's right, then RIM really blew it. All they had to do was show that NTP's patents don't cover exactly, precisely what they did and the way they did it. That should have been easy, because they came up with their own system. Somehow, I think that if it had been that easy, RIM would have found the way. Instead RIM tried what he strongly recommends against, that is, they tried to show prior art. There was just this minor problem that their legal team foolishly hoked up some fakery on that point.

    2nd, he assumes too much about the methods of the patent trolls. Sure, it all comes down to making money, but the straightforward approach of attempting to collect license fees isn't the only way to use a patent to that end. There's the use of patents to stifle competition. That's why MS supported SCO, not to profit off of licensing fees for Linux, but to hurt Window's biggest competitor. Then there's the shakedown, as IBM once did to Sun over 7 patents, including the infamous "fat lines" one. Sun did exactly what Tridgell says to do. They demolished IBM's claims of infringement. And it didn't work because IBM pointed out that they have over 10000 other patents. "Do you really want us to go back to Armonk and find 7 patents you do infringe?" Well, maybe Sun shouldn't have caved. And, there's harassment of the sort SCO did. They knew they didn't have a case-- they were just making a big legal stink in hopes their victims would decide it's cheaper to buy them off than fight them in court. How did PJ tear SCO's case apart? The way Tridgell recommends? Yes, but that was only a part of it. There was also effort to throw the validity of SCO's patents into question by showing prior art.

  • Of course prior art is a more popular argument in the free software community because it is a more aggressive defense. It's an attack against the patent itself. The free software movement is keen to destroy patents they consider unjust (which for broad and vague patents such as "taking online orders with a single click" or "online course management" is a given), and merely avoiding the damage from lawsuits may look like a "weak" move.

    (Which is probably par for the course in law: Clients resent their lawyer'

    • by Americano (920576)

      Tridgell talks about how to avoid infringing, and if you're accused of it, how to best defend yourself under the current system. Free Software advocates want to blast the whole of the current system to bits.

      Free Software thinks if they show enough bogus, stupid, ignorant patents, it will become obvious that the system is broken & should be scrapped. Most companies involved in patent litigation are not interested in spending millions or billions of dollars to change the system over the next 20 years.

  • Back in the days of dial-up modems, Hayes tried to force Motorola to license the (pause)+++(pause) escape sequence [Heatherington].

    The response was swift... Motorola looked in their own collection of patents to see what Hayes probably infringed....

    To paraphrase, the response started with "You use wire, don't you?"
  • We’re actually supposed to read those?

    But this is Slashdot. We don’t even read TFA.

  • by rogerz (78608)

    I think he's wrong equivocating the invalidity defense with the prior art defense. My understanding is a patent can be invalidated - and rendered completely ineffective - if you can show that it doesn't actually teach a practicable implementation of a way to achieve the claims.

    I had experience with this. We received a cease and desist letter from a (large) company saying we were infringing a patent they had claiming synchronizing audio playback with the movement of a cursor. After carefully reading the d

  • Article 1, section 8, clause 8, reads, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    It does NOT read "to make money for the creators for themselves and their families in perpertua".

    Furthermore, esp. in software, where something may easily be obsolescent in five years, to grant a patent that lasts 17 is to *not* promote the progress of science", but rather to restrict it.

    But we've

  • The link in the Slashdot "article" isn't valid. No one seems to have noticed this. No, they just blither away in ignorance.

Dead? No excuse for laying off work.

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