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Patents Open Source Software

FOSS Communities Key To Managing Patent Risk 29

dp619 writes "Penn State law professor Clark Asay has written an editorial on F/OSS patent risk, saying, '...under the current patent system, it's entirely possible to obtain a patent that reads on software that FOSS communities independently create. Consequently, FOSS communities and their users are vulnerable to third party patent claims, even absent any sort of wrongdoing or copying on their part.' He suggests that developers collaborate to prevent bad or frivolous patents from being issued in the first place. The ongoing work of Linux Defenders and Peer-to-Patent are cited as good examples of how the FOSS community's collaborative spirit can help it counteract potential legal threats."
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FOSS Communities Key To Managing Patent Risk

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  • by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @08:12PM (#43020097)
    Can't we just let patents autoexpire every 5 - 10 years so we don't have these issues? It works great in medicine because it gives big pharma a chance to make money innovating and then the copy cats can produce generics and make their own profits, forcing big pharma to keep innovating. Fast expiring patents are a great idea there, why not in software?
    • by r1348 ( 2567295 )

      5 - 10 years is ages in IT. By the time they expire, they're obsolete.

      • 5-10 years and Windows XP, Java 1.4, and VB6 are in the clear. You honestly wouldn't want to take a peek at how those are constructed?
        • by r1348 ( 2567295 )

          Honestly, no. The product might still be used, but the technology is obsolete.
          It might be interesting for learning purposes, but for those trying to create innovative software (those who need patents), they're hardly relevant.

        • When XP was released the average PC was a single core 600MHz P3 with 128MB of RAM if you were lucky and a hard drive that was MAYBE 20GB, I saw plenty in the 5GB-10GB range back then. Frankly people can bitch about MSFT being douchebags or the current CEO is a retard (completely agree on the latter BTW) but the fact that they were able to get XP to run on modern hardware so much more advanced than what it was designed for is frankly a miracle.

          But NO I would NOT like the code handed out when MSFT is done w

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The security problems in Android are not bugs, but features. The Android system has had exceptionally few security holes in it. The problem arises when the applications ask for permissions, and the user doesn't understand what he's allowing them to do. If you give an application access to the Internet and the SD card, nothing prevents the application from using them. This works well for more experienced users, but a better system is required for non-experienced users.

      • by Desler ( 1608317 )

        That's funny because many of the technologies that still underly most "modern" OS kernels, file systems, etc. are many times older than the 5-10 years you claim for something to be obsolete.

    • Can't we just let patents autoexpire every 5 - 10 years

      It's probably too late for that.

      The whole system is being so extensively gamed that it's pretty much unsalvageable in its current incarnation. Recently, even the Chinese government and businesses have noticed the opportunities it creates and have started a huge junk-patenting effort, so its only going to get worse.

      A Chinese government scheme providing financial incentives for small and medium sized enterprises, public institutions or scientific research institutions appears to be resulting in abuse of the Australian patent system, and the 'dumping' of numerous low-quality innovation patents on the Australian Register. []

  • Patents are supposed to protect the little guy so he can get to market. But they're used to bully the little guy from ever getting a foot hold.
  • by mug funky ( 910186 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @08:32PM (#43020221)

    you could modify git to send commit messages to the USPTO...

    if you can't beat them, subvert their system. if every patent is one that can be freely used, then problem solved! software patents would become useless because they'd all be free.

  • Herby I patent the method of creating patent applications *on a computer*. It's novel and non obvious by the existing standards (noticed the "on the computer" part, right?) and it should at least slow the other ridiculous patent applications down. A clear win-win!
  • by Grond ( 15515 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @11:06PM (#43021139) Homepage

    While for-profit companies that use and develop free and open source software have been sued for patent infringement, "FOSS communities" essentially never have been. The author is correct that "FOSS communities have fretted over this risk for years," but that's just it: they have fretted and nothing has come of it.

    "Patent trolls" want licensing revenue. You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, so suing an open source project directly is a pointless waste of money. A proprietary competitor may only be interested in excluding an open source project from the market, but even that is effectively impossible. For example, consider the efforts to get rid of DeCSS and its progeny. That was about copyright, not patents, but the point is that a) you can't remove something from the internet and b) a project can always move to another country with more favorable laws. Patents are territorial: if a company sues a project in country A, the project can just move to country B, where the company doesn't have a patent.

  • The article seems incomplete without at least mentioning the Open Invention Network [].

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus