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09.07.07

Broken Patent System: When the Fox Met the Hen

Posted in GPL, ISO, OSI, Patents, SUN, UNIX at 7:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Large, predatory companies ‘guard’ the small ones

Several early reports strive to have us believe that the Sun-NetApp lawsuit is a test case for open source. This is a gross spin and a case of extrapolating from the words of Sun’s CEO. Matt Aslett has cleared up a few bits which required clarification.

According to Raven Zachary at the451 Group, “Hitz told me that this case is about NetApp and Sun, not the open source community that has emerged around ZFS, and NetApp does not intend to go after the ZFS community.”

Until it does so (if it ever does so), to paint its legal claims as an attack on open source seems to be to be unfair.

With that in mind, the licence which grants patent ‘protection’ by association has just been approved by the Open Source Initiative. Michael has the details.

The GPL v3 and LGPL v3 were unanimously approved by the OSI board at our monthly board meeting this week.

This was expected, but this consensus across the board is praiseworthy.

To say more on patents, yesterday was an important day for an impending reform. We mentioned this a couple of days ago. Looking more closely at the details, however, a disturbing picture is revealed. The trend continues where large companies decide for the small ones. There is imbalance in representation. This opens the door to abuse by wealthy companies with interests. We ought to have learned our lessons from the OOXML fiasco.

Passage of patent reform would certainly placate many technology companies, while angering critics who fear a trampling of the property rights of relatively powerless inventors.

Here are some details on the same story.

Today, some of the biggest names in high-tech have their eyes on the nation’s capital, where lawmakers are babbling about an overhaul of the U.S. patent system.

Have lessons not been learned from previous reports and complaints? Where are the small companies? Watch this article from last year (article has expired and vanished from the Web, but it spoke about a so-called “innovation panel”):

He will be part of a lineup that includes the Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer, 3M CEO George Buckley, UPS Chairman and CEO Michael Eskew, IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano and Wal-Mart Stores Vice Chairman John Menzer.

Also, to have the problem illustrated, have another read through this text.

A report published by an EU task force on intellectual property claims that small businesses benefit from a patent system, despite lacking almost any participation by the small business community.

Instead, the report, titled IPR (intellectual property rights) for competitiveness and innovation, was written up almost entirely by large corporations and the patent industry.

[...]

The report does note objections from the likes of patentfrei.de and Sun Microsystems, which were recorded at some length in the report. But this does not appear to have impacted the conclusion of the report in any way

[...]

Jean-Pierre Laisne, of ObjectWeb, an open source software community, said that he found the report useless: participants were told that all their contributions would be recorded but at the end only those of Business Software Alliance and Microsoft were used.

Never let large companies, which are often enough the worst abusers of the weak patent system, set the rules. It is an idea as good as letting a panel of Microsoft Gold partners decide for an entire nation whether OOXML is suitable for ISO standardisation.

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