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02.09.08

What Happens When Software Patents Meet GNU/Linux

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, KDE, Microsoft, OIN at 12:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patently discriminatory

Apple is not truly an opposer of software patents if the company’s deeds are anything to go by. We previously showed how this company's software patents caused features in GNU/Linux to be castrated. Out comes KDE’s Aaron Seigo’s with further new complaints about this issue.

Many of Apple’s concepts such as icons stacks, parabolic zooming in panels and (most recently) widgets on media centers that they seem to feel are patentable are either unoriginal or just plain trivial.

[...]

Future society will look back upon us and cluck their tongue at how stupid we were for having let the patent system encroach upon things such as software on the one hand and become so baroque a system as to be generally lacking usefulness on the other.

Meanwhile, the OpenMoko team, which makes open Linux-based phones, expresses similar regrets as it finds itself in need for something like OIN.

We need to file patents for our hardware as well as software designs.
While my personal views on software patents are inline with people like
Eben Moglen, as a company, we are forced to play by the rules of the game.

What I want is for a our company’s patents to be freely available, for
anyone, but for defensive purposes only.

Are there any existing options available to us now? Does anyone know of
existing companies or organizations with a similar strategy that we can
seek guidance or partnership.

Groklaw has already advised him to look into OIN, which will stubbornly defend its members, shall it be necessary. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft refused to join OIN because it wishes to use software patents as a weapon. Amid problems perhaps, this would be the company’s last resort.

Other Software Patent News

Digital Majority cited some good articles that are worth mentioning. Among them:

Electronic Data Systems of Plano claims it holds the rights to U.S. Patent Nos. 7,156,300 and 7,255,268 which generally relate to a system and method for electronic purchase of prepaid telephone services. The plaintiff’s original complaint describes the inventions whereby a customer can purchase a specified amount of telephone service through a personal computer or an ATM machine.

The first patent was provisionally filed in 2000 and has been “in process” for the last 8 years. Yes, I said 8 years. Many think that Software Patents are stupid. I conceptually agree with this statement. Having spent what seems like millions of hours constructing these, baby sitting them, defending them; it is really all wasted time and effort, at least in a conceptual sense. There is no way for a software engineer or system architect to have any idea what exists out there to either copy or avoid (whatever the motivation).

…the Honourable Mr Justice Lewison in the Patents Court has dismissed Autonomy’s appeal against a refusal of their patent application relating to automated computer searching.

As Linus Torvalds recently indicated, software patents should be treated as an obstance. It is not a technical obstance, but a legal one. It’s a case of politics (and law) turned against competition.

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A Single Comment

  1. Great said,

    February 9, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Gravatar

    Carry on your good work. We FOSS developers dont have that kind of money or smartness/cunningness of the business world. You are bringing out the truth and may the lord bless you.

    I am pretty shit tired of having to deal with the asshole management, marketing and sales people shoving lies down my throat so that they can get their cut of the deal for the hard work engineers do.

    It is through your site that I came to know about the evil novell have done to the community. I have swore never to download or use or recommend novell products to anyone.

    Big **** to novell.

    I hope novell dies along with M$ and SCO

    Novell has sold out the FOSS community for the sake of money.

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