THOSE WHO FOLLOWED RECENT posts about this subject [1, 2, 3] already know that we are not huge fans of the “Linux Defenders” initiative; not because it’s ineffective but because it’s the wrong way to approach the problem. It is a way that pleases big companies (and funding sources) like IBM, i.e. it keeps the things IBM likes and tackles those which it does not like. IBM is, sadly enough, not opposed to software patents. It just wants to weed out the ‘nuisance’ that’s a by-product.
To address the Big Issues, one needs to spend less time pushing papers and more effort fighting Microsoft’s (and others’) expansion of software patent laws — or alternatively back doors — into more countries. The suppressors want universal consent that Microsoft owns all sorts of algorithms and that Free software therefore becomes illegitimate or “not free”.
It used to be the same with DMCA, which expanded and expanded and expanded globally. It’s about taking people’s rights away, however artificially it needs to be done. (Sheesh! Just don’t mention the ACTA [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16])
The following article about “Linux Defenders” reminds readers of the source of this push, which is tied to IBM and even Novell.
The whole setup was apparently the brainchild of the Open Invention Network (the OIN registered the linuxdefenders.org domain, in fact), which appears to be patent-friendly twin of Linux defenders. The New York University’s Center for Patent Innovation provided some of the intellectual foundations for the group, and maintains the sites devoted to patent peer review.
Overall, this seems like a lot of effort to dedicate to simply staying out of trouble but, as the SCO case demonstrated, even spurious patent claims can keep open source software (and the companies that rely on it) tied up in court for years. Unless and until the patent system is reformed, Linux Defenders appears to be a necessary protective measure.
Here is a questionable bit from Heise.
Such projects are extremely important to the long term future of open source, which by its nature is vulnerable to patent attacks. As open source grows and gains commercial acceptance, it becomes a more tempting target for patent trolls.
Well, by OIN’s own admission, this approach does not stifle patent trolls. As such, to describe “Linux Defenders” as a response to patent-trolling is totally missing the point.
Digital Majority has been very active recently because it’s keeping an eye on articles discussing the patentability of software, e.g.:
- Patents Act 1977: Patentability of computer programs
- What “as such” means, what it really, really, nearly means …
EurActiv has been peddling a lot of Microsoft-serving agenda recently. It seems to be ushering a system that would potentially contaminate EU law with the sordid chaos that's the USPTO.
The ACT seems to think that the patent system works so well in the US, that Europe absolutely must ditch its own quaintly fragmented approach, and adopt a nicely unified one closer to the Stateside model.
Pity, then, that books like Patent Failure provide hundreds of pages of incontrovertible evidence that the patent system there actually costs more money – in terms of litigation – than it generates for patent holders, with the possible exception of the pharmaceutical industry (and we all know what paragons they are, especially in their licensing terms to developing countries.)
EurActiv is now offering a full interview with a known Microsoft mouthpiece [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Microsoft is not even mentioned in the form of disclosure in this article and Jonathan Zuck keeps pretending to be a representative of small businesses, which he is not.
Fragmentation of the EU’s single market and particularly its patent system represent major obstacles to innovation, which is mainly driven by SMEs, Jonathan Zuck, president of an association representing more than 3,000 small and mid-sized IT firms from around the world, told EurActiv in an interview.
How many of these “3,000 small and mid-sized IT firms from around the world” actually fund Jonathan Zuck and ACT (or other shells)? On the face of it, none. This is not the first time that large businesses like Microsoft and their lobbies steal the voices of small ones.
These hired guns from ACT have even released a ‘study’ and it’s worth remembering who funds them.
There is a new page in “Worst EU Lobby Awards 2008″. ACT is not alone then.
There has been a broad discussion about his role in the debate about software patents in the European Parliament. Lehne has been one of the MEPs pushing for software patents, while Taylor Wessing has a large patent group and advises clients on patenting strategy in the software sector. Lehne has argued that he wasn’t involved with any companies engaged in the patents debate in his work as a lawyer. But still he is a partner in a law firm that boasts that its “patent group is one of the strongest, largest and best known in Europe”.
In conclusion, lobbying is to Microsoft what flying it to a bird. And it continues to this date. “Linux Defenders” is handling small potatoes whilst some big animals in the back yard are messing up with all the plantations. The “defenders” deal with grains, not crops.
In order to step up and resolve this litigious problem, people must never be led to believe that the cure lies in probing of patents one at a time while praying that laws will stay the same and hostile peers will be merciful. History is not forgiving.
Laws constantly want to be changed because companies and fortune holders always strive to elevate their level of power and control. As Richard Stallman once said, “geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.” He also said that “fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria” and, to summarise more generally, “value your freedom or you will lose it, teaches history.” █