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08.06.10

Software Patents Lobbyists Disguised as ‘Open Source’ Friends/Companies

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Google, Patents at 8:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SAP logo for Microsoft business partner

Summary: A warning about what’s seemingly a media/PR campaign which paints SAP as a friend of Open Source; analysis of Google’s patent policy and what it means to Open Source

SOMEBODY’s latest PR campaign seems to be a ludicrous characterisation of SAP an Open Source friend (SAP is actually a longtime opponent of Open Source and ally of Microsoft). It is hard to tell exactly where this PR got seeded, but it’s likely that Black Duck (with roots in Microsoft) had something to do with it because it coincided with a particular press release we mentioned here before [1, 2]. Right now we see Phil Odence (Black Duck) using IDG to promote his proprietary software company, which receives money from SAP (to scan for Open Source violations). His headline says: “Surprise! SAP is now big into open source”

“[N]ew trend? Talk opensource but collect patents protecting the underlying concepts?
      –Jan Wildeboer
What a bunch of baloney! SAP is mostly exploiting Open Source — just like Apple does — while it’s also attacking it (not just in the past but also in present and we gave examples).

Google is a far more complicated (and multi-faceted) example because it does support software patents. This morning Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer warned about a “new trend” which he described as “Talk opensource but collect patents protecting the underlying concepts?”

Google and IBM nonchalantly do this (there are more such companies, but we give just two big ones for example) although to be fair, neither is an overly litigious company and they never attack Free/open source software using patents. Incidentally, The Source has this new post about “ranking Google”:

Serious question here: what exactly has Google done that is detrimental to Free Software or Open Source? Google wasn’t even founded as an “Open Source company”, yet it makes a lot of contributions to FLOSS (albeit more so on the Open Source side than the Free Software side).

I’ll confess freely I don’t follow news about Google very closely – one reason being I don’t have Google classified mentally as a “threat”. I don’t really have them classified at the same level as Red Hat, but they are nowhere near Microsoft or Apple (or Novell, for that matter) in terms of offensiveness and harm wreaked on the FLOSS ecosystem.

In the context of corporations “friendly” to FLOSS, I would put Google somewhere between Canonical and IBM, with a slight edge to Google because of GSOC and Google’s clean approach to patents.

Google would be better off just actively working to end software patents, not simply accepting them as a given and participating in the broken system by filing for software patents. There are groups like the FFII which Google can support financially if its ultimate goal is elimination of software patents. This would not cost more than GSOC and it would help Free software enormously (all bases covered in one fell swoop).

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