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09.07.10

Red Hat Should Eliminate All of Its Patents, or At Least Attach Self-Destructive Clauses to Them

Posted in GNU/Linux, Oracle, Patents, Red Hat, SUN at 8:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Time Bomb DVD

Summary: In order to prevent software patents which are owned by Red Hat from falling into the wrong hands (e.g. in an acquisition like Oracle’s), something should be done to diffuse them

Red Hat’s patents are a subject we previously wrote about in posts such as:

Over a week after those scary SAP rumours we checked to see if Red Hat has done something to ensure that its patents will self-explode if they reach the wrong hands (like Oracle getting Sun’s Java patents). “I discussed that with @webmaven a few weeks ago,” Richard Fontana (Red Hat) told me today. It does not seem like progress has been made since then. Red Hat really needs to ensure that its portfolio does not get used against the Free software community in the same sense that Sun’s portfolio is being misused right now [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13].

“Red Hat really needs to ensure that its portfolio does not get used against the Free software community in the same sense that Sun’s portfolio is being misused right now.”Does Red Hat really need patents? I had a discussion about it with Red Hat earlier today and I was left overwhelmingly unconvinced. Hugo Roy, a software freedom activist whom we mentioned in the previous post, writes that “In 1985, someone filed a patent for a brilliant invention: the “Tool”

“I haven’t looked at the patent itself,” he told me, “so I don’t know if we can really say that. But sure, the title is not credible”

Patents have become so controversial that major newspapers occasionally call for an overhaul and maybe even abolition. We saw some examples last week.

Here is a new CERN article from the New Scientist. It helps show patents versus science, not for science:

You might imagine that vast patent royalties flow into the organisation that invented the touchscreen and the World Wide Web. But the atom-smashing outfit CERN, cradle of both these technologies, doesn’t make a bean from either.

The particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, has been reluctant to patent the inventions it creates in pursuit of exotic subatomic entities. But it hopes that will soon change: last week, it struck a deal with the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to ensure that it profits better from its engineers’ innovations in fields like imaging, computing, particle detection and superconducting magnets, says international relations adviser Maurizio Bona.

If Red Hat still sidles with science and not with patents (or the USPTO which legitimises software patents), then it will take care of those potentially-destructive weapons it has in its hands/arsenal. It’s too late to do this if/when a takeover is imminent. Red Hat has just announced the hiring of a lobbyist (“Mark Bohannon to Lead Red Hat Governmental Affairs and Public Policy” as pasted here) and together with the practice of software patents, Red Hat is at risk of being called a hypocrite; it doesn’t need to be.

Red Hat is not the only GNU/Linux proponent which claims to be collecting “defensive” software patents. Red Hat is unique though. IBM and Google, for example, are somewhat different in this case because they are not in a position where they can practically be sold along with their patents (not any time soon).

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