09.22.10

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Mozilla Pays for a Shield From Software Patents, Free Software Proponents Cautiously Sceptical

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, OIN, Patents at 8:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Mozilla joins the OIN (Open Invention Network) as a licensee and some well-known figures in the Free software world have gentle criticism

QUESTIONS about the methodology of the OIN withstanding, Keith and the OIN have done some commendable things to defend GNU/Linux from Microsoft patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. This must be why Windows/RAND proponents like Microsoft Florian hate the OIN so much and spend a lot of time bashing it.

Mozilla, a US-based company/foundation, has been expressing concerns about software patents for a few years now. The subject came up this year as well [1, 2, 3], especially because of MPEG-LA, which is headed by a patent troll [1, 2, 3, 4].

In this new press release, Mozilla’s joining as an OIN licensee got typical coverage (no exciting details therein):

Open Invention Network (OIN) today extended the Linux ecosystem with the signing of Mozilla as a licensee. By becoming a licensee, Mozilla, the developer of leading software applications including the popular Firefox web browser, has joined the growing list of organizations that recognize the importance of participating in a substantial community of Linux supporters and leveraging the Open Invention Network to further spur open source innovation.

Here is an article about it:

The Open Invention Network, a Durham-based organization founded by a group of companies including IBM and Red Hat, has signed Mozilla as a licensee, extending the patent community of the Linux operating system to the developer of the Firefox web browser.

Mozilla has explained its decision to join the OIN, remarking on policy in its blog (see comments from GNU/Linux proponents in LWN).

This doesn’t mean we’re suddenly enthused about patents in any way, but OIN is doing some good work, and I believe that any protections that they afford Mozilla are on the whole more positive, and outweigh reservations about the patent the system.

Martin vonWillebrand, a lawyer from Helsinki, asked Glyn Moody (who expressed scepticism about Mozilla’s action until he saw Mozilla’s clarification): “Why should Mozilla not join #OIN? I see Open Invention Network as a growing commitment to not assert #Linux #swpats”

Unlike lawyers who profit from patents, there are people like Bradley Kuhn (FSF/SFLC) who wrote: “Not surprised #Mozilla joined #OIN (who doesn’t want royalty-free #swpats ?), but #disturbing they wanna do program work w/ pro-patent OIN.”

Overall, Techrights considers Mozilla’s decision to be a positive development. Techrights also endorses Mozilla’s Web browser (Firefox), because unlike Chrome, for example, Firefox is Free software-friendly and software patents-hostile by ideology.

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