Bonum Certa Men Certa

Embedded Linux Running in Devices != Combining Code with Devices

Addressing a common misconception...

The Linux kernel is clearly a piece of software that is not built to integrally operate with a particular device. To be more precise, it is not implemented to achieve a particular physical process. Several months ago in court proceedings, a Microsoft lawyer explicitly said that a device needs to be involved in order for a patent to be valid. That was Microsoft arguing that software patents as we know them should be considered invalid. This happened in a US court of law. Shane and I recorded this dialogged and had this mentioned before.

The following new article from The Register talks about arguments involving the British patent system. Let it be repeated that software patents are not valid in the UK and here is a more precise explanation.

"The UK IPO's position is that only when the patented item and its software are combined, when you are dealing with the whole package, are they offered protection," he told us.


This leads back to discussions about the most recent patent deal which involves embedded Linux. One discussion went on to asking whether the LG, Samsung, Fuji Xerox, and Kyocera Mit deals actually mean anything to Linux. Matt Asay, who started his OSS/Linux-oriented career when he worked at Lineo (embedded Linux), rebuts and clarifies.

I doubt Microsoft has been any more forthcoming in private about its patent claims than it has in public. I used to work for a large Japanese company (Mitsui & Co.). I also used to work for an embedded Linux vendor. Between the two roles I discovered that Japanese electronics companies use a lot of Linux and they're also very conservative.

Mix the two together, with a finger-pointing, brash American FUD-meister like Microsoft, and you get a patent deal. I don't think there's much more to it than that.

Regardless, Linux had a strong toehold in embedded Linux before Microsoft even thought of being relevant there. If nothing else, I'm guessing any claims around embedded Linux would be swatted down on prior art (whether that's from Linux or VxWorks, pSOS, etc.).


As further evidence and information about this consider:



That last item is very interesting in retrospect, due to FSF/Microsoft disagreement that soon followed.

In the following new video, Eben Moglen says more about the GPLv3, but he also talks about software, hardware, and patents.

I just got a note from Joe Latone of IBM Research that brought the happy news that the video of Eben Moglen’s talk Copyleft Capitalism, GPLv3 and the Future of Software Innovation, given at at IBM Research on October 29, 2007, is now available online


Embedded stream below, if you have Adobe Flash (link for gnash users is provided above).

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