Bonum Certa Men Certa

Software Patents and Standards are Inherently Incompatible

Digital Majority has just posted a good pointer to this essay which explains why the notion of software patents and industry standards are almost contradictory. This can be concluded from this study that encourages better collaboration that strikes balance between decentralisation (relinquishing control of formats) and a self-centrist approach (lock-in and intellectual monopolies).

The balance between the much wanted law-like standards and IPR is difficult, noted the study, because “the underlying philosophies of standardisation and IPR-protection are seen as opposite. Whereas standardisation intends to put ideas into the public domain, protection of IPR makes them private property.” Furthermore, the legal framework of standardisation is blurred, while recognition of private rights over private creations is clear and patent ambushes (patent claims made late in the development of a standardisation process) are prevailing in court cases. The European Commission so far has tried to alleviate the problem by passing so-called FRAND rules that try to ensure “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” licensing when it comes to standards. A new ETSI IPR policy adopted in 2006 addressed the problem of IPR owners not agreeing to licences, yet the problem still is not really resolved, according to the study. €¶


We last discussed an example of this yesterday. The issue is particularly interesting when considered in Novell's case. Rather than accepting widely-deployed standards, Novell resorted to this twisted notion of 'interoperability', which is a mishmash of patents and bridges. We have just taken a second (and later) look at a page where Novell tries to "state its case". The couple of new comments which have been added since the last time are very revealing:

# Guy Says: January 26th, 2008 at 5:19 am

Quote: “ask most IT directors and they’ll tell you the msft/novl relationship is good for their business”

But at what cost. The deal seems to imply that there is truth in the ms allegations about copyright infringment. Novell gains are at the community’s expense.




# W. Anderson Says: January 26th, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I surely hope Mr. Dragoon of Novell would not try to insult the intelligence of citizenry by implying -through omission - that Novell’s business upturn fortunes without the Microsoft deal moneys have had no effect on companies who deal with Novell solely because they value the Microsoft insurance - some call extortion tax - via Novell.

Unfortunately nothing appears to be changed from the very naive and deceptive approach Novell has taken in regard the whole Microsoft patent tax issue.

I can attest to the fact that a consulting associate client’s hotel property in the Caribbean was willing to switch from RedHat to Novell Suse only because of their concern about reprisals from Microsoft. Such decision had nothing to do with any superiority of products or services form Novell, which they found to be lacking.

Therefore I still consider Novell a leech and parasite not only on GNU/Linux technology but the worldwide community and the Free/Open Source Software spirit as well.


It ought to be apparent that Novell's part of the deal which is to do with patents is closely tied to so-called "interoperability", which is a case of patents anyway. If there are fiends out there whose role is to make GNU/Linux liable for software patents, Novell is among them. Since patents are incompatible with open standards, Novell harms standards. It sold out.

Sell Novell

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