Bonum Certa Men Certa

Government Procurement Should Exclude Patents-riddled 'Standards'

Australian money



Summary: Patent tax not acceptable where public territories are concerned, but officials need to revise existing rules

Procurement issues have been covered by Simon Phipps for quite a few years, even back when he worked for Sun Microsystems. In his newest article he writes about the use of patents to discriminate against Free/open source software, starting with: [via]



All over the world, I encounter both governments and countries claiming they have a policy permitting or even favouring open source software. yet when you actually look at what they are doing, you find that there's still a huge amount of proprietary software being procured.

A policy alone is not enough. To implement it, legacy procurement rules have to be changed, especially in government. Procurement rules evolve over time in the light of experience, and gradually accrete into a sizeable corpus that is inflexible by design. While these rules may provide both protection and value for procurement of products and services the enterprise has seen before, they typically discriminate against new approaches, which are the "friendly fire" casualties of unintended and unforeseen consequences. Legacy procurement rules stifle innovation.

One of the most common problems that legacy procurement rules cause is in the area of requiring indemnity for software. Procurement rules usually ask for substantial penalties to be associated with promises that the software doesn't contain any misappropriated copyright, abuses no trademarks, and does not knowingly infringe any patents.

[...]

This is one of the key problems that needs to be fixed if you intend to move your enterprise to favour open source software. It's not enough just to say you do; you'll need to fix your procurement rules so open source software can get through your defences.


The point to be made here is also that patents (and copyrights) play a role in discriminating against Free/open source software, whether deliberately or not. It relates quite nicely to the atrocious news from Australia [1, 2, 3, 4], where Microsoft proprietary and patents-encumbered formats were chosen over ODF by a suit with Microsoft business history. Watch them trying to deny "Microsoft bias" when approached by an Australian journalist who is investigative and consistently in favour of software freedom:

AGIMO’s policy requires government agencies to support the Office Open XML file format/ECMA-376 standard promoted by Microsoft, which most alternative office suites cannot write documents in. The ODF Alliance, which is supporting a rival format, claimed last year the Office Open XML format was riddled with “Windows-platform dependencies” (PDF) and essentially tied users to Microsoft Office, and some organisations, such as the National Archives of Australia, have picked the ODF standard instead in the long-term.

However, AGIMO stated there was no software bias in the choice.

[...]

One of the common complaints of workers in large organisations is that they are unable to gain access to install applications on their desktop PCs, leading to a frustration at work as they may be unable to use the applications which they are used to, or prefer to do their work more efficiently. An example would be the way that many people use web browsers with heavily customised extensions.


Microsoft cronies in the Australian government are embarrassing the entire country, which is being watched by the entire world over this scandal.

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