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Patent Threat to GNU/Linux a Top Issue to Address

Summary: Why software patents are a growing problem which needs to be tackled at its root

FOR the past 5 years or so we've been preaching repeatedly and stressing that software patents are a major problem and that they are likely to be Microsoft's last resort against Linux (or derived platforms like Android). Our prediction was correct and Microsoft is currently trying to extort Android as means of 'competing' (and no, some RIM deal and Nokia entryism cannot suffice as enablers of market distortion).



"Our prediction was correct and Microsoft is currently trying to extort Android as means of 'competing'..."Earlier today we wrote about Acacia suing Red Hat and apparently extorting them successfully yet again. We have already explained the ties between Microsoft and Acacia, so we won't do that again.

According to this new announcement, Acacia carries on with the same strategy and unless patent law changes in the United States, there is going to be trouble.

This new opinion piece about software patents helps highlight some of the key problems and it starts as follows:

Recently it was announced that the U.S. Department of Justice is going to end its oversight of Microsoft since 2001, beginning on May 12, 2011. There has been some concern voiced about what will happen after that. I suspect things will carry on like normal at Microsoft, at least for the near future. Why? Because Microsoft is busy leveraging other ways to seek profits and try and undermine competition by using something else: software patents.

While patents themselves are a good thing, applying them to software can actually have an adverse effect. Patents protect physical devices from being cloned, but when dealing with software that is based on mathematical algorithms, software patents prohibit companies from competing with similar software products. And depending on how broad the patent is, it can affect multiple products that are based on the same mathematical algorithm or user interface. This allows a company to prevent the competition from designing software that can offer the consumer a choice between products. In the end, this gives the consumer only one choice on the market (in most cases), so that they must go to the vendor that holds the software patent.



Going further back we have another guy who runs a popular show about GNU/Linux where openly opposed software patents in the following episode:



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Credit: TinyOgg

We need to find more material (preferably new) on this subject. More sites that promote GNU/Linux must talk about software patents' insanity in order for GNU/Linux to thrive. Microsoft lobbied hard for laws which, by definition, make Microsoft's main competition "illegal" or more expensive than Windows. That's a "corruption" of the law, as Professor Lessig might call it in his insightful talks.

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