Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Linux Foundation Needs a Rethink About Software Patents Stance (Currently Represents Multinationals, Not GNU/Linux Users/Developers)

Jim Zemlin



Summary: The stance of the Linux Foundation resembles that of the OIN and Peer-to-Patent, which makes it a peril to real progress in the fight against software patents

OIN and LF (Linux Foundation) are tightly related entities whose position on patents we wrote about a few years ago. Not much has changed since then, except that we have a lot more evidence to validate and solidify this relationship this year (the older post is from 2008).



Those who have followed this site for a while would probably know that we are sceptical of the OIN because rather than abolish software patents it is validating a strategy of getting more software patents to 'cancel out' those of enemies of GNU and Linux (more of the latter). Peer-to-Patent takes a similar approach in spirit. We have just found out that Peer-to-Patent liaised with patent lawyers. Are they wasting students' time and legitimising patents? Read the following from a UK-based patent lawyers' blog:

Last week's Peer-to-Patent (P2P) seminar, organised by the IPKat and kindly hosted in Olswang LLP's cosy rooftop nest in Holborn, is gone but not forgotten. For one thing, this blog is privileged to have some notes from one of those present, Dr Roger J Burt (a European and Chartered Patent Attorney with huge experience of software-related patents).

[...]

There is a particular hope that university students, particularly computer science students for the present pilot, may take part and benefit from learning about the patent system and how it works".


What a silly idea. If anything, British students need to be taught to reject the patent system and antagonise companies that lobby for software patents. These companies are enemies of their prospective occupation. They are monopolising the field and reducing the number of available jobs in computer science. We were even more saddened to see Jim Zemlin closing his latest interview with the following brow-raising statement:

Zemlin: I think we were speaking around patent reform. I think everyone in the tech industry related specifically to software would like to see a higher bar in terms of quality for patents issued around software because the lack of quality leads to a lot of needless litigation.


The problem is not "quality for patents issued around software", the problem is "patents issued around software," right? The head of the FFII interprets this as "Zemlin of LinuxFoundation a supporter of swpats [software patents]" and given the OIN's approach, it is not exactly shocking. Both the OIN and the Linux Foundation are a bit like front groups for large supporters of Linux, especially the big companies that engage in kernel development for their own benefit. If the LF is a front to software patents proponents like IBM and like Intel, then we need to reassess our take on the LF's position regarding patents, not just the OIN's position (which we never truly supported, with exceptions). IBM's Rob Weir tweets about fake patent 'reform' which goes under the nose of the IBM veteran-led USPTO (Kappos):

Fascinating congressional patent reform bill debate on CSPAN.. Debating first-to-invent versus first-to-file


That's not the reform we should focus on. The real reform people want and need would stop monopolies like IBM from getting 'ownership' of algorithms. Let us remember that IBM and Intel -- not just Microsoft -- are behind the push for software patents in NZ -- an important subject at this moment because US-based Web sites try to impose their power upon the kiwis, e.g. by claiming "widespread criticism of proposed exclusion and examination guidelines". This is an utter falsehood. The only criticism comes from US-based giants, their few partners in NZ, and patent lawyers. The population of NZ rightly retests the idea of software patents in this country. To quote the part that is true:

The future of software patents in New Zealand remains in doubt following an almost unanimous rejection of a proposal to exclude computer-implemented inventions from patentability in a recent public consultation.


Let us hope it stays this way. Patent cartels would just love to validate their monopolies in NZ, which would in turn put NZ-based programmers in a position of needing permission from the US to just write simple computer software, however original.

Software patents never made sense, but they made a lot of money for those who produce the least. To insist on the burial of existing software patents (in the US) is not to be armed revolutionists or rebels; it's just the only rational, progressive thing to do. Developers like yours truly are being assaulted with sanctions so that monopolists can improve their profit margins.

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