Bonum Certa Men Certa

Tim Berners-Lee Finally Takes Action Against Patents on the Web

Tim Berners-Lee
Image from Wikimedia



Summary: The Web's inventor, who always insisted on patent- and royalty-free Web, addresses a standing issue

THE HONOURABLE MAN who was inspired in part by Richard Stallman when he created the free Web is making headlines again. It is about the case which we wrote about in posts such as [1, 2, 3].



Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a journalist who is currently being smeared by Microsoft employees, writes about this piece of news that's pretty big. Timothy B. Lee's angle on Timothy Berners-Lee can be found here. "But no third cheer," writes Simon Phipps (OSI), "because, all the same, it's a hollow victory. Despite the fact every technically-competent engineer on the Internet (including my colleagues at Sun who worked on the HotJava browser and were also pursued) could see the patent claim was specious, Eolas has still been able to spend more than a decade making huge sums of money simply by threatening people with enormously expensive litigation."

Here are some more articles about this theme:



Last year Tim and I chatted briefly on Twitter about patents in the Web, so the above action is reassuring. Glyn Moody writes about this by retweeting Tim:

RT @timberners_lee Texas jury agreed Eolas 906 patent invalid. Good thing too! >>that's a relief...#swpats


As an aside, there is this ongoing discussion about why the patent system fails. Jan summarises as follows:

What started as a post on Googleplus turned into quite a nice braindump of my struggle with the current patent system. Hence I decided to also turn it into a blog entry. Please do read the comments on googleplus as they contain a lot of additional insight and counterarguments.

[...]

So when both sides of the equation fail in society (not the market, patents are a deal between society and creators, not a deal in the market, a mistake many people make) the patent system is NOT doing what it is meant to do.

Now can we get back to the original deal? I doubt it. Reforms will not suffice for that.


A good first step would be to annul all software patents. Tim said that software patents are "terrible". He is a scientist and renowned innovator, not a lawyer.

"Let me make my position on the patentability of software clear. I believe that software per se should not be allowed patent protection. […] We take this position because it is the best policy for maintaining a healthy software industry, where innovation can prosper." —Douglas Brotz, Adobe Systems, Inc.

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