Bonum Certa Men Certa

Apple Wants 'Linux Tax', OIN Still Unable to Do Much

Summary: An expansion of scope at the OIN does not help resolve the real problems GNU/Linux and Free software at large are having

THERE IS an update on patents coming soon. According to Wildeboer from Red Hat, "Apple also wants 5-15 US$ per Android device. Just as Microsoft." As the OIN's CEO put it to me over the phone, Apple and Microsoft (he calls them the "duopoly") are trying to make Android "uneconomic", to use his term that he repeated a lot for over an hour. I recently got an invitation to meet him in London, but I had to decline because it's far from where I live (Manchester), so instead I suggested an E-mail interview. They agreed, but when I asked questions such as how the OIN would deal with patent trolls (I named MOSAID) they seemed to have changed their mind about the interview. The matter of fact is, the OIN is flawed. It works for IBM perhaps, but not for us independent developers who are not part of a company weighing at hundreds of thousands of full-time employees (and tens of thousands of patents, which is not so impressive given the headcount).

A month ago the OIN boasted "Strong 2011 Licensing Performance" (whatever that practically means, notice the term "licensing") and we keep wondering, what will they do about patent trolls? Microsoft is already operating through MOSAID. We foresaw this and asked the OIN about MOSAID more than a month ago. What about the Twin Peaks lawsuit against Red Hat (about s fortnight ago)? What can the OIN do? Nothing. Or not much.

Nevertheless, the OIN is addressing one of the other criticisms of its strategy. It expands its scope of coverage even further to more Free software projects such as

KVM, Git, OpenJDK, and WebKit. Mobile Linux distributions like Android, MeeGo, and webOS will also soon be expressly protected.

We asked about those Linux distributions over a month ago, but the OIN returned no response. The secrecy at the OIN needs to stop. And the hard questions -- in particular the one about patent trolls -- need to be tackled. Until then, destroying all software patents -- not subscribing to the OIN -- is the right solution. We find it interesting that OIN will cover WebKit, which is in part being developed by Apple -- the cult which is suing Android/Linux and demands a tax or products embargo. OpenJDK is also covered despite the fact that an OIN member, Oracle, is suing a over Dalvik. Samba's lawyer once said that the only solution is abolition and he was right. The OIN neither pursues nor advocates abolition; its business model and very existence depends on patents. Sites like Groklaw, which is led by a law professor, present a similar point of view, which can be problematic at times (patents being essential to one's living). My intention is not to disparage anyone but merely to explain the conflict of interests and the point of view of companies like Intel and IBM (and their de facto front groups).


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