08.23.10

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Groklaw Responds to FUD About OIN

Posted in GNU/Linux, OIN, Patents at 5:11 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Response to the noise made by a “campaigner” for hire, who tries to characterise the pro-Linux OIN — not Microsoft/Apple/SCO — as an ‘evil empire’

TECHRIGHTS is an OIN sceptic, but the apparent Microsoft lobbyist mentioned in the previous post (Florian Müller) went too far by discounting OIN success stories [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and piggybacking ZDNet to label OIN “a scam”. Over at Groklaw, Pamela Jones responded to Müller’s FUD without naming him. She linked to this recent talk last week.

Recently significant capital has been invested in patent speculation and for the last eighteen months, Congress has been discussing patent reform. Hedge funds in need of generating quick returns in this challenging market are seeking investments in patent trolls. At the same time, corporate entities have built large patent portfolios. The resulting patent arms race is fueled by the existence of poor quality patents. This is partially due to the fact that insufficient prior art was identified to enable rejection of poor quality patents by the USPTO. Any changes made to the current laws are likely to be suboptimal without participation from the open source community in reforming the patent system. Keith Bergelt, CEO of OIN, will share his insights into the build-up and ramifications of the patent arms race for open source and discuss market-based patent reform solutions, to help ensure that we will keep open source open.

“Keith Bergelt of Open Invention Network also spoke at LinuxCon 2010,” wrote Jones. “His slides are downloadable as a PDF from the linked page. Notice slides 12-15, because it will show you what you can do to help, particularly with regard to codifying prior art and regarding defensive publication. As he points out, we have to deal with the past, regardless of the future of software patents, and of course the present. [...] If you have *any* doubts about why Open Invention Network matters, and the kinds of things the organization has done to protect Linux, I suggest you listen the introduction to his speech last year at LinuxCon, and then listen to his speech. The theme is the attempt that year by Microsoft to auction off patents it believed relate on Linux to patent trolls.”

Separately Jones advised: “don’t let anyone persuade you that there is no purpose to OIN. If you have any patentable ideas, and you wish to help build up OIN’s muscle, contact them.” In relation to another article about patents, Jones concluded: “This is the place Keith Bergelt of OIN referenced in his talk last year at LinuxCon, and this is where defensive publications can be collected. This isn’t a patent; it’s a way to ensure no one else can patent something you’ve written about, because it’s now prior art. This is one of the things that OIN will do with you, if you have a useful idea that could be patented but you hate patents and prefer not to do that.”

“…don’t let anyone persuade you that there is no purpose to OIN.”
      –Pamela Jones, Groklaw
To summarise Techrights’ position, we are adamant about ending software patents. OIN does not do this, but it provides a temporary fix, like some kind of plaster. Most of our posts about OIN are supportive of OIN, with some reservations. The same goes for Peer-to-Patent.

In the mean time, Red Hat’s Wildeboer identifies three more patents [1, 2, 3] which he claims to be a threat to the World Wide Web. It’s an important issue we mentioned some hours ago. “Is this a patent on cookies,” he asks. “If yes, it might become a royal PITA for the web [...] And in that same case we have very broad e-commerce patents” (Wildeboer speaks for himself here, not for Red Hat, which is an OIN member).

In conclusion, let’s not attack OIN. Scepticism is healthy, but what Müller has been doing is destructive. Even the FFII disagrees with him, both the decisions and the methods (after inheriting his campaign!). It’s not the same person from 2005. Something apparently changed.

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2 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    August 24, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Gravatar

    OIN, or Groklaw, could prove Müller wrong by publishing a road map of how OIN will work to make sure that it can be safely closed down at some future date and even offer some tentative timelines for that wonderful occasion.

    The position that OIN is somehow necessary can very easily lead to a perpetuation of the current problems. Or it can lead to a severe worsening of the increased costs and decreased innovation of software patents.

    If Prof Moglen and others can connect the dots for us and show us how OIN leads directly to returning to a sane patent policy in the US, then those two bad scenarios can be avoided. Without a reminder as to how OIN fits into restoring a sane patent policy, OIN looks more like a liability for Linux and FOSS in general than any resemblance to an asset.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I think OIN fits under the “pragmatic” umbrella. It obeys a broken law rather than smash it.

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