09.10.20

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The GNOME Foundation Arguably Gave a Patent Troll Even More Legitimacy by Settling and Failing to Dismantle Shoddy Software Patents

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 9:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

They’ve legally endorsed software patents

Summary: The IBM-connected GNOME Foundation wants us to think that letting a troll out on the loose is good news or “victory”; but actually, the patents of the troll are still in tact, posing a threat to many and setting no useful precedent (they technically settled over software patents)

THE other day I saw the post — a belated but very detailed post — about the GNOME Foundation’s patent lawsuit (and counter-suit). It’s from an IBMer and we know that IBM is a HUGE fan of software patents. It lobbies for them constantly, not only in the US but everywhere in the world. I was tempted to respond but did not do so until I saw the above video segment. It’s a video that I do not fully agree with and mostly disagree with for reasons specified several times before in relation to this particular lawsuit. Basically, the GNOME Foundation amassed a lot of money for a pro bono fight; there’s no disclosure/explanation what happened to all that money.

“It may seem like a win for Shotwell, but it’s a loss for the overall battle against software patents and arguably, at least by extension, a loss for programming, including Free software.”More importantly, however, the patent troll was left with the shoddy patents (not a single one was thrown out), free to sue lots of companies provided their products aren’t licensed as Free software or ‘open source’ (as per the OSI’s definition). What’s more, the troll got a zero-cost settlement, which can be used as a sort of ‘ammo’ proving the supposed ‘value’ of the patent/s at hand. So the GNOME Foundation did not actually complete the job; as IBM or OIN would have liked, they did not challenge software patents and in fact left the troll on the loose. It may seem like a win for Shotwell, but it’s a loss for the overall battle against software patents and arguably, at least by extension, a loss for programming, including Free software. That troll is still out there with all those patents. Since GNOME is mostly controlled by IBM (or formerly Red Hat), this whole thing shows how IBM policies supersede Red Hat’s. Bruce Perens recently highlighted those problems with OIN, which basically guards software patents from/against Free software-led reforms.

In this particular case the patent could be squashed using prior art, obviousness, and/or abstractness (Sections 101-103), but no such effort was followed through. Microsoft too was reportedly involved. Moreover, the troll in question received these patents from Microsoft’s troll, as we noted several times in the past.

The media never bothered covering this properly. Shallow journalism has become the norm, appeasing big sponsors.

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