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Linux is Not Against Software Patents (and Why Linus Torvalds Should Speak Up)

Linus Torvalds



Summary: An inconvenient truth about the Linux Foundation is brought up again now that Linux is attacked with software patents that are named

Linux is a fine kernel, but it is not the Free desktop or the Free software movement; it also does not share all the same values as the FSF and the FFII, for example. Linux has grown to become more than a one-man project and it now falls under the banner of a foundation, which introduced corporate interests from software patents proponents (with large portfolios, evidently) such as IBM, Google, and Oracle. Linus Torvalds worries about software patents and he opposes them, but at the same time he relies on companies that fund Linux development.

Now that Microsoft adds its weight [1, 2, 3] to Apple's software patents assault on GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] maybe it's time for Torvalds to speak up. It's unlikely that he will.

At the Linux summit, OIN is still somewhat central (it's like an extension of the Linux Foundation). FFII's president wrote the following yesterday: "OIN, or the codification of vapour inventions, companies can capture and codify open source "inventions" http://i5.be/aC5"

“HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection...”
 --Peter Chou, HTC CEO
Just to clarify, even though the OIN can be effective sometimes [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], it does not aim to end software patents. It might be a hindrance if what isn't part of the solution is part of the problem. OIN is not a problem, but it's not a permanent solution, either. It deals with problems as they arise rather than eliminate the problem at its root. The funding sources of the OIN are pro-software patents, so this approach only makes sense to them.

Going back to Apple's lawsuit that Microsoft endorses, here is HTC's new and official response, which includes the statement: “HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself. HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible.”

One reader interprets this as endorsement of software patents, whereas another says (about "intellectual property"): "Like copyrighted GPL code?"

China does have software patents, but for Apple to pull this card is simply a sign of misery. We don't have the same problem in Europe although the TomTom case contests this assumption. The next post will discuss Europe in a lot more detail.

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