Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Open Invention Network and Software Patents

Summary: The Open Invention Network's latest addition and resultant publicity calls for a timely explanation of its goals and its inherent weaknesses

THE Open Invention Network, or OIN for short, recently did a publicity stunt because it had turned 10. I spoke to the OIN on numerous occasions (phone, E-mail), but I was never able to see the logic of their strategy, nor was I able to see a single example where they foiled a patent attack on Linux. They might argue that they are merely a deterrent, but with only barks and no bites, how much of a deterrent can they ever be? They're 100% ineffective against patent trolls, including satellites of aggressors such as Microsoft. They weren't even effective against Oracle's patent aggression (direct action).

"As longtime readers may know too well, we're not against patents but against software patents."A few days ago I found this article/press release which said: "Today Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation are joining the Open Invention Network as community members. Linux and Open Source software are becoming a mainstay in automotive computing. With the first global automotive companies joining OIN, a trend has been set towards Open Source collaboration and patent non-aggression in the automotive industry. The news is in the press here on Yahoo Finance, here on and in many other places."

As we have pointed out numerous times over the years, among OIN backers there are many software patents proponents, and it's not just IBM. They serve to legitimise these patents rather than battle to put an end to them. That's what OIN is often all about. It sets apart so-called 'good' software patents -- ones that are supposed to be incapable of attacking Linux (Oracle refuted this claim when it attacked Android despite its OIN membership).

As longtime readers may know too well, we're not against patents but against software patents. This positions of ours is supported by the vast majority of software professionals. Surely there are some problems with today's patent systems as a whole (scope and motivation gone awry), but this oughtn't be interpreted as a case for abolition of all patents. The Onion has this new satire on "How To File A Patent". It has some funny bits in it like "Wait one to two decades" (for A patent to be granted) and "carefully review patent legal documents, occasionally stopping to nod your head as if you understand what they mean" (if they're written in legal terms, patent lawyers sometimes become necessary, i.e. a tax).

We hope that patent examiners too will agree with us that not all domains should have patents in them, e.g. genetics and software. Over-patenting leads to devaluation, cheapening, self-discretisation, and retardation of innovation. We don't expect patent lawyers -- collectively speaking -- to ever agree with us because to them it's clearly a case of the more (patents), the merrier. Thankfully, there are some patent lawyers who have been enlightened by the former group, especially after decisions such as Alice in the United States. Some of our sources in the campaign to change the EPO are actually patent lawyers.

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