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Free/Open Source Software Under Attack From Software Patents

Not only Microsoft is attacking Free/Open Source software using its software patents

“I find a considerable anxiety throughout the community of practicing computer scientists that decisions by the patent courts and the Patent and Trademark Office are making life much more difficult for programmers. ”

--Donald Knuth



Summary: Free/Open Source software (FOSS), which encourages sharing, is increasingly becoming infested or subjected to software patents barbwire, courtesy of those who want to monopolise rather than share

THE OTHER day we wrote about Blockchain and related technologies coming under attack because of giants that hoard software patents and threaten small players/contenders. A news site dedicated to Bitcoin explains this as follows:



Increasing Blockchain Patents May Soon Hamper Innovation



[...]

Companies count their patents among prized possessions. Having a patent for something important can be worth a fortune, guaranteeing the company a constant stream of revenue until it expires. At the same time, it may also hamper innovation by preventing other from using the technology for free.

Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain are open source technologies and it has gained prominence in the banking and fintech industry lately. The potential of blockchain to change the future of banking has forced many institutions to invest heavily in the development and implementation of cryptocurrency technology based applications.

However, the increased involvement of mainstream institutions has created another problem in the cryptocurrency industry. The banks and financial institutions are increasingly filing patents for various blockchain based solutions that are commonly used by many open source crypto-communities. If these institutions were to gain the patents, then they will soon be dictating terms to Bitcoin and other crypto-platforms, hampering innovation and ease of access to millions of people.


We are beginning to hear more and more stories like this and it matters even more to us because of the direct connection to FOSS and to the Linux Foundation. The other day WIPR showed that Hadoop too, in spite of being FOSS, became subjected to patent wars:

Founded in 2012, Pepperdata provides customers with products that improve the performance of Hadoop-based computing clusters. A computer cluster consists of a set of connected computers that work together.

According to the suit, Yahoo uses Hadoop clusters within the US. It made a software patch identified as YARN-5202, titled “dynamic overcommit of node resources”, which it has used on the clusters.


So anyone who uses this Free/Open Source software can now become the defendant in a patent lawsuit? How does that work? And why don't more FOSS developers becoming actively involved in ending software patents? This should be our top priority.

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