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Open Invention Network's Jerry Rosenthal Answers Your Questions
Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 05:31 AM EST

Here are Open Invention Network CEO Jerry Rosenthal's answers to Groklaw's collection of questions about OIN and how it operates. OIN describes itself as "an intellectual property company formed to further the Linux environment by acquiring patents and ensuring their availability". Here are some of those patents.

I'd like to say thank you to Mr. Rosenthal for taking the time from his very busy schedule to answer our questions. As you will see, he appreciated them, and one of you made a suggestion that OIN will be following up on. But here's my favorite answer:

There are a number of organizations that collect IP portfolios in order to make them available to be shared by all. We are also here to take the actions that might be required, against businesses or organizations that look to use IP to harm the Linux environment.

Unlike operating systems owned by individual companies like Sun, Microsoft or Apple – there is no one company that owns the majority of the IP related to Linux. This, to a certain extent, made companies that leveraged Linux vulnerable to a business or organization with a willingness to sue, based on perceived or potential patent infringements. In addition to a number of other initiatives taken on by leading Linux vendors, we were created to deflect opportunistic or even malicious attacks on Linux.

As we can see from recent events, someone was smart enough to see that there would be a need for strategies to deal with "opportunistic or even malicious attacks on Linux".

It's a crying shame that it's necessary, but there you are. It is what it is.

I hope Mr. Rosenthal's answers to your questions will enhance your comprehension of how very creative an idea this was, given the sad state of affairs the US patent system presents.

Personally, I'm now convinced by recent events that the community needs to continue to think through how best to respond to those realities going forward. When I started Groklaw, and then began to write about SCO, my thought was that there was a good chance of being victorious, because while there might be a lot of money and power on the other side, there was a lot of brain power on the FOSS side. In the first interview I ever did, I said this in answer to a question from Linux Online:

I believe Microsoft when they say Linux will have IP headaches in the future, and I believe they will be bringing on the headaches, directly or indirectly, because they said that, unless the backlash from this SCO fight is so massive that they decide it isn't going to work. Free and open source are willing to play nicely with others, but we see now that the proprietary side has issues. Some personality flaws too, don't you think? : ) So, what do you do about a bully? If he's bigger than you are, you certainly try to outsmart him. There's no lack of brains on our side, happily.

That is still true. And we certainly do need to figure out how to outsmart a bully, more than ever. I was counting on the corporate members of the community to figure out patent strategies, and what they came up with made sense to me, from a legal point of view. After the Novell-Microsoft patent agreement, I've decided it's best to do our own thinking though, in addition to theirs. We haven't yet found the complete answer, and I don't think they can be relied upon to supply one without a helping hand from the community.

Corporate entities are unlikely to comprehend the importance of the GPL to FOSS development. The Novell deal illustrates that lack of comprehension, at best. Without the GPL, Linux would never have been the success it has turned out to be. There are important reasons why the community overwhelmingly chooses the GPL and not the BSD license.

Microsoft seems to be the one corporate player that absolutely gets the importance of the GPL, and it fights against it without letup. But on the other side, I don't yet see an equivalent and opposing resolve. They want to benefit from the GPL'd code; but they also want to keep their software patents. It's all very 1990s. The only way that can happen is if the GPL is neutered, and I believe some of them are willing to do exactly that, even with the best of intentions, because they just don't get it. The community therefore has to preserve its own development environment, because that is what makes the FOSS magic happen; it's what makes volunteers show up willing to code. Who will volunteer, if their work is ripped off or abused?

Business folks talk about innovation, but in reality their decisions are usually based on what they call pragmatic realities. They want the benefits of that pool of code; but they haven't fully understood what created the pool and what sustains it, so they may choose their patents over the GPL and their business strategies over community ethics. Reality is just another word for status quo. But they don't even fully see what reality is, because they don't value the GPL or understand the role it plays in fostering innovation. So, the community needs to put its own brain power to work. Because there is a bully in the playground.

With that introduction, here are Jerry Rosenthal's answers to the questions you posed, and they may prompt some creative ideas.


Groklaw: How does OIN fit in with other patent projects, including PubPat, Peer-to-Patent, Open Source as Prior Art, patent-reform legislation, and F/OSS advocacy? Which applies most directly to which threats and/or situations?

We believe that organizations and projects like those you just mentioned have a real value in ensuring that intellectual property is legitimate, shared, made available or kept open. However, we are different than these organizations and projects in several ways.

First, we are focused on Linux. While it is a subset of open source, we are chartered to protect the Linux environment. Certainly, businesses that develop non-Linux open source code will benefit greatly by becoming an OIN licensee. But first and foremost, we were created to protect Linux.

Second, we go about our business by acquiring intellectual property through purchases of patents, and receiving their donations. To be clear, we make all of our patents available royalty-free to our licensees, but we do acquire IP that we believe to be strategic. Not every organization you mentioned is designed to purchase IP.

Third, we are designed to defend Linux. There are a number of organizations that collect IP portfolios in order to make them available to be shared by all. We are also here to take the actions that might be required, against businesses or organizations that look to use IP to harm the Linux environment.

Unlike operating systems owned by individual companies like Sun, Microsoft or Apple – there is no one company that owns the majority of the IP related to Linux. This, to a certain extent, made companies that leveraged Linux vulnerable to a business or organization with a willingness to sue, based on perceived or potential patent infringements. In addition to a number of other initiatives taken on by leading Linux vendors, we were created to deflect opportunistic or even malicious attacks on Linux.

What would an OIN defense look like? Typically, our first action would be to contact the organization that is claiming patent infringement. Our goal would be to have a conversation where we allow them to license our IP in return for a license to their patents. If necessary, we might demonstrate how their products might infringe on our patents. Legal proceedings for patent infringement would be our last resort. While we can adequately handle the latter, our goal is to build the Linux ecosystem with the former.

Groklaw: Most of the patent prior art strategies and OIN are directed at protecting what already exists or establishing a workable prior art database. OIN however looks to the future, to the need for a space to innovate. I wonder about the lack of funds in the FOSS community. How are individual programmers supposed to function in a patent system that requires so much money? And since the answer is that they can't, is it possible that OIN will at some point be the place for such developers to donate their ideas or projects so OIN can apply for patents?

This is an excellent question. Many people ask us what types of patents we look to acquire. We do build our portfolio by looking to the future of computing. It does us little good to try and build a protected, Linux ecosystem if you only address IP that is valuable today. Areas we look at every day include Web / Internet, e-commerce, mobile and communications. Additionally, while many people assume that we only find value in software IP, the fact is, hardware IP is valuable too in many of the Linux-based solutions. We speak with enterprise companies, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and services companies regarding their areas of development, helping us keep track of important trends.

The bigger issue that you raise is with regard to our corporate model. When we began putting the operations model together for OIN, we examined your suggestion of also being an IP “idea” donation destination. That would require OIN to review many IP “ideas,” file for patents and then manage the application process. The problem with OIN taking on that particular set of activities is that we would lose our focus. We are very busy examining and acquiring current patents and patent applications. We do take donations of valuable patents and purchase patent portfolios with some ongoing applications. We also consider taking donations of patents that owners no longer wish to pay the fees to maintain.

I believe that the kind of service you mentioned would be incredibly valuable. It sounds like a great service that another organization really should undertake. It is a very good idea.

Groklaw: I was very excited to learn that OIN has a lot of support from prominent technology companies and patent holders. I'm pleased that OIN licenses its patents royalty-free to those who agree not to attack Linux. I have also heard that OIN has some rather important patents. My question is: can you disclose if the big guns have been used? I think we would have heard about it if there was a full-on attack of Linux that OIN defended, but can you either point to any specifics or just answer in the positive or negative if OIN has flexed its mighty muscles yet?

While there are many patent-related activities that become public, the vast majority are handled quietly. We always look to keep our activities discrete and out of the public eye, unless absolutely necessary. If we had filed any lawsuits you would have probably heard about it because they are public proceedings.

Groklaw: Have the licensees committed to making all their future patents and applications available for the Linux environment as well as their existing ones?

Yes. By becoming an OIN licensee, an organization commits to making all of their existing and future patents and patent applications available to other OIN licensees.

Groklaw: The website refers to a partial list of licensees. Why isn't the complete list of licensees available?

You are right; the list of licensees on the website is only a partial list. We are still examining how to list licensees and their applicable patents. Additionally, if some companies don’t want to be listed, we won’t list them. We hope to be able to provide this information in the first quarter of 2007.

Groklaw: Is there a legal text of a covenant or license available?

We do provide copies of the license agreement. If anyone would like to examine the license, they can request a copy by sending an email to You can also access a link to the email on the License Agreement Page of our website. Please give us your name, name of your company and why you might be interested in becoming a licensee. We will gladly email a copy of the license agreement to anyone who is truly interested in becoming a licensee.

Groklaw: If the US moves to a first to file system, will that impact OIN or the other patent protection projects in any way and if so how?

A first-to-file system is not anticipated to have an impact on OIN. However, it would have the potential to make things easier for many parties. By awarding patents to those who file first, it would eliminate much of the tine-consuming legwork involved in determining which party was the first to create new, original IP.

Groklaw: What about patent trolls? Can OIN proactively go on the offensive in efforts to invalidate patents and any other efforts that patent troll companies like Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures attempts?

This is another very good question. In our opinion, patent trolls are one of the largest potential impediments to innovation. They provide no benefit to anyone other than their owners and investors. We find them particularly troubling because they don’t create anything, and in fact have the effect of stifling innovation. These organizations demonstrate the very worst behaviors in IP management.

At OIN, we take a proactive approach in terms of acquiring IP to protect the Linux environment, but we cannot take proactive measures against others. We respond to attacks by others on Linux and we act as an effective deterrent for the threats or lawsuits others generate against Linux.

Groklaw: Can OIN proactively go on the offensive in efforts to use patents to attack some of the large SW companies who have been making patent-based threats?

I suppose that I should clarify the difference between a threat and a hostile action. We do not want to act or be seen as a bully in the industry. We want to try and positively engage with organizations that may make negative statements or allusions toward leveraging IP against the Linux environment. As I said earlier, the preferred course of action would be to invite them to become a licensee. In that regard, we try to engage with many companies that have communicated negative things about Linux.

On the other hand, should a business or entity take hostile action, say in the form of a lawsuit, we would fight it vigorously. We would leverage our patent portfolio in response to an aggressor making the first move.

The most important message I want everyone to receive regarding this topic is this: at OIN we believe that discussion and leveraging mutual interests is much more effective for all parties.

Groklaw: How do you respond to this point of view: that it's more effective to let the entire patent system collapse? And how do you see the value of OIN? Is it a buy time strategy targeting an eventual abolition of software patents? Or is it a measure meant as a permanent solution?

Let me answer the questions in reverse order. Our value to the community is that we are one of several activities and organizations that are intended to make attacking Linux a very costly, and ultimately fruitless endeavor. As long as there are patents, and businesses that compete with Linux, we will continue to exist. We designed and built this organization for the long-run.

We do support the existence of legitimate software patents as they relate to technological innovation. We sometimes forget that patents really do protect young, innovative businesses that have developed something truly competitive. Having a patent on a technology enables them to compete with larger, more established businesses without having to worry that their innovation will be stolen. That approach to intellectual property management may be in opposition to that of some participants in the open source community, but it is the right of a company to protect its innovations.

Groklaw: Does OIN and some or all of its member companies support the complete elimination of patents on software?

We at OIN do not believe in the complete elimination of patents for the very reasons I stated in the last question – primarily because it enables emerging companies to benefit from their innovation. But, I am only speaking for OIN. The individual member companies will have to speak for themselves.

Groklaw: Is OIN also pursuing a legislative agenda for eliminating software patents? Is OIN going to do any public policy advocacy or lobbying on the issue? Does OIN have any alliances with any legal defense funds for these issues?

Wow, this is another great question. This goes back to our business model. We are chartered to purchase IP and leverage it to build the Linux ecosystem and defend it against unfriendly, aggressive organizations. We do meet with government officials to discuss ways to further innovation – and we explain to them our business model. In fact, I just got back from a very successful round of meetings with business and government leaders in several Asian countries.

However, we don’t lobby or try to influence the legislative agenda. It would distract us from our IP acquisition and defense activities. There are a number of groups and large vendors that are very successful at doing that. We do whole-heartedly support organizations that want to influence the members of governments to ensure that Linux and open source are allowed to thrive.

Groklaw: If [an OIN] licensee sells one of its patents or applications to a non-licensee; does that take it out of the pool available for the Linux environment?

No, any sale of the patents is subject to the terms and conditions of the license agreement.

In fact, we are beginning to speak more frequently with venture capitalists and their investment companies. We regularly point out the key benefits for a venture-funded company to become a licensee to our patent portfolio. Primarily, it gives them access to a valuable, growing and protected portfolio of Linux-oriented IP – at no cost. We also tell them that if they want to monetize their investments in IP, for whatever reason, we would be willing to discuss acquiring their patents. This provides the venture investors with a bit of a security net, while helping ensure the Linux community has access to key IP.

Groklaw: What constraints are there on combinations of Linux environment components with other hardware and software components to qualify for the royalty-free license?

If you sign our license agreement, you have access to the OIN patent portfolio on a royalty-free basis. We don’t distinguish between Linux-oriented hardware or software patents in terms of the license agreement.

Groklaw: How do you [respond] to the charge that these commons efforts are just formalizing the iron grip the IBMs of the world have on the software market, raising the barriers before new competitors and giving FLOSS people a few bones to chew on so they don't complain? They all seem to protect the existing big FLOSS players : apache, mysql... meanwhile the generous sponsors still apply for new patents not in the commons, and you bet they'll assert them against new FLOSS projects before they get big enough to be included in the commons.

I can’t speak for anyone other than OIN. We do not discriminate against companies based on size, revenues, etc. We want to make sure that all of our licensees are afforded protection.

Groklaw: These compromise strategies can be useful, but one must make sure these initiatives are useful TO EVERYONE and not only to the corporations. For example, What about Debian? What about other Free Software projects apart from Linux? Don´t they deserve the same level of protection?

We do see a huge value in ensuring that all open source projects are protected. While OIN does focus on IP that has a strategic value for Linux, the rest of the open source community benefits because we make our IP portfolio available royalty-free to licensees. The list of components that we classify as part of the Linux environment is extensive.

That being said, we really do concentrate on Linux-related IP. Please remember that this is no small undertaking.

I think that it would be a great benefit to the entire open source community for there to be more organizations like OIN that focus exclusively on other critical, open source initiatives. I believe that this is another opportunity for the open source community.

Groklaw: Is it possible to establish a 'safe harbor', where corporations such as IBM could place the source code for products which used to be commercial software but which have been withdrawn from [the market]? It's a potential treasure trove of 'prior art', since much of this stuff is ancient ... more than 20 years old, so even if it was patented then the patents would have expired. Also it appears to be a potential treasure trove to build new stuff on.

I can tell you that this is a really great idea and that it deserves exploration. This blog is very well read amongst the members of the IP community – and I am sure that this question will spark some discussion internally inside many of the companies that advocate open source software. I will pass this idea along to executives at many of the large software firms. I don’t know if they will move in the direction you suggest – but it is an idea that I believe is well worth pursuing. In fact, I could envision an organization totally dedicated to harvesting this older, not-in-use IP.

Groklaw: I'm told that the reason for not open-sourcing IBM's VisualAge Smalltalk is 'it would be expensive for the necessary legal review'; i.e. IBM might have 3rd-party obligations with respect to some of the code, which would need to be chased down and extinguished before IBM could even give the thing away.

While I oversaw the management of IBM’s IP portfolio for a number of years, I can’t speak on their behalf. I will say that many of the large software vendors are beginning to look for ways to share large swaths of their IP – from operating systems to applications, and everything in-between.

Groklaw: What is OIN’s perception of the recent agreement between Novell and Microsoft?

We recently issued a statement regarding the agreement. That is all we are prepared to say at this time regarding the agreement.

We at OIN believe that the openness and collaborative culture of the Linux community is an engine for innovation. It is clear that there is significant value in Linux community members’ intellectual property and patents.

OIN continues to support the Linux community’s ability to collaborate and innovate. In less than a year, OIN has accumulated more than 100 strategic, worldwide patents and patent applications that span Web / Internet, e-commerce, mobile and communications technologies. These patents are available to all as part of the patent commons that OIN is creating around, and in support of Linux. We stand ready to leverage our IP portfolio to maintain the open patent environment OIN has helped create.


Open Invention Network's Jerry Rosenthal Answers Your Questions | 225 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections, if any
Authored by: kattemann on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 06:02 AM EST
just to be on the safe side

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic here
Authored by: kattemann on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 06:05 AM EST
Post them if you have them, and remember to make links clickable. (HTML mode as
Post Mode and read the red text)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Worst Patent Fears Looking Ahead
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 06:45 AM EST
From all I read the attack from Microsoft I see most likely is againt Samba in
some form of FAT/FAT32 HPFS code snippets file format IP attack. What is Open
Invention Network CEO Jerry Rosenthal's response to this and or other most
likely attack routes? Great article PJ...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network's Jerry Rosenthal Answers Your Questions
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 07:24 AM EST
It is sort of sad in a way that "Linux" has to resort to
this sort of thing. However, given the offensive behaviour
of various large, and not-so-large, busineses that have
decided to seek to invade and/or destroy Linux using
any method of attack, it is good that some organization
has recognized the need and has decided to take the
responsibility to create this line of defense.

I guess I'm beginning to see all this as part of a bigger
picture. Call it the Linux Defense Project (LDP), if you
will. Like national defense. Nobody likes it, but in a "mature"
world, everybody needs it to survive.

Is it a good thing? It doesn't matter.
Is it necessary? Yes.


[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Is this a good thing - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 03:00 PM EST
    • Obviousness - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 05:03 PM EST
I do not trust them at all
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 07:38 AM EST
They have not answered my repeated emails on simple topics over months of how to
participate and benefit. They appear to also support software patents. They
appear to only want to be a power broker. I doubt when you inevitably find
yourself in the situation that control over technology you have developed is
threatened by patents, that they will be there at all for you unless you are a
major company. This is too close to the Novell position that only major
companies should be providing security from patents to customers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What's the difference...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 07:45 AM EST
...between OIN owned patents and patents owned by licensees?

The OIN license says that any licensee agrees to grant licences to the OIN and
all other current and future licensees for the patents that the licensee owns.

Many of the founding companies, including Novell and IBM, have made big puplic
press releases that they have donated certain patents to the OIN. What's the
difference, and why the big dog and pony show each time a patent is donated, if
all other licensees were getting free licences to those patents before they were
donated anyway?

The only difference that I can see is that the patents that the OIN owns can be
used by the OIN directly to sue anyone who attacks Linux. Could Novell now
donate all of it's patents to the OIN, therefore making their half of the patent
covenant with MS worthless?

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPL comprehension
Authored by: grouch on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 08:13 AM EST

Corporate entities are unlikely to comprehend the importance of the GPL to FOSS development.

-- PJ

Please keep the above quote in mind while considering the following.

Maybe RMS and all the recent uproar, with intensified attacks on RMS and the GPL, has sensitized me, but I kept noticing while reading the answers to the questions that GNU was not mentioned. The press release at OIN likewise never mentions GNU:

"Many IT customers and software programmers have recognized that Linux is a first-rate computer operating system with performance, stability and cost-of-ownership that compares well with all its competitors, including Microsoft's own offerings."

Open Invention Network Issues Comments On The Microsoft-Novell Deal

[Case changed from original all-caps title]

I understand the controversy over the name GNU+Linux or GNU/Linux in some circles and I understand some arguments based on obscure tradition of naming operating systems by the kernel they use. However, removal of GNU, the GPL and FSF from the "Linux community" would leave us with a situation in which corporate entities would mainly be parasites instead of partners.

The protection of user freedom, whether that user is a non-coding individual, a developer, an institution, a government or a corporation, is the foundation that has allowed a community of inclusion to thrive. Without that protective, inclusionary characteristic of the software, it could not have developed a global reach, influence and impact.

The GNU GPL is the cornerstone of that foundation. To ignore that is to deny the reality of history since at least 1984. Richard M. Stallman and the Free Software Foundation have consistently fought for user freedom in software. That consistent purpose has created the strength the community now wields. The success of Linux rests squarely on that underlying strength.

As a P.S., and not intended as flame-bait at all, I still, personally, find the following statement on to be offensive in its bold sweep:

Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification compliance.

-- What is Linux?

Your opinion may vary, of course, but I run a GNU+Linux operating system. I wouldn't use one without the principles of GNU shielding it and me.

-- grouch

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network's Jerry Rosenthal Answers Your Questions
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 08:38 AM EST
I can't help feeling that OIN and others that strive to protect Linux and F/OSS
through the existing, broken system may actually make it easier for WTO/WIPO to
convince the rest of the world adopting a US-like broken system.
I will not speculate whether that is actually their ultimate goal. Judging from (news picks), it would seem that one should be extremely
cautious of any of these companies bearing gifts.
I am surprised RedHat choose to be a sponsor to an organization that support
software patents.
PJ any chance you could ask Red Hat about their stance on software patents? I
would certainly be interested in knowing whether they accept software patents or

[ Reply to This | # ]

This set alarm bells ringing
Authored by: FrankH on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 11:40 AM EST
"Groklaw: Is there a legal text of a covenant or license available? We do provide copies of the license agreement. If anyone would like to examine the license, they can request a copy by sending an email to You can also access a link to the email on the License Agreement Page of our website..."
Fair enough. I might do that just to see what these patent donors and licensees are agreeing to.

But wait:
"Please give us your name, name of your company and why you might be interested in becoming a licensee. We will gladly email a copy of the license agreement to anyone who is truly interested in becoming a licensee."
Oh. I see. I have to be a potential licensee to be able to see the license. Not only that, but I have to be "truly interested". Not what I would call available.

So the answer to the original question is "NO". Why didn't he just say so? :-(

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing ain't worth nothing, but it's free" Kris Kristofferson

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network's Jerry Rosenthal Answers Your Questions
Authored by: Dark on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 12:39 PM EST
"We sometimes forget that patents really do protect young, innovative businesses that have developed something truly competitive."

I appear to have "forgotten". Does anyone have examples of this ever actually happening with a software patent?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network's Jerry Rosenthal Answers Your Questions
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 12:42 PM EST
Groklaw: Is it possible to establish a 'safe harbor'?
I could envision an organization totally dedicated to harvesting this older, not-in-use IP.

I don't know about "harvesting" it, but I would expect the Internet Archive could be talked into hosting it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

net worth of patent portfolios
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 01:12 PM EST

"Our goal would be to have a conversation where we allow them to license our IP in return for a license to their patents."

We want no money to change hands in a cross-licensing agreement. We do not charge money for our software patents and we do not want to pay the other party for their software patents.

Businesses do not think this way. They want to weigh the value of the two software patent portfolios and the company with the more valuable portfolio receives the difference from the company with the less valuable portfolio.

Thus companies whose software patent portfolio is worth less that OIN's portfolio is happy to sign a no-fee cross licensing deal. But a company which has a more valuable portfolio will want to receive the net difference in value. Thus the companies which are most likely to sue over software patent infringement are the ones least likely to come to a royalty free agreement with OIN.

Another factor that enters into the equation is that companies which sell Open Source products or hardware companies whose customers use Open Source products do not want to get into a fight with Open Source. They will be willing to enter into an otherwise disadvantageous software patent agreement to keep the peace. So the net worth of software patent portfolios only becomes a problem in dealing with companies which are not part of the Open Source movement.

Steve Stites

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • addendum - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 01:34 PM EST
    • addendum2 - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 03:39 PM EST
Some problems I see
Authored by: cmc on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 01:18 PM EST
First, I have a big problem with this non-answer:

"While there are many patent-related activities that become public, the
vast majority are handled quietly. We always look to keep our activities
discrete and out of the public eye, unless absolutely necessary. If we had filed
any lawsuits you would have probably heard about it because they are public

He didn't even come close to answering the question. PJ asked for details, or
for at least a simple yes or no. And he couldn't even just say yes or no.
Notice he didn't say that they hadn't filed any lawsuits, he just said that we
"probably" would have heard about them. His "answer"
provides no facts, no information, no commitment.

Is it just me, or is "keep[ing] our activities discrete and out of the
public eye" exactly the opposite of the spirit of FOSS?

And maybe it's just me, but I think it would be better for the community (and
for the various projects, including Linux) for all of us to know who is alleging
patent violations against the project(s), as opposed to OIN dealing with them
quietly and letting the community think everything is OK.

It's even worse when an answer further down states "We at OIN believe that
the openness and collaborative culture of the Linux community is an engine for
innovation." If openness is such a good thing, then why not have YOUR
activities open, especially since they relate directly to the Linux community
you hold in such high regard?

Lastly, I can't see how OIN (as explained by the interviewee) has any use to the
community. In fact, I would postulate that it may be dangerous to the
community, specifically because of their "discrete and out of the public
eye" stance. Let's face it, if a company alleged patent violations against
Linux, there's only one thing OIN can do -- settle by using a cross-licensing
scheme. But that doesn't help Linux at all; it harms it. If anyone alleges
patent violations, the community needs to know so that the community can
objectively review the code in question and remove it if it truly is infringing.
None of that will happen will if the issue is resolved "discrete[ly] and
out of the public eye".

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Patent trolls are a half danger
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 01:22 PM EST
Patent trolls are only interested in sueing for money. They are not interested
in blocking startup competitors. So patent trolls will only sue wealthy members
of the Open Source movement. Such victims will have enough money to defend
themselves but the rest of us still have an obligation to help the victim of a
patent troll.

OIN's defensive patent portfolio is not much use against patent trolls. We will
have to come up with other methods to help victims of a patent troll attack.
Probably the best thing we can do is look for prior art. I think that OIN's
registry of ancient prior art would be very useful in helping repel a patent
troll. So would our collective memory of what we have worked on in the past.

Steve Stites

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How Microsoft will attack Linux.
Authored by: gbl on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 03:09 PM EST
It's quite simple really and obvious from their recent actions.

First, when a Linux company becomes big enough they "go public", sell shares and become quoted on some stock exchange. As soon as that happens their legal responsibilities are changed. The company must now act in the best interests of the shareholders.

Microsoft has finally worked out how they can use the publically quoted status of Linux companies to control them. All MS has to do is offer a large amount of money in return for some pretend service. Novell smelt the money and was hooked.

Expect MS to offer similar deals with other publically quoted companies.

The next move is to make it more profitable to the likes of Novell to market Microsoft products rather than Linux. Novell can't really not take up the offer as you can be sure that MS PR staff will phone the major Novell shareholders and point out that the company is not acting in the best interests of the shareholders. It's worked before with Corel Corporation.

It's all very simple and if you have $40 billion in the bank, not very expensive. MS doesn't have to compete in the marketplace, just buy influence in the company.

If you love some code, set it free.

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  • and they will fail - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 03:46 PM EST
Treacherous Computing slinks forward
Authored by: grouch on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 09:17 PM EST
Brian S. posted a comment outlining three more software patents. This reminded me of the fact that Microsoft patented a DRMOS in 2001:

"the content provider would have to maintain a registry of each subscriber's DRMOS identity or delegate that function to a trusted third party," and the number of unique DRMOSes, the authors acknowledge, could run into the millions.

-- The Microsoft Secure PC: MS patents a lock-down OS , by Andrew Orlowski, December 13, 2001

Combine that with what Brian S. posted about the first two patents:

System and method for distributing selected objects from a source database to a destination database, patent No. 7,149,751....Method and apparatus for controlling creation and management of pages of portal content in a directory, patent No. 7,149,960.....assigned to Novell, Inc. of Provo.

-- Two new patents assigned to Novell and one for Mike Anderer of Poofaway, by Brian S., December 13 2006


Microsoft is not checking our hard drive serial numbers to provide web page flow, convey usage demographics, or confirm user input, unless they are also perusing the contents of our hard drives, which they claim they are not. Of course, once they are inside your computer, there's really nothing much stopping them, if they felt like it. So why does Microsoft collect information like that and what are they doing with it? The above statement surely isn't all. They don't need such information about you as your hard drive's serial number, the company that built your computer, what language you use, PID/SID, Bios information with an MD5 checksum, and where you are located to do any of the three things they say they are doing it for. Obviously, they are checking to know if you are a pirate, and they should say so straightforwardly. But does Microsoft need your hard drive serial number to know if you are a pirate? If you change it, is it any of Microsoft's business?

-- Microsoft's Calling Home Problem: It's a Matter of Informed Consent, by PJ, June 11 2006

Going back to the 2001 Register article:

"In a very real sense, the legitimate user of a computer can be an adversary of the data or content provider. 'Digital rights management' is therefore fast becoming a central requirement if online commerce is to continue its rapid growth," according to the patent.


The DRMOS relies on a secure boot sequence and an identifier in the CPU, the latter being the subject of an earlier filing. But that's not all, quite possibly: if the PC configuration is changed, "a plug-and-play DRMOS must then 'renounce' its trusted identity and terminate any executing trusted applications... before loading the component. The determination that an untrusted component must be loaded can be based on a system configuration parameter or on instructions from the user of the computer."

MS Windows Activation, MS Windows Media Player, MS Windows Auto-Update, MS Windows Genuine Advantage, MS Windows Vista -- you can track the evolution of the DRMOS through the years as well as the building of tolerance among its victims for its components. The cage is being welded shut, very slowly.

Microsoft has tested having the software deactivate without central control, has tested 'calling home' to report on media usage by the user, has tested centralized pushing of alterations to remote users' systems, has tested gathering sufficient information about remote hardware to attest to its trustworthiness (trusted by MS, not you), and is testing, through Vista, the ability to use the Treacherous Computing module on your motherboard. They only need the database capabilities to, as the Register article puts it, deal with "the mammoth task" of handling all those millions of keys and permissions for all those remote, untrusted (by Microsoft and the media moguls) systems. For that, they need partners and portals.

There is no need for a software patent lawsuit against any part of "the Linux environment" if a majority of computers can be centrally controlled and trusted by Microsoft. Where did you think you were going today?

-- grouch

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Patent Thoughts - Orwellian Infringement
Authored by: webster on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 10:04 PM EST

[IANAPL! From under a new GL baseball cap.]]

1. The other night an Indian TV program documented legal outsourcing. The
Indian legal system is compatible with the English and American systems. They
have lawyers. The spokesman touted their patent application prowess. They
could provide more U.S. patent applications for less money than could be
produced in the U.S. Surely, they do software patent applications.

2. The Monopoly is not going to use patents until it has to. There are too
many antitrust claims they would have to defend against with do or die
defendant. They may have to face a few patents themselves. They are not going
to let Novell succeed at their expense. If everyone dumps Billyware for Novell
stuff, they will pull the plug unless they can control all the open source
competitive products. If permitted by government, they can knock out or
"Novellize" every Linux company. Then they could go after companies
that use "free" open source software other than Novell's.

2.1. As long as the Monopoly owns the desktop on all new computers, they
shouldn't initiate mortal combat. If the new OS flops, or they are forced to
interoperate or ODF catches on, AND their market share drops significantly to
open source, then they will have to terminate their competition with patent war.
It will be do or die for them, too.

3. There shouldn't be software patents. The Patent system is failing. But
nothing happens! OIN or someone should use the system like the patent trolls
do. Patent everything or at least publish it in a patent application format and
further inundate the USPTO. Submit every minor advance and "innovate"
off of applications by the big boys. This will guarantee balance and
counterclaims and defensive nastiness. One can also monitor what patents are
granted and start a record of complaints for unworthy ones. Such a record would
make a judge reluctant to pull the injunction trigger.

4. Some lawyers somewhere must have a system to defend against trolls. The
trolls don't run a business so they are not ones to be able to defend their
patents if contested. They probably can't even make them run. Being a
litigious troll undermines credibility. Damages are also a complex question
against free software. Companies make money from support, not the free code.
Indeed some claims are claims and ideas that may not have been implemented, so
no true innovation. One can also strenuously contest that the patent doesn't
apply to the process or software attacked and challenge them to get their
invention to work in the challenged software. Given official acknowledgment of
the sick patent system and some court softening of injunctions and such,
fighting back is becoming possible. Indeed, the situation at the USPTO should
become an issue in every software patent case. Some of the big patent losers
like M$ and Blackberry are paving the way.

5. Open software and the GPL is changing the game. It says no monopolies for
software. Capitalistic claims on code render it unusable for open source.
Writing new code and servicing code provide value. The key is sharing and
innovation. How did this popularity come to pass at this time? It is the only
product or phenomena that could withstand the Monopoly. Business likes it for
stability, efficiency, and cost. Once it all passes all "IP" tests,
there will be no alternative.

6. What if the Monopoly were to send out a command to its captive computers to
stop interacting with any non-Monopoly software? Most of the world's servers
would be out of touch. There would be international outrage. Interoperability
would be made mandatory and universal. Standards would be enforced. Yet this
is exactly what is happening. The Monopoly is doing it gradually rather than
abruptly. They are getting away with it. Individuals, companies, states,
nations, and even continental unions cannot stand up to them. Totalitarianism
is here. It is a Monopoly world. Even if their software were better, Monopoly
software should be resisted.

7. Final Dire Warning. There is an expression, "Absolute modern data
control corrupts absolutely." It is like mandating that all the world must
speak English. No other language may be in the schools. All children are to be
raised speaking English. This is a good thing. It is better than having
language translators or multi-lingual interoperability. It is efficient. Don't
worry about this concentration of power. Bill and Mel are benevolent dictators.
Look what they do with their billions --health care for children who must speak
English and use Billyware. The Monopoly can make your trains run on time --to
the gulag. Interoperability like freedom is a human rights issue --freedom of
digital speech. The Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights are clearly obsolete in
a digital world. They need to be amended.


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Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Thursday, December 14 2006 @ 12:58 AM EST


You are being MICROattacked, from various angles, in a SOFT manner.

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