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Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually
Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 02:44 PM EST

The Open Invention Network, the Software Freedom Law Center, and the Linux Foundation have teamed up to create another tool to defend Linux from patents. It will be hosted by the NYU Peer to Patent folks, where Mark Webbink is now. It is called Linux Defenders, and that would be you, in that they are asking folks to provide prior art to block anyone else from patenting it. Over time, this could be very significant as a protective wall. Essentially, as I understand it, it works like this: Since it costs a prohibitive amount of money to file for patents, the workaround is defensive publication. That results in prior art which can then block patents on that prior art. Brilliant, my dear Watson. No kidding. This is a good idea. The Linux Defenders site describes defensive publication like this:
Defensive publications, which are endorsed by the USPTO as an IP rights management tool, are documents that provide descriptions and artwork of a product, device or method so that it enters the public domain and becomes prior art upon publication. This powerful preemptive disclosure prevents other parties from obtaining a patent on a product, device or method that is known though not previously patented. It enables the original inventor to ensure access to the invention across the community by preventing others from later.
So it's a cheap way to collect defensive prior art without having to apply for a patent. Of course, you can do that too. But most of us can't afford to get a patent, even for defensive purposes, but anyone, as they say, can do this.

Here's the part of the press release for us to focus on:
Co-sponsored by the Software Freedom Law Center and the Linux Foundation, Linux Defenders is a first-of-its-kind program which aims to reduce future intellectual property concerns about meritless patents for the Linux and open source community. The program is designed to accomplish this by soliciting prior art to enable the rejection of poor quality patent applications; soliciting prior art to enable the invalidation of poor quality issued patents; and soliciting high quality inventions that can be prepared as patent applications or defensive publications.

The Linux Defenders program is expected to enable individuals and organizations to efficiently impact the patenting process by enabling the contribution of relevant prior art, and by creating defensive publications which will establish a body of new prior art. The prior art can be used by examiners to screen patent applications more effectively and ensure only truly novel ideas are patented.

A Note on Defensive Publications

Defensive publications, which are endorsed by the United States Patent & Trademark Office as an IP rights management tool, are documents that provide descriptions and artwork of a product, device or method so that it enters the public domain and becomes prior art. This powerful preemptive disclosure prevents other parties from obtaining a patent on the product, device or method. It enables original inventors to ensure that they have access to their inventions by preventing others from later making patent claims against them. It also means that they do not have to shoulder the cost of patent applications.

The Defensive Publications program, a component of Linux Defenders, enables non-attorneys to use a set of Web-based forms to generate defensive publications. It relies on substantial participation from the open source community using a "Wiki"-like contribution model. OIN plans to work with participants to ensure that each defensive publication is an effective disclosure. The completed defensive publication will be added by OIN to the database, which is, in turn, used by IP attorneys and the patent and trademark office to search for prior art when examining patent applications.


Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually | 604 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually
Authored by: garry bloke on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 03:09 PM EST
Amusingly, the UK Patent Office (now the IP Office) has never suggested that method and used to (may still) fund SMEs (SMBs) to help them take out patents...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here
Authored by: atheist on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 03:12 PM EST

[ Reply to This | # ]

IBM has been doing this for years
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 03:37 PM EST
Since you mentioned Watson, I couldn't resist commenting that this is something
that has been going on at IBM for years; decades, actually. Inventions, once
written up and submitted for internal evaluation, are rated drop (in the
wastebasket), publish (in the technical disclosures bulletin), or file (with the
patent office). Inventions that are worth the cost of going through with
sending to the patent office (because they're thought to be both patentable and
likely to provide licensing revenue for IBM) are rated file. Inventions that
aren't in actual use in IBM products and aren't worth filing may be completely
dropped. The rest are published, for IBM's protection.

[ Reply to This | # ]

My mis-givings
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 03:43 PM EST
What sort of language would you use to describe your stuff? Would you need to
write as if your writing a patent? How would you judge if your ideas are of a
"sufficiently high quality"? The prospect of engaging with such a system makes
my skin crawl.
I'd rather expend my energies lobbying for the dismantling of
the patent system!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 05:00 PM EST
Following the mention that IBM has been doing this for some time, entries in the IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletin, published until 1998, may serve as samples. See here for some direction.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Here
Authored by: Steve Martin on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 05:08 PM EST
Discussion of topics not relevant to the current article

"When I say something, I put my name next to it." -- Isaac Jaffe, "Sports Night"

[ Reply to This | # ]

2005 Questions to USPTO On-Line - Realized
Authored by: NZheretic on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 07:10 PM EST
Thursday, February 24, 2005 Questions to USPTO On-Line
... The USPTO patent application examiners task could be made more reliable if the examiners could consult one or more public online registries that document cases of prior art and public discoveries. The online registries could provide a means for the public to retroactively point to cases of preexisting prior art for pending patent applications and a means to proactively document publicly known ideas and concepts. Although websites and digitally stored content in general is changeable, individual entries and changes in an online registry could be legally authenticated by means of digital timestamping ( http://www.rsasecurit ). An online registry could be hosted by the USPTO as an adjunct to the existing online public patent and patent pending databases. The USPTO could also publicly recognize other individual registries hosted by third parties such as a commercial entity or a non-profit community similar to Wikipedia ( ). An individual adding an entry to such a publicly online registry does not involve granting that individual any form of monopoly, therefore the action need not have any artificial barrier involving fees or payments. ...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Does the US patent office actually check prior art,
Authored by: publius_REX on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 07:30 PM EST
or just similarity to previously granted patents?
Otherwise, this good idea just becomes fertile soil for
the "Inventions R Us" thieves.

I seem to recall that there are exorbitant penalties (3X)
for software patent violations if a patent holder can
prove that the "violator" did a search for prior art.
Does this Linux Defenders project provide a safe

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Picks Threads Here
Authored by: artp on Tuesday, December 09 2008 @ 08:21 PM EST
Which news pick were you talking about now ?

Links appreciated.

Userfriendly on WGA server outage:
When you're chained to an oar you don't think you should go down when the galley
sinks ?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dumb Patents
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 02:20 AM EST
One of the weaknesses of this concept is that something one person doesn't see
as an inovation someone else patents.

Another is the effort required to document innovations, if they are recognized
as potentially patentable.

In a large rich company like IBM documenting things becomes second nature and
publishing the result is little additional cost.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

General usefulness
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 03:18 AM EST
Would this body of work be of interest to developers, students or researchers? Or would its only value be to assist patent attorneys and patent examiners?
Whenever I'm looking for an algorithm, library or technique I use Google or Sourceforge etc. the last place I'd look for something useful would be the software patent registry.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Prior art?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 03:54 AM EST
Groklaw appeared to be nearly 5 years ahead of the game. Link
Have a Merry Christmas everybody.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually
Authored by: dkpatrick on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 08:29 AM EST
A good idea recycled from "way back" ...

When I was developing code for IBM I was required to keep a programming
notebook. All algorithms I developed, designs I created, and even planning
meetings were recorded in a special notebook with a unique serial number. When
the notebook was filled (or I left the development group) I turned in the
notebook, getting a new one if I stayed in development. Those notes, if IBM felt
the product was significant, were transformed into programming disclosures which
were published by IBM in a document that was publicly available.

The whole process was designed to ensure that IBM wouldn't be blindsided by
copyrights (no patents then) and could document prior art through the careful
writing and dating of notes.

I got one disclosure out of the whole thing before I changed jobs. That was back
in the late 60's.

"Keep your friends close but your enemies closer!" -- Sun Tzu

[ Reply to This | # ]

I am not sure this is a good idea.
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 09:56 AM EST
One of the arguments against software patents is the fact that there is no
patent art to test new patents against. If the patent office accumulates
purported prior art in this form, then it may be used as a means of arguing for
software patents.

Isn't a better way therefore simply to publish software as open source as soon
as possible and leave it at that. Anything patentable used in the software would
block future patents. As for ideas for open protocols and standards etc, just
publish a draft or outline of the proposals as soon as you can, and anything
patentable there too is in the public domain.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not a lot of use in the long term
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 04:24 PM EST
Whilst software patents exist, there will be an ongoing threat to all software,
not just free software. Fighting them one at a time is a losing strategy.

In fact whilst any patent system exists, there will be an ongoing threat to
every business through excessive private control of the shared product of
civilisation. The problem might be more apparent with free software, which
simply cannot pay any over-head. But it affects every business which produces
product to the detriment of consumers, who ultimately must pay for these
overheads. It is one of the many ways that the 'free market' isn't very free -
and why your American economy and whole way of life is in danger of

The only real beneficiary of patent laws is lawyers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Useful to Invalidate Existing Patents, too!
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 05:06 PM EST
In addition to providing a database of prior art, this project could be useful
for invalidating existing patents.

Suppose an attorney scans through this new database, and discover HUNDREDS of
submissions describing the same patented technology. Wouldn't it be clear that
the invention was obvious? Wouldn't that be grounds for invalidating the
patent? Patentability hinges on the idea not being obvious to anyone versed in
the art. If a hundred examples of the same "invention" were
contributed by a hundred different software engineers, a court could only
conclude that the invention was indeed obvious.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Very badly designed site
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 06:02 PM EST
The site doesn't seem to work with Firefox. When I try to log in, it chokes
partway thorough the log-in process, claiming my browser doesn't accept cookies.
It works with IE. This is, um, less than spectacular for a site targeted at
*Linux* defenders...

Also, they require the disclosures to be in PDF format,
rather than plain text, or HTML.

Most alarmingly, they require you to affirm
that you agree to a set of Terms and Conditions, which are supposedly available
through a link -- but the link doesn't work. It's some sort of Javascript mess,
and it simply breaks rather than bringing up any page.

All in all, it looks
like some seriously out-of-touch web designers were in charge of this, and they
didn't do a private beta with anyone possessing a clue first. Not impressive.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I have to throw a spanner in the works
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 11 2008 @ 04:19 AM EST
I am not a lawyer, but I know my employment contract and I have been informed
about local IP laws by my employer.

For everything I invent my employer has got the right to get it (patent it)
first, and I have got the right to get fair compensation if my employer wants to
use an invention of mine. That excludes that I publish a patentable idea (aka
invention) without the consent of my employer.

So, what I want to say: Before you go out and do a defensive publication check
you terms of employment, your local laws and if needed contact a lawyer. Make
sure you have the right to publish what you want to publish.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 12 2008 @ 12:12 AM EST
I see two technical problems with that type of help facility in Linux.

The first, is that it would only work if you installed the help data into it
when you installed the command, since most shell commands are external programs.
This sort of thing is fairly easy to arrange in a commercial OS where
everything is going to come prepackaged anyway, but very much harder in open
source stuff where you may have quite different commands installed, possibly
from different sources, and (in the case of things like file system maintenance
commands particularly) you may have multiple versions installed.

The other problem is, or course, how large the listing of commands would be, as
already pointed out.

If anyone else wants to admit to recalling using it, this is the exact way that
the help system in the later version of MS-DOS worked, and they even had a
primitive, character-based menu interface to go from the listing to the actual
help info.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Best-wishes-to-PJ thread
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 12 2008 @ 07:59 PM EST
Happy holidays and thank you, PJ. Big hug.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, December 13 2008 @ 09:05 AM EST
> Since it costs a prohibitive amount of money to file for
> patents...

A provisional patent costs $100 in the US.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Linux Defenders - That Would Be You Guys, Actually
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 14 2008 @ 09:26 PM EST
Then I would assume that the documents users added to the database would be open
and searchable by the general public. But when I looked at this last week, if
you want to search the archives, you have to submit a query to Linux Defenders
and their attorneys, or whoever, will look it up for you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Google Inc. et al v Egger et al
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 19 2008 @ 05:48 AM EST
Looks like something is happening in this case.
"The Court will conduct a live technology tutorial on December 15, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. The parties hereby stipulate to the following which will govern how the live technology tutorial will be conducted:" Link

[ Reply to This | # ]

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