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Public Patent Foundation Announced & Sun Digs a Patent Hole For Itself
Tuesday, November 04 2003 @ 01:34 AM EST

Executive Director Named One of World's "Best Emerging Social Entrepreneurs"

NEW YORK - The New York City-based Public Patent Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at protecting individuals and small businesses from the negative effects of the patent system, has begun operations with the assistance of seed financing provided by the global social venture fund Echoing Green.

Daniel Ravicher, Founder of the Public Patent Foundation and a registered patent attorney, was named by Echoing Green as one of the world's "Best Emerging Social Entrepreneurs" for his campaign against patents that harm the public health, impinge civil liberties, and impair free markets.

According to Ravicher, roughly half of all patents in the United States are illegitimate, meaning they should have never been granted. Illegitimate patents restrict the availability of critical medications to the public and deprive small businesses in information technology industries of fair opportunities to compete in the marketplace. Utilizing legal action, advocacy and public education strategies, the Public Patent Foundation will work to expose and neutralize illegitimate patents through various mechanisms, including filing requests with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to have such patents revoked. Prominent law professors from Columbia, Georgetown and Stanford law schools have already pledged support for the organization.

"Most people do not realize how significantly illegitimate patents are assailing their health, their freedoms, and their wallets," Ravicher, 28, said. "The Public Patent Foundation will close this information gap and represent the interests of the public on patent issues."

Through the Public Patent Foundation, Ravicher will launch an education campaign regarding patents and implement various strategies for alleviating the harms caused by patents. Ultimately, the Public Patent Foundation will offer patent legal services to economically disadvantaged businesses and individuals, prepare and file amicus briefs in important patent cases, and establish a patent commons through which patents are made available to the public on favorable terms.

"Eliminating illegitimate patents will save the general public billions of dollars by removing barriers to competition in the marketplace for formerly patent-protected goods," says Ravicher. "Raising awareness of the patent system's devastating effects will promote dialogue and encourage support for reforming the system."

Ravicher received a bachelor's degree in materials science magna cum laude from the University of South Florida and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he also received the Public Service Award. Prior to founding the Public Patent Foundation, Ravicher practiced patent law with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, LLP, and Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, LLP, all in New York. Throughout his career, Ravicher has performed hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services for individuals, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses.

"Our goal is to preserve, protect, and promote the rights of the general public to have goods available in the marketplace without encumbrance from illegitimate patents and unsound patent policy," said Ravicher. "We want to provide the public with an understanding of and a voice in the process."

Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director, Public Patent Foundation
Phone: 917-843-3425
Web Site:


Sun Digs A Patent Hole For Itself

In case you wonder why Dan might decide we might need a Public Patent Foundation, note this story about Sun's plans for Mad Hatter. They are busy digging a patent hole for themselves, evidently so they can give themselves a decent burial. I know I won't go to their funeral.

Maybe in a red dress.

Some Sun executives were asked by Tom Yager why anyone would pay $100 per seat for Mad Hatter, their Linux offering, when they can get it for free. Sun's answer? Because they have patentable technology inside:

"I met with executives at the SunNetwork conference about Mad Hatter, the x86 desktop Linux that Sun is rolling out. Mad Hatter is a combination of Linux, GNOME, StarOffice and the Evolution email client.

"If you replace StarOffice with OpenOffice, you can pull together a nearly identical bundle from scratch. Sun contends that users arenít willing to invest the effort to imitate Mad Hatter. Perhaps so, but in the present market, $US100 per seat is a lot to pay for a desktop Linux.

"A quartet of Sun execs good-naturedly let me bat this issue around the table. Eventually I was left with one question: How can Mad Hatter make a profit when its features can be duplicated using free software? Sun answered, 'We have some patentable technology in there.' They didnít offer any specifics.

"For some watching this issue closely, Sun crossed the line when it let the words 'Linux' and 'patent' get too close to each other. Iím concerned that Sun patents could head off similar technology thatís already part of an open design."

So, I guess it's true. Some people *are* too stupid for Linux.

And some companies are too. Are there any ways left Sun can insult the community it hasn't already tried? $100 a seat and a patent inside. Groan. Of course, Mad Hatter is doomed, as a result. So is Sun, if this is their level of strategizing. It's the Alamo for them, no doubt about it.

But before they are completely dead and buried, they can probably cause some mischief, so I hope all you guys are thinking about the patent issue and taking practical steps. If you haven't registered your copyrights, that's a prudent move too. There are maniac psycho killer companies on the loose, willing to destroy Linux for a quick buck that they won't realize anyway, even if they were to grab Linux all for themselves.

It's like Old Caldera and its combination proprietary and free. We all knew that wouldn't work and it didn't. To this day they don't know why they couldn't make a profit. Mad Hatter won't work either. They just don't get what it is about GNU/Linux that we like. So they can't offer it; instead they offer their own warped Brand X ripoff, like Hollywood's "teen music" in the 50s, instead of Rock and Roll. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, for crying out loud. Beach Party Bingo. Like the song says, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing.

I must commend Sun on one thing, though. Say what you will, those wacky guys picked the perfect name for their product.

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