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Two Conferences You Might Want to Attend
Friday, May 04 2007 @ 12:45 PM EDT

There are two conferences that some of you might want to know about. First, for those of you in Europe, the EUPACO-2's patent conference put together by FFII which will take place on May 15 and 16 in Brussels. And the second, in the US, the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco, CA on May 22, 23.

I'd like to go to both of them, but I'm afraid of being kidnapped by SCO and waterboarded. Joke. Joke. Let me tell you what I think will be of particular interest at each.

The patent think tank should be fascinating, because much of the patent bully mountain in the US just fell into the sea with the recent Supreme Court patent decisions. It's a new patent world, where everyone now must completely alter all patent thinking and strategies, even in Europe. So that will be interesting in and of itself. But what is notable about the conference is that it will be a meeting that will include a broad spectrum of thought on the issue of patents. One keynote address will be by Ron Marchant, former Chief Executive, UK Patent Office. Another will be by William Kovacic, Commissioner, U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Yet another will be by Mark Shuttleworth, President, Ubuntu Foundation. The FFII press release mentions this diversity:

Joff Wild, editor of IAM Magazine, usually a critic of the FFII's policies, sums up his view of the EUPACO-2 event:
"When you are face-to-face and talking it is much harder to maintain entrenched positions and to ignore what other people are saying. It is hugely encouraging to see that representatives from industry, the FFII, the EPO and national patent offices, and the Commission will be sharing platforms at this event. The FFII deserves to be congratulated for this initiative which, hopefully, will get the support it deserves."

Here's the complete program for the conference. I see Dan Ravicher of PubPat is on a panel on patent quality, and NYU's Professor Beth Noveck of the Peer to Patent Project will speak on that subject too. Oh, Utah is represented. Professor Lee Hollaar of the University of Utah will speak. He filed an amicus brief in KSR v. Teleflex, which likely helped to tip the scale in the right direction, oddly enough. He will be proposing a change in patent law in his talk:

"I'm proposing a new, limited patent-like protection. It combines the disclosure and claiming requirements of patents, so that the current database of patented technology can be substantially expanded, with copyright's infringement defense of independent creation. Because protection comes into being only when a registered innovation is actually used in commerce, many of the problems with "patent trolls" are eliminated. And providing such an alternative would allow more substantial examination of regular patents through greatly increased application fees and more stringent requirements. The protection is particular suitable for software developers who have created new techniques. Without such protection, there is no way for an open-source software developer to keep those who don't want to share with the community from using their new technique."

I love this idea of an independent creation defense. And Amédee Turner, Queen's Counsel, Honorary Member of the European Parliament, will be speaking on the subject of mandatory patent litigation insurance:

"I hope practical interest in insurance for patent litigation will be aroused, and that this should be seen in the light of greater fairness in the practical working of the patent system in Europe."

Journalists get in free, and members of parliament, EU commission staff, and other such European Institutions are invited to attend as guests and in fact several are speakers, and the rest of us can register here. The fee covers lunch and snacks and a reception on the 15th. "Exemption of the participation fee is possible on a case-by-case basis."

Open Source Business Conference

For us stateside, there's the Open Source Business Conference. Here's the list of speakers. As you can see, it includes Marten Mickos, Eben Moglen, Matt Asay, Danese Cooper, Jonathan Corbet of LWN, Chris DiBona, Ira Heffan (he's on one of the GPLv3 committees), and Matthew Szulik. He is giving the keynote address, "The Evolution of Open Source in the Enterprise". Who better to speak on that subject? And he did it without compromising the GPL, which I seem to recall Darl McBride told us once is not possible. Nothing like success to speak for your concept's viability. That link gives you the complete list of keynoters.

Eben will be speaking ("Copyleft Business Models: Why it’s Good Not to Be Your Competitor’s Free Lunch") on GPLv2 and v3 and why smaller software-focused businesses will "soon be deserting Apache- and BSD-style permissive licenses" for the GPL, either version "and their successors". Marten's talks is "Open Source: Why Freedom Makes a Better Business Model".

Here's the part that particularly interests us, the legal issues that will be addressed in talks under the header "What's Legal?". One talk is designed for those thinking of acquiring companies. Nowadays, almost everyone has incorporated some Open Source code, so there are due diligence issues to be aware of. Ira Heffan speaks on "Developing an Effective Corporate Open Source Policy". Also there will be Stephen D. Gillespie of Fenwick and West speaking on "The Scope of Reciprocity/Copyleft Under GPLv3". Hmm. I'd like to monitor that one. Mark Radcliffe will speak on legal due diligence if you are thinking of open sourcing a proprietary product. There's a talk for nonlawyers too, "A Guide for Non-Lawyers: What You Need to Know When Moving to an Open Source Business License". Finally, on the legal track, there will be a panel speaking on "Open Source Enforcement Actions", but what they probably mean is the GPL mainly, and they'll go into the legal steps a company can take to avoid issues and how to handle it if issues nevertheless arise.

Yes, the list of speakers includes Justin Steinman of Novell, but we don't live in a perfect world. Kidding. There will indeed be a panel discussion on the Novell-Microsoft deal, "Is the Novell-Microsoft deal good for open source?".

Um. No. Not the patent peace part, anyway.

That panel seems heavily stacked toward a Yes answer to the weighted question, since Microsoft and Novell make up two of the four seats on the panel and what else can they say to the question about the value of the deal? We goofed? In retrospect we spent a lot of money for nothing? Well. I'd give a lot to be a fly on the wall at that panel, for sure. Allison Randal and Jonathan Corbet will be the remaining panelists, and Jonathan will have his hands full. Here's how the panel is described:

Love it or hate it, there is no denying that the Novell-Microsoft deal has had significant ramifications across the entire IT industry, and in particular, the open source software community. In this no-holds-barred panel, representatives from Novell and Microsoft will be joined by open source community leaders and enterprise Linux customers for a free-wheeling discussion about the agreement.

They wrote that blurb up prior to the Supreme Court pulling the bully rug right out from under Microsoft with the KSR decision on obviousness. Here are my questions for the panel:

  • How does the KSR decision on patent obviousness impact the deal's value?
  • Its impact on the marketplace?
  • Do you think due diligence would now include making Microsoft be very specific in terms of what patents are involved and covered by any proposed patent agreement?
  • Is Novell now reviewing the patents covered to evaluate if it bought a pig in a poke?
  • How much bullying can patent holders effectively do now to FOSS, would you say? Ask your lawyer.
  • Do patent agreements make sense post KSR, and if so, why?
  • Does Microsoft agree that distributing SUSE vouchers means it is distributing under the GPL? How about under GPLv3?
  • When will the revised agreement for noncommercial developers, which was earlier promised by Novell and Microsoft, be released?
  • What about the definitions that are missing from the agreements? When do we get to know about them? Do Novell's paying end users have those definitions?

I know. I'm having too much fun. Hopefully Matt Asay will attend and provide some balance. By the way, did Microsoft patent sudo???? Ah, how pleasant it is to write about such things basking in the warm sunshine of KSR v. Teleflex.

Obviously, I don't endorse all the views that will be expressed there at the conference, at either conference for that matter. But education is what we do, and it's another way to do it. So Groklaw is one of the media sponsors of OSBC. I'd certainly have some things to say if I could go, but I'm still not well enough to even consider it. So if you go, please write up what you hear and see, will you? And if you are interested in covering it for Groklaw, email me please. And I have a geek question for the conferences: is there any reason not to let us attend digitally? I'd pay, gladly. If the logistics aren't in place, please can you make the talks available in due time as video and audio (including for those of us on GNU/Linux operating systems)?


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