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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 IP.com database, which is, in turn, used by IP attorneys and the patent and trademark office to search for prior art when examining patent applications.


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