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back to article Red Hat patent app sparks open source lockdown fears

A recently uncovered Red Hat patent application for dynamic message routing on XML has some open-source advocates theorizing the company has quietly forsaken its promise to claim Linux IP only for defensive purposes. Conspiracies are bubbling out of Slashdot and other sites over a 2007 Red Hat patent application for a "method …

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Linux

Prior art isn't a defence.

The story kinda misses the point. Prior art is all very nice, but it can only shoot down IP claims one at a time. You claim "X", I show prior art, "X" goes away, you claim "Y"... You get the idea, until I can't find any prior art - then I'm in trouble.

I get my own IP.

You claim "X", I say "fine - what about Z?". You say: "oh drat, why don't we cross license our IP?" I say "Fine, we'll do that".

Just showing prior art, is fine - but if I can shoot your product out of the water too with my IP, then we'd better make a deal.

Of course, this doesn't help you with IP trolls, who never make any product - but that's a different story.

Now could Red Hat become a turncoat and use their IP against other companies? Yeah, they could. Is that likely? No, not right now (they're selling product). Of course, things change. However, what else is Red Hat to do? The real test is will they use their IP to help another Open Source Company? That's trickier to answer, and that's the acid test.

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broken

Of course, it doesn't help that the US patent system is completely and utterly broken. The ability to patent software, the lack of any real competence in the USPTO with regards to what is or isn't obvious in software, the rewarding of patent office staff for approving patents vs getting nothing for denying them, and the need for millions of dollars to fight even one of these bogus patents is all contributing to a system that is really, truly, utterly fucked up.

I say Red Hat MUST make use of the broken system by patenting "obvious" patents just to remain a player vs companies with proven unethical and underhanded track records such as Microsoft.

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Linux

I don't think Red Hat would strangle itself

Remember that Red Hat is a pure-play Linux and Open Source company (unline Novell). If it really started using patents against any other open sourcers, it would lose all its contributors, mindshare and positive karma, and very soon all of its profitability. Remember SCO with its saber-rattling? Now in bancrupty.

Software patents are extremely evil, but I'm afraid that until they are abolished, any software company operating in the US feels compelled to apply for them, even if it doesn't want to.

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Open Source Patents?

If Red Hat truly only want the Linux 'community' to have a defense against future IP trolling, then why not publish the details of their innovation and thus establish publicly visible prior art? Since any innovation would be accessible in the source code anyway, this would merely set up advance publication.

Alternatively, why not make a formal gift of the patent rights to the OSF? This may be against the principles of operation of the OSF but there should be some way of establishing an open 'community IP' pool which is gifted to the world. Or am I just being naive and idealistic?

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Go

Red Hat has a patent promise

... Shame nobody reads it before spreading FUD.

http://www.redhat.com/legal/patent_policy.html

In it, Red Hat licenses patents to all open source projects.

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simple solution

if someone holding a patent has that patent revoked then *all* thier patents are revoked.

This would mean death for IP trolls and companies such as IBM or MS as just one hardnose who decides he can win would wipe p=out the patent portfolio overnight.

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Just content based routing?

Why is this different to any other content based routing scheme?

There's plenty of prior on that, surely?

James

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Beat them at their own game

Maybe they're trying to poison Microsoft's anti-open source IP strategy...

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Ru
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Soon your journey to the dark side will be complete, etc etc

I wonder how long it will be before we get software patents in Europe :-(

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Not so difficult really

It appears that FOSS may need to defend itself against patent attacks from litigious closed source companies (no names mentioned). Prior art isn't in itself a perfect defence, for a lot of reasons. The patent office will probably miss it when granting the patent, there is a legal presumption in favour of the patent holder, etc.

The way the big boys play this game is to hold an arsenal of patents that they can wave threateningly at each other if any of them gets a bit uppity. Having good lawyers also helps.

So the challenge is to invent some patent equivalent of an open-source licence. That is, some way of obtaining a patent that can be used to defend open-source by taking legal action against closed-source software that uses the idea.

Red Hat have got that far. But the key bit still missing is to ensure that all open-source software can still use the idea without EVER coming into conflict with the patent holder. I think this just needs the patent holder to issue a non-revocable licence for the use of the technology in open-source software.

Obviously the exact form of words is important, but i don't see this as very different to the way open-source software is itself licensed at present. Basically, if you adhere to the FOSS principles, you can incorporate open-source software into your own project and the licence you are granted to do this can't be revoked. Patents could work in exactly the same way. If you obey the rules, you get a free licence to use the patent that can't be revoked.

Of course, the patent-holder could still license the patent to closed-source companies, at a fee. Problem solved.

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Linux

Abolish It!

Software copyright I agree with - software writers must be able to copyright and stipulate usage rights for their programs. But, IP for individual components must be abolished and ought to be replaced with IC (Intellectual Credit).

Where IP bestows restrictions, IC would embody freedom. IC would give the "Yep, I created that" factor whilst allowing others the right to unwittingly re-create the same without fear of prosecution. IC would allow free usage and prevent IP trolls from stealing the fruits of another's mind.

In fact, I'm so taken with my idea of IC that I've just sent the suggestion to the OSI.

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@AC, 13:09

You posted at the same time as I was writing my email to the OSI re: IC. Were you perhaps reading my mind?

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Anonymous Coward

Limit the number of patents

an individual or a company can hold. It is very simple, Patents came in to protect small time inventors giving them the time to get their product into production or to licence out the product.

Patents are not meant to be some form of scavenger hunt, and treasure chest, so let's limit the number people and companies can hold. That way people will be working on ideas and furthering society, and a lot of ideas can be implemented in the science and open source world.

We need to return to the original INTENTION of the patent, which is to help society and the small player from exploitation.

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@Limit the number of patents

... and just how many patents should we have limited Edison to? Or Tesla, or Marconi, or Ford... or Universities? "You get 30 patents, after that we don't want to hear about any more innovation."

The INTENTION of a patent is to convince the inventor that (s)he doesn't have to hide their work within cumbersome trade secrets.

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Anonymous Coward

RedHat Statement

RedHat have issued a statement here:

http://www.press.redhat.com/2009/03/17/discouraging-software-patent-lawsuits/

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Happy

That's Some Zoo!

"with this: dun dun DUNNNN!! ®"

Imagine IT's a bell. Eeyore lost his tail right before his birthday. With some thoughtful proaction from the Owl, the unhappy donkey gets highly appreciated gift at proper time (-:

Many Duns and Das of 73.

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Boffin

Higher Kicks Availiable, Zoo Reports

"Imagine IT's a bell" -

Clearing: "a doorbell".

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Yet another data routing patent

Not to have a legal debate online but how many different ways are there to Patent the same data routing algorithm. I've made my comments on the Altio blog.

http://www.altio.com/About/Technology/patent-wars-stifle-innovation.aspx

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