Microsoft's brawl with TomTom over FAT patents has been seized on by software-freedom advocates as a wake-up call for people to adopt GPLv3. Open-source developers can protect themselves, their customers and the cause of software freedom in general by switching code currently under GPLv2 to the updated GPLv3, the Software …
So given GPLv3 TomTom would be forced to make a business decision on whether to go Linux or something else... and probably end up on WinCE or BSD? :P
Can someone please indicate how long these wretched FAT patents last for ?
Will there ever come an expiry date ?
And when will it be that we're unencumbered and free to use FAT [and longname FAT] without
M$ claws in our backs ?
I don't see how that works. Just because one changes ones code base from GPL2 to GPL3 won't make any difference if someone else, e.g. Microsoft, can show that the code breaches one of their patents. All software licenses essentially say "this is my code and these are the terms underwhich you can use it". Prove the first part wrong and the rest is meaningless.
That is all.
Will this make Torvalds think again?
Linus Torvalds has been vocally ambivalent about GPLv2 and un-impressed by the GPLv3; it seems to me as if the choice of GPLv2 license for the kernel was not strongly made, although IMHO the choice has been beneficial to Linux users. (I'm talking about the kernel, not the OS).
I wonder if recent legal problems generated by Microsoft will stimulate him to form a stronger opinion on the matter.
GPL 2.5 ???
My understanding (and I accept I may be way off the mark here) is that many projects don't like GPL3 and so are sticking with GPL2.
In that case, why not issue a GPL 2.5 that just includes the patent-related clauses (unless it's there clauses that people don't like). That way, the GNU people should at least be able to plug this particular hole without forcing full use of GLP3 (which is largely not happening anyway).
After all, it iwas a similar half-way-house approach that led to the LGPL, and that caused huge benefits in take-up of the software (though for very different reasons, granted).
Except that, as pretty much everyone knows, the vast majority of Microsoft's patents will not stand up in court. Let's face it, a lot of the stuff they patented was used by others long before they used it, let alone patented it.
Linux might breach dozens of microsoft's patents, but none of those patents mean anything if there's readily availble prior art around.
GPL and RAND are incompatible by design
GPL software can't coexist with RAND (Reasonable And Non-Discrimintory) patents because RAND makes you pay for the right to use the patent--and that's verboten in the GPL.
Now personally I think software patents are stupid and shouldn't exist (software is mathematics). But until the laws are changed software pateints exist and are enforcable--and never the twain shall meet.
That has been Stallman's plan all along you know. Kill software patents, along with software that's sold.
The irresistable force is about to meet the immovable object. I wouldn't want to be the one between them...
In a nutshell it is arguable that GPLv2 allows for individual patent protection agreements* whereas GPLv3 does not.
So under v2 TomTom and MS are free to agree a deal whereby MS promise not to sue TomTom or their customers )explicitly of the TomTom products agreed) regarding FAT, however this agreement does not remove the threat of suing any non-TomTom party for breach of the FAT patents.
Under v3 any agreement not to sue over FAT would explicitly and irrevocably pass on to any other users of FAT using products (TomTom couls only sign this agreement if MS agreed to waive suing rights to all GPL3 parties).
Thus MS would have to decide whether to actually sue TomTom, with at least amicus backing from all other GPLv3 / FAT users or let it go. If they sue over FAT there is a very good chance they will lose (10 minutes on Google shows you plenty of prior art and obviousness). However as it stands MS have "won" a FAT patent battle in this instance and after a while they would be able to claim enough "victories" that many courts would find in their favour based simply on that.
The Linux kernel *MUST* stay GPLv2 since a large amount of code, written by several people, does not include the "any later version" option.