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FOSS Communities Key To Managing Patent Risk

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the with-many-eyes-all-bogus-patents-are-shallow dept.

Patents 29

dp619 writes "Penn State law professor Clark Asay has written an editorial on F/OSS patent risk, saying, '...under the current patent system, it's entirely possible to obtain a patent that reads on software that FOSS communities independently create. Consequently, FOSS communities and their users are vulnerable to third party patent claims, even absent any sort of wrongdoing or copying on their part.' He suggests that developers collaborate to prevent bad or frivolous patents from being issued in the first place. The ongoing work of Linux Defenders and Peer-to-Patent are cited as good examples of how the FOSS community's collaborative spirit can help it counteract potential legal threats."

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too complex (2)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about 2 years ago | (#43020097)

Can't we just let patents autoexpire every 5 - 10 years so we don't have these issues? It works great in medicine because it gives big pharma a chance to make money innovating and then the copy cats can produce generics and make their own profits, forcing big pharma to keep innovating. Fast expiring patents are a great idea there, why not in software?

Re:too complex (1)

r1348 (2567295) | about 2 years ago | (#43020441)

5 - 10 years is ages in IT. By the time they expire, they're obsolete.

Re:too complex (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about 2 years ago | (#43020483)

5-10 years and Windows XP, Java 1.4, and VB6 are in the clear. You honestly wouldn't want to take a peek at how those are constructed?

Re:too complex (1)

r1348 (2567295) | about 2 years ago | (#43020889)

Honestly, no. The product might still be used, but the technology is obsolete.
It might be interesting for learning purposes, but for those trying to create innovative software (those who need patents), they're hardly relevant.

Re:too complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020913)

but for those trying to create innovative software (those who need patents), they're hardly relevant.

And this is the attitude which has lead so many of these "innovative" creators to poorly reinvent the wheel every 5-10 years.

Re:too complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020971)

You're confusing copyrights with patents.

Re:too complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43021027)

No, I'm not. My statement has nothing to do with copyrights or patents. I'm talking about idiots who think that anything older than 5-10 years is "obsolete" so we have the supposed "innovative" people poorly reimplement old technology. And they do so over and over again.

Re:too complex (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#43022839)

When XP was released the average PC was a single core 600MHz P3 with 128MB of RAM if you were lucky and a hard drive that was MAYBE 20GB, I saw plenty in the 5GB-10GB range back then. Frankly people can bitch about MSFT being douchebags or the current CEO is a retard (completely agree on the latter BTW) but the fact that they were able to get XP to run on modern hardware so much more advanced than what it was designed for is frankly a miracle.

But NO I would NOT like the code handed out when MSFT is done with it, see Android which is well on its way to a million infections. Windows 98 didn't totally drop off the radar until around 07, you can bet your last buck XP will still have virus worthy numbers in 2015, and handing out source to a target with a huge userbase is just asking for it. Android shows that having the source doesn't magically protect you, handing out the XP source would be suicidal...unless of course you want MSFT to pick up a ton of users for Win 8 as they run from the virus exploding XP.

Re:too complex (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43023095)

The security problems in Android are not bugs, but features. The Android system has had exceptionally few security holes in it. The problem arises when the applications ask for permissions, and the user doesn't understand what he's allowing them to do. If you give an application access to the Internet and the SD card, nothing prevents the application from using them. This works well for more experienced users, but a better system is required for non-experienced users.

Re:too complex (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#43020967)

That's funny because many of the technologies that still underly most "modern" OS kernels, file systems, etc. are many times older than the 5-10 years you claim for something to be obsolete.

Re:too complex (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 2 years ago | (#43021001)

Can't we just let patents autoexpire every 5 - 10 years

It's probably too late for that.

The whole system is being so extensively gamed that it's pretty much unsalvageable in its current incarnation. Recently, even the Chinese government and businesses have noticed the opportunities it creates and have started a huge junk-patenting effort, so its only going to get worse.

A Chinese government scheme providing financial incentives for small and medium sized enterprises, public institutions or scientific research institutions appears to be resulting in abuse of the Australian patent system, and the 'dumping' of numerous low-quality innovation patents on the Australian Register.

http://blog.patentology.com.au/2013/02/junk-patents-dumped-on-australia-as.html [patentology.com.au]

Re:too complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43024221)

5-10 years might be plenty of time for computer patents, but it takes 5-10 years and many millions of dollars to get new drugs to market, shortening the patent length for pharma will result in very few new drugs being developed.

It's sad patents do the opposite of their design (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#43020113)

Patents are supposed to protect the little guy so he can get to market. But they're used to bully the little guy from ever getting a foot hold.

Re:It's sad patents do the opposite of their desig (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020161)

Jesus, what the fuck are you on about on that webpage? Hearing voices in your head isn't usually "good news".

Re:It's sad patents do the opposite of their desig (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020203)

Patents are supposed to protect the little guy so he can get to market.

That's not why patents exist. It's never been why patents have existed.

Re:It's sad patents do the opposite of their desig (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about 2 years ago | (#43020223)

No, patents protect the innovator so they can get their product to market without copy cats devaluing their research.

Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020123)

I am still trying to figure out what the headline means - why cn't headlines be written better?

Iam sure that the patent on Risk ran out long ago.

why not just submit more patents? (2)

mug funky (910186) | about 2 years ago | (#43020221)

you could modify git to send commit messages to the USPTO...

if you can't beat them, subvert their system. if every patent is one that can be freely used, then problem solved! software patents would become useless because they'd all be free.

Re:why not just submit more patents? (2)

r1348 (2567295) | about 2 years ago | (#43020451)

Submitting a patent has a considerable cost.

Re:why not just submit more patents? (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about 2 years ago | (#43020467)

~Crowsourcing~

Re:why not just submit more patents? (1)

r1348 (2567295) | about 2 years ago | (#43020907)

Sure, try to crowdsource 10k for any git commit of the linux kernel...

Patent idea (1)

t0mek (2799307) | about 2 years ago | (#43020275)

Herby I patent the method of creating patent applications *on a computer*. It's novel and non obvious by the existing standards (noticed the "on the computer" part, right?) and it should at least slow the other ridiculous patent applications down. A clear win-win!

Re:Patent idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020323)

Hurr hurr.

The Real Key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020329)

Everything is done in the "cloud" as it were. Nobody gets your code. Nobody gets your binary. Everything your software does is done on your hardware.

FriSt st@op... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43020955)

is 3ying.THings

Almost a complete non-issue in practice (2)

Grond (15515) | about 2 years ago | (#43021139)

While for-profit companies that use and develop free and open source software have been sued for patent infringement, "FOSS communities" essentially never have been. The author is correct that "FOSS communities have fretted over this risk for years," but that's just it: they have fretted and nothing has come of it.

"Patent trolls" want licensing revenue. You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, so suing an open source project directly is a pointless waste of money. A proprietary competitor may only be interested in excluding an open source project from the market, but even that is effectively impossible. For example, consider the efforts to get rid of DeCSS and its progeny. That was about copyright, not patents, but the point is that a) you can't remove something from the internet and b) a project can always move to another country with more favorable laws. Patents are territorial: if a company sues a project in country A, the project can just move to country B, where the company doesn't have a patent.

Open Invention Network (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#43021189)

The article seems incomplete without at least mentioning the Open Invention Network [openinventionnetwork.com] .

code-digging to prevent patent infrigement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43022913)

Dig up 20-year old code and re-use it.

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