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Red Hat Software Businesses Patents Software Linux

Red Hat Seeks Limits on Software Patents 107

Posted by Zonk
from the putting-a-fedora-on-top dept.
eldavojohn writes "RedHat went to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals asking for limits on software patents yesterday. They have not uploaded their full brief yet online, but promise to post it soon. Here's a tidbit: 'Given the litigation risk, some open source companies, including Red Hat, acquire patents for the sole purpose of asserting them defensively in the event they are faced with a future lawsuit. Red Hat also provides open source intellectual property protections through our Open Source Assurance Program that protects our customers and encourages them to deploy with confidence. Our strategy is a prudent one and mitigates the risk of patent lawsuits, but it would be unnecessary if the system itself were fixed.'"
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Red Hat Seeks Limits on Software Patents

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  • Patents (Score:5, Informative)

    by omeomi (675045) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:21PM (#23016114) Homepage
    I remember hearing once that companies like IBM often build a stockpile of patents, not so much to litigate, but so nobody else can tell them what to do with patents they don't have. Even if you're infringing on somebody else's patents, if you have enough patents of your own, you can probably find one that they're infringing on, and you've essentially come to a stalemate, so everybody's happy. Only works for the big players, though. The little guys get screwed.
    • Re:Patents (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sanity (1431) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:29PM (#23016210) Homepage Journal
      Nope, IBM is guilty of abusing their patents, they aren't purely defensive. See this story [forbes.com] from the 1980s.
      • Re:Patents (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tanktalus (794810) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:13PM (#23016716) Journal

        And you're going to use 25-year-old stories to conclude about present-day ambitions, goals, and methodologies? I'm not saying that IBM doesn't still do that, but at least find something recent. For example, without actually looking it up to find a reference, I'm sure I've heard within the last 5 years that IBM makes somewhere around $1B per year on licensing their patents. I'm not sure how the shakedown goes, but I can't imagine it being a pleasant experience for most licensees.

        Even then, that doesn't take away from the GP's point: if IBM didn't have the patents, it would likely cost IBM far, far more in license costs than $1B/year (just using the deep-pockets theory of lawsuits, and IBM has DEEEEEP pockets). So it's entirely conceivable that the patent royalties IBM gets are merely a secondary concern to IBM. I'm not saying that this is the real reason, but merely that it's plausible. Nor does it justify that Forbes account of a shakedown attempt, if still used today (in all likelihood, it is, but let's using some more recent evidence, please - statute of limitations likely has run out on charges of Being An Asshole).

        • Re:Patents (Score:4, Funny)

          by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @08:56PM (#23019588)

          And you're going to use 25-year-old stories to conclude about present-day ambitions, goals, and methodologies?

          Yep.

          That's why I buy Microsoft products. I'll support anyone who sticks it to the big, evil, nasty IBM.

        • by jbn-o (555068)

          And you're going to use 25-year-old stories to conclude about present-day ambitions, goals, and methodologies?

          No, we'll look at that evidence to notice that the power relationship hasn't changed. More recent evidence might make the danger seem more present but the threat and the danger to software use remains.

    • Re:Patents (Score:5, Informative)

      by QuantumRiff (120817) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:38PM (#23016290)
      Dave, the CEO of NetApp had a very interesting blog posting about patents last summer [netapp.com]. Especially interesting since NetApp and Sun are now in a Patent lawsuit battle royale.
    • Re:Patents (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:12PM (#23016698)

      Only works for the big players, though. The little guys get screwed.
      Patent Trolls are usually quite small and hire contingency fee law firms to litigate the case(s) on their behalf. This has a number of advantages as well as a few (relatively minor) disadvantages...(from TFA):

      Advantage:

      "Some believe patent trolls have an unfair advantage over manufacturers since they are relatively immune to the typical defensive tactic large entities use against small patent plaintiffs, because the cost of litigation tends to fall more heavily on an accused infringer than on a plaintiff with a contingency-fee lawyer, and because trolls have an almost-unrestricted ability to choose their preferred plaintiff-friendly forums, most prominently the Eastern District of Texas."

      IANAL, but it seems to me that it should NOT be too difficult to structure the corporate ownership in such a way that any profits from successful litigation can be extracted as legal fees from the patent trolling shell company by the law firm(s) which service it (and probably own it indirectly as well) as a vehicle to pursue their litigation while shielding the parent law firm from more direct retaliation. In any case, you would be going after the patent troll and its lawyers on their home field (i.e. the legal system) where, unless you hired equally good attorneys, they would probably be at a very definite advantage.

      Disadvantage(s):

      "Patent trolls are at a disadvantage in at least two ways. First, patent owners who make and sell their invention are entitled to awards of lost profits. However, patent trolls, being non-manufacturers, typically do not qualify. Further, patent owners' rights to bar infringers from manufacture, use, or sale of technologies that infringe their patents has recently been curtailed in the court decision eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C.. Rather than automatically granting an injunction, the US Supreme Court stated that Courts must apply a standard reasonableness test to determine if an injunction is warranted. Writing in Forbes magazine about the impact of this case on patent trolls, writer Jessica Holzer concludes: "The high court's decision deals a blow to patent trolls, which are notorious for using the threat of permanent injunction to extort hefty fees in licensing negotiations as well as huge settlements from companies they have accused of infringing. Often, those settlements can be far greater than the value of the infringing technology: Recall the $612.5 million that Canada's Research in Motion forked over to patent-holding company NTP to avoid the shutting down of its popular BlackBerry service."

      So, small players would be at a larger disadvantage if they actually produced something other than litigation, but as you can see the system strongly favors the patent trolls with very dubious if any benefits accruing to society from the whole affair. Even with the disadvantages, it pays to be a patent troll.
    • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrSteveSD (801820) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @05:29PM (#23017686)
      We have the situation today where it's pretty much impossible to write a program without hitting loads of patents. If I was given the brief of writing a video player and I just did it in a way that seemed sensible, you can virtually guarantee that I would have infringed on dozens of patents. The only hope I would have of not getting sued is if the player was not at all popular or if patent holders felt it would generate bad publicity.

      The word "VLC player" just popped into my head while I was writing this, and I did a search. As I predicted there are lots of patent threats against the player.
      • by debatem1 (1087307)
        Indeed. I'll try to find the study, but ACM published a paper not too long ago that concluded that virtually every non-trivial program written in the last ten years contained large and unavoidable patent violations. As a developer who has spent way too much time around lawyers, I must admit that I find that conclusion both repulsive and terrifying.
      • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

        by delt0r (999393) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @06:50AM (#23022438)
        You will not infringe on dozens, you will infringe on *thousands*. I am doing just what you said, more or less. There are many many patents that are mathematically *identical*. Some even "patent" the mathematical process (lifting in this case) to derive *any* efficient implementation of DCT or similar.

        Of course there are patents on sticks for dogs to fetch, how to swing in a swing and the use of a laser pointer to entertain cats (I think there a dozen of so of that one). Its quite clear that these patents won't stand up to a proper challenge and some of the video based patents have been ruled invalid when its gone to court.

        But even if you win. Really the only winners are the lawyers....
    • Re:Patents (Score:4, Interesting)

      by melted (227442) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @06:39PM (#23018478) Homepage
      IBM is the main reason why Microsoft started filing software patents. The story goes like this. Microsoft was blissfully unaware of the importance of software patents until one day Bill received a piece of mail from IBM lawyers telling him that Microsoft owes a rather large amount of money to IBM and there'd be consequences if they didn't pay up. They did pay that year, but they also mandated that each group files patents on anything significant they do. If they don't do anything significant, they file bullshit patents anyway, because there's a requirement to file and if they don't file enough their VP would be fucked. And VPs usually don't take buttsecks from the superiors lightly.

      These days, by sheer numbers Microsoft is one of the biggest patent producing machines, able to go medieval on anyone who tries to enforce patents against it.

      There's just one kink to this, as Eolas story amply demonstrated - if the plaintiff is just a hollow patent troll that does NOT infringe on anything Microsoft does and simply holds a patent to a core technology, he can get mega-millions by suing their ass.
    • Richard Stallman points out how this works, and the specific value of cross-licensing, in his talk on "The Danger of Software Patents" or "Software Patents—Barriers to development". He's given this talk many times and recordings [gnu.org] and transcripts [fsfe.org] are readily available (thanks to all you recorders and transcribers). He references an article in "Think" magazine, #5, 1990 [mit.edu] (IBM's promotional magazine) which says that IBM gets "perhaps an order of magnitude" more value from cross-licensing than they do fro

  • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:23PM (#23016122) Homepage

    RedHat is essentially that son who does everything the family needs, but is rarely acknowledged because he isn't 'cool'.

    More on topic, I hope this works out, if only so it would reduce their costs as I like their services.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JeremyGNJ (1102465)
      And isnt that funny....the one true commercial success story for Linux...is shunned by it's own community.
      • by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:29PM (#23016208) Journal
        By the "vocal" community perhaps. Industry tends to use it pretty hardcore. I've been through three engineering (mechanical/aerospace) jobs in the last three years, and all three, when using Linux, used Red Hat.

        So while people piss and moan on /. and other forums, and praise Ubuntu or whatever flavor of the month, real work does get done on Red Hat and similar distros. It's just that you wouldn't hear about it, unless you were really **doing** it.
      • by Znork (31774) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:17PM (#23016772)
        is shunned by it's own community.

        What part of which community?

        As far as I can tell, Red Hat has a very good reputation and is widely appreciated. They hire a lot of important coders, they contribute much and they release most of their software under GPL. Sure you have the distro of the day crowd, but they'll always be installing new distributions.
        • by PCM2 (4486)

          As far as I can tell, Red Hat has a very good reputation and is widely appreciated.

          I think part of the problem here is that when many vocal Slashdotters talk about Red Hat, they really mean either Fedora or CentOS. What engagement they have with Red Hat is limited to installation media, not the part of the company that really matters. That's my take, anyway.

          I prefer Ubuntu as a desktop OS because ... I prefer it. Simple. If I were in charge of setting up a bunch of Linux servers for a midsized business,

          • by kylehase (982334)

            when many vocal Slashdotters talk about Red Hat, they really mean either Fedora or CentOS
            Guilty as charged. I appreciate RedHat mostly because I know if they fail CentOS will probably disappear too. But hey, at least I appreciate them.
      • Um, wasn't Novell (and not Red Hat) who got shunned by the community?
      • by debatem1 (1087307)
        Ok, I'll fess up- I don't like Red Hat. Its a grudge and its not fair to them now, but going back a few years, those guys weren't much more fun to deal with than IBM, and for a small business, that's saying something. Now, of course, they're much better, they contribute more, and they participate more in the community, but I think there's probably always going to be a little knot of people for whom the words 'Red Hat' will always leave a bitter taste in their mouths.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BlueParrot (965239)
        Eh? Red Hat is far from the only commercial success of Linux. Just have a look at Canonical and Ubuntu, they got Linux pre-installed on systems for consumer desktop use and they are making quite a bit of money from it.
    • Well, they've really stopped leading the pack.

      Since Troan left, the fit'n'finish of their main offering has really slipped - what's the point of shipping a broken mkbootdisk? Sure, you can't fit Red Hat on a 1.44 MB floppy any more, but other distros simply hacked the script to make bootable USB sticks while RH was still shipping a unuseable utility. Or what about PAM support in usermod/useradd etc.? First Red Hat closes the bugzilla ticket (that has dozens of people on it) with the explanation "shadow u
    • by AvitarX (172628)
      It's funny. When I first used Linux RedHat was like Ubuntu is now. I remember going to borders to get a book about it and some "old guy" (probably actually a sophomore in college) sneered about my book choice and said something to the effect of "it's OK, but I wish people would use Slackware". As a new user there appeared to be pretty much the same anti-RedHat as sentiment I see against Ubuntu now. Of course it's reputation of good hardware detection and easy configuration made it very dominant with new
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'd tag this as "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense", but given the source, something tells me this isn't exactly unexpected or sudden. So, keep up the good work, ya red fedora-wearing nuts!

    (assuming, of course, this actually GOES anywhere...)
  • Infinite goods. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:25PM (#23016154)
    It seems to me that the US in particular sees it's future income not to be based on selling physical goods but rather to be based on the sale of abstract knowledge. With that in mind the whole area of "intellectual property" and the motivations to protect it become in my own mind at least clearer. Information suffers from the attribute of infinite goods. I give it to you and at no cost you can undercut me and give it to millions of others without loss. That's the problem. It's hard to centralize profit when an idea can be replicated forever over the wires. On the flip-side, open-source in particular shows that instead of benefiting the top of the pyramid, wealth can be spread around much more evenly giving everyone the benefits and moving the area of competition to a different market. But this situation while good for the many does not currently lie within what the leaders of the United States of America see as in their strategic interest.
    • You raise a very intriguing point, and I think it could help us geeks explain the value of open source to the masses. Thanks!
    • US Patent Law prohibits patenting ideas. The US Supreme Court has upheld this 3 times. The bad case law involving patents on ideas implemented in software has effectively modified the law to say, "you can patent an idea - provided an automatic machine can implement your idea". So by simply providing a machine that implements them, business methods can be patented - and both manual and automatic implementations of the idea monopolized.

      While this seems a great windfall for the unscrupulous, the capabilit

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SiegeTank (582725)

      But this situation while good for the many does not currently lie within what the leaders of the United States of America see as in their strategic interest.

      Nobody said anything about the 'leaders' and 'strategic interest', this is something that the courts should be allowed to decide - it affects a lot of individuals too despite all the economic and social benefits the money might provide. I remember reading something in the last few months about whether the Congress has unlimited power to control issues of relevance to the US economy, that may be come up here too.

  • Honestly (Score:1, Interesting)

    Without actually seeing the brief, TFA can take everything they want out of context. I'd just like to read the brief before I take a stance on what they're doing here. I'm ALL for open source and run multiple Linux machines, but the software patent realm is horribly messed up and yet necessary at the same time.

    As much as I hate it, some great software has been developed under the patent system that otherwise might not have been made. A solution? I don't have it.

    • Re:Honestly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by greenbird (859670) * on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:30PM (#23016220)

      As much as I hate it, some great software has been developed under the patent system that otherwise might not have been made.

      I call bullshit. Name one category of software that would not have been developed without patents and name a few specific products.

      • Re:Honestly (Score:5, Funny)

        by arotenbe (1203922) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:38PM (#23016282) Journal

        Name one category of software that would not have been developed without patents and name a few specific products.
        Annoying interactive cartoon interfaces. Microsoft Bob. Clippit.

        Oh, wait...
      • by i.r.id10t (595143)
        Various DRM implementations? Though that may be more copyright driven than patent driven...
      • Re:Honestly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:47PM (#23016378) Homepage
        You might argue that Frauenhofer would not have done the R&D to develop the MP3 encoding without the expectation they could get software patents and charge people for them. Then again, other formats like Ogg Vorbis were developed freely (even if MP3 came first).

        Even if such cases do exist, they are more than outweighed by the cases where innovation is blocked, not promoted, by patent minefields.
        • by Z34107 (925136)

          True - but MP3 did come first, and I'm willing to pay a premium to have technology advance faster.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Znork (31774)
            I'm willing to pay a premium to have technology advance faster.

            Sure. The thing is indications are that patents make technology advance slower instead. Monopolies do not tend to encourage efficiency; Microsoft with all its resources can barely keep pace with an underfinanced rag-tag bunch of geeks.

            There are various other models for diverting funds to have technology advance faster without the damaging aspects of monopoly rights; they were never intended to accomplish faster technological advances, they were
          • My software freedom is too high a price to pay. I'm certainly not willing to go along with an alleged relationship between exclusionary power over ideas one can use in software and the speed with which those ideas are used to make software (where exclusive power is said to provoke people to develop these products). I remember computer software developing at a perfectly fine pace when software patents either didn't exist or were rare. What we're seeing today is more likely a power grab than anything to do
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ceifeira (1230772)
          MP3 got developed when it did because scientific output on speech coding and psycho-acoustic models, using wavelet and cosine transforms (particularly the DCT), &c., reached critical mass at the time.
        • Fraunhofer [wikipedia.org] is funded one third by the German government and two thirds by contract work done for businesses. It's pretty likely that public-funded universities would have developed this stuff (after all, MP3 is just a minor evolution of lots of research that was being done at the time).

          However, if the technical hurdle for software patents was as high as complex, innovative audio compression algorithms, and if the monopoly didn't last so long, then certainly the patent system would not be so broken as it

      • Re:Honestly (Score:5, Informative)

        by garett_spencley (193892) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:55PM (#23016486) Journal
        "I call bullshit. Name one category of software that would not have been developed without patents and name a few specific products."

        PNG, Ogg Vorbis etc.
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Shouldn't you have been modded funny instead? I'm assuming your trying to get at that those two were open formats created specifically to bypass the patent issues with GIF & Mp3.
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        I said might not have been made and I was not necessarily arguing "for" the software patent system. I didn't say "would never have been made." I was merely speaking to the general principle that the patent system, screwed up as it is, can drive innovation to a point. For good or for bad. And that point was early in the history of software patents. I do believe that software patents are shit-useless and inhibit innovation now.

        Forgive me for not being more thorough with my first post.

      • I call bullshit. Name one category of software that would not have been developed without patents and name a few specific products.
        PNG would not have been developed without patents on the LZW algorithm. Oh wait, I guess that isn't the kind of example that you wanted....
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gat0r30y (957941)
      Link to the brief [redhat.com] It was at the bottom of the page.
      As for my .02$ I think you should be able to patent compilers, anything else should fall under copyright.
    • Re:Honestly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumRiff (120817) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:51PM (#23016432)
      As much as I hate it, some great software has been developed under the Copyright system that otherwise might not have been made. A solution? I don't have it.

      Fixed that for you!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Haha yes that was fixed indeed! As far as copyright is concerned for software, there has to be some sort of a functional equivalency protection that Copyright doesn't protect. If you have some sort of technique for compliation or something and the code is copyrighted. If someone comes along and figures out how to do the same thing without exactly taking your code, they're free to do it. I think that's where the problem lies.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tim C (15259)
          for software, there has to be some sort of a functional equivalency protection that Copyright doesn't protect

          But why does there? What exactly is the problem? If it's trivial, then you can't have put a lot of effort into developing it yourself so what investment are you trying to protect? If it's complex, then without access to the source (or similar clues) your competitors will likely have just as hard a time developing their version as you had developing yours, in which case what's the problem? You have th
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by greensoap (566467)
      I just finished the brief. Of course this subject deserves more thorough explanation and analysis, but who has the time.

      Red Hat is arguing that the Federal Circuit has failed to apply the standards set forth by the Supreme Court. Namely, they are arguing that software along does not fall within 35 USC Section 101 without some sort of physical transformation of something. See Diamond v. Diehr. The Fed. Cir. created a standard saying that software is patentable if it creates a "useful, concrete, and tangibl
    • by jonwil (467024)
      Would the state of the art in video codecs (H.264, MPEG4 etc) have been developed if the people doing the development couldn't patent them? Would the codecs have been developed but kept as proprietary trade secrets instead of being standardized?
  • BONK! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The article managed to spell "Red Hat" correctly almost 20 times, and the summary couldn't manage it once.

  • Kudos redhat, kudos. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:34PM (#23016252) Homepage Journal
    This is a step in the right direction. Hopefully the US patent system realizes that it's messed up, and now that companies (especially ones that hold as many patents as red hat) are asking for limits on those (which would inevitably annul some of the ones redhat holds) it might be the push that's needed to spark reform.
  • by amplt1337 (707922) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:36PM (#23016264) Journal
    FTA:
    Today the patent system is, if anything, a hindrance to open source.

    Sure. Absolutely. The patent system is so out of control that it is, if anything, a hindrance to start-ups, too.

    In the words of Dick Cheney, "So?"

    What it comes down to is which interest owns more Congressmen. (I'm aware that this is a brief in a court, but any sufficiently broad decision rejecting the idea of software patents would no doubt immediately come under legislative fire).

    Also note that even if the scope of "what-is-patentable" is narrowed substantially, there's still hundreds of thousands of bogus software patents out there that aren't going to be deleted with the wave of a gavel, and that would most likely need to be litigated indvidually -- at substantial expense -- before they could be revoked, one-by-one. If they even can be revoked (I'd settle for being rendered officially unenforceable).
    • What it comes down to is which interest owns more Congressmen. (I'm aware that this is a brief in a court, but any sufficiently broad decision rejecting the idea of software patents would no doubt immediately come under legislative fire).

      Strong patents favor smaller companies/startups/open source/etc. Weak patents favor big business. A startup holding a patent can exclude others from the market or force them to increase their marginal cost of production. A large company can lower its marginal cost of prod

      • Strong patents favor smaller companies/startups/open source/etc. Weak patents favor big business. A startup holding a patent can exclude others from the market or force them to increase their marginal cost of production. A large company can lower its marginal cost of production/distribution/etc to below that of a startup or small business if not forced to license or work around whatever competitive advantage the startup/small business gained through their invention.

        I suppose it might work that way if the large businesses weren't able to both write legislation and prevent fair enforcement of existing laws.

        • Responding to several responses here.

          I suppose it might work that way if the large businesses weren't able to both write legislation and prevent fair enforcement of existing laws.

          There's a reason that current legislative reform and recent changes in patent jurisprudence in the US is greatly reducing the power conferred by a patent.

          Assuming that the big business doesn't already hold a patent on something the small company needs, and form a patent consortium with other large businesses to ensure no newco

          • If we altered the penalties for bringing such bad faith suits and counter-suits then most of the problems in the U.S. patent system would fix themselves.

            I have no trouble believing that. However, as I noted previously, our current government allows favored businesses to both write legislation and prevent fair enforcement of existing laws. This being the case, I don't think you are going to see any such revisions of law in my lifetime. Big businesses, and businesses like Blackwater and Halliburton that have direct connections to government, profit disproportionately from an unwieldy and expensive system of law.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by amplt1337 (707922)

        A startup holding a patent can exclude others from the market or force them to increase their marginal cost of production.
        Assuming that the big business doesn't already hold a patent on something the small company needs, and form a patent consortium [wikipedia.org] with other large businesses to ensure no newcomers can get a toehold in the market.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)

        Strong patents favor smaller companies/startups/open source/etc. Weak patents favor big business.

        For the software industry, you have it exactly backwards.

        The probability of building a non-trivial application that doesn't infringe on some existing patent is essentially zero. Large companies build patent portfolios and cross-license them with each other to build up an oligarchy of a few big players with a huge barrier around their market positions. They are all free to operate under this mutual patent umbrella.

        These big guys can squash any small player that comes along with a new product that thre

  • Brief is now online. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:43PM (#23016342) Journal
    They have not uploaded their full brief yet online, but promise to post it soon.

    TFA now has a link to a PDF of the brief [redhat.com].
  • This was necessary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Apoorv Khatreja (1263418) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:52PM (#23016446) Homepage
    With Ubuntu in the market, the big corporation have starting considering Linux as a threat. They're scared because it isn't a regular competitor; they can't buy it out. The GPL ensures this. So now they are trying to get involved and try to commercialize things. Recent developments such as -
    http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/04/08/202227 [slashdot.org]
    http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/31/1359204 [slashdot.org]
    show what the commercial players are upto. In such a scenario, anybody would be scared, and hence seek legal protection.

    And the history of Microsoft is in any case, enough for any company to be afraid of them.
  • by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:53PM (#23016456)

    Given the litigation risk, some open source companies, including Red Hat, acquire patents for the sole purpose of asserting them defensively in the event they are faced with a future lawsuit.

    You could remove "open source" from the sentence above and it would be just as accurate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Given the litigation risk, some open source companies, including Red Hat, acquire patents for the sole purpose of asserting them defensively in the event they are faced with a future lawsuit.

      You could remove "open source" from the sentence above and it would be just as accurate.


      Too true.

      Since "going over to the hard side of the force" a few years ago - from software to hardware design - I've cranked out six patents for our company. (And we have a bunch of other people cranking, too.) We did it primarily
  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:04PM (#23016598) Journal
    While I despise software patents just like most of slashdot, I hate seeing the solution being legislation from the bench.

    Software Patents are just about as silly as can be. If one thinks about it, anyone can use patents for PERSONAL or CORPORATE use, that patents should only apply to items being sold/marketed as a product or an improvement to an existing product for sale.

    Lets just look at how this works, using some ancient tech, Stills. Lets say that I came up with a process or improvement that increases still production or the quality of the spirits being distilled. I can then market that improvement to all the other still makers, or start marketing stills that have that improvement built in.

    However, if Joe Whitelighting makes his own stills, for his own use, and he happens upon building a still with said improvement, built by himself, then the person with the patent has no recourse.

    The point of Patents is to get them into use as efficiently as possible. Not to horde patents to ideas and inventions that never get built.

    In the case of software patents, Amazon isn't distributing, selling, or otherwise offering for license "OneClick". It is using this patent to keep others from using it, even if the others are building it (or something similar) themselves.

    In this case the Patent is being used not to reward Amazon for something they are selling, but rather to punish anyone using a similar or related idea.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Waffle Iron (339739)

      While I despise software patents just like most of slashdot, I hate seeing the solution being legislation from the bench.

      As you may recall, the entire idea that software can even be patented in the US was originally legislated from the bench.

    • by greensoap (566467)
      Are you trying to say that patents should not apply to average joe user who makes is own item that infringes a patent? If you are, the simple fact is there almost never is a case where BigCompany sues average joe for patent infringment (unless average joe is making/using the product for public use). There simply is no money in it for BigCompany and joe's infringing use doesn't really cost BigCompany any money.
    • "While I despise software patents just like most of slashdot, I hate seeing the solution being legislation from the bench."

      Software patents were created by legislation from the bench. Probably the broadest extensions of software patent case law were done by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to which Red Hat is presenting their brief. So Red Hat's approach is practical in the sense that that they have the opportunity to present our case to a body that is capable of deciding the issue in our favor.

    • by Phroggy (441)

      In the case of software patents, Amazon isn't distributing, selling, or otherwise offering for license "OneClick". It is using this patent to keep others from using it, even if the others are building it (or something similar) themselves.

      That's not quite correct; Apple licensed OneClick from Amazon to use on the iTunes Store. Amazon was using the patent to keep Barnes & Noble from building something similar, but B&N did anyway and Amazon sued them; the result was a settlement that included B&N licensing the patent from Amazon.

      Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] doesn't mention any other licensing, though.

  • Kudos to Red Hat for this. However, arguing that software patents are harmful for open source falls short of the mark. In the end, they are harmful to everyone. In the best case, they raise the cost of software development for everyone, open source or otherwise, including anyone who does in-house software development. In the worst case, they make the development of certain programs impossible for anyone.

    I think Bill Gates called it right years ago, when he wrote that patents would bring the industry to a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wordplay (54438)
      I think Red Hat is being prudent in picking a battle they can possibly win. It's easier to substantiate costs and difficulty within your own sub-industry.

      Any solution that covers open source has a good chance of covering the rest of the industry too. It would at least set a great precedent.
  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @06:07PM (#23018156) Homepage
    I don't see Red Hat's brief listed, but here are links to most of the amicus briefs [patentlyo.com] filed in this case, along with a short summary of each.

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