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Red Hat Software Businesses Linux Business Patents Your Rights Online

Red Hat Makes a GPL-Compatible Patent Deal 59

Posted by timothy
from the step-one-agree-that-the-gpl-is-about-copyright dept.
Bruce Perens writes "Red Hat has settled patent suits with Firestar Software, Inc., Amphion, and Datatern on a patent covering the Object-Relational Database Model, which those companies asserted was used in the jBoss Hibernate package — not in Red Hat Linux. The settlement is said to protect upstream developers and derivative works of the upstream software, thus protecting the overall Open Source community. Full terms of the settlement and patent licenses are not available at this time."
Reader Koohoolinn adds a link to RedHat's own report of the settlement and adds that the deal "is GPLv2 and even GPLv3-compatible." Koohoolinn also points out commentary on Groklaw that this deal "means that those who claim the GPL isolates itself from standards bodies' IP pledges are wrong. It is possible to come up with language that satisfies the GPL and still acknowledges patents, and this is the proof. That means Microsoft could do it for OOXML if it wanted to. So who is isolating whom?"
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Red Hat Makes a GPL-Compatible Patent Deal

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  • Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chunk08 (1229574) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:15PM (#23767671) Journal
    Red Hat is the best thing for the open source community in terms of patents.
  • Thank you RedHat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:16PM (#23767695) Homepage
    Not sure why there is even a patent on this, but making a deal which protects everyone is pretty nice.
  • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cp.tar (871488) <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:26PM (#23767889) Journal

    Red Hat is the best thing for the open source community in terms of patents.

    If I understand this rightly, this is a veritable gift to the Open Source community. Kudos.

  • Legitimacy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XanC (644172) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:36PM (#23768061)
    Does a deal like this lend legitimacy to a ridiculous patent, thus encouraging more patent trolling? Would ignoring them have been better? Maybe this patent is actually meaningful, but I doubt it.
  • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @03:31PM (#23768981) Homepage Journal
    The point being, someone else can't patent it, then sue the pants off of everyone that used it.
  • Re:Not hard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cduffy (652) <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @04:21PM (#23769717)
    Folks making proprietary use typically won't want to be subject to the GPL -- so they'll need to get a patent license, because they're certainly not covered. That limits the extent to which this patent can be reused, and thus to which having offered it can backfire on the licensor.

    (That said, Red Hat was prepared to shoot them down hard if they didn't agree to settle -- lots of prior art dug up).
  • Re:Not hard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @04:49PM (#23770145)

    And gosh, some clever truck manufacturer will find a way to claim the design out of a GPLed car to fit into his truck,

    Yes, that is the idea, IT IS PRECISELY THE IDEA. The GPL is not intended to let you limit your software patents to only some subset of all GPL software. It is intended to keep GPL software, any GPL software, safe from patent threats. Thus if the truck manufacturer licenses his trucks under the GPL, he will be allowed to use the patent that covered the car. This is not a flaw, IT IS WORKING AS INTENDED. To be safe from the patent he will have to put the truck under the GPL, which means he will be forced to give the operating manual and blueprints of the truck to anybody who buys it from him. Thus either he will be blocked from implementing the patent, or the community gains information about how to build trucks. This is only a problem if your goal was to use some GPL code that implements your patent (i.e the cars ) while simultaneously threatening OTHER GPL products which implement your patents (i.e the trucks). The GPL seeks to prevent you from doing this. Thus while you have given a very good example of how the GPL achieves this, you incorrectly described it as a problem when it is in fact the very point of the GPL.
  • Gift? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @08:44PM (#23772785) Homepage Journal
    This would be a gift if Red Hat didn't get value from that community. But since they do, I think the best way to describe it is that Red Hat is sharing the way the community would like more companies to share.
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @08:54PM (#23772897) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, it would have been better for everyone but Red Hat if they let the case drag out until they won. Because there's lots of prior art on the patent. But then again, anyone can see that the plaintiffs paid big time by giving up that many rights, and it doesn't sound like they got much from Red Hat to do that, but settled before they were counter-sued. So, hopefully people will be less willing to go after deep-pockets Open Source companies because of this.


  • Re:Gift? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cp.tar (871488) <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:18PM (#23773515) Journal

    Since the GPL was considered to be incompatible with patents, I'd say this was more than simple sharing.

    Several companies have shared their patents with the Open Source community -- or at least promised never to sue for infringement (yes, I know there is a difference), but nobody has ever done that with someone else's patent.
    This alone makes it a gift; showing that it is possible is another gift, as now we can expect more of the same.

  • Re:Gift? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:28PM (#23773561) Homepage Journal
    Since the GPL was considered to be incompatible with patents, I'd say this was more than simple sharing.

    That was FUD, though. The GPL wants some of your patent rights, just enough to protect GPL software from patents. You still have lots of room to license them commercially.

    We can certainly call this an achievement. But really, this sort of legal innovation is what any company that wants to be a sincere partner in the Open Source community to the extent Red Hat is would be expected to do. We're not upset with Novell because they "didn't give us a gift". We're upset with them because they didn't do what is expected of anyone in their position. Red Hat just made that especially clear.

  • by Raenex (947668) on Friday June 13, 2008 @11:34AM (#23779087)
    So they got paid off on a bogus patent, and you think this will discourage others in the future from suing?

In the sciences, we are now uniquely priviledged to sit side by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand. -- Gerald Holton