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Linux Patent Protection Network Lures Facebook, HP 106

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the radar-light-keeps-blinking dept.
jbrodkin writes "Facebook, HP, Rackspace, Juniper, Fujitsu and dozens of other organizations have joined a group building a defensive patent portfolio to protect Linux-using members from potential lawsuits. The Open Invention Network (OIN) — founded in 2005 by IBM, NEC, Novell, Phillips, Red Hat and Sony — has acquired 300 Linux-related patents and licenses to 2,000 in total in a bid to protect the Linux community from intellectual property lawsuits. The group added 74 new members this year and is giving a leadership role to Google, which is fighting lawsuits targeting Linux-based Android."
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Linux Patent Protection Network Lures Facebook, HP

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  • SCEA has it.
  • When so many cronies get behind linux, all the cronies in your office won't mind using it.

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)
      While humorous you are absolutely correct.
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        In harsh economic times, hardware manufacturers look for savings and one of the biggest savings possible in software licences. You can try shoving that cost of to retailers and wholesalers but at the end of the day when it comes to end users dollars, making it available to the customer in a fully functioning state in the most cost effective way possible can mean the difference between winning and losing.

        Once manufacturers go open source on the software, it makes it a simpler lets compete on hardware mark

    • by Rob Kaper (5960)

      When so many cronies get behind linux, all the cronies in your office won't mind using it.

      They already don't and many of them will have a Linux-based phone, router, or gadget. Or don't mind whether an internet service is Linux-hosted.

      Linux found major acceptance years ago. The traditional desktop is still struggling to obtain market share, but the reason is not that people mind using Linux. When my non-technical friends or relatives use my laptop at home (guest account, of course) they don't mind the Linux Mint interface and have in fact not once complained or even as much as bothered to mention

      • The reason Linux is still struggling with desktop acceptance is that Windows has improved 10-fold the last few years. Windows 7 is pretty much the most solid Desktop OS I've seen over the last 20 years and far too many OS's to count.

        • by nschubach (922175)

          Windows 7 has been less stellar on a machine that I had XP running fine on. I upgraded to an SSD and put Win7Pro64 on it, and have had nothing but issues.

          My main complaint is with my sound card causing my machine to lock up hard if I'm launching/exiting a game and talking on Ventrilo at the same time.

          I have a RAID array and Windows 7 keeps taking ownership of files inside folders on that drive causing issues when auto-patchers try to update content on that drive. (Permission denied!) Having to take owner

          • by Izeickl (529058)
            While MS can be blamed for many things don't forget the manufactures also, is it win7 fault your machine locks or shitty drivers provided for your sound card etc? I run win7ultimate64 with Intel SSD and the only problems I have had was after upgrading my gfx card games would stutter and every so often huge drop in frame rates, installing newer beta version nvidia drivers cleared it up.
            • by WorBlux (1751716)

              While MS can be blamed for many things don't forget the manufactures also, is it win7 fault your machine locks or shitty drivers provided for your sound card etc?

              Depends on how old the card or chipset is. If older than vista, no. They entirely hacked out a lot of hardware and driver subsystem to try to clean up the crud, so a newer driver for that card will just be trying to map from the old crud to the new. For new hardware there really ought to be proper QA from M$ to make sure any OEM sold with Windows 7 has solid drivers and a team committed to updating the drivers when needed.Ideally they would stop being to lazy and include the drivers in tree, but it's never

        • The efficiency of a new windows release depends on the fear of competition. Vista being the notable exception, but it's better to consider it the beta of win7 rushed out not to lose too much edge.
          Besides, the only win7 machine I see doesn't seem to outperform debian sid, except I guess games. Games are probably the biggest selling point for bundled windows licenses for homes.

      • by Progman3K (515744)

        Sure, I run desktop Linux as my main O/S, it's so much better than Windows or OSX!

        But there has been a problem with Linux in a lot of businesses because of the Microsoft patent-posturing (among others) so this will add the legitimacy that pointy-haired bosses usually need to sanctify things.

  • And how do we know that they're not simply joining up to see what others have there, to make it easier for them to win IP lawsuits?

    Ideas like these are IMHO always bad. Sooner or later, every company or organization goes under, and when it does, the assets are sold. To someone who won't have to follow the original intents and promises, like a patent troll.
    Promises are worth exactly as much as the paper they aren't written on.

    • by walshy007 (906710)

      Contract tend to fix that, since even if a company is bought out they generally still have to honour the company they've purchased's contracts.

      That being said most companies would never restrict themselves that much intentionally.

    • I would be more concerned about the time when they start going the other direction. It seems like every "defensive" patent becomes offensive eventually.
    • by Xtifr (1323) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @01:43PM (#35883132) Homepage

      how do we know that they're not simply joining up to see what others have there[?]

      Patents, by their very nature, aren't secret, and OIN makes no secret of which patents [openinventionnetwork.com] are in their pool (it would rather defeat the purpose if they did), so I can't imagine what it is that you think they're going to learn by joining.

      Promises are worth exactly as much as the paper they aren't written on.

      Well, first of all, these promises are written on paper, and second of all, if a promise is made publicly enough, it doesn't matter whether it's written on paper, and as for your final fear about companies dissolving and assets being sold, the doctrines of promissory estoppel [thefreedictionary.com] and laches [wikipedia.org] would prevent any direct harm from such an event. A new asset owner couldn't just suddenly repudiate the promises made by the previous owner; they would have to give proper notice and allow those affected by the previous promise time to deal with the changing circumstances, at the very least.

    • And how do we know that they're not simply joining up to see what others have there, to make it easier for them to win IP lawsuits?

      The members of OIN are not allowed to use their patents against other members. Similarly, if a member joins OIN and then leaves OIN, they will still be fighting against thousands of patents and would only assure their own destruction by going to court. Ie. your scenario simply doesn't fly.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        The members of OIN are not allowed to use their patents against other members.

        First of all, that is only true for the disclosed patents, not any other patents they may have.

        And second, it's a worthless promise.
        Say I run BigCompany, and find through my association that my patent #12345678 could smash AnotherCompany and get us millions. I transfer my patent to BigCompany Holding, our parent company, who then in turn transfers it to BigCompany Law, another subsidary. They successfully sue AnotherCompany, and I get a big fat bonus from BigCompany Holding.
        And I've done nothing wrong - m

        • The members of OIN are not allowed to use their patents against other members.

          First of all, that is only true for the disclosed patents, not any other patents they may have.

          And second, it's a worthless promise. Say I run BigCompany, and find through my association that my patent #12345678 could smash AnotherCompany and get us millions. I transfer my patent to BigCompany Holding, our parent company, who then in turn transfers it to BigCompany Law, another subsidary. They successfully sue AnotherCompany, and I get a big fat bonus from BigCompany Holding. And I've done nothing wrong - my company didn't sue anyone, and I don't even hold the patent anymore.

          I don't think it works that way. It is more likely that the company would be bound by contract to sell (or transfer) the OIN agreement with the patent. Of course, I don't know if that is the case, but given that your case requires everyone else to have completely incompetent lawyers, I highly doubt such an action would be possible.

        • by Xtifr (1323)

          I already pointed out the doctrine of estoppel once in response to your earlier post. Since you apparently can't or won't read I'll simply say that not only are you wrong in claiming that this would work (BigCompanyLaw would still be estopped from asserting the patents), but if you did try to sue, and evidence turned up during discovery that you had done this deliberately to try to hurt AnotherCompany, you could find yourself facing charges of fraud, extortion and racketeering.

    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @02:09PM (#35883508)

      And how do we know that they're not simply joining up to see what others have there, to make it easier for them to win IP lawsuits?

      Most patent portfolios come with irrevocable commitments to allow any patent they submit to the portfolio to be used freely forever.
      This one apparently DOES NOT have such a commitment.

      From their Agreement:

      1.1 Subject to Section 1.2(b), OIN, grants to You and Your Subsidiaries a royalty-free, worldwide, nonexclusive, non-transferable license under OIN Patents to make, have made, use, import, and Distribute any products or services. In addition to the foregoing and without limitation thereof, with respect only to the Linux System, the license granted herein includes the right to engage in activities that in the absence of this Agreement would constitute inducement to infringe or contributory infringement (or infringement under any other analogous legal doctrine in the applicable jurisdiction).

      Sounds all laudable and such, BUT:

      There are still some worrisome features of this organization, such as the fact that the FSF is NOT part of it, and they are really granting cross licensing only to other members. Further, they have built a pretty massive escape clause into their License Agreement [openinventionnetwork.com] in Section 2.

      A careful read of their cross license agreement suggest this could turn ugly after enough patents are in the system which also find their way into Linux.

      The FAQ is here: http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/about_faq.php [openinventionnetwork.com]
      The membership is here: http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/licensees.php [openinventionnetwork.com] (just about every Distro you ever heard of is represented).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Defensive patents are just a way that companies agree to break the law together. I would much rather see the companies agree to CHANGE the law together. Like, for example, shorten the patent lifespan, or how about, make trivial ideas unpatentable?

  • Google? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PickyH3D (680158)

    The company that has spent so much time taking from Linux and then leaving it dry? Google is too busy to commit changes back from Android, and they're all-to comfortable keeping Honeycomb (Android 3.0) closed source.

    • Asus has released [asus.com] the Honeycomb source.
      • by jrumney (197329)

        The only Android related source code I see there is:

        Eee Pad Kernel Code for Android OS

        That is not the source code to Android - it is the source to the Linux kernel, which is GPL so they have to release it.

  • by Jaqenn (996058) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @01:46PM (#35883172)
    Billy:It's a symptom. You're treating a symptom, and the disease rages on, consumes the human race. The fish rots from the head, as they say. So my thinking is, why not cut off the head?
    Penny: Of the human race?
    Billy: It's not a perfect metaphor, but I'm talking about an overhaul of the system.
  • by jank1887 (815982) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @02:03PM (#35883412)

    and once again we are reminded why software patents need to go the way of the dodo bird.

  • Aside from the irony of the OIN's raison d'etre (though like it or not, the current legal system is what it is): the patent pool only applies to a fairly specific definition of a "Linux system".
    Case in point, both Google and Oracle are both members...
    Don't get me wrong, I think the OIN is a sound initiative. However it's seems very naive to brush over its limitations.

  • This is an honest question, does this give the patent holders control over the future direction of Linux? ie. patent holders have ability to sue for patent infringement if there's something they don't like or it doesn't go the direction they want?
    • Us Europeans don't have Software Patents, and so can merrily ignore all this ... only US and international companies need pay attention ..

  • These days, any company or software project without a portfolio of defensive patents to defend itself with is just lawsuit bait. The second you get any success, it's just a matter of time before the crippling patent lawsuits come. It's ironic that patents, which were created to *promote* innovation, have become a weapon that now *stifles* innovation.

    An successful indie software developer with no patents is like a meekly 12-year-old walking through Compton with a "I have a lot of cash in my wallet" sign on h

  • So without a pack of patents so one can use MAD as a defense you can not innovate in the consumer electronics and software space. If you do too well someone will come after you. Can someone please just kill software patents today. Of course this could be good for FOSS but probably terrible for everybody else. Notice that Apple now is claiming a patient on rectangles with rounded corners if they happen to be cell phones.

  • by DaveInAustin (549058) on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @02:40PM (#35883866) Homepage
    Patents can only be enforced against entities that actually make something useful. Since trolls [wikipedia.org] don't actually make anything, they are immune to patent lawsuits (unless the IBM's patent troll patent [slashdot.org] sticks).
  • I stopped reading after "and Sony"...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    To name it the Open Invention Network Koalition.

  • I had an idea of why a company like Facebook might want to do this. If their servers all run GNU/Linux, they probably don't want to pay license fees for all of them if using GNU/Linux requires license fees due to patent infringement. Could that be part of it? (As much as I'd like to believe that all these companies just love GNU/Linux and want it to succeed...)
  • by men0s (1413347)
    Not trying to flamebait but Sony? The same Sony that chose to remove the OtherOS option (which allowed users to run a form a Linux) from their PS3 consoles? Why would they be one of the founding members of this organization?
  • ...as in Royal Philips Electronics - a consumer electronics company.

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