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Red Hat Software Businesses Patents Software Linux

Red Hat Seeks Limits on Software Patents 107

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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  • Honestly (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Corpuscavernosa ( 996139 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:25PM (#23016158)
    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.

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

    by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <> 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
    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).
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:10PM (#23016678) Journal
    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 as a defensive measure - and had to use it within a year, when a competitor (and major player in telecom) ran into financial trouble and became a patent troll to try to keep afloat. Turns out we hadn't infringed their patents - but it was still easier to cross-license than litigate.
  • Re:Infinite goods. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Znork ( 31774 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:29PM (#23016946)
    only the idea is valuable

    Ideas are a dime a dozen; attaching monopoly rights to them simply makes the market less efficient and ends up with transaction costs that dwarf the inherent value of the improvement.

    in cases where the patent is non-trivial

    There are no non-trivial patents. All innovation is evolutionary steps from previous work. For anyone sufficiently skilled in the appropriate art, all solutions are obvious.

    The only way you can delude yourself into being amazed at a new step is by not knowing the intermediary steps. And that, in itself, precludes you from being sufficiently skilled.

    The days are over when you could lock an inventor in a basement for 20 years and he'd come out with something revolutionary. Today, if you lock an inventor in a basement the only thing you'll get is something nineteen years out of date. Mass communication and mass evolutionary development beats a single genious every time.
  • by stites ( 993570 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @05:22PM (#23017616)

    "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.

    It would be better if we could get a law passed by Congress abolishing software patents because the Congressional law would take precedence over case law. The courts could no longer decide that the current laws, while not mentioning software patents, logically imply that software patents are legal.

    I have lobbied Congress to abolish software patents and got nowhere. I came to the conclusion that to be successful we would have to hire a professional lobbyist and join the fight in the Judiciary Subcommittees' hearing rooms along with all the other lobbyists fighting over the patent reform issue. I think that Red Hat spending the money to jump on this opportunity to possibly abolish or curtail software patents is money well spent. It is probably cheaper and certainly faster than spending money on Congressional lobbying and the opportunity is immediate.

    Steve Stites

  • 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.
  • Re:Infinite goods. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SiegeTank ( 582725 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @07:34PM (#23018980)

    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.
  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @10:55PM (#23020302)
    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.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.