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Linux Patent Protection Network Lures Facebook, HP 106

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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  • 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 [] 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 [] and laches [] 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.

  • 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 [] 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: []
    The membership is here: [] (just about every Distro you ever heard of is represented).

  • by ThunderBird89 ( 1293256 ) <zalanmeggyesi AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday April 20, 2011 @02:29PM (#35883752)

    attack and undermine the most successful American companies

    You paint it as a foreign attack. Umm, let's see what we have here:
    - Hewlett-Packard: American, headquartered at Palo Alto, CA
    - IBM: American, headquartered at Armonk, New York (Trivia: HAL of 2001: Space Odyssey was named by transposing IBM one letter back through the alphabet)
    - Intel: American, headquartered at Santa Clara, CA
    - Google: American, headquartered at Mountain View, CA
    - NEC: Japanese
    - Novell: multinational, headquartered at Waltham, Massachusetts
    - Red Hat: American, headquartered at Raleigh, North Carolina

    Are we seeing a pattern here? It's not like the US as a whole has anything to lose out of this, given that both the "attackers" and the "defenders" are American...

    forming a CARTEL against Microsoft and Apple to try to destroy them using patents rather than competing with products that people, you know, actually want to buy

    Again, let's see what we have here.

    Apple is suing Samsung for the Galaxy series of Android-powered phones. Reason: they look too much like the iPhone. This didn't come as much of a surprise to me after seeing the Galaxy S, Galaxy S Mk.II and the still Samsung-made Nexus S trounce the iPhone in reviews.
    Microsoft was trounced long ago by Apple in the smartphone market, after they failed to make a snappy comeback to the iPhone Mk.I. Windows Phone 7 came too late and just doesn't cut it in the face of Android and iOS together.
    And neither one is better than the other, for using patents equally frivolously to make attacks on one another and stifle competition, in your analogy, by being cartels unto themselves by virtue of their sheer size. In this regard, they deserve to have the book thrown at them using one of IBM's patents: they patented patents []! It doesn't get any better than this, you gotta admit that...

    forming a CARTEL

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    FYI: "A cartel is a formal (explicit) agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production.", according to Arthur Sullivan and Steven M. Sheffrin. The OIN is an association to pool patents, and protect one another from abuse. I see no evidence of fixing prices, marketing strategy or production strategy here. What I see is that now, instead of the Microsoft/Apple ogres going up against several dwarves, they get to face a single ogre trumping them in size, given that the strength of an IT company these days is measured by the number of patents it owns, no matter how frivolous they are.

    When will N-Obama stand up against this kind of market abuse?

    He won't. Simply because it's not his job. According to the Constitution of the United States of America (I dare you to find a higher law than that in the States!),
    "The Congress shall have Power [...] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"
    I think the IT trade pretty much fits those two criteria, even if it's not actually commerce, nor "market abuse" the way you paint it. Regardless, if it's market, the Congress will regulate, not the President.

  • 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 [] don't actually make anything, they are immune to patent lawsuits (unless the IBM's patent troll patent [] sticks).

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb