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Red Hat Software Businesses Patents The Almighty Buck Linux Technology

Red Hat Pledges Patent Protection For 99 Percent of FOSS-ware (theregister.co.uk) 65

Red Hat says it has amassed over 2,000 patents and won't enforce them if the technologies they describe are used in properly-licensed open-source software. From a report: The company has made more or less the same offer since 2002, when it first made a "Patent Promise" in order to "discourage patent aggression in free and open source software." Back then the company didn't own many patents and claimed its non-enforcement promise covered 35 per cent of open-source software. The Promise was revised in order to reflect the company's growing patent trove and to spruce up the language it uses to make it more relevant. The revised promise "applies to all software meeting the free software or open source definitions of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) or the Open Source Initiative (OSI)." [...] It's not a blank cheque. Hardware isn't covered and Red Hat is at pains to point out that "Our Promise is not an assurance that Red Hat's patents are enforceable or that practicing Red Hat's patented inventions does not infringe others' patents or other intellectual property." But the company says 99 percent of FOSS software should be covered by the Promise.
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Red Hat Pledges Patent Protection For 99 Percent of FOSS-ware

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  • The patent process is rife with political gaming. This protection is essential in forcing corporations to respect the innovation in FOSS.
    • by MouseR ( 3264 )

      Until the patent laws are reformed (good luck with that), companies are forced to play the game and protect their investment, particularly since the advent of patent trolls, in order to avoid frivolous lawsuits.

      Some companies participate in patent pools as a means of protection AND advancements.

      Heck, I know patents are evil. But I have one to my name. We have incentives to apply for them if they are found to have value.

      • I know patents are evil.

        Patents aren't evil. The abuse of patent law, and the inappropriate granting of patents (for instance, software patents) are evil, but there's nothing wrong with the underlying principle of patents.

        • No, the abuses make it worse but the underlying principles aren't good either. Penalizing someone for using their own property in a non-violent way, just because someone else did it first, is evil. Copyright is wrong too, for many of the same reasons and others besides, but at least there you can limit your expose to things others might claim copyright on—only copies are prohibited, and you can't copy what you've never seen. That doesn't work with patents; whoever comes up with the idea first gets a m

          • Patent owners are given a temporary monopoly in exchange for society at large getting to use (and, more importantly, build on) the patented thing after the monopoly period ends.

            That sounds like a fair exchange to me. It's certainly better than the situation that patents are intended to fix: everybody keeping their inventions a secret, preventing society as a whole from benefiting from them.

            Now, I'm speaking of the principle behind patents. Patent law as it currently exists in the US is an abomination: thing

  • by Scarletdown ( 886459 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @01:15PM (#55245421) Journal

    Why only 99%? If the software is FOSS, then the protection should be 100%, no less.

    • by amorsen ( 7485 )

      Because some software is under really strange inscrutable licenses that cannot be reliably determined to be free or open source. That doesn't guarantee that they aren't free or open source, it just means we can't be sure until courts get involved.

      And since it is generally really obscure software, it is highly unlikely that the courts will get involved.

      • i seen source code with no licence at all, the author lost interest and abandoned it, or maybe died, the code is just up for grabs, legally it is in eternal limbo
        https://www.theregister.co.uk/... [theregister.co.uk]
        • by amorsen ( 7485 )

          Luckily copyright is only 14 years unless the author registers it for another 14, so we can probably get full access in little over a decade.

          Oh wait, I'm in the wrong country and the wrong century.

    • it is probably some odd kernel driver for some obscure hardware that is free enough and the source code is open for inspection and modification which would be good enough to go in to the kernel source tree but maybe it has no license at all, just raw code open for anything
  • by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @01:17PM (#55245429) Homepage Journal

    "FOSS-ware" would mean "(Free/Open Source Software)-ware"

    The accepted terms are "free software [wikipedia.org]," "free (as in speech) software," "software libre," and if you really insist, "F/OSS" or "FOSS" as expanded above. Also valid but with slightly different definitions: "GPL-compatible" (tighter definition), "open source" (looser definition, allows prohibiting modification or even sharing), and "copyleft" (looser still).

    If I were to coin a new term for something meeting RMS's Free Software Definition [gnu.org], I'd consider "freedomware"

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I agree. That term is worse for "ware".
  • So, this understanding... if its not in a contract. Then its just a promise. I promise to not sue you for using my IP giving condition XYZ. Until one day I decide to sue you for using my IP given condition XYZ.

  • "Defensive patents" are a terrible idea that increases the risk of patent abuse in the future and perpetuates the broken nature of the patent system.

    • Refusing to use defense patents does not cause patent law to change, it simply causes FOSS companies to die and be replaced in the market by companies making proprietary software that can afford to pay the trolls. You have to work in the universe you live in, not the perfect one.

      • Refusing to use defense patents does not cause patent law to change

        True, I didn't claim otherwise. But it does perpetuate patent abuse (since it's a kind of patent abuse in and of itself, in my opinion).

        Aside from that, the danger of defensive patents is that those patents are very likely, sooner or later, to fall into the hands of patent trolls themselves. And the more of them you accumulate, the more likely this will happen.

  • I hate the idea that a single corporation holds patents covering 99% of open source software. That's an extremely precarious position to be in. It means we not only have to trust the company to be well-behaved, but we have to trust that any future owners of the company or the patent hoard have to be well-behaved.

    In other words, it adds quite a lot of uncertainty to working with open source software.

  • Is there any "open source" company that's less "open source" than Red Hat? As i understand it, none of their software is free.
    • What do you mean by "free"? Do you mean "as in beer"? Because if so, being free is not part of the definition of being "open source".

      But most of Red Hat's software is free (as in beer.) They make their money essentially by selling support and guarantees to businesses.

      • Yes I understand that Red Hat offers the source code and allows CentOS to operate. Yet if I google "Red Hat linux working with NSA backdoor" there are all kinds of stories but none for example Slackware or Debian or Ubuntu working with NSA. And there are suspicions about just what their end game is with systemd. Personally, I don't trust their ethics. Like any other corp they're greedy. Despite their protestations to the contrary. Apparently now that Microsoft claims to be all "Open Source" the term lost an

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