|| ||"Florian Mueller" <florian.mueller-AT-nosoftwarepatents.com>|
|| ||Linux trademark issue: EU anti-swpat campaigner supports Linus, is concerned over anti-IP positioning of open source|
|| ||Mon, 22 Aug 2005 11:24:50 +0200|
ANTI-SOFTWARE PATENT CAMPAIGNER SUPPORTS
LINUS TORVALDS ON TRADEMARK ISSUE,
ENJOINS THAT OPEN-SOURCE COMMUNITY
"SHOULD STEER CLEAR OF ANTI-IP POSITIONING"
Munich, Germany (22 August 2005) -- Recently, some media have reported on
licensing fees that are charged to companies using the Linux brand name,
which belongs to Linux creator Linus Torvalds. Those reports originated from
Australia, where new licensing terms were announced and a lawyer sent out
letters to users of the trademark. Subsequently, open-source activists in
various parts of the world raised the question whether one could
simultaneously oppose software patents and enforce trademarks.
A European anti-software patent campaigner expressed his support to Torvalds
and the Linux Mark Institute, and enjoined that "all parts of the
open-source community should steer clear of an anti-IP positioning, or else
a vocal and radical minority will be responsible for unfavorable legislation
and a reluctance by center-right governments to adopt open-source software".
Mueller founded the NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign and helped prevent an EU
software patent law. He has recently been added to Managing Intellectual
Property magazine's list of the "top 50 most influential people in IP".
Managing IP is the leading publication for IP lawyers worldwide.
Mueller, a book and software author who proudly says he has been living off
intellectual property for twenty years, further explained his position:
"It's lawless and pointless to indiscriminately oppose intellectual property
rights. They're the foundation of the digital economy. We just have to
ensure that they serve their real purpose of protecting innovators, and
that's what software patents unfortunately don't do in 999 out of 1,000
cases. Software patents are a power play that benefits anti-competitive
forces and productless extortioners, but copyright and trademarks generally
reward those who create and market real products."
The campaigner is worried that "anti-IP radicalism could backfire" because
it is, as he believes, "highly detrimental to the image of open source on
the right wing". In the European Parliament, the conservative EPP (European
People's Party) was the only group within which, according to Mueller's
estimates, "a clear majority" would have favored software patents. Based on
his own conversations with MEPs, Mueller attributes that fact largely to
"some conservatives falsely equating open source and communism like Bill
Those who question the legitimacy of Torvalds' trademark rights "play right
in the hands of that propaganda", with severe consequences: "If open source
is misperceived as an anti-commercial movement, conservative politicians are
more inclined to support legislation that seriously hurts open source. The
software patent debate will flare up again in Europe, and the U.S. Congress
is working on a patent reform bill. Now that conservative governments, like
that of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, are increasingly
interested in using open-source software, it would be moronic to let open
source and conservative pro-business values appear to be incompatible."
Polls suggest that Germany, which advanced the open-source cause in Europe,
may also have a conservative-led government after its September elections.
In addition to the debate over the Linux trademark, Mueller is also worried
over the role that some organizations play in an American court by defending
the developers of the "bnetd" software against computer game publisher
Blizzard Entertainment: "It's very unwise for organizations like the EFF
(Electronic Frontier Foundation) to rush to the aid of piracy-enablers. It
makes it look like software patent critics are against copyright, which most
of us are not."
Mueller compared the different intellectual property rights to real estate:
"Copyright and trademarks are as innocuous as owning a piece of land between
two streets, while software patents are monopolies on a traffic artery or an
entire region. I have no problem with Microsoft owning about a million
square meters in Washington state, and if they want to buy another ten
million east of Redmond, then that's fine too. They just shouldn't be
allowed to expand to the west and lay exclusive claim to the bridges over
Lake Washington, let alone to the entire Pacific."
Two weeks ago, Mueller had criticized a patent pool that Torvalds' employer,
the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), announced. Like open-source guru
Bruce Perens, he expressed his belief that the pool provided no real
defensive power against pernicious competitors, "as no patents have been
committed so far that could be used to countersue an aggressor". On the
Linux trademark issue, Mueller now appears to side with Torvalds and the
Linux Mark Institute, which is affiliated with the OSDL.
NOTE: Florian Mueller founded the NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign in 2004 and
managed it until March of 2005. He then gave his website to the Foundation
for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), the leading European pressure
group that opposes the patentability of computer programs.
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