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Free Software friendly patent pools

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 17, 2010 21:30 UTC (Tue) by hingo (guest, #14792)
In reply to: Free Software friendly patent pools by mjw
Parent article: A very grumpy editor's thoughts on Oracle

I guess OIN qualifies as a free software friendly patent pool, but I don't know if the concept itself is a free software friendly solution. OIN is designed to protect certain products (essentially the list matches whatever is in RHEL and probably Novell Linux), and these products happen to be FOSS. But it is not a generic defense pool to cover FOSS software in general, for instance in the spirit of FOSS you could've expected a solution that equally covered GNU Hurd, OpenSolaris, etc...

As a more practical and personal example, a small part of MySQL, the client library, is covered by the OIN list. So now we have forked MySQL and call it MariaDB. The client library covered by OIN is identical in MariaDB and MySQL. My understanding is that we are not covered by OIN, just because we are not MySQL, even if the code is the same. (Come to think of it, all distribution kernels are also "forks" of the official Linus Torvalds kernel. I have no idea how exactly those are covered, I'm sure they are.)

OIN for sure is the best we've got so far (even if it's imho not that much). But a really FOSS friendly solution would be something that is generic and available to all FOSS software universally (or even just one license would be a good start, like all GPL software), protect the right to forking and not just the original product, etc...

I should say that whenever I've tried to look at OIN, I feel I dont really understand it, so I may have understood it wrong and in that case apologize pre-emptively.


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Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 0:25 UTC (Wed) by coriordan (guest, #7544) [Link]

I'm also unsure about OIN.

They do some good work. Buying Microsoft's OpenGL patents probably did save us from a troll attack, and I'm glad that the members have agreed not to attack the list of approved programs.

As for helping TomTom, I haven't found a good explanation of how OIN helped. MS asked TomTom to pay. TomTom joined OIN. TomTom payed MS. I don't think OIN's patent pool can be used to threaten MS. Some or most of the members already have patent non-aggression pacts with MS, and even if these didn't exist, the members would rightly be reluctant to let their patent be used in a first strike against MS.

As for defensive publication, that's a double edged sword. For one, it tells trolls what innovative areas we're working in, thus increasing patent risk, and it helps patent drafters to draft sturdy patents that won't get thrown out later.

Overall, I think they're clearly a force for good, but I think they're overestimated by the media.

...but there are surely things I've missed. I haven't looked too deeply into them.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 11:50 UTC (Wed) by hingo (guest, #14792) [Link]

Hi Ciaran

Now that you're here, what is your personal take on the Defensive Patent License? On first sight it looks like "copyleft for patents", which sounds great. It's also a general solution for all patents and not working through some specific software product (Linux) or specific license (GPL). I'm kind of hopeful about it (at least it is a step further in the right direction from OIN).

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 13:04 UTC (Wed) by coriordan (guest, #7544) [Link]

I haven't looked into it in great depth. I'm generally sceptical of "market" solutions, so I focus on legislation, courts, and government policies.

The reason I'm sceptical is that all previous "market" solutions have been disappointing, and because its success depends so heavily on adoption. I usually judge solutions by the question: Will it make it safe for developers to support h.264? And the DPL won't.

The DPL might be good, like OIN is, but it's still only a partial solution to a small part of the problem.

"Copyleft for patents" doesn't sound accurate, AFAICT. It seems more like a patent non-aggression pact, or a demilitarised zone.

I've a short en.swpat.org page: Defensive Patent License. The en.swpat.org wiki is a general information resource, so it aims to documents topics like the DPL from all angles, not just my opinion. If you've links or explanations about why DPL is an important step forward, they'd be very welcome.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 17:56 UTC (Wed) by hingo (guest, #14792) [Link]

I haven't looked into it in great depth. I'm generally sceptical of "market" solutions, so I focus on legislation, courts, and government policies.

Interesting, to me FOSS proves that we can solve problems ourselves, despite lack of cooperation from governments and courts.

"Copyleft for patents" doesn't sound accurate, AFAICT. It seems more like a patent non-aggression pact, or a demilitarised zone.

Analogues may never be perfect (Creative Commons isn't exactly like open source, but still inspired by it). What always thrilled me about the GPL is the back story that RMS initially saw copyright as something negative, until he realized he can also use copyright to protect his own ideals and invented copyleft. So I see the DPL in a similar light: If we fail to change the law, then we can still neutralize patents one by one. The GPL also didn't "neutralize" copyright immediately, we had to spend decades writing GPL software first! But that might still be faster than waiting for the next SCOTUS ruling :-)

There are other aspects about the DPL too that are GPL-like: It's a license, not an organization or corporation (so there is no central control so it cannot "go bad", be acquired, etc...). So it is a virtual pool rather than a real pool.

There is one major difference though: When we write useful GPL software, people start using it and they then enter the domain of the GPL. But patents in the DPL pool are in themselves purely passive, so why would someone join the DPL? If the only companies to join the DPL virtual pool are such that would never assert their patents anyway, then nothing has really changed.

I've a short en.swpat.org page: Defensive Patent License. The en.swpat.org wiki is a general information resource, so it aims to documents topics like the DPL from all angles, not just my opinion. If you've links or explanations about why DPL is an important step forward, they'd be very welcome.

Thanks. Will put it on my todo list, which is a bit long at the moment.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 18:32 UTC (Wed) by Trelane (subscriber, #56877) [Link]

RMS initially saw copyright as something negative, until he realized he can also use copyright to protect his own ideals and invented copyleft

s/his own ideals/end-user freedom/

Without this distinction, he'd not be justified in saying that copyright can be used for good; he'd be another jerk using copyright to make others do what he wants them to.

The goal of copyright and patents is "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92preface.html) and enhancing end-user freedom through copyright achieves this through:

  1. Sharing one's own Progress in Science and the useful Arts
  2. Requiring others to share their Progress if they wish to use yours
  3. Minimizing the impact on the general citizenry who are giving up their natural ability to copy an idea or work in exchange for your Progress.

In addition, one may note his political stances (e.g. on the US and Israeli governments) and contrast them with the political stance of the GPL, which is none. The GPL is explicitly not an end-user license agreement and makes no requirements regarding what you may or may not use it for.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 19:08 UTC (Wed) by hingo (guest, #14792) [Link]

I have nothing to add or correct to your comment, but I sense I should just in case point out that I think RMS's ideals are great, for the precise reasons you write.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 19:16 UTC (Wed) by Trelane (subscriber, #56877) [Link]

That's fine, but ideals being great is tangential to the point at hand -- GPL is intended to preserve end-user rights and thereby enhance progress, not to enforce RMS' ideals. In fact, the GPL enhances end-user rights despite and sometimes in contradiction to RMS' ideals (e.g. can be used in torture equipment).

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 18, 2010 19:41 UTC (Wed) by hingo (guest, #14792) [Link]

Ah, now I got your point. Thanks.

So when I wrote "RMS ideals", I specifically meant "end user rights" and not any of his other personal ideals.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 26, 2010 12:01 UTC (Thu) by zotz (guest, #26117) [Link]

If done right, it would turn non-copyleft Free Software dealing with said patents into effectively copyleft Free Software unless one obtained another patent license. Correct? Is that wanted by the folks using said licenses?

all the best,

drew


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