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[News] Why OIN is Not a Solution to Software Patents Burden

  • Subject: [News] Why OIN is Not a Solution to Software Patents Burden
  • From: Roy Schestowitz <newsgroups@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2010 22:34:16 +0100
  • Followup-to: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • User-agent: KNode/4.4.2
Hash: SHA1

Mueller calls OIN a scam

,----[ Quote ]
| Much of what Mueller has been doing of late 
| is setting himself as an active FOSS 
| advocate, and thatâs a good thing.


Harmfulness ranking of ways to use software patents

,----[ Quote ]
| That trend isn't difficult to imagine. Just 
| look at the current situation surrounding 
| smartphones, a field in which there's now a 
| number of lawsuits and countersuits among big 
| players as well as different non-producing 
| entities ("patent trolls") targeting large 
| vendors.
| In light of all that's going on, which ways 
| to use software patents are more harmful than 
| others? After giving it some thought, I have 
| arrived at this harmfulness ranking:
|    1. most harmful: malicious strategic 
|    patent holders pursuing exclusionary/anti-
|    competitive objectives
|    2. second-most harmful: non-producing 
|    entities ("patent trolls")
|    3. least harmful: cooperative strategic 
|    patent holders granting licenses to entire 
|    portfolios on acceptable terms
| [...]
| "Trolls" are a feature -- not a bug -- of the 
| software patent system
| The above subhead is a summary of a statement 
| that Carlo Piana, a leading European FOSS 
| lawyer, recently made on identi.ca/Twitter.
| If one believes that certain general ideas 
| should be "monopolizable" through patents, 
| then it's a natural consequence that some 
| will obtain (or acquire) patents and try to 
| derive commercial benefits from them without 
| ever creating their own products. Far be it 
| from me to defend the concept of "patent 
| trolls" -- I just want to point out that it 
| wouldn't be practical to impose an obligation 
| on every patent holder to make actual 
| products. At the most it might be possible to 
| limit the procedural rights of a non-
| producing entity to the right to be 
| indemnified (excluding injunctive relief).



Open Invention Network (OIN) demystified

,----[ Quote ]
| Only six companies call the shots
| The OIN's name starts with an utterly
| misleading term: "open".
| In reality, the organization is owned and
| run by a closed circle of six companies,
| some of whom have a terrible background
| concerning software patents:
|     * IBM (the world's largest patent
|     holder and one of the most ruthless
|     ones, recently in the news for
|     betraying its own "patent pledge" by
|     infringement assertions made against
|     open-source startup TurboHercules)
|     * Philips (a company that once
|     benefited from the temporary abolition
|     of patents in its country but later
|     lobbied extremely aggressively for
|     software patents, left the World Wide
|     Web Consortium because of the latter's
|     royalty-free patent policy, and
|     threatened politicians with killing
|     software development jobs in Europe if
|     they weren't going to allow software
|     patents, even though patents are always
|     related to a target market in which
|     they're valid and 100% independent from
|     where in the world the patented
|     invention is made)
|     * NEC (a large patent holder)
|     * Sony (a large patent holder)
|     * Novell (which never supported any
|     serious push against software patents
|     and instead told EU officials in 2004
|     that it liked software patents a lot
|     except that a proposed EU law on them
|     appeared to limit "customer choice" a
|     bit too much)
|     * Red Hat (which lobbied to keep the
|     aforementioned EU bill alive when we
|     had already formed a majority for its
|     rejection, and which partners with IBM
|     on a number of initiatives that appear
|     to protect FOSS but are either
|     ineffectual or even potentially
|     harmful)
| [...]
| So what is the OIN good for?
| The fact of the matter is that today,
| almost five years after its foundation, the
| OIN still hasn't proven its ability to help
| any Linux (or other FOSS) company in any
| meaningful way. Totally unsubstantiated and
| illogical claims by propagandists aren't a
| substitute for a single convincing success
| story. That success story would have to
| consist in some company potentially hostile
| to open source (and with a dangerous patent
| arsenal) accepting the OIN's licensing
| terms. That hasn't happened and I have
| serious doubt that it ever will.
| The OIN continues to buy patents at
| auctions that might otherwise be acquired
| by regular trolls. At first sight, that may
| sound good. But given the intransparent and
| arbitrary structure of the OIN, it's not
| clear whether that's actually the lesser or
| the greater evil than a conventional troll.
| In the end, the OIN is under the control of
| those six companies who could decide to use
| some of those patents against competitors,
| including FOSS competitors. By controlling
| the definition of what the OIN calls the
| "Linux System", they can always ensure that
| their competitors don't benefit from it,
| even if they were or became OIN licensees.
| Buying those patents at auctions is really
| expensive. So far the OIN has spent
| hundreds of millions of dollars. Given the
| way businesses operate, that's not the
| amount of money that one would spend
| unselfishly. Instead, that level of
| investment, intransparency and unbalanced
| rights suggests ulterior motives, if not a
| long-term hidden agenda.

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