Triple Damages

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-01-19 Print this article Print

Daniel Egger, chairman and founder of OSRM, agreed about the risk factor. "Current U.S. patent law creates an environment in which vendors and developers are generally advised by their lawyers not to examine other peoples software patents, because doing so creates the risk of triple damages for willful infringement," Egger said.

So it is that you cant "fix" Linux, or anything else for that matter, for potential patent problems by looking for them. Is this a great country or what?

What Id like to see happen is for patents to go away. But since thats not likely to happen—darn it!—the next best thing would be for OSDL to support patent reform and an effort like PUBPATs to rid the world of unsound patents.

Come to think of it, heres another idea for the OSDL. Your membership includes such major technology powers as Cisco Systems, Computer Associates, IBM and Sun, so why not encourage all of your members to follow IBMs first steps of opening up 500 of its patents for use in open-source software?
Before IBM made its move, Novell had already said it would utilize its patent portfolio to defend against potential IP attacks on its open-source products.

OSDL, with help from some open source-savvy lawyers, could come up with a model statement for such releases.

This, taken in combination with the ongoing revision of the GPL (GNU General Public License) to address patent issues, could kill off once and for all the FUD that open-source software is somehow more dangerous than proprietary software.

What do you say, OSDL, open source-friendly vendors? Since patent-law reform wont be happening anytime soon, isnt it the least you can do to try to make what patents we can control safe for open-source development? Just a thought. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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