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FAT Patent Threat to Linux?

© July 2004 Tony Lawrence

Referencing: FAT Patent Review May Threaten Linux Foundation

Yes, this is a problem - for Samba, actually, not really Linux, but of course Samba is incredibly important to Linux.

But only because Microsoft is still important.

Now, I certainly agree that PubPat and EFF need to keep on challenging Microsoft and everyone else who is trying to lock up the world with patents. They need to keep doing that just on principle, if for nothing else.

I also have great admiration for Samba and the developers who manage to keep this going in spite of Microsoft's secrecy. But wouldn't it be nice to imagine a world where it doesn't matter? For some of us, if we don't run any Microsoft software, that's already our world: we don't need Samba because we don't need Microsoft.

If we can keep Microsoft and other big corporations from smothering innovation with patents and copyrights, more people can join that world. If we let them lock us up, innovation withers and dies. Support EFF and PubPat in any way you can.

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-> FAT Patent Threat to Linux?


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"For some of us, if we don't run any Microsoft software, that's already our world: we don't need Samba because we don't need Microsoft."

Unfortunately, I do have to continue to run Samba and I'm certainly glad that it exists. Some of the non-IT stuff I do (like machine control design) has me locked into Windows because the software tools I need aren't available elsewhere right now. If someone were to develop circuit design and PCB board layout software to run on Linux, I would immediately eject Windows out the nearest window.

As long as FAT and its descendents are around, Samba is needed. If Billy-Boy succeeds in patenting FAT and forcing the Samba team to close up shop, then we all have a *HUGE* problem. We'd be forced to go back to using Microsoft's lame server operating system for new installations, forcing an irrevocable lock-in to all things Redmond. That's a future I can't bear to contemplate.


---July 26, 2004

Software patents suck.

The purpose of the patent is not to protect the innovation of a inventor, that's it's function. The purpose of the patent system is to foster innovation by providing a temporary monopoly over a product.

If you invent, you patent your invention and that makes you money. Which is why you patented it in the first place. Then in order to continue to make money after your patent expires you must create more inventions.

With hardware stuff like cars or windmills, it's not hard to avoid stepping on toes. Somebody makes a new innovation, they patent it then stamp the patent on the device.

With software you can end up patenting 5-30 lines of code that is supposadly a new proccess or whatnot. So in a program you have potentionally hundreds of patentable aspects. With big companies it's not a big deal because they can just swap liscencing fees back and forth like candy. What is a few hundred thousand dollars between freinds?

But what it does serve is to lock out the little guy. Patents make it so that the only big companies can afford to make software because the price of hiring patent lawyers for patent searches and whatnot are beyond a small business or individual programmer.

Which is of course were most open source software comes from.

So since software is not a hardware device, it is but a string of ones and zeroes, and compared to being a engineer designing vehicles or vacuum cleaners software programming is easy stuff. You don't need huge teams of highly educated people working with machinery or expensive tools to create good programs.

So giving away software for free you can still make plenty of money from the fringe benifits, but not if you have to hirer teams of lawyers to pore over you code and make sure that you don't accidently step on MS's toes.

Which is the real goal here. Not to make using FAT illegal or anything like that, just to create a legal/industrial system were you need to liscencing big hunks of software from other companies thru the patents, even if it is completely different from your code, stop reverse enginneering, and make it so that you have to hirer lawyers and file patents regularly to protect your interests.

It's not a big deal for a company that has a few billion dollars sitting around, and garrenteed to stop people from their basement computer to create anything that is realy usefull or legally acceptable in the "real" world.

See here for better details and reasoning then what I can provide:


---July 26, 2004

Originally, it was very difficult to patent software because you had to submit a mechanical model of the invention. That the setuid concept managed to do that (build the model) was quite a feat. But they never should have alowed software patents at all.

As Drag says, patents have been perverted. The purpose of granting the monopoly was to foster innovation by revealing the invention. Patents now mostly prevent innovation and competition.


Most importantly, the monopoly granted by letters patent is supposed to be a temporary one. However, in the world of computers, the 20 years of temporary monopoly that comes with the award of a patent is an eon. Look at how rapidly this field of ours changes. By the time the 20 years have expired, the patented whatever will have the value of a Model T handcrank.


Wed Jun 13 12:28:37 2012: 11095   TonyLawrence


The patent crap still continues, discouraging innovation at small companies who can't afford to be sued. Are we ever going to learn?


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