APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

The Patent Threat to Linux

© August 2004 Tony Lawrence

Mon Aug 2 13:28:03 2004 The Patent Referencing: https://news.com.com/Group%3A+Linux+potentially+infringes+283+patents/2100-7344_3-5291403.html?tag=st_lh

While focusing a lot of attention on the SCO Lawsuits, the Linux community hasn't paid much attention to patent and copyright threats. There's seemingly a smug confidence that these threats aren't real, that no harm will come from them.

Let's hope that is true.

In the real world, however, the 283 possible patent infringements should be cause for alarm. Yes, some are held by present day allies, but today's allies can be tomorrow's enemies. Linux fans tend to easily forget that corporations like IBM and Intel have no emotional or philosophical attachment to Linux. They embrace Linux only because it suits their purposes at this moment - and most of that is simply because they see Linux as their best way to keep Microsoft in check.

But even if you could somehow guarantee their continued loyalty and support, there are close to 200 other patents that could be trouble, and some of them are held by Microsoft, who will absolutely use them against Linux if it can.

Of course, there is that "if it can". Patents are often just the pretext that is used for the threat of lawsuit. The patent itself may be weak, but the expense of a suit is sometimes the real threat. You threaten, offer a reasonable licensing fee, and they pay up because its cheaper than court. That works quite well with ordinary competitors, but Linux isn't "owned" by anyone. It is much more difficult to sue Linux - you can go after individual users, but that's expensive for Microsoft too. Their pockets are deep indeed, but there are limits, and a loss because of a weak patent wouldn't be good. If Microsoft does pursue something like this, they'll undoubtedly pick the reason and the target carefully. They need a strong patent and a big target - yet perhaps not too big, because that's the other side of the patent game: threaten IBM with a patent and they go looking for patents they hold that you are infringing upon.

But that doesn't mean that the Linux community should be complacent. There's danger here, and lack of immediate action doesn't mean it will be that way forever.

Got something to add? Send me email.

(OLDER)    <- More Stuff -> (NEWER)    (NEWEST)   

Printer Friendly Version

-> The Patent Threat to Linux

Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of iCloud, Fifth Edition

Take Control of Preview

Take Control of IOS 11

Take Control of Pages

Take Control of OS X Server

More Articles by © Tony Lawrence

---August 2, 2004

More links


---August 3, 2004

Patents scare me. If it's MS vs Linux, may the best guy win. But if it's MS + MS Lawyers + US government vs Linux, Linux is just plain screwed.

What can you do? The only people in the position to do anything is the legislative branch of the government. I have no faith in them, as far as they know who wins or looses has little effect on them and the vast majority of their voters have no clue about how bad the software patent situation is.


---August 3, 2004

Printer Friendly Version

Have you tried Searching this site?

This is a Unix/Linux resource website. It contains technical articles about Unix, Linux and general computing related subjects, opinion, news, help files, how-to's, tutorials and more.

Contact us

Printer Friendly Version

We must be very careful when we give advice to younger people: sometimes they follow it! (Edsger W. Dijkstra)

Linux posts

Troubleshooting posts

This post tagged:




Unix/Linux Consultants

Skills Tests

Unix/Linux Book Reviews

My Unix/Linux Troubleshooting Book

This site runs on Linode