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And the SCO case keeps on twitching

© October 2005 Tony Lawrence
October 2005

PJ over at Groklaw thinks her grandchildren (if she had any) might still be following this SCO mess. Well, it won't take that long, but it sure has dragged out, hasn't it?

This most recent development is IBM dropping patent infringement claims. The rational PJ and other's give is that SCO sales are so dismal there's no money there anyway, so dropping the claims will speed up the case.

Well, dismal is a relative term. If SCO is infringing IBM patents, IBM wouldn't really ignore it. It may be small potatoes now, but it's still a meal. Given IBM's patent portfolio, I probably infringed somewhere in this paragraph, so we probably don't need to worry about IBM's ability to sue SCO if they need to. More likely they figure SCO will be a used office equipment sale and a bunch of stuff on its way to a landfill soon enough.

Unless, of course, SCO wins. I hate saying that, because some jackass will read it and think I'm championing their cause, which definitely is not the case. But stupid, ugly, and irrational things do happen in courtrooms and while the odds would seem rather long, that tragedy could happen. I have no salt here to toss over my shoulder, but perhaps I should go get some.

I hope we don't have to wait too much longer for the final shoe to drop.

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Mon Oct 10 22:09:15 2005: 1181   anonymous

Software patents are scary. Very scary.

There are many many thousands of them. Doing a search for 'software' in the US patent search yeilded 237,000+ results. And it's very hard to determine what the patents are for, much less how to avoid them. Since software is mostly about using math to proccess information, these patents are about the concepts and ideas about proccessing information, not so much the paticulars behind what the info is or how it's realy done. So you can have a situation were a webserver or browser can infringe on a patent on something that can be used to filter out static from movie soundtracks or something like that.

That and combined with the fact that any large software project can have upwards of several million lines of code, and any of those lines can violate patents at any time and you don't have to have any prior information about a patent to violate it... it's a huge mess that nobody wants to touch.

The only effective defense against patent litigation in software is to get a massive amount of patents under your belt, and only big companies can afford to do that. Since it's impossible to avoid violating patents when developing software your only hope is that when somebody sues you you sue them right back. Then the lawsuites even themselves out and you do licensing between companies.

Big waste of time and money and effort and only realy serves to keep little companies from ever hoping to compete at making commercial software.

Also the real danger is when one software company goes out of business and it's patent portfolio is bought out by a bunch of lawyers who intend to make money by 'defending' their newly aquired patents. Since they don't produce any software it's impossible to sue them back for violating your patents and your only hope is to prove prior art or maybe just pay them off, which is something that would simply put most companies right out of business just thru the legal fees.

That's what happenned with the Eolas vs Microsoft case, were Eolas sued MS for allowing people to use plugins in their browser.

Right now the software patent litigation is like IBM's 'nuclear option'. If patent lawsuites ever gain popularity and lots of profitable cases are successfully held then it would probably be one of the worst things to ever happen to the software industry in the USA.

To quote Bill Gates from a 1991 "Challenges and Strategy" memo:
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most
of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry
would be at a complete standstill today."

copy aviable at:

Lots of people are very scared of software patents and the damage that they are causing to the industry, and the potential damage that they can case. Especially with Linux and Free software, all this software developement is done by individuals. Software is unique because all it takes is time, effort, and intellegence to create.. all the tools are aviable at free of charge or near free of charge. A person on a 300 dollar walmart computer running Suse Linux can produce just as high as quality software as anybody working at Microsoft.

I think that IBM dropping patent lawsuite is just a combination of a nod towards Free software folks, and a practical 'oh*\***, should we open this can of worms?' response from lawyers.

Mon Oct 10 22:09:49 2005: 1182   drag

oops forgot to edit out the anonymous part. :) that was me writing.


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