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Will patents stop Linux?

Will there be a point at which the Linux kernel developers can't improve Linux without infringing on the IP of IBM, Microsoft or someone else?  Just curious as it seems Microsoft and others end up getting sued for doing that.  Are the Linux developers more careful, or just haven't tested the waters yet?

Mike
Monday, January 05, 2004

Will there be a point at which Microsoft developers can't improve Windows without infringing on the IP of IBM, Apple or someone else?  Just curious as it seems Linux and others end up getting sued for doing that.  Are the Microsoft developers more careful, or is it they just never reveal the code so no one knows?

AnonAnonAnon
Monday, January 05, 2004

"Just curious as it seems Linux and others end up getting sued for doing that. "

actually I was under the impression that SCO was suing IBM for something like "breach of contract".
<g> they also happen to be randomly making weird and bizarre statements on other matters, but the only court case I am aware of is between SCO and IBM.

or have there been other cases that I am unaware of?

FullNameRequired
Monday, January 05, 2004

Well, RedHat is sueing SCO, but thats not patent related either.

I dont think patents would stop linux development in any case as software patenting is still (as far I know) just a US phenomenon and a great deal of linux development takes place elsewhere. It could end commecial use in the US though.

But on the other hand, as long as IBM, Novell and Oracle are developing linux and for linux I think the risks are slim.

Eric DeBois
Monday, January 05, 2004

My point was that I would think Linux would run into issues sooner than IBM or Microsoft because both of those companies have a shitload of patents. 

Mike
Monday, January 05, 2004

on the whole Id guess that you are correct mike.

But its really not just Linux, any programmer without big company affiliations will have to be seriously careful as patenting becomes more and more common.

Have I ever written code that infringed on anyones patents?  how the hell would I know? 
first Im going to hear about it if I do is some lawyer requesting that I withdraw product b until Ive removing the infringing code/whatever.

Can I afford a lawyer to check beforehand?  hell no.

FullNameRequired
Monday, January 05, 2004

Say you had a patent that you thought was being infringed by something in the kernel, and a lawyer who agreed:  Who would you sue?

IBM, who has the biggest IP law firm in the world?  Good luck.  Red Hat--maybe, but I doubt there's a lot of money there.  Debian--no money at all (same with Mandrake and just about every other distribution out there).  Linus?  Definitely no money there, and difficult proof of legal liability.

More than that, though, suing one is suing all, since the kernel is common to all for the most part, and IBM would get involved pre-emptively if it wasn't named.

Add to that the approbation of a large, vocal, and usually cranky developer community.

In short, even if there was an infringement case under other circumstances, a quick risk/benefit would probably dissuade anyone (except for SCO, but that's nothing but a pump-and-dump scam in a suit).

Justin Johnson
Monday, January 05, 2004

Problems all over the place with this scenario.

First of all software patents are at present only accepted in the US.

Secondly software patents are such an almighty scam that they affect every company on earth doing more or less anything, as long as you can find an excuse to litigate in the US, and the people you are using have money that can be collected from the US.

And that is the reason why Linux is very low in the radar for those trying to sue. The competition, which is basically MS and a few dying Unix property holders, are risking being counter-sued, losing the goodwill which they would need to defend any company suing them for patent infringement, and are unlikely to get any money out of it. Other companies looking for money are going to go for clients less likely to have juries sympathies and more likely to have som cash, than Free Software foundations and graduate students giving code to the community.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Justin, you would sue the end customers.

Also, so what if IBM has the biggest law firm in the world?We still do have laws, and money will not protect them from blatant wrongdoing.

As well, if you're an oss guy, do you endorse this type of bullying?

a
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

There's a basic rule in litigation, unless your target has the wherewithal to payout in the event of a successful outcome the only person you're hurting is yourself.

Suing individuals, even corporate entities simply because they used something in good faith is pointless.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

No, but licensing issues might.

I've been spending a lot of time working with customers who consider moving their desktop from Windows to Linux.

In every case there is a "killer" application which is not available on Linux. The most common are Visio and MS-Project.

The most common suggestion to overcome this dependence is to use Wine, or Crossover Office. The support sites for these products usually advise the user to install the application, AND THE DLLs which they find it needs from the appropriate Windows directory.

Game over, because you can't legally copy these DLLs.

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Isn't this Linux an IBM product?
*ducks* :-)

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

"Also, so what if IBM has the biggest law firm in the world?We still do have laws, and money will not protect them from blatant wrongdoing."

The point is that IBM has tens of thousands of patents. So even if you sue somebody for patents being infringed in Linux, chances are you are infringing on some of IBM's patents, and IBM has enough vested interests in Linux that they will likely sue you if you tried to assert your patent claims on Linux.

T. Norman
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

its a game most of the big companies have been playing for a while.
Microsoft, Sun, IBM etc etc, they all have a _large_ number of patents, not to mention a real crossover in the software they create/support.  They must be tripping over each others patents all the time...

<g> MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction is what keeps them from each others throats (as regards patents at least).

FullNameRequired
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Hi hi... how long before we start to discuss strategic patenting as opposed to tactical patenting?
On second thought... we are doing that aleady, arent we?

Eric DeBois
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

"Also, so what if IBM has the biggest law firm in the world?We still do have laws, and money will not protect them from blatant wrongdoing."

Right.  And elections are won by the best candidate, not the one with the biggest war chest.

"As well, if you're an oss guy, do you endorse this type of bullying?"

No, I don't endorse it, but I live in the real world.  Money does affect the outcome of trials and torts and elections and all those things that are supposed to be decided by principle alone.

Justin Johnson
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

"Game over, because you can't legally copy these DLLs."

Really? So I can't legally copy the windows system DLLs to my Linux partition, from a bought and paid for copy of Windows? That's a new one.

Puzzled
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

It does however beg the question of why the hell you are running Wine in the fiitst place if you have a bought and paid up copy of Windows on the machine.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Stephen Jones, it isn't quite that simple.

The largest customer with whom I am working on this matter has over 20,000 desktops currently running MS operating system and applications. The desire to move is driven by perceived cost savings.

20,000 desktops create a LOT of legacy data, and have lots of opportunities for interaction with external customers using their own applications. Apart from the killer applications Visio and MS-Project, there are also over 1,000 third party applications which are not available on Linux or alternatives.

Ideas for continuing the delivery of these applications include products such as Citrix and Tarantella, or emulation through Wine or Crossover. Both of these strategies require Microsoft licences, however, which has a serious impact on the cost model.

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

If they are going to have to continue with the Windows licenses I doubt that it will be cost effective to change to Linux at the desktop.

I suppose dual booting would be too much trouble. I'd be tempted to access one of the two OS's via a dumb server, but you know the details.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

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