Thursday, 5 February 2009

Linux Defenders

Linux Defenders is the name of a new website dedicated to protecting Linux and the broader open-source community from poor-quality patents. It's not completely anti-software-patent, then, but is rightly concerned with trying to prevent the issue of rubbishy patents, many of which might well be invalid anyway.

How does it seek to do this? By ensuring that what is alreaady in the state of the art can't easily be overlooked. This involves three strategies (and here I quote from the program's website
  1. “Defensive Publications” that codify ‘known’ inventions that have not previously been patented so that they can be brought to the attention of the patent office to ensure that later developed patent applications claiming such inventions do not issue. In general, defensive publications are a vehicle which allows the Linux and broader open source community to create valuable prior art that enables Linux and freedom of action/freedom to operate for those active in utilizing Linux to drive innovation in products, services, and applications;
  2. “Peer to Patent” which solicits prior art contributions from the Linux and broader open source community to ensure patent examiners are aware of prior art relevant to published applications that are currently under review. In this way, the patent office is alerted to relevant prior art and only the most innovative and novel ideas are actually patented.
  3. “Post-Issue Peer to Patent” which solicits prior art contribution from Linux and the broader open source community to permit the invalidation of previously issued patents that were issued in error because of the patent office’s lack of awareness of relevant prior art.
Why stop at software patents? OK, I can think of some pretty good reasons. If this stops just a few unmeritorious patents being granted, and slows the process of IP hyperinflation that has been accelerating for the past few years, it'll be a good thing.

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