Software Patents, and Corporate Pledges
2015 02 19
Continuing from last post, now we read pledges from a handful of companies to not be jerks about their patents, provided your potentially infringing code is open source! That's nice of them!
- Red Hat's Patent Pledge: ~2001
- Google's Pledge: Archive.org's first scrape is 2013-03-31, so somewhere around then.
- The magazine article: November 2004. The article also mentions IBM's pledge, so some form of it existed around then.
- Each company's pledge is essentially: "If you have infringing code in a project
that is licensed under an approved license, we won't sue you." Google reserves
the right to terminate their pledge though...
- The Red Hat article has some explanation and comparisons / critiques about
the pledges as they stood in 2004. Since I haven't heard any huge stories
about open source projects getting sued over patents, I guess they all worked
- IBM apparently owns a patent for "Internet assisted mail". They actually "invented" printing out emails and
physically mailing them to people. I almost want that to exist, just because
it's so absurd. In our impending dark cyberpunk dystopia, this may become a reality. I,
for one, am excited.
- I suppose this also means that I could implement this myself (as it's on their list of pledged patents), as long as I open source it...
- Based on the list of patents that Google and IBM won't assert for FOSS projects,
it's amazing software gets made at all. There's just a patent called "Web browser system" (US 5793964 A)? I guess it's good they allow FOSS projects to use that one. It makes you
wonder how IE exists... Maybe that's why IE is so terrible, they have to design
around this patent.
- Something about Red Hat's use of "Really Big Companies" as a proper (pro?)noun is
- From Google: "Google is therefore pledging the free use of certain of its patents".
I think they accidentally a word. That sure happens a lot in these fancy legal documents, when
one actually reads them. Weird.
- It's getting repetitive at this point, but even after a handful of weeks reading them,
legal documents are still incredibly bland.
- I suppose it's to be expected, but the Red Hat article could basically just read:
"There are other patent pledges, but ours is easily the best for everyone."
Have some humility!
- Has any open source project (of any size) actually been sued over patent
infringement? If so, did they actually take it to court?
- Are there other companies that have similar pledges?
- Is "Internet assisted mail" actually implemented anywhere in the world, or
is that just a "in case this ever happens, we're ready" sort of patent?
- It's tempting to rate these documents highly, simply because of what they
(theoretically) enable, and I understand they have to be written a certain way
to be (again, theoretically) legally enforceable, but it's still overwhelmingly
dull. That balances out to a 3/5, yeah?
3/5 <review increments>