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Fighting the Encroaching Thickets: Recent Developments in FOSS and Software Patents

Fighting the Encroaching Thickets: Recent Developments in FOSS and Software Patents

A discussion of the patent challenges facing open source software ventures and some proposed solutions.


Benjamin Hayes

January 31, 2014


  1. Fighting  the   Encroaching  Thickets   Recent  Developments  in  FOSS

     and   So4ware  Patents  
  2. Overview   • Patent  Basics  and  Their  Interac<on  with   FOSS

     Projects     • Patent  Threats  Facing  the  FOSS   Community     • Tools  Available  to  Combat  These  Threats    
  3. None
  4. What  is  a  Patent?   A  form  of  property  gran<ng

     a  limited  monopoly:   • Currently  20  years  from  earliest  effec<ve  filing   date   • Exclusive  right  to  make,  use,  and  sell  the   patented  innova<on  
  5. Requirements  for  Patentability   • Patentable  subject  maNer   • U<lity  

    • Novelty     • Non-­‐Obviousness   • Enablement  
  6. • “Design  Around”  Patents   • Supposed  to  be  one  of  the

     benefits  of  patent   law     • Patent  Thickets   Patent  Strategies  
  7. FOSS  and  Patents   Difficul'es  in  Obtaining  Patents   • 

    Cost  and  effort   •  Determining  an  inventor     •  Non-­‐Obviousness     •  Novelty   Difficul'es  in  Defending  Patents   •  Freely  accessible  store  of  prior  art      
  8. Why  Should  You  Care?  

  9. Threats   Commercial  Compe'tors   Patent  Trolls  

  10. Commercial  Competitors   •  SCO/Linux  Controversies   •  SCO  v.

     IBM,  Red  Hat  v.  SCO,  SCO  V.  Norvell,  SCO  v.   DaimlerChrysler,  SCO  v.  Auto-­‐Zone   •  Microso4  backing     •  Mobile  Wars   •  Apple,  Google  (with  Motorola),  Samsung,  Oracle,   Yahoo!,  Nokia   •  Samsung  v.  Apple  and  vice  versa  in  various   world  jurisdic<ons   •  EU  regulators  hi[ng  Google  (via  Motorola)   with  a  complaint  for  aNemp<ng  to  enforce  an   injunc<on  against  Apple  products  
  11. Patent  Trolls   •  Person  or  en<ty  which:   • 

    enforces  patent  rights  against  alleged  infringers  in   order  to  collect  licensing  fees;  and   •  does  not  manufacture  or  supply  products  or  services   based  on  its  patents.    
  12. Trolls  by  the  Numbers   •  Patent  trolls  are  a

     large  and  growing  threat   •  62%  of  all  patent  li<ga<on  was  ins<gated  by  patent  trolls.   Credit:  ©  RPX  Corpora<on  2013    
  13. Trolls  by  the  Numbers   •  In  2012  for  the

     first  <me  patent  trolls  sued  more  non-­‐tech   companies  (51%)  than  tech  companies.  
  14. FOSS  and  Patents   Don’t  overes<mate:   Unlikely  to  sue

     individual   developers  or  non-­‐profits     Don’t  underes<mate:   •  Risk  always  exists   •  Growth  aNracts   enemies  and  trolls     It’s  all  about  the  Benjamins.  
  15. Defenses   Defensive  Patent  License   Defensive  Patent  Pools  

    Patent-­‐Holder  Pledges  
  16. Defensive  Patent  Pools   Open  Inven'on  Network  (OIN)   • 

    Founded  in  2005  by  IBM,  Novell,  Philips,  Red  Hat,  Sony,  and  NEC   •  Joined  later  by  Canonical  and  Google   Member  Obliga<ons   •  Pool  License   •  Defensive  Pledge   •  Viral  licensing   Member  Benefits   •  License  to  OIN  pool  patents  
  17. Defensive  Patent  Pools   Limits  to  Effec'veness   •  Most

     large  patent  holders  already  have  non-­‐aggression  agreements   with  the  other  large  patent  holders,  limi<ng  the  u<lity  of  the  pooled   patents  for  counter-­‐suits.   •  The  members  of  the  pool  are,  by  defini<on,  not  the  threats  the  FOSS   community  fears.   •  Counter-­‐suits  only  work  if  you  are  being  sued  by  a  company  that   develops  so4ware;  infringement  suits  are  useless  against  NPE  trolls.   •  The  percep<on  is  that  bigger  companies  only  commit  their  least-­‐ effec<ve,  least-­‐important  patents  to  a  patent  pool.  
  18. Defensive  Patent  License  (DPL)   •  Developed  beginning  in  2010

     by  Jason  Schultz  and  Jennifer  Urban,  law   professors  and  directors  of  UC  Berkeley's  Samuelson  Law,  Technology  &   Public  Policy  Clinic.   •  A  DPL  par<cipant  ac<ng  as  a  Licensor  agrees  to:     •  License  enAre  porlolio   •  License  to  all  DPL  users   •  Defensive  pledge  to  DPL  users  only   •  Provisions:   •  Irrevocable   •  Withdrawal   •  License  on  Transfer   •  “Travels  with  patent”      
  19. Defensive  Patent  License  (DPL)   •  Strengths   •  Forces

     licensors  to  open  their  en<re  porlolio,  unlike  patent   pools  where  members  can  choose  to  offer  only  their  weakest   patents     •  The  “travels  with  patent”  and  “license  on  transfer”  provisions   help  de-­‐weaponize  patents  and  make  them  less  valuable  for   trolls.   •  Weaknesses   •  Lacks  the  “viral  clause”  found  in  “patenle4”  licenses  like  the   OIN  agreement   •  Creates  a  fenced-­‐in  zone  of  defensive  safety  between  DPL   members  while  allowing  offensive  ac<ons  outward  
  20. Tools  to  Fight  Trolls   •  Defensive  Publica'on   • 

    OIN’s  “Linux  Defenders”  program   •  “Peer  to  Patent”  prior  art  database   •  Purchasing  Harmful  Patents   •  OIN  and  the  Linux  Founda<on   •  Allied  Security  Trust   •  RPX  Corpora<on  
  21. The  Future?  

  22. Questions?     Benjamin  Hayes   (713)  320-­‐2960   benjamin.p.hayes@gmail.com

            Legal  Disclaimer     •  The  informa<on  provided  in  this  presenta<on  is  general  and   intended  only  as  a  basic  overview  of  corporate  law  and  does   not  cons<tute  legal  advice.