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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

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  1. Overview   • Patent  Basics  and  Their  Interac<on  with   FOSS

     Projects     • Patent  Threats  Facing  the  FOSS   Community     • Tools  Available  to  Combat  These  Threats    
  2. 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  
  3. Requirements  for  Patentability   • Patentable  subject  maNer   • U<lity  

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

     benefits  of  patent   law     • Patent  Thickets   Patent  Strategies  
  5. 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      
  6. 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  
  7. 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.    
  8. 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    
  9. Trolls  by  the  Numbers   •  In  2012  for  the

     first  <me  patent  trolls  sued  more  non-­‐tech   companies  (51%)  than  tech  companies.  
  10. 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.  
  11. 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  
  12. 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.  
  13. 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”      
  14. 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  
  15. 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  
  16. Questions?     Benjamin  Hayes   (713)  320-­‐2960   [email protected]

            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.