Sunday, October 17, 2004

Patent law: a blight on innovation?

John Leyden in The Register reports that Hewlett-Packard's Jeremy Allison, head of the Samba team, described patent law as a "blight on innovation". Also: "Patents become a legal game for large companies to crush small. It's too late in the US, but there's a chance to fight [proposed patent laws] in Europe."

Gee, Jeremy, as to large companies, ever hear about the Eolas case? eBay? Lemelson? As to innovation, contemplate the transistor patents to Bell Labs and how they spawned all kinds of industries.

The Leyden article also got into Linux:

-->Jeremy Allison - who heads up HP's Samba team - pointed that it would be difficult for vendors to make a profit from pushing Linux into the classroom. He said if people wanted to effect change they needed to do it at a local level. This might not be straightforward, however, with members of the audience pointing out some schools would be reluctant to accept Linux boxes even if they were given away free.

Steve Hnizdur, technical director at consultancy Netproject, said only be when Linux comes pre-loaded on boxes in PC World will it reach the mainstream.<--


One particular intellectual property dispute involves the free content management system (CMS) called Mambo and the company Furthermore.

According to LinuxWorld (

-->The Furthermore CMS was described recently in a LinuxWorld Magazine article as follows:

"It's 42 distinct modules of Mambo OS (and therefore PHP, MySQL, and Apache), smoothed with necessary snippets of code, obsessively tweaked and configured to behave as the next iteration of 'The Newspaper.'"

The problem, according to Brian Connolly, is that one of the lead developers he hired to help create Furthermore’s CMS, a Mambo community notable called Emir Sakic from the Royal Academy in Sweden, subsequently “implemented” - to official Mambo - Furthermore code designed to make a leading story present itself in such a way as to make the Furthermore CMS resemble a newspaper portal. Sakic has apparently admitted this in an e-mail to Connolly dated 10/3/03; but too late for Furthermore to anything about it.<--

Relevant to the big guy/little guy assertion by Allison:

-->Furthermore’s dilemma is that it doesn’t, as Connolly admits, have millions of dollars “to go out and sue everyone.” Hence its choice to seek mediation from the Open Source Software Institute. “SCO and IBM are the big guys, but down here in the trenches is where it's happening…we don't have a forum to resolve this kind of problem,” Connolly said in a recent interview.<--

As a footnote, according to David Berlind (

SAMBA is an open source technology that's found in just about every *ix-based operating system that makes those operating systems look, feel, and smell like Windows to other systems on the network.

[While this is useful, how innovative is technology to make one thing look like something else?]



Raleigh, North Carolina-based Linux vendor Red Hat and Uppsala, Sweden-based open source database vendor MySQL have joined the NoSoftwarePatents campaign as partners, alongside web hosting firm 1&1 Internet Inc and campaign manager Florian Mueller, a software industry veteran and advisor to MySQL.

Mueller plans to use the campaign to discuss the issue of software patents with politicians and the media, arguing that "software patents are used for anti-competitive purposes, stifle innovation, and would cost the entire economy and society dearly," according to a statement.

The issue of software patents has risen up the agenda in Europe in recent months as proposed changes to the EU Software Directive have been the subject of fierce debate between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.


Post a Comment

<< Home