Friday, September 16, 2005

Patent reform: same AP story yields different headlines. The trolls win?

The same AP story by Erica Werner runs under different headlines in different papers. The Austin American-Statesman:

In Congress, a victory for 'patent trolls'
Pharmaceutical industry gets some patent reforms it disliked zapped from Lamar Smith's bill.

****Separately, hype from -->

Open sourcesoftware businesses and projects--like all software companies--have been living with a sword over their heads: the sword of patents. A year ago, the Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) firm reported the existence of 283 patents that the Linux source code may potentially infringe upon. (This is not to say Linux does infringe on all 283.)

While OSRM found that a third of those patents were held by Linux-friendly corporations like Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Novell, Oracle, Red Hat, and Sony, there were also at least 27 patents held by Microsoft, which has proven its willingness to patent other companies' work and pursue license fees in the recent squabble over the iPod interface.

Defending a patent claim costs about $2 million per side, per claim. That may be, as eBay deputy general Jay Monahan puts it, "an unfortunate cost of doing business," but that's not a cost most open source projects can afford. Granted, patent trolls will go after companies with deep pockets, but companies that compete with open source may see a strategy in using patent claims to simply shut down a small company.


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