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Google Pledges Not To Sue Any Open Source Projects Using Their Patents

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,26 days | from the now-and-forever dept.

Google 153

sfcrazy writes "Google has announced the Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge. In the pledge Google says that they will not sue any user, distributor, or developer of Open Source software on specified patents, unless first attacked. Under this pledge, Google is starting off with 10 patents relating to MapReduce, a computing model for processing large data sets first developed at Google. Google says that over time they intend to expand the set of Google's patents covered by the pledge to other technologies." This is in addition to the Open Invention Network, and their general work toward reforming the patent system. The patents covered in the OPN will be free to use in Free/Open Source software for the life of the patent, even if Google should transfer ownership to another party. Read the text of the pledge. It appears that interaction with non-copyleft licenses (MIT/BSD/Apache) is a bit weird: if you create a non-free fork it appears you are no longer covered under the pledge.

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153 comments

And I'm sure this is a bad thing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306115)

Prepare for explanations as to why this is bad in 3, 2, 1...

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306123)

The issue isn't why it's bad, people will just moan about the motivations. I bet we'll see a lot of:

"well of course Google is doing this, they want maximum exposure of their technologies cause it makes $$$, do no evil yeah right!"

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306189)

Is a "pledge" legally binding?

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (2)

mark-t (151149) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306239)

If it were, lots of political leaders who happened to make a promise they did not end up keeping could face some serious consequences.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (2)

znanue (2782675) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306687)

I think that the courts would rule that you cannot reasonably rely on the promise of a politician ergo estoppel doesn't apply

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306263)

In general, no, with patents specifically, yes.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307519)

Even if it isn't, the bad publicity Google would get the moment they reneged would be very real. And it's probably legally binding in the sense that "they said I could" should be a pretty good defence.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (0)

Torodung (31985) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307843)

Not if Google, and/or their patent portfolio, gets bought out, and we know that never happens in the tech sector. Especially in publicly-traded companies.

Tread carefully.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (4, Interesting)

beelsebob (529313) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306409)

It's actually very clever. It means less open source software is GPLed, because the GPLv3 means that patent rights have to be dismissed. Thus more will be BSDed/MITed. Then, because it's BSDed/MITed, more big companies will actually use the software (because most big companies avoid GPLv3 like the plague). Then those big companies will release a closed version, and have to pay google.

Cunning indeed.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306695)

That's GPLv3's problem, not Google's. Create a patent-unfriendly license and companies that need to defend their patents won't support it - surprise!

In fact everything you described seems to be an all around equitable solution (if you choose open source you get to use Google's patents without worry, if you close source it (obviously because there is a business reason ie. $$) you have pay for the patent licensing.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (2)

beelsebob (529313) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307281)

I never claimed it was a problem for google. I claimed it was a boon for them. They get a double benefit:

1) They encourage people to use BSD/MIT licenses, meaning google get to use more code without publishing their own.
2) They get other companies using their patents, and hence get to bill more people, even if those people aren't the open sourcers.

Great strategy.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (1)

Lendrick (314723) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306439)

I guess my question is how much legal weight this "pledge" has. Microsoft's "community promise" not to sue over Mono was (if I recall) legally unconvincing. Is this any different?

Not saying it's bad, mind you. I'm just expressing skepticism until it's been analyzed by some people who understand this crap better than I do.

it is in enforceable in at least US, UK, Australia (4, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306637)

Promissory estoppel (you promised, so you have to stop) is enforceable at least in the US, AU, and UK. The consultations are a) a clear promise. ("We don't like to sue" is insufficient), b) reliance on the promise (we made this software knowing that Goog promised not to sue) and c) inequity (it would be unfair for Goog to sue when they promised not to).
In some countries, it can only be used as a defense, to have a lawsuit dismissed. You can't sue someone to make them live up to a unilateral promise. They say it's "a shield, not a sword". In AU, it can be used as a sword - you could sue Gopgle to force them to live up to the promise, or for damages if they don't. That means that an Aussie user could sue Google for damages if Google threatened to enforce the patent against some software on which they rely.

Aside from tbe legal terms, imagine you're on the jury. Google sues someone. The defendant points out that Google promised not to, essentially giving the defendant permission to use the patents. As a juror, how would YOU decide the case?

Re:it is in enforceable in at least US, UK, Austra (1)

Lendrick (314723) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306697)

The defendant points out that Google promised not to, essentially giving the defendant permission to use the patents. As a juror, how would YOU decide the case?

I suppose that depends on how smart I am and how well each side presented their case. :)

Me, personally, knowing what I know about this right now, I'd find against Google.

Re:it is in enforceable in at least US, UK, Austra (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306861)

Yes, unless GOOGs very high priced, very well connected lawyers manage to convince a judge that the promise shouldn't be admissible in court.

Re:it is in enforceable in at least US, UK, Austra (5, Interesting)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306975)

It's really a matter of reputation. Google's business model turned out to be largely relying on their being Open Source friendly. With this pledge they reinforce this image. If they betray this image, the backdraft could be painful. Probably not fatal, but painful.

I'm really as defiant as the next guy about Google's behaviour, and I don't take at face value their motto of not doing evil, but on the matters of IP they seem to have been consistently opposed to maximalism, and have supported many open stuff. I watch them closely on data privacy matters, but in most other issues I find their position decent - so far.

Good point, it's PR enforcable for sure (0)

raymorris (2726007) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307055)

That's a good point. Even if there were no such thing as promissory estoppel, so it didn't hold up in a court of law, Google is knowingly committing t this policy, with significant PR repercussions should they reverse course.

their motto of not doing evil

-pedant- It's "Don't Be Evil" (aka Microsoft) -/pedant- We ALL do wrong occasionally, just because we're human and we screw up. For some companies, evil is what they ARE, nastiness is their core.

Re:it is in enforceable in at least US, UK, Austra (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307441)

As a juror, how would YOU decide the case?

That naturally depends on how much money Google is offering.

Re:it is in enforceable in at least US, UK, Austra (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307555)

Excellent post, raymorris. Though one thing I wanted to bring up is that I believe there might be rare circumstances where you can sue to enforce a unilateral promise. An example might be someone publically pledging to donate a large sum of money to a charity. Say, if a corporation pledged to donate five million dollars to a hospital to build a build a new maternity ward. If that hospital reasonably believed the pledge and started engaging contractors to build it but the corporatin then withdrew the promise. As best as I understand, that hospital could sue to compel the corporation to deliver on its pledge or at the very least pay damages to the hospital amounting to the money the hospital spent when it reasonably believed the corporation's pledge. I believe that can happen in the US or am I mistaken?

As an interesting side note, I'm pretty sure that you can use the courts to enforce a unilateral pledge in some continental european countries, Germany I believe is an example.

Re:it is in enforceable in at least US, UK, Austra (1)

cduffy (652) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307587)

Excellent post, raymorris. Though one thing I wanted to bring up is that I believe there might be rare circumstances where you can sue to enforce a unilateral promise. An example might be someone publically pledging to donate a large sum of money to a charity. Say, if a corporation pledged to donate five million dollars to a hospital to build a build a new maternity ward. If that hospital reasonably believed the pledge and started engaging contractors to build it but the corporatin then withdrew the promise. As best as I understand, that hospital could sue to compel the corporation to deliver on its pledge or at the very least pay damages to the hospital amounting to the money the hospital spent when it reasonably believed the corporation's pledge. I believe that can happen in the US or am I mistaken?

That lines up with what I learned in my (US) business law course a decade ago, which explicitly covered the topic. Not a lawyer, not legal advice, YMMV, etc.

Re:And I'm sure this is a bad thing (2)

AK Marc (707885) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306751)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoppel#Promissory_estoppel [wikipedia.org] Someone else beat me to it, but it's why I came here in the first place. You can't declare something legal, then sue them for acting illegally. You can't invite someone on your property then charge them for trespass. You can't give them a license (implied or otherwise) then sue them for properly using it. The promise is legally binding.

After Reader Debacle, Let's retry Don't Be Evil (3, Insightful)

Midnight_Falcon (2432802) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306139)

It's clear what's going on here is that Google is once again trying to return to it's "Don't be Evil" roots -- even though its behavior is painting it less and less of the champion of the free internet, and more just-another-profit-centered-corporation. When you sue an open source software producer, you usually don't get much money or anything in return, so it's not a big deal monetarily. The gesture however gives them some PR points they've desperately been seeking lately, especially amongst the tech community they've alienated by cancelling Reader. Likely though, it's too little, too late.

Probably not so well disguised sabre-rattling? (1)

dclozier (1002772) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306197)

Oracle is using Map Reduce - wonder if they infringe?
Microsoft is using Map Reduce - wonder if they infringe?
Perhaps Apple is using it as well, somewhere.

Re:Probably not so well disguised sabre-rattling? (1)

tibman (623933) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307045)

If it's an open source project, then it will be safe for those companies to use it. This shouldn't have anything to do with the end-user. It's about the project. Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple cannot fork map reduce and sell their own version. They can fork it and develop their own free version though.

Re:After Reader Debacle, Let's retry Don't Be Evil (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306201)

It's clear what's going on here is that Google is once again trying to return to it's "Don't be Evil" roots -- even though its behavior is painting it less and less of the champion of the free internet, and more just-another-profit-centered-corporation. When you sue an open source software producer, you usually don't get much money or anything in return, so it's not a big deal monetarily. The gesture however gives them some PR points they've desperately been seeking lately, especially amongst the tech community they've alienated by cancelling Reader. Likely though, it's too little, too late.

They are trying to suckers us into believing that they are going back to their "Don't be Evil" roots, which in truth has always been a publicity stunt. I'd like to see of this resolve to not use these patents to extort FOSS projects would survive contatct with a situation where their search engine monopoly has lost 45% of it's market share to a FOSS search engine that uses algorithms potentially covered by Google patents. In fact I'd be interested to see if patents relating to their search engines will ever be covered by this pledge.

Re:After Reader Debacle, Let's retry Don't Be Evil (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306323)

They're not trying to sucker anyone. Google is a large corporation with different divisions. One division decided to kill Reader to push people in to the still-born G+, and another is doing some PR on patents, something Google have been stuck in courts wasting millions on for years.

Re:After Reader Debacle, Let's retry Don't Be Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306721)

They are a public corporation, so of course they are profit-centered. Big fucking surprise!

And as far as open source - it's not just about not suing an open source developer, it's about convincing the many large and highly profitable companies using their patents without paying that as long as they keep their projects open source (and don't sue Google for patent infringement) *they* won't be sued, either.

Re:After Reader Debacle, Let's retry Don't Be Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307077)

Hmm, not criticizing your assessment of Google's behaviour, but about the PR balance: I think there is not so much relative overlap between the "tech community" (IT workers and academia) and Google Reader users (people who spend lots of time on blogs and "infotainment").
This probably doesn't have to do with balancing out Reader, but simply general 'how to improve PR with methods that are already natural and cheap for us'.

Re:After Reader Debacle, Let's retry Don't Be Evil (1)

Hentes (2461350) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307873)

I think the 'don't be evil' motto was a faulty one, creating irrealistic expectations. Google was never like Twitter, their morals were always somewhat flexible. The wonderful thing about Google isn't that they do no evil, but that they also do more than enough amazing things to offset it.

It must be because Google is nice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306149)

Not. Google makes billions off of open source suckers because they don't have to hire people to write large portions of their own software. Open source benefits big business far more so than anyone else. All of the neck-beards who think they're changing the world are just suckers.

...unless first attacked (-1, Flamebait)

fustakrakich (1673220) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306153)

Nice little gotcha there. I hope we all know better than to trust a corporate pledge. It's worth about as much as the Bill of Rights means to the government. Zilch, squat, nada...

Re:...unless first attacked (-1, Flamebait)

fustakrakich (1673220) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306207)

I never said that the truth wasn't a flamebaiting bitch, but thanks for the reminder, mister moderation man...

Re:...unless first attacked (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306315)

Man up or shut up.

If you're going to post something, you might not like the moderation; live with it instead of being a whiny bitch.

Re:...unless first attacked (1)

tibman (623933) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307095)

It was probably the way you brought the Bill of Rights into the discussion. Likely they wanted to argue with you but couldn't because it would undo all their moderation on the page.

BFD (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306173)

A whole ten patents? How generous of them.

Question: was Google ever going to sue F/OSS developers?

Darwin and Motorola (1)

tepples (727027) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306237)

Question: was Google ever going to sue F/OSS developers?

I don't know. Is Apple still developing certain low-level parts of Mac OS X under the APSL, or has Darwin [wikipedia.org] gone completely proprietary? What I do know is that Motorola Mobility, a Google company, has sued Apple [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Darwin and Motorola (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306423)

Apple sells proprietary crud layered on top of free software. They generally don't want you to be even aware of the free software. They just want you to fixate on the shiny shiny proprietary bits on the surface. The fact that they exploit the free labor of hobbyists doesn't alter the basic crass nature of their activities.

Apple are not "F/OSS developers".

Re:Darwin and Motorola (0, Flamebait)

kthreadd (1558445) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306567)

WebKit is open source and developed by Apple.

Re:Darwin and Motorola (5, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306643)

KHTML is what WebKit is based on.
It was not developed by Apple.

They did make major improvements, but they did base their work on KHTML which is LGPL.

Re:Darwin and Motorola (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306833)

Yeah, they DEFINITELY don't want you to be aware of free software, which is why the horribly obfuscated URL apple.com/opensource lists several hundred projects they are using, as well as links (and fully browsable source!) to anything they have modified. In fact, it's probably the simplest, most well-organized, and most public list of open source projects of any large company I have seen.

http://www.apple.com/opensource/ [apple.com]

Re:Darwin and Motorola (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307035)

And that's just promoted all over the place in the actual UI that everyone actually uses (which was, you know, his actual point) as opposed to just being some obscure website link that isn't easily found unless you search for it...

Re:Darwin and Motorola (2)

Graymalkin (13732) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307913)

...exploit the free labor of hobbyists...

The free labor or hobbyists meme might have been true a decade and a half ago and maybe not even then. A good portion of open source software is written by people gainfully employed by otherwise closed sourced organizations. They're paid to accomplish X and use an open source solution and contribute code back to the project. Other times they are students or faculty of universities. Increasingly they're paid by an ISV that is selling support/features built on some OSS. Of course there are some hobbyists write code that scratches an itch but to suggest all OSS is written by these types of developers is intellectually dishonest.

It's also intellectually and factually dishonest to suggest that they're "exploiting" these mythical hobbyist developers in some fashion. Apple's been on the level with all of the OSS projects they use, submitting patches back to those projects when changes are made and making changes that are conditionalized for Apple's platforms. No hobbyist developer has been abused or tortured because Apple shipped some software with an OSS license underneath their proprietary UI.

A Bit Weird? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306175)

" It appears that interaction with non-copyleft licenses (MIT/BSD/Apache) is a bit weird: if you create a non-free fork it appears you are no longer covered under the pledge."

That's not weird. That's exactly how it should be.

Re:A Bit Weird? (2)

dmbasso (1052166) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306429)

Thanks AC, that's exactly what I came to say. And I bet those who think it is weired are the same who doesn't understand the GPL and thing everything should be MIT/BSD licensed...

Re:A Bit Weird? (1, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306473)

The more interesting bit in my mind is the fact that it does not apply to closed-source software that links against open-source software unless that closed-source software qualifies as "internal use only". As far as I'm concerned, if the licensing terms of the open source software allows you to link against it in a closed-source app, you should be able to do so without worrying about whether there might be any patents embodied in that open-source software.

Absent that assurance, no piece of open source software under any license other than the GPL (and other no-closed-source-linking) licenses can safely take advantage of any of these patents without creating patent risk for downstream users. Ethically, that makes this pledge worthless for anything other than GPLed software.

Try again, Google.

Re:A Bit Weird? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306757)

Ethically, that makes this pledge worthless for anything other than GPLed software.

So, still pretty darn useful then? Who said Google wanted to make its patents available to proprietary software that links against open-source software? They're trying to help open-source software, not proprietary software built on top of open-source software (see: Apple).

Ahh softwarey patents (0)

Anomalyst (742352) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306181)

How about they put their time and money into bribing^lobbying our legislature to eleminate them, problem solved.

Well, duh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306187)

"if you create a non-free fork it appears you are no longer covered under the pledge."

And if i were to give code under a free fork that was from Microsoft divulged under NDA, it wouldn't be covered either.

If you use something you need a license for in ways not covered by the license and not in ways the license cannot control your use, then you are not allowed to use it that way.

Wny is this only a problem for some idiots when it's a GPL license, and absolutely unnoticed by them under any other license?

Re:Well, duh. (3, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306347)

because people love to make it sound like GPL is terrible when it's not. Specifically people who are: pro apple, pro microsoft, or anti google. The rest of the world understands GPL and why it's great and takes advantage of it every day.

Re:Well, duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306469)

The choices aren't pro Apple, pro Microsoft, pro Google, and pro GPL.

Not by a long shot.

A lot of people still choose to release their software under BSD, Apache, and other licenses. But the GPL ravers seem to think it's the only open source license on the planet.

Ah but can you not also make bridges out of stone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306203)

They do not, however, pledge not to sell patents to a third party which has made no such promises.

Re:Ah but can you not also make bridges out of sto (3, Informative)

kevkingofthesea (2668309) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306261)

From the summary:

The patents covered in the OPN will be free to use in Free/Open Source software for the life of the patent, even if Google should transfer ownership to another party.

Re:Ah but can you not also make bridges out of sto (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306489)

If Google transfer ownership they lose control and any "pledges" they have made are worth zip.Unless they make it a contractual obligation for the new owner to honor the OPN... And since not even Google is really legally bound by the OPN it might be a bit much to demand that a new owner are.

Re:Ah but can you not also make bridges out of sto (3, Insightful)

tibman (623933) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307131)

Isn't that the same as saying that if you bought a patent you could void all current licensed copies in existence? Each of those licenses was a contract of sorts, right?

Thus Google reveals their bias. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306213)

Anybody they can exploit, like Open-source, they will tolerate, but anybody who doesn't let Google leech their work, well, they shall face the wrath of the Google-meister!

Re: Thus Google reveals their bias. (4, Insightful)

Urza9814 (883915) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306285)

Or to translate from flamebait to English:
They'll share with anyone else who shares. Same concept as the GPL, though admittedly in a somewhat more vague and less legally-binding manner.

Re: Thus Google reveals their bias. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306625)

Or to translate from zealot to English:
They'll share with anyone else who will hurt there competition.

BTW. Not the same concept as the GPL at all since OPN about ideas, which lots of people can have at the same time without having shared or stolen, and GPL is about actual software.
The chance of several parties writing exactly the same piece of (non trivial) software, if they have no contact, is practically zero. The chance of several parties coming up with the same idea for a piece of software is pretty big. (subrutines comes to mind)

Re: Thus Google reveals their bias. (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306821)

Or to translate from English to Marketing:

Google will contribute its patented technology immediately to benefit the public good, and pledges to support open-source community projects into the future. Google will confine all its competitive legal actions to the commercial arena, encouraging the growth of non-Google technologies, pushing the state of the art ever forward.

...I feel dirty now... I think I got some marketing slime on me... ...Turing help me, I want multi-level enterprise synergy to embiggen the opportunity for realized potential!

Re: Thus Google reveals their bias. (2)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307177)

Or to translate from flamebait to English:
They'll share with anyone else who shares. Same concept as the GPL, though admittedly in a somewhat more vague and less legally-binding manner.

Correction:
They'll share with anyone else who shares, but as long as they're the only ones profiting from it.

It's better than some companies, but hardly the slam dunk or sea change it's made out to be.

Honestly, their lawyers probably already told them that it wasn't worth going after any open source projects because in a lot of cases there wasn't money in it.

Re: Thus Google reveals their bias. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307537)

It's very much possible to profit from open source software.

Re: Thus Google reveals their bias. (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307711)

The code that results from this must be open. It looks like you can profit from it the same way you can profit from other open source software -- either using it (if Brother made their printer drivers open source; or an engineering firm released open source CAD software), or selling support for it. Same conditions as the GPL.

And yea, they're almost certainly doing it because it's not worth fighting, and they're making that position public. That's nice. It probably cost them something to make this statement, vs not costing a dime to just ignore anyone who does this. Maybe this gives them some legal benefits regarding trademark dilution type stuff, I don't really know if anything like that applies to patents. And it gives them PR benefits. And it probably benefits them because they can then take that code and know it will have efficient algorithms that they can use -- as long as they're the only ones doing it, then they make open source code better and they can freely take that better code and use it however they want. But it's good for us too, because we can use that same open source code, and we can use their patents when writing that code.

Is it 100% altrustic? No. Neither is what Torvalds or Stallman does. There's no such thing. Is it going to be good for the open source community as a whole though? Probably. It's not perfect, but it's still a step forward for the open source community.

Oh Gee, Real Swell (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306221)

Until the founders die, and the next board comes in, filled with total assholes, who WILL sue.

Don't do it. Not until the patents expire. Things change. Businesses are transitory groups of people. No guarantees can be honestly made by any corporation.

Mighty White Of Them (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306225)

God forbid they actually open source any of their stuff. Like how about Google Reader, instead of tossing into the shredder?

It has always annoyed me how reluctant Google is to release source.

Re:Mighty White Of Them (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306319)

If open source is so cool why don't you make your own version of Google Reader? Why do you need to lean on closed source for the really good software?

Re:Mighty White Of Them (1)

jedidiah (1196) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306447)

This isn't about "leaning on closed source". This is about supporting the end users that Google just abandoned.

If they don't want it anymore, then they should have no problem giving it away and letting the user community fend for itself.

Re:Mighty White Of Them (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306903)

Google has a penchant for using open source software. Nothing wrong with that, really. They have leveraged open source software to the tune of billions in profit. They've built on that same open source software and made lots of improvements and enhancements, yet despite their open source evangelism, they release little or none of their improvements.

The Google Reader issue is a perfect example. Reader was built upon open source software. One could forgive Google for not releasing their source for it while they were using it and trying to make a business of it, but there is no excuse for shredding that software now that they are abandoning the project. The good steward, no longer needing the software, would release the source code back to the community from which it came. That is indeed the spirit of open source and the mantra that Goggle's evangelism department(!) repeats, but Google themselves always seem to have a reason not to actually release the software. Android seems to be the notable exception to this long running behavior of Google.

Google's a "me, too!" (2, Interesting)

sotweed (118223) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306293)

Note that IBM did the same thing with about 1000 of its patents, more than 10 years ago. And shortly
thereafter, followed up with another 1000 or so.

Re:Google's a "me, too!" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306487)

Note that IBM did the same thing with about 1000 of its patents, more than 10 years ago. And shortly
thereafter, followed up with another 1000 or so.

As stated in Google's blog link above.

Re:Google's a "me, too!" (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306665)

What's your point? Just because one company was generous a decade ago, no other company is ever allowed to be generous in the same way?

Re:Google's a "me, too!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306723)

Boy, you really are grumpy.

My point is that this isn't really news.

Re:Google's a "me, too!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307117)

So the first huge company showing out-of-the-ordinary generosity in this area in the last 10 years, and this is not news?

Re:Google's a "me, too!" (1)

pavon (30274) | 1 year,26 days | (#43308003)

Yes it is. It is news to anyone who uses MapReduce-style open source software, which includes a lot of people who read slashdot.

Good for Google (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306359)

This is something you will never see Microsoft do.

Restated: tech businesses beware (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306369)

Love the understated way Google's rattling the patent saber here: "If you stay open-source you're probably safe, but if we think you're a commercial entity with closed source we may unleash the software patent lawyers."

Re:Restated: tech businesses beware (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306515)

Exactly, before this, companies were immune to GPL violations.
Right?

who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306435)

So we won't get sued if we produce things that Google can use for their own commercial activities. AWESOME

Re:who cares? (1)

WillgasM (1646719) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306493)

Well...yeah. They get better code for their projects, we get to use that functionality in open source programs, and nobody gets sued. Sounds pretty win/win.

Have them put up a bond (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306599)

Something simple like a $100M bond that can be drawn down by anyone who is sued by them for patent infringement.

Defensive Termination clause is a broad brush (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306617)

My reading of the Defensive Termination clause is that it allows Google to terminate its patent licenses to any company that initiates patent litigation against Google over *any product or service*, not just a product or service that uses one of the Google-licensed patents. For example, if Samsung sued Motorola over a hardware patent, then that clause would allow Google to revoke Samsung's license (e.g., for some Silicon Valley subsidiary) to use any of its MapReduce patents.

Not saying this is evil or greedy, but it is more one-sided in Google's favor than I was expecting.

Re:Defensive Termination clause is a broad brush (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306907)

Not saying this is evil or greedy, but it is more one-sided in Google's favor than I was expecting.

Really? You don't expect Google to defend themselves if they get attacked? People that don't fight back when attacked are an extraordinarily rare exception. I don't know why anyone would think Google would be any different.

Re:Defensive Termination clause is a broad brush (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307619)

1) Microsoft has done some integration work with Hadoop.

2) Microsoft just announced a slew of patents for Windows Surface.

Suppose Google came out with a hardware clone of Surface? If Microsoft sued, Google could revoke their implicit MapReduce patent licenses. Weird, but possible.

That should give big companies pause about taking Google's announcement today too seriously.

Re:Defensive Termination clause is a broad brush (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306911)

Don't fuck with me and I won't fuck with you.

Irrelevant to the real issues of patents (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306765)

It's great for open source people to be free from the threat of being sued over patents, but the real problem is obvious patents.

If Google owns any patents that are obvious, (and if they don't, other companies certainly do) then giving a free pass to open source doesn't do much to ameliorate the problem. Many people like to earn money. Even people who contribute to open source are often partly motivated by getting paid jobs as a result of their efforts. Given this, it is still a problem that smaller companies who sell closed source software or hardware based on closed source software, are still under threat from obvious patents.

The only sensible solution is to get rid of obvious patents. One way to do this is to eliminate software patents (i.e. the de facto software patents that exist today). Sure it would mean that some truly original work was no longer protected, but I think on balance it's the right way to go.

In comparison, how fair would it be if a law let some lucky restaurants close down all nearby competition, but then those few remaining restaurants showed their magnanimity by permitting people to give away free food to the homeless if the felt like it.

No, dogs have a better sense of smell than humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43306931)

You're off base because dogs have a better sense of smell than do. How is this relevant to your post, you may wonder. Your subject line is:

Irrelevant to the real issues of patents

Indeed, your idea of the "real issue" (patents that fail the obviousness test), is, as you say, completely irrelevant to this discussion. Therefore, it makes no more sense for you to post that on this page than for me to post about dogs.

BTW, given that you think "the real problem is obvious patents", is the solution not therefore obvious? Stop granting and enforcing obvious patents! That doesn't even require ANY change in the law, because obviousness is already law and has been since the beginning. Simply following the law would solve the problem of "obvious" patents.

I can't fathom how anyone could think, even for a second, that completely eliminating all patents on anything new is the logical solution, as opposed to simply getting the patent office to do their job. That worked fine for a couple hundred years.

Re:No, dogs have a better sense of smell than huma (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307173)

It is relevant because Google is doing this for a reason, and there are really only two possible ones. First, it is a free gift to the Open Source community. That would be very nice but that's not how this decision would be interpreted by most people. Second, it is Google's attempt to ameliorate the impact of some of the unfair aspects of patents system, on open source developers. In that case, my claim that this measure is irrelevant to the real issues, because it doesn't address the root cause, is correct. Perhaps "insufficient" would have been a better term than "irrelevant". Now you might still object that it's not on topic to post that a measure that is proposed is not a sufficient solution to the greater problem that it aims to solve, but I think that that is a rather petty objection.

As to eliminating obvious patents, the question is how specifically to do this. The law does indeed disallow obvious patents. However, obvious is an ambiguous term, and wherever there is any room for interpretation, there is room for gross error as is happening now. So until you or anyone else can get a sensible plan to get the patent office to "do their job", my proposal to eliminate software patents still stands as a reasonable alternative.

Or let me put it this way: what software patents can you name that really did deserve to be granted and were not obvious, and how valuable have they been (relative to the previous existing technologies). Now compare that with the damage done by the threat of being sued over obvious patents.

Re:No, dogs have a better sense of smell than huma (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43308175)

The patent office is doing their job: Protecting the intellectual monopolies of corporations.

The logical solution is to completely eliminate patents. They fail to achieve their stated goal of promoting innovation. As with every government program, it achieves the opposite of it's intended goal.

A Pledge is Good (1, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | 1 year,26 days | (#43306935)

Too bad they didn't pledge to keep all their little services running, google code, wave, catalogs, notebook... I wonder if it would have mattered.

Re:A Pledge is Good (1)

linuxguy (98493) | 1 year,26 days | (#43307325)

Pledge to keep all their services running forever?

Are you insane? Does any company make that pledge? Google or anybody else has every right to cancel a service or experiment they deem unnecessary. Anybody who expects anything else from a business is a fool.

Shouldn't Google be against software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307435)

Do no evil? Hahahahahaha....Hoohohohohoh...damn, my aching sides- you people are going to kill me.

Google is part of the power bloc that ensures continued support for Software Patents in the USA, Europe and Asia. Google pays billions directly into the pockets of key politicians. Google is, of course, but another face of the NSA- although the NSA itself is probably neutral on the issue (or maybe somewhat anti).

What limits companies like Google and Microsoft is publicity, namely how the corporations are perceived by the general body of technically aware Humans. Bashing the community openly is seen as counter-productive. Raising the ire of the community is seen as a very dangerous strategy. Of course, doing maximum evil in ways least likely to be exposed to the majority is fine.

Google is far more evil than Microsoft. Microsoft is your ordinary amoral American corporation with delusions of grandeur. Sure MS steals the work of others (and sometimes has to pay for this through court imposed fines). Sure, MS pays massive bribes to politicians and corporate managers to get their software exclusively used in companies and nations. Sure, MS funds legal action by crooks (like SCO) against the 'opposition'. But even so, at the end of the day, MS is just 'doing business'.

Google, on the other hand, is all about maximising the police state on behalf of the US government and other friendly nations. Google is designed to massively extend the spying abilities of the state, and massively extend the states ability to mine the data gathered by spying. None of this is about (fictional) terrorists or criminals. All of this is about giving your rulers perfect control over the sheeple. The sheeple respond to mass media propaganda, and the state controls that propaganda. Google completes the feedback loop in near real time, so that the control messages can be perfected for the results they desire.

Each year Rupert Murdoch (Blair's own Goebbels) sends out corporate Xmas cards. Each of them has an illustration showing media barons (not just Fox News) as 'foxes' and the listeners as 'sheep'. If you object to the word 'sheeple' you are one of the sheeple. To Google, everyone that uses their services, and by doing so gives up some detail about themselves, is 'sheeple'- and they have no guilt using and abusing such people, and their trust.

PS the owners of Slashdot willingly block citizens of Iran from accessing the open-source web-site resources they also operate- and no, this is NOT required by US law.

Why don't they just change their license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,26 days | (#43307737)

Ok, I know it's much MUCH more complicated to just completely change the license under which everything is covered, but couldn't they at least add "we won't sue open source" to their license text? Better yet, apply whatever the patent-equivalent of Creative Commons Non-Commercial license is to all products from here on out.

It may be technically binding as it stands, but it's still pretty wishy-washy. That said, good on em! That's the first good news I've heard from them in awhile.

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