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Red Hat Files for Software Patents

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the patent-applied-for dept.

Patents 323

Marsala writes "Apparently Red Hat has filed two patent applications for stuff related to the TUX webserver. The patents are for Embedded Protocol Objects and Method and apparatus for atomic file look-up. One has to wonder (if their patents are granted) what their licensing terms will be.... free for open source, or a tool to try and screw other Linux distros?" As reported by Linux Weekly News.

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323 comments

FIRST POST (hopefully) (-1)

The Anime Troll (577873) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582400)

ATTENTION ALL TROLLS

Keekiscape Commmunications, Inc., has annonced their new entry-level first post software, Faasuto Posuto. Faasuto Posuto does not have all the features of Keekiscape's upcoming FP poster "Sakurazilla", which posts FPs automatically and includes automatic page-stretching algorithms. However, it is available to even the lowliest of ACs and has been released under the GNU General Public License. Here is the source code to Faasuto Posuto (HTML tags need to be changed):

[META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" Content="12"][iframe src="http://slashdot.org/index.pl?light=1" height=1000 width=1000][/iframe]

Keekiscape welcomes contributions. Send your modifications of this code to yhbt@yhl.hand.

This first post dedicated to Gema. Poor Gema always gets kicked around by Dejiko. Why does she have to be so mean?

Re:FIRST POST (hopefully) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582509)

Hi. Since you seem to be a knowledgable html coder (a programming language that's faster than C), I thought you'd know about > and <.

Here's a diff for my contribution to first posting.

<META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" Content="12"><iframe src="http://slashdot.org/index.pl?light=1" height=1000 width=1000></iframe>

money or principle? (4, Insightful)

I Want GNU! (556631) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582401)

You have to think about this...are they filing for the money or will they open it? If they believe in linux as a principle of their company they won't prevent anyone else from using it, but if they simply want to make shareholders happy they might charge for it.

Re:money or principle? (2)

BCoates (512464) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582451)

If I understand how patents work, there is no reason to take out a patent on principle--the only thing a patent is good for is to stop people from using an invention, or make them pay you... If you aren't going to charge, you don't need the patent--I don't think there's a "patentleft" sort of scheme that uses patents to protect openness (a la copyleft)

--
Benjamin Coates

Re:money or principle? (2)

iamplasma (189832) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582463)

Yes it is, unless I'm much mistaken all GPL software is copyrighted, just under the GPL. Otherwise if there is no copyright, anyone could take GPL software, and make it non-free. The copyright is what is needed to make the GPL enforceable. So while I can't be sure they will, it is conceivable that red hat will use this to GPL those techniques, giving free software a boost not available to non-free software.

Re:money or principle? (3, Insightful)

BCoates (512464) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582563)

The difference between patents and copyrights is important here. If you want to have a program just like another copyrighted program, you can write it yourself, and you don't have to worry about the other person's copyright--This is how lots of open source programs are made, as replacements for existing closed-source ones.

If software patents were commonplace, this couldn't be done--even if you reinvent something patented yourself, you still are in violation of the patent. Even if a few "free software patents" were held, the FS community would never be able to make another free software workalike version of a patented program.

Software patents don't benefit anyone but pattent lawyers, and Red Hat is not doing anyone any favors by trying to legitimize it.

--
Benjamin Coates

Re:money or principle? (1)

packeteer (566398) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582586)

you are VERy correct... in fact if you even create somthing that is not a rip off BAM its copyrighted by you INSTANTLY... the only reason we need a patent office is to prove when people come up with ideas... its like a preemptive legal strike against would-be rip offs... so just because something is GPL does not mean you can rip it off... you can only use it as the GPL says but at least the GPL IS a license...

Re:money or principle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582491)

Actually, if you keep your invention a secret, someone else can patent it. This doesn't stop you from being able to use it, but there can be a legal hassle in proving that you invented it first.

On the other hand, if you make it public, then it's prior art and no one can patent it (supposedly).

Re:money or principle? (5, Insightful)

elandal (9242) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582517)

Actually there's a very good other reason for patents: defense. Eg. if Microsoft were to charge RedHat for patent infringement (sp?), RH might be able to counter with their own patent portfolio, charging MS of infringing RH patents. That, of course, would lead to cross-licensing which is likely cheaper than going to court for patents that should never have been granted.

Re:money or principle? (5, Interesting)

Alan Cox (27532) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582546)

Very much so. The situation needs changing badly, but right now it forces people to play the stupid patent game either for good or for evil.

Expect a formal clarification from the Red Hat folks about this patent and usage (we didnt think it was news). Expect more patents too. In fact I've got two applications and I need to finish writing up - which I wouldn't be doing unless I was *convinced* this was the only way to do things in the short term, and that generic GPL use would be granted

Alan

Re:money or principle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582557)

Welcome to the "patent business", where all of your patents end up being worthless and the lawyers make all the money!

Re:money or principle? (4, Informative)

King of the World (212739) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582548)

Patents have nothing to do with free, open or closedness licencing. They are merely to do with a system whose intention is to prove who invented what first.

If you don't apply for a patent and you use 'your technology' then someone else could more easily take legal action upon you for using 'their technology'.

In this way having a patent means that you get to decide the rules under which the technology (kill me now for using that word) is used. A good patent owner will licence it under good rules, and a bad patent owner will licence under bad rules.

So it all comes down to how we think the owners of this patent will act upon uses of their 'technology'.

I certainly trust Redhat.

the software patent business (1)

CmdrTaco (editor) (564483) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582404)

Red Hat, it seems, has decided to get into the software patent business.

Hmm.. Apparently lwn.net [lwn.net] thinks patenting software is a legitimate business.

What about MS in this deal (5, Insightful)

CatPieMan (460995) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582412)

Won't this have the potential to hurt MS embeded OSes as well as embeded linux? Maybe Redhat is just protecting themselves from having some other company come up and steal this patent out from under them and make Redhat pay someone else to liscense something that Redhat created in the first place. Not that I am a total Redhat supporter, but, we should wait and see what happens with this one.

-CPM

Re:What about MS in this deal (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582428)

And they couldn't have simply released the new technology into the public domain thereby nullifying any patent attempt by a competitor?

Re:What about MS in this deal (3, Insightful)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582430)

In a town where the mayor is handing out free guns, you'd better make sure you get some of the best guns for yourself. But the citizens would probably be better off if the mayor behaved more sensibly.

(BTW - I don't mean to start a gun control thread, just for the sake of argument, okay? Please feel free to post a better metaphor if you can think of one.)

Re:What about MS in this deal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582521)

FACT - concealed carry laws *reduce* the amount of crime.

FACT - banning guns (Canada, England, Australia, Nazi Germany) has always been followed an increase in crime.

Re:What about MS in this deal (0, Offtopic)

finkployd (12902) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582554)

Let's talk about gun control, I'm all for it :)

There is no "best gun" (unless you count a BMG), it makes no difference how big your bullet is or how 1337 your gun is if you don't practice good gun control. Someone who is very skilled at gun control, armed with only an old single action revolver will have no problem against someone with poor gun control who is holding an H&K USP.

Finkployd

Re:What about MS in this deal (3, Informative)

BCoates (512464) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582436)

IANAL, but you don't need to take out a patent to stop someone else from patenting your invention--if you publish it before someone else patents it, their patent is invalid.

--
Benjamin Coates

Re:What about MS in this deal (3, Insightful)

brsett (169637) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582470)

True in theory, but not practice. If you hold the patent, onus is on the accused party to prove that they are using prior art. The patent office hasn't proven itself to be very devoted to spending the time to actually look for prior art on a patent tho, so someone could patent RH's tech after the fact. Red Hat may have noble intentions, only time will tell.

Re:What about MS in this deal (1)

jsnorman (130339) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582481)

Alas, it is more complicated than merely protecting RH's invention.

By publishing they could protect the specific invention at least in so far as publication would establish a date of invention that would be incontrovertable. But what would prevent MS (or IBM, Sun, etc. but really, we all worry about MS) from claiming a patent on a prior invention that (MS would claim) both predated and anticipated RH's invention?

More critical, though, is the reality of patent warfare. If and when RH is sued, they need something to sue back with. Something broad, something interesting, something valid, etc. The more the better. That way, you can sue back -- or at least have a bargaining chip to offer for settlement. It is truly an arms race.

Re:What about MS in this deal (1)

BCoates (512464) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582516)

But what would prevent MS (or IBM, Sun, etc. but really, we all worry about MS) from claiming a patent on a prior invention that (MS would claim) both predated and anticipated RH's invention?

Nothing prevents MS, etc. from doing that anyway, except for the patent office's notoriously lax investigations of new patents.

More critical, though, is the reality of patent warfare. [...] It is truly an arms race.

Undefended patents are lost... Won't RH have to sue (or get a licence agreement out of) anyone who infringes on these patents in the meantime, in order to preserve them for the fight against MS?

--
Benjamin Coates

Re:What about MS in this deal (2)

3seas (184403) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582468)

It would be much easier and cost effective to establish it as prior art. There are other ways to protect intellectual property intended for the "commons" or GPL then going to the patent office.

As we all know current IP laws are designed for the purpose of being able to apply constraints, that is to say "no. you cannot use".

Perhaps the greatest value of this is to preceive it as a test of weither or not a company can or will follow the FSF/GNU/GPL spirit.

Thee is always Debian.

Steal what patent? (1)

jemele (577932) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582578)

You mean this:(?)

An atomic look-up operation allows an application to find out whether a file is opened atomically based on whether or not the file path is present in a file system namespace cache. If not, the file open request can be redirected, avoiding or minimizing impacts to the scheduling of various operations involved in executing an application

Oh shit, I think I've stolen it a hundred times:

snip: class APalmCatCache; class ALinkMasterCache; /snip

... except mine applies to db's - not filesystems. Hey! wait! That is novel!

wtf??? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582415)



???

what the heck does this do??

ephedrine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582418)

Last weekend I got a call from my good friend "G", letting me know he had come across some grade-A thrill pills. My e stash had run out the day before and rather than prepare for a boring day, I found some car keys and headed over. [faggotry.com]

15 minutes later I arrive at his house. G answers the door with a sort of odd-smile. I could tell this was going to be good! Get inside, G starts talking. Several minutes later, he finally shuts up and goes back to his bedroom to get the stuff. He comes back with some "Xenadrines." He tells me his cousin got a hookup through his part-time job at GNC.

I opened two capsuls- 40 mgs- and administered them sublingually. Horrible, horrible taste. But G told me, it is the only way to go right with them. We sit down and watch judge jewdy.

A half hour passes, nothing yet. I'm a little bored now, so I go outside and have a cigarette. After I'm done, I decide it is time to go home, this sucks. But as I got up out of his plastic shit deck chair, it hit me. Wooh, this was weird. As I looked around, my head wouldn't stop moving in jerks, wtf!

I go inside and am ammidiatly accosted by his lava lamp. woh. Two seconds later though, I am on the next floor of the house. G seems to have calmed down a bit and is talking to his girlfriend on the phone. I grab the phone from him and we two talk about life for about a half hour.

After this, I was feeling really good, but G and I decide it is time to go somewhere. He reloads with another 20mgs and we get in his car and head into town. We stop at a gas station and I go inside to buy some cigarettes and poland spring to replenish my levels. Well, as it turns out I could hardly talk straight enough to ask for pall malls. The clerk ends up giving me marlboro reds, and rather than make a larger ass of myself, I quickly pay and leave.

We went over to another friend's house and the rest of the trip is pretty much a blur.

Software Patents = Bad (2, Insightful)

smcavoy (114157) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582420)

Is it not agreed in OSS community that software patents are bad?? The argument that their protecting the community is garbage. The money effort should be put into fighting software patents.

typo? (2)

BCoates (512464) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582421)

Is it just me or do both patents end with the patch for the atomic file lookup?

--
Benjamin Coates

Is "atomic file look-up" something new? (2)

jc42 (318812) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582424)

They don't seem to define quite what it means, but as near as I can tell, it's pretty much the same thing as the atomup updates that database systems have been doing for a few decades.

What is there in Red Hat's patent application that is actually new?

Sounds like they have become ignorant... (1)

numbuscus (466708) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582426)

...to the community from which the spawned. I can understand them trying to 'protect' their 'intellectual property' from other firms such as M$, I would just like to urge them to remain sympathetic to the 'cause' and offer their software as a *service*. If they don't, there is little chance they could catch up with true, open source options such as Apache.

What's so special about TUX that they could patent it? Sorry for MY ignorance.

Re:Sounds like they have become ignorant... (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582539)

What's so special about TUX that they could patent it? Sorry for MY ignorance.

"A Method for getting non-employees to do write software that you resell"

What if this could defeat GNU license? (3, Insightful)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582427)

I just had an unecessarily alarmist thought. Could this be used to defeat the GNU license? Sure, you still release your source code under the GNU license, but also charge everyone for using 'your' patents.

Re:What if this could defeat GNU license? (5, Insightful)

JordanH (75307) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582455)

  • I just had an unecessarily alarmist thought. Could this be used to defeat the GNU license? Sure, you still release your source code under the GNU license, but also charge everyone for using 'your' patents.

I don't think so, but maybe I don't understand what you're getting at. I think these clauses from the GPL [gnu.org] pretty much cover this potential problem (along with the GPL as a whole and the associated rights that everyone are granted who receives GPLd code):

7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

If any portion of this section is held invalid or unenforceable under any particular circumstance, the balance of the section is intended to apply and the section as a whole is intended to apply in other circumstances.

It is not the purpose of this section to induce you to infringe any patents or other property right claims or to contest validity of any such claims; this section has the sole purpose of protecting the integrity of the free software distribution system, which is implemented by public license practices. Many people have made generous contributions to the wide range of software distributed through that system in reliance on consistent application of that system; it is up to the author/donor to decide if he or she is willing to distribute software through any other system and a licensee cannot impose that choice.

This section is intended to make thoroughly clear what is believed to be a consequence of the rest of this License.

8. If the distribution and/or use of the Program is restricted in certain countries either by patents or by copyrighted interfaces, the original copyright holder who places the Program under this License may add an explicit geographical distribution limitation excluding those countries, so that distribution is permitted only in or among countries not thus excluded. In such case, this License incorporates the limitation as if written in the body of this License.

ooohhhh... quoting the GPL on Slashdot... (-1:Karmawhore)

Re:What if this could defeat GNU license? (2)

mikeee (137160) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582465)

No, I don't think so. If we have to pay Redhat to use it, they can't distribute with violating the GPL. Oddly, if Redhat has patented Linux, I can still distribute it (but you can be sued by them for using); however I think they have to grant a royality-free license for Linux use in order to be able to distribute it themselves, (Alan Cox said something to this effect in a discussion on the real-time Linux patents, IIRC).

I suspect this is just a defensive move to protect Linux from somebody else patenting its algorythms, and maybe to get a MAD thing going with other software vendors where RH can retaliate if they start to enforce other patents against Linux.

Re:What if this could defeat GNU license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582524)

You actually just had an unnecessary thought. The GPL forces you to essentially give up (or rather, provide a free license for) rights on the code you release. If the work is patented, you are obligated to protect the users of the code from the patents (which, if they're your patents, isn't terribly difficult).

Summary (3, Informative)

Triskaidekaphobia (580254) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582429)


The first, "Embedded protocol objects", seems to be saying that if you have a webpage that consists of dynamic and static content then the static content can be cached for faster access. Hardly novel.

The first, "Method and apparatus for atomic file look-up", basically says that it is a good idea if you can see if something is in a cache before requesting the operation that would put it in the cache. Again, not particularly revolutionary.

Re:Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582535)

Do you have examples where this has already been implemented? This is not a criticism. I'm thinking more along the lines of something that would defeat their application because it already presently exists.

Most patents are crap. Personally, I think IP issues are the reason the US is/was in a recession. I mean, hell, there's a patent on how to move CDs from one location to another using essentially a 2 axis arm. Ooo. Guess what? Patent office approved it. There's got to be a jukebox out there that already did this. I find that more insulting that one-click.

Re:Summary (2, Insightful)

Triskaidekaphobia (580254) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582553)

No, I don't have examples.

The 2nd one is probably the one most likely to have prior art. You'd need to find software which has a cache and which has a "if it isn't in the cache, don't do it at all" codepath.

Personally, I don't mind software patents too much. True, there are some well publicised stupidities; but I feel they do offer protection to smaller inventors.

Pushy companies. (3, Insightful)

Decimal (154606) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582434)

Red Hat is the Microsoft of Linux... Ironically, this makes it the best weapon Linux has against Microsoft.

Re:Pushy companies. (1)

JordanH (75307) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582476)

Agreed. This is not a bad thing as long as RedHat only uses their patents defensively.

Surely, RedHat and others must be concerned about patent suits creating huge clouds of FUD surrounding OSS. Without some patents of their own to attack with, it could be something that could trip them up seriously at some point.

and from the looks of it (1)

waspleg (316038) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582435)

it's also been awhile

Filed: August 22, 2001

if they were gonna open this stuff up i think they would have already

and after reading both filings i can safely say i have fucking idea what they're patenting, descriptions being pretty vague, anyone else knwo what these patents are for?

Re:and from the looks of it (2, Insightful)

SwellJoe (100612) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582484)

it's also been awhile


Filed: August 22, 2001

if they were gonna open this stuff up i think they would have already


Where have you been, man? This stuff has been opened up. It is in development kernels already. Heck it might even be in the shipping Red Hat kernel (TUX was offered in my most recent Red Hat installation, and these patents regard nifty stuff Ingo wrote for TUX).

These things are a part of the kernel. Red Hat can't help but open it up.

Re:and from the looks of it (1)

waspleg (316038) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582542)

why did they file for patents if it's part of the kernel? isn't it already covered by a license =)

So what? (1)

GravySkin (516381) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582437)

Let them patent it. Let them charge money for it. Does it make Linux less useful or more useful? Just because Linux is free does not mean that every fucking program ever compiled to run on it must be. Get your head out of your asses and start thinking about making a buck, feeding a family, running a successful business.

Re:So what? (1)

Triskaidekaphobia (580254) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582448)

Who says they're going to charge a licensing fee. They could be defensive - if RH hold the patent, then an evil person can't come along, patent the idea and demand fees.

The demand for fees might fail because of prior art, but claiming the patent first is probably cheaper and easier than fighting subsequent battles.

Re:So what? (1)

michael (troll) (579023) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582460)

Right. Red Hat is the most used corporate distrobution. Why? Cause corporate managers like big companies... it gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when doing things like, say, choosing operating systems. Just go to your boss and suggest installing something called "Slackware" on your servers and just note the way he looks at you! Red Hat has a big red logo, their software comes in nice pretty boxes, they offer live, humanoid support, and most of all, like is mentioned in this article, there is money transfer somewhere. That makes your boss raise his eyebrows... remember, every corporate manager is the pointy-haried boss from Dilbert&reg. Likewise, I think SuSE is the European Red Hat. They don't even let you download ISOs! But they are a great distro... but you gotta pay up!! Remember... some things ARE worth paying for.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582472)


As just another closed source, proprietary software
company, RedHat will be an utter failure. Microsoft
already has that market locked up. Remaining
different may marginalize them somewhat, but
competing head-on will destroy them.

Re:So what? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582480)

spoken like the ignorant greedy fucking thoughtless capitalist you are. all i can think of is fucking your family with a shovel up their asses.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582529)

Bravo. Ok, it's stated a bit more coarsely than I would have, but the sentiment is there. OSS is for the most part fantastic, but it doesn't do everything people want/need. If you don't want to pay, make do with whatever other solutions you can come up with, but for deity's sake stop jumping on everyone because they decide they want to *sell* software that happens to function on your OS of choice. Sheesh.

[eg, I'll be buying StarOffice as well as continuing to use OpenOffice. Why? Because I need to be able to tell my customers, with some authority, what the differences are so they can make an informed decision]

evil empire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582441)

Can someone spell "Evil Empire"? :-) Let's see how they use those patents before we pass judgement.

Unfortunately... (2, Interesting)

Groucho (1038) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582442)

...they are looking towards the future.

If the US patent office allows you to patent knives and forks, RH is assuming that they will have to patent the spork to guarantee their future rights to use it without paying royalties.

This just shows how sick the patent process is at the moment. I only wonder why someone hasn't patented callable functions--prior art hasn't seemed to be much of an obstacle in the past.

G

Prior art. (5, Insightful)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582443)

There's something I do not understand about patents, like, how on earth can this be patented? Specifically the first patent:

"Dynamic and static protocol objects are mixed together at a server and included in a dynamic reply to a communication request made by a client application."

Ahhhhm, so a client requests something and a reply is made that is partially dynamic and partially static? So, like php then? Like perl cgi pages? Like any reporting engine ever written?

And, check this out, step by step explainations of how the code works. This shit only exists to keep lawyers happy.

Don't get it.
Dave

What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582444)

Intel, IBM, Sony, Philips, et al file for thousands of patents every year. I say go for it, Red Hat.
You are in business to make money. Do what you have to do. That's reality.

The big deal isn't the patent... (1)

flatlineloc (581456) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582445)

It's what they do with it. I hope redhat sticks to the open source model, but if they need revenues to remain in business we may see them be forced to "villify" themselves. They already seem to at least try to do a lot of good for the opensource community, pushing linux in schools, donating training resources... I think we can cut them a little slack. Yea, I know slippery slope and all that.

Re:The big deal isn't the patent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582471)

No, I don't agree. I think it would be good if Red Hat played hardball, and culled some of the weaker players from
the field. A little bit of consolidation would be good for Linux. Leaner, meaner, tougher. Take no prisoners.

Hard to say... (3, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582447)

Back when RedHat was a privately owned company, I'd have had little trouble believing that any software patents they acquired would be used for White Hat purposes only.

But RedHat is a publicly-traded company now, so it has the same "duty to the shareholders" that every other large corporation in the U.S. has. Hence, I have a lot less faith in the company regarding the use of stuff like software patents only for Good. In short, I won't be surprised at all if they use these patents to smack down other commercial Linux distributions, all for Profit at Any Cost.

Only if a Good Guy retains a controlling share of the company would that not apply.

I'm far from being a Redhat apologist... (5, Insightful)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582449)

I don't even like redhat linux. At all.

But, as much as I dislike their product, I just get the strange feeling inside, that their company isn't run by the complete and utter assholes we see everywhere else.

To suspect them of pulling any dirty is just damn wrong. Maybe it's just me wanting at least one company out there to be ethical, some really corny wishful thinking on my part, but what have they ever done to you? They deserve an an apology.

Besides, they might be able to stick it to M$ somehow...

Re:I'm far from being a Redhat apologist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582518)

...but what have they ever done to you?

RPM ;)

Re:I'm far from being a Redhat apologist... (2)

reaper20 (23396) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582564)

To suspect them of pulling any dirty is just damn wrong.

Not to mention if they were, I'm sure some of the more vocal redhat employees would say something about it.

If Alan Cox doesn't even want to come to the USA because of ridiculous idealism (DMCA) - do we really think he wouldn't say anything about Red Hat doing unethical things?

One of Red Hats strengths is the brain trust of talented linux hackers - even if some PHB jerk were to start closing parts of Red Hat Linux tomorrow, methinks we'd see a huge exodus of talented people leaving Red Hat.

This has been proposed in the past as a defense. (5, Insightful)

SwellJoe (100612) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582450)

I recall a few year back, this was discussed amongst GNU folks, and others as a mechanism to prevent proprietary vendors from locking 'us' (us being Open Source developers, users and businesses) out of important inventions.

I have only seen one 'iffy' thing ever come out of Red Hat (the RHN server, which is an in-house secret...though they appear to be helpful with the Current developers), so I tend to believe they have no intention of using this offensively against Open Source companies or users.

Besides, I seem to recall the GPL protects us against anyone integrating incompatibly licensed code into GPL software. TUX is part of the Linux kernel, thus it cannot be restricted or fees enforced on its use. Red Hat would have a bear of a time rewriting TUX independently of the kernel (Ingo could do it, of course), but the damage is done. Those inventions (and inventions they are...Ingo does really cool stuff, this isn't a one-click patent folks) are already in the development kernels. We (the community) already own these developments.

So, what I'm trying to say is:

Thank you very much, Ingo and Red Hat. I am very appreciative of the interesting inventions you have given to us. I forward to learning about them, using them, and enjoying the benefits they give us. And boy, that sure was clever of you to patent it, so that Microsoft will have a bit of trouble stepping on your toes in the future. Way to play hardball!

Doesn't matter (5, Informative)

awptic (211411) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582464)

The GPL requires anyone holding a patent on the software to allow others to freely use/modify it.
From the GPL license:

Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software
patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free
program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the
program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any
patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all.


The only thing this patent prevents is from others creating proprietary versions of the technology in question; which, IMO, is a Good Thing(tm). In fact, in the thread about this on the LKML someone brought up that the FSF even encourages doing this.

Re:Doesn't matter (2)

Zapdos (70654) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582494)

The GPL requires anyone holding a patent on the software to allow others to freely use/modify it.
From the GPL license:

Yes on that piece of software, but not on the methods or technology.

Re:Doesn't matter (2, Informative)

MisterBlister (539957) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582552)

In fact, in the thread about this on the LKML someone brought up that the FSF even encourages doing this.

Whoever brought that up is full of shit. RMS is against software patents, period, end of story.

Yeah RMS isn't the entire FSF, but he basically sets the policy. And you won't find any official documentation or website backing up that claim that the FSF encourages patents on Free software.

Please refrain from passing along bogus info like that in the future unless you can back it up....

Pot. Kettle. Black. (1, Flamebait)

toupsie (88295) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582466)

Gee, this is something that you would hear Linux Zealots bashing Mac Zealots for. Sure it isn't Mandrake, SuSE or Slackware doing the dirty deed. Like the frog in the frying pan, this is the first notch on the burner. Profit for these sort of companies relies on them being able to differentiate themselves from their competition. Staking down differences with patents is a common step for "Evil Closed Source OS" companies. Apple and Microsoft do it all the time. RedHat is following their path.

Welcome to the club, RedHat. Don't worry, I still love ya on my cheap x86 servers. Your ISOs power my lot. I would hate to waste my Macs for the same job. However, the Xserve [apple.com] is an appealing option for the future. Rack 'n Roll!

Protection against MS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582467)

I wonder, if any, what impacts this will have on MS placing IIS 6.0 at the kernel level?

...but no I don't agree with software patents either. With RH first attacking other distros with their discount and now them placing patents on software...I wonder if we will see RH as the next MS (- the security problems and - the whole stealing software thing) in a decade or so?

License terms. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582469)

One has to wonder (if their patents are granted) what their licensing terms will be.... free for open source, or a tool to try and screw other Linux distros?"

What's the big deal? The GPL is pretty clear on this:
So, Redhat can't use these patents in an abusive manner unless they're going to release this stuff in some kind of software that's released under a GPL-incompatible license.

Last i checked, Redhat had a policy of releasing software they write under Free Software licenses. So unless i'm badly mistaken, or Redhat is moving away from Free Software, which i haven't heard they were doing, then this is nothing at all to worry about.

Now, if redhat were going to announce they were going to start writing software and releasing it under non-free licenses, i would be worried indeed.

But for now.. Haven't you people ever heard of a defensive patent? Maybe a bit unecessary, maybe a bit worrying, but this isn't the end of the world.

- super ugly ultraman anonymous cowards filtered. if their comments aren't worth so much as a nom de plume why should i read them?

Damn right they should file patents (5, Insightful)

tjwhaynes (114792) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582477)

So Redhat has done some significant work on the TUX webserver and it's patentable. They should DEFINTELY file those patents.

Now don't get me wrong. Software patents are generally bad news - they are too long (even 10 years in software is an eternity) and a lot aren't even worth the paper they are written on. But for the software industry today they are part and parcel of developing software and protecting the work that a software company has put in.

Patents aren't like trademarks - there is no 'patent dilution' to worry about. So RedHat can be extremely selective about who is allowed to benefit from the patent (even free of charge) and who is never going to get a license. This is particularly important - MS has a vested interest in watching over a lot of the developments in the TUX webserver as TUX is the main performance competitor to IIS. If RedHat patents its best ideas, it makes a public record of the 'invention'. If MS patents something that RedHat came up with, yes, prior art may be used to fight a legal battle to have the patent nulled but that is considerably more expensive than simply patenting the good stuff first.

Now I look forward to the day when software patents last 3 years from filing (because I dont see software patents ever going away totally). I look forward to the day when all software patents are published PRIOR to the patent being awarded so that many eyes may suggest prior art challenges. But until that day comes, Free and Open source companies had better use the weapons at hand to protect their assets. And if that means filing patents so be it.

Cheers,

Toby Haynes

You build a Project. (2)

Zapdos (70654) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582482)

Patent it before someone else does, or lose it.

Re:You build a Project. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582526)

I think the USPTO has plenty of prior art, though.

Re:You build a Project. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582562)

Uhh, shit, that was supposed to go on the next thread :)

Honest third party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582488)

Amazon, Redhat and numerous others seem to be trying to get away with claiming software patents "to stop others doing it first".

Is there not a place for an independent third party organisation *committed to the freedom of software* that would hold these patents for these *allegedly pro-freedom* patent holders, but in effect give out completely free licenses to use the patents ?

Lawyers suck.

Sounds like what MS did. (2)

Rebel Patriot (540101) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582498)

Gotta hand it to RedHat, they may have finally found a way to make money. In a world where most every commercial distro is loosing money (or barely floating along) by playing ball the old way, RedHat has turned to a new game it would seem. Here we basically have far and away the largest commercial linux distro. They have appeared to many to be the hero of the commercial linux world. Now they are showing they're not in this business to be anyone's hero (unlike Loki). They are in it to make money.

It reminds me of how MS came along in the very early days with dirt cheap prices and was basically the savior of the microcomputer world. before then nothing existed beyond Unix. Unix was EXPENSIVE! DOS was comparatively cheap. Microsoft seemed like everyone's buddy back then, before they started to charge exorbitant fees and put an iron-tight contract in their software in the form of a EULA.

Since RedHat is in this world to turn a profit (and make no mistake about it, offering your products for free isn't very profitable), they are looking at an alternative way to produce. Will they be the next restrictive MS, or is this simply a neccessary "evil"?

read: Welcome to the real world (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582503)

Open souce .. mmmhmm. Welcome to the real world

A counter action to MS anti-GPL license. (2)

3seas (184403) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582511)

If this is a counter action to be used against MS anti-GPL license then it really should be held by a well defined pro GPL party, such as the FSF.

Let's not jump to conclusions? (1)

mountainhouse (561889) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582512)

I think you need more information from RH before you can judge them. Certainly, patents are inconsistent with free software. BTW, if you're looking for more patent info:

http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/

Unfortunately, RH and SuSE seem to want to play in the big server world (e.g. with IBM and HP). Those companies have so many patents, it can become necessary to have your own to use as "bargaining chips". It's not right, but you have to do it to survive It seems like you have to wait and see how they handle licensing to determine their intentions. On the other hand, with their past involvement with the Open Source community, one would hope they might make their intentions clear now, with some sort of statement. An example of a company that opposes patents, but feels the need to file them defensively:

http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/Patents/testimony/statemen ts / racle.statement.html (I'm not sure this is still Oracle's position)

Lawyer tricks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582513)

The drive behind obtaining a patent is first and foremost the need to match the number of patents held by another company in the same market, the company with the most patents wins... or at least has better odds of twarting potential law suits when the competitors stock price dips too low. So if you can split an "original" concept into serveral patents all the better. I'm not a lawyer, but this is the reason our lawyer gave for patenting our "original" technology.
-Matt

This probably wouldn't happen, but... (1)

fidget42 (538823) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582533)

could it be used as in the exact oposite of M$'s "shared source" licenses? I.e., You can use these patents for GPL'd products only and not for profit. That would allow products such as Apache to use them, but they could sue M$ if they incorporated them in their software.

Just a thought.

Heh (1)

MisterBlister (539957) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582534)

If this were Microsoft, Sun, or anyone else, you'd all be flaming them like crazy! Since its a LINUX company, most of the posts are of the variety "Well I'm sure Red Hat won't do anything bad with this..." and "Well, I'm sure its just for protection...".

Hah!

These patents are wrong. Even if Red Hat doesn't ever sue anyone, they just add to the fear and confusion software developers will face when they go to implement similar concepts -- even in Open Source projects! And whose to say the Red Hat of 5 years from now, under new management, won't go and start suing projects that use these techniques now retroactively? This isn't a trademark..So they COULD do that..

Is Red Hat going to sign contracts with any software developers who wish to implement these techniques saying they WONT sue them in the future? If they don't, you HAVE to assume they WILL sue you sometime in the future, even if the current management has all the best intentions!

Trivial software patents are DEAD WRONG. These are trivial software patents. Red Hat is WRONG. They won't see money from me in the future, EVER unless they somehow alter this situation.

And the patent-for-protection argument doesn't hold water..All they'd have to do is publish these techiques in some public place (I'm sure one of the Linux journals would give them space for this) to ensure prior art is on record.

My guess is they want to get involved in the cross-patent licensing game... Which is simply evil in general and hurts OSS developers more than anyone.

In short, fuck you Red Hat.

Re:Heh (Evil Doers) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582573)

Anyone notice that a good bulk of slashdotters have the similar simplistic moral values of George Bush? Every thing they dislike is 'evil' and of course we know who the evil doers are..

So i guess the question is... Should redhat be included in the axis of evil?

good times.

An excellent strategy (3, Interesting)

Peter Eckersley (66542) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582543)

Well, software patents are deeply flawed - they do nothing to encourage innovation, but they are used collectively to protect organisations against other software patents (sue us,and we'll sue you).

Given that they appear to be the way of the future (even in Europe, the organised eurolinux campaign seems to be struggling to hold off the "overly enthusiastic" patent office), the Free Software community should definitely use them when they discover nifty algorithms.

As someone above pointed out, the GPL guarantees that any GPL-dependent organisation (such as RedHat) will have to license software patents on a royalty-free basis for GPL software. It would be better to license them for all DFSG-free [debian.org] code. Note that such a license would not apply if, for example, Microsoft took some *BSD code an incorporated it in Win2k, because it's no longer DFSG-free.

The only question then is whether you charge royalties to proprietary software firms for use of the patented techniques, or whether you exclude them completely...

And I just had SQUID for lunch... (0, Offtopic)

jemele (577932) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582555)

An atomic look-up operation allows an application to find out whether a file is opened atomically based on whether or not the file path is present in a file system namespace cache. If not, the file open request can be redirected, avoiding or minimizing impacts to the scheduling of various operations involved in executing an application

and my cock is fourteen feet long; novel enough?

Gilmore Patent (3, Interesting)

geoffsmith (161376) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582558)

I think Redhat should Gilmore Patent these ideas. The Gilmore Patent was proposed by John Gilmore ( I saw him present this idea at a Foresight Conference ) Basic concept is that a Gilmore Patent is like the GPL of the patent world, once you Gilmore Patent something only companies who have Gilmore Patents (or no patents at all) may use the patent royalty-free.

The only thing that concerns me about this idea is that it seems like it might be easily circumventable, you could do something like set up a subsidiary that doesn't have any patents, and then funnel the money back to the parent company. Any IP lawyers out there have a feasibility assessment of this idea?

Websurfing done right! StumbleUpon [stumbleupon.com]

What's wrong with software patents anyway? (2, Interesting)

RelliK (4466) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582559)

Could somebody please explain to me why software should be excluded from patenting? If it's a legitimate innovation (i.e. not Microsoft "innovation") why shouldn't it be patentable?

It is a separate matter that the vast majority of the software patents are absolute garbage (like the (in)famous one-click shopping), but so are the patents in other areas (like Rambus, and that guy who patented sideways swinging...)

Re:What's wrong with software patents anyway? (2)

BCoates (512464) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582571)

Because patents are for inventions, and programs aren't inventions any more than books (which are not patentable) or math formulas (ditto) are.

--
Benjamin Coates

Who cares? (-1)

Mao Zedong (467890) | more than 11 years ago | (#3582565)

To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting. [slashdot.org]

Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

I. The Stile of this Confederacy shall be

"The United States of America"

II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

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XI. Canada acceding to this confederation, and adjoining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.

XII. All bills of credit emitted, monies borrowed, and debts contracted by, or under the authority of Congress, before the assembling of the United States, in pursuance of the present confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said United States, and the public faith are hereby solemnly pleged.

XIII. Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.

And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know Ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said Confederation are submitted to them. And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.

In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands in Congress. Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Eight, and in the Third Year of the independence of America.

Agreed to by Congress 15 November 1777 In force after ratification by Maryland, 1 March 1781

The GPL trumps all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3582574)

And the reason there's never any 'serious' threat to it is because it was damned well written, at least in legalese. ;)

Anyway, I'm a less than avid RH user. I got hooked on them back in the day, and, well, you know how that is. I've currently got three boxes running it. I'd love to switch, but three boxes? Damnit, I don't want to go through that again (Hell of a lot easier to keep one distro - one download of sec updates.)

It always amuses me when people refer to RH as some sort of 'Microsoft' or 'Evil Empire'.

Right, considering the amount of stuff RH's given to the community? They don't deserve crap like this.

Ah well, most of the complainers are either source-zealots (Sure, I'd love to do non-binary as well, but I have these two things called a life and a 56k modem. I could get rid of one easily, but I'll wait for 'real' broadband rather than pay outrageous cable charges ;)).. And people like Mandrake users.

You'd be surprised how many Mandrake users I've met that whine about RedHat. Heh.

Slackware is, well, Slackware. Debian? Where's the support? Mandrake installs everything including the kitchen sink. Got broadband? If not, don't try Gentoo. Suse is great if you've got a DVD drive and a few hours to select packages, if not, prepare for a few days and lots of disc swapping. RedHat, well, damnit, I can't say that I *want* gnome, and wish the darned binaries for half the critical things a Linux box needs weren't tied in to their gnome rpms.

Every distribution serves a purpose. Now, if only we could get elitist bastards to spread FUD against companies who deserve it..
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