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Perens Dismisses Torvald's Patent Pool

CmdrTaco posted about 9 years ago | from the he-should-start-a-non-profit-asap dept.

Patents 286

ficken writes "Open source activist Bruce Perens has dismissed as inadequate a new IP initiative backed by Linus Torvalds. The Open Source Development Labs' (OSDL) patent commons project is intended to provide patent protection to open source developers. Perens, speaking at LinuxWorld, compared the patent pool to "spitting in the wind" -because the patents it contained come from "the wrong people.""

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Stop the infighting (5, Insightful)

Yo Maing (721828) | about 9 years ago | (#13312183)

It's dissapointing to hear this event played up for the media's benefit. I read this article yesterday and while Perens' comments seem out of place, the open source community needs to work together instead of becoming splintered with bad press like this.

Re:Stop the infighting (3, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | about 9 years ago | (#13312203)

Wrong. Having the community work together doesn't really help here -- IBM cannot use its patents to attack any possible foes due to agreements and mutual assured destruction.

Re:Stop the infighting (2, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | about 9 years ago | (#13312277)

Perens is right though. The idea is a good one, but what's needed isn't patents from IBM and Sun, but patents from regular human beings who have never signed an agreement with Microsoft that would keep the patents from being usable in a lawsuit.

Re:Stop the infighting (2, Insightful)

CountBrass (590228) | about 9 years ago | (#13312330)

Actually they're both wrong.

Let's face Linus may be a great project manager (although that's dubious: I'd expect a pm to be a bit more of a diplomat and have a lot less ego) but he's clueless when it comes to the basis of FS/OS: look at the Bitkeeper debacle: a tool he mandated blew up in exactly the way fs advocates would predict. And now he's promoting a patent pool on the same basis which is: if you can't beat them join them.

If I want to hear an informed opinion about OS/FS issues Linus is pretty much the last person I'd turn to.

Re:Stop the infighting (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312423)

Let's face it. You are an idiot.

Re:Stop the infighting (2, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | about 9 years ago | (#13312431)

"look at the Bitkeeper debacle: a tool he mandated blew up in exactly the way fs advocates would predict. "

Because of those FS advocates. It's no different if a friend (and I use the term loosely) tells you not to buy a new Ford Mustang, and then steals it when you do. That's what we call fucked up.

"And now he's promoting a patent pool on the same basis which is: if you can't beat them join them. "

Which works. Face it, with MAD agreements with half the software companies out there, patent litigation is somewhat negated. It's not full proof (lone inventors/companies without agreements will still pose a challenge), but it offers some comfort that a number of the big boys will not come knocking.

Do I think this strategy will be successful in the long run? To a limited extent. But I'd be lying if I said that Linux will not be facing a war soon. And unlike MS, it does not have deep enough pockets to fight off all its challengers.

Re:Stop the infighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312613)

Don't be silly. The Linux community now includes IBM, Novell, Intel, HP. If you think they will allow MS to destroy Linux, you need to think again.

Re:Stop the infighting (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312389)

shut the fuck up karma whore and you didnt even get modded up

heres a pic of linus working on some linux source code at his computer. initially microsoft payed the private eye to capture linus' fat ass making bloated linux code []

also uncovered, perens and torvalds personal gay porn site []

Re:Stop the infighting (5, Interesting)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | about 9 years ago | (#13312518)

I agree.

Perens is simply keeping his name in the press.

While some of his remarks may be partially correct - namely, that it's not terribly useful to have a patent portfolio built from people who already support OSS - his primary mission here is simply to denigrate some useful work.

Where are his solutions to the problem? I see lots of criticism and no ideas from him.

Eben Moglen, at LinuxWorld this past week, outlined a program involving not merely the Patent Commons Project, but attempts to change patent laws and to actually reverse patents that are of particular threat to OSS.

Perens concentrates only on the Patent Commons Project, and ignores the rest. This proves his only motive is to start a flame war.

Nothing like handing Microsoft some talking points, Bruce. Way to go.

Re:Stop the infighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312577)

Exactly, perens, raymond, etc. should be ignored and air time given to those that are actually contributing something to OSS besides hot air.

oh yeah! (-1, Troll)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | about 9 years ago | (#13312184)

Bitch fight!!

Poor Linus. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312188)

Why are so many people mean to him and what he is trying to do!

Because Linux sucks? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312291)

Fact: People who run Mac OS X do not spend their days arguing IP/Patent/Copyright/License issues. We just get our computing done.

Fact: If Linux on the desktop was going to go anywhere, it would have done it by now. In more than ten years of existence, Linux has failed to break one percent.

Re:Because Linux sucks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312483)

"Fact: People who run Mac OS X do not spend their days arguing IP/Patent/Copyright/License issues. We just get our computing done.

Fact: If Linux on the desktop was going to go anywhere, it would have done it by now. In more than ten years of existence, Linux has failed to break one percent."

Please please PLEASE go and look up the definition of a fact (Hint: something that can be quantified by non-subjective evidence)! These are YOUR opinions, writing "FACT:" at the start of them does not change this.
You're one of the people giving the majority of Mac Users (the ones who actually ARN'T up their own asses) a bad name.

"We just get our computing done." Sounds like all you get done is a quick ego boost when you post on /.

Re:Because Linux sucks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312579)



Re:Because Linux sucks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312591)

Hardly. Keep trying though, it's kind of fun shooting down comments like that.

Oh, btw, at least try and make the come back a little better. That was kind of like saying "Yeah, yeah...well you smell!" and running away.

Re:Because Linux sucks? (0, Flamebait)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | about 9 years ago | (#13312541)

You're a moron.

Linux has only been capable of functioning on the desktop for the last two years or so.

It DOES take time to get to a usable state. Did you expect Linux to be full-blown from the brow of Zeus?

No, you're just a paid Windows troll masquerading as a Macnut.

Fuck off, moron. Go back to Bill and tell him you lose.

I don't get patents (4, Funny)

skynare (777361) | about 9 years ago | (#13312189)

I'm not a prograwyer...

Re:I don't get patents (4, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 9 years ago | (#13312263)

I think you mean "lawrammer"

Only the bravest of people... (4, Funny)

rob_squared (821479) | about 9 years ago | (#13312196)

...submit stories that read as flamebait on slashdot.

(since I've been modded in all sorts of directions today, this is an observation, not a troll, flamebait, or anything else negative)

Re:Only the bravest of people... (3, Interesting)

LewsTherinKinslayer (817418) | about 9 years ago | (#13312221)

...submit stories that read as flamebait on slashdot.

Flamebait is also known as the catalyst to heated debate. And while there is a difference between something being said just to stir up the bee hive and constructive pondering and comments, I think its important that people don't automatically dismiss a subject with "strong" proponents and opponents as flamebait.

Re:Only the bravest of people... (0)

NitsujTPU (19263) | about 9 years ago | (#13312359)


You outrageous idiots, with your views of what flamebait is, and isn't.  I can't stand you.  I can't stand looking at you.  I hate everything you stand for.

It's people like you who killed my goldfish when I was 5!!

I hope you rot in prison for 640 years, just like that spammer, and all of those kids who figured out the administrative passwords to the laptops their school districts gave them.

You'll hear from my lawyer.

Re:Only the bravest of people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312638)

I agree the article was clearly a troll, not a flamebait.

Patent it all or none (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312224)

In the end, one has to choose:
either patent it all, including software or don't allow patents on anything. There is no valid reason for making a difference.

Also, either patents should be valid worldwide or they shouldn't be valid at all, for obvious trade competition equity.

Given the current way the world is working, I would tend to tink that everything should be patentable and that patents should be valid worldwide.

Re:Patent it all or none (1)

dakkon1024 (691790) | about 9 years ago | (#13312314)

>In the end, one has to choose:
>either patent it all, including software or
>don't allow patents on anything. There is no
>valid reason for making a difference.

>Also, either patents should be valid worldwide
>or they shouldn't be valid at all, for obvious
>trade competition equity.

>Given the current way the world is working, I
>would tend to tink that everything should
be >patentable and that patents should be valid

I believe that's referred to as purism. It's
more of an OCD disorder then a clearly
thought out concept. The world, due
to the fact that we operate on beliefs,
and not absolute truths, cannot
agree on "one way" to do things. This is why
there are 50 states, different countries,
and religions. All based on belief. I believe Hitler was trying to change
all this, but I think they current system is not so bad.

The world is not just black and white.

Re:Patent it all or none (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312363)

Globalizing the economy where some state obey patents and others don't is just unfair. We have to think on alternative ways to protect initial investments or do not protect it at all.

This is not belief, as they are probably already studies (pointers anyone ?) showing the economic inefficiencies resulting from this state of matter.

How is this even remotely connected to Hitler? It is quite the opposite.

Re:Patent it all or none (2, Insightful)

dnixon112 (663069) | about 9 years ago | (#13312322)

While we're at it, all criminals should be either executed or set free. Because everything is black and white, and there's never any middle ground. Yeah.. that makes a lot of sense. /sarcasm

What you're forgetting is that there are valid reasons to differentiate between things that should be patented and things that shouldn't. In fact the patent system already takes such things into account. You cannot for example patent a mathematical algorithm. This is a valid and logical thing to dissallow from the patent system, the big problem with software patents is that software is a mix of mathematical algorithms and creative innovation. It takes careful examination to tell which side of the fence a certain program or system falls on. Yet, the patent office doesn't seem to realize this, or doesn't have the skill to deal with it, and therefore tends to grant patents that are nothing more then simple mathematical algorithms with no innovation.

When customs officials are reviewing people for acceptance into America, they check to see if you're a criminal. If you are, you won't be allowed in. Just because some people are criminals, they don't ban everyone from coming into the country, they examine the person with skilled employees on a case by case basis and make a decision. This is what the patent office *should* be doing, but they are failing and in the meantime letting all kinds of criminals into the system.

Some FUD spreading perhaps? (5, Interesting)

cc-rider-Texas (877967) | about 9 years ago | (#13312215)

He noted open source infringes on "tens of thousands" of patents granted in the US and that companies taken to court over these would "lose some of the cases."

I sure wish he would have given some examples of these "tens of thousands" because IMHO that is just a thrown out figure aka FUD.

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312275)

Sure. How many of those patents are completely bogus and undefensible in court? Perens is casting FUD. Why? Whose side is he on, anyway?

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312280)

Why? Because he makes money off selling OSS bogo-insurance.

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 9 years ago | (#13312288)

Did Perens ever have principles?

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (4, Interesting)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 9 years ago | (#13312321)

A patent only gives you the legal right to sue somebody. It doesn't give you the resources to succeed in your suit. Nor does bringing suit prevent the plaintiff from implementing a work-around for the patent. Look at what Keith Packard did with his font renderer. It avoids Apple's TrueType patent by rendering the font in a non-infringing manner.

Patent infringement isn't a serious problem for open source projects. It might be a problem for open source companies, but that's their problem.

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312408)

A patent only gives you the legal right to sue somebody.

I already have the right to sue. A patent might give me a chance of winning.

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 9 years ago | (#13312472)

Without a patent you have no right to sue someone for patent infringement. Yes, you can sue anybody for anything (and if you disagree with me, I'll sue you!!!).

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312529)

Without a patent you have no right to sue someone for patent infringement.

I'm not sure what you mean by a right in the above quote but I'm certain it can't be synonymous with the "legal right" you referred to in your earlier post. My legal right to sue you for patent infringement does not depend on me holding a patent.

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (2, Informative)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | about 9 years ago | (#13312557)

I suggest you wander over to Groklaw and get a clue about "legal standing".

Yes, if you do not have a patent or any other basis for suing somebody, your case will be kicked out of court in a heartbeat.

Not only that, you may be sued by other parties or even held in contempt of court for bringing a "frivolous lawsuit".

The idiot suing the OSS people because it's devaluing his work is in this situation now - his case is being ignored because he has no legal standing.

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 9 years ago | (#13312625)

On the face of it, you're right. You can sue anybody for anything, however if you're going to waste your filing fee in that manner, why not do something useful with your money instead, like burn it? At least that way you'd be kept warm for a few moments.

Re:Some FUD spreading perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312736)

Build a man a fire, keep him warm for a night.

Set a man on fire, keep him warm for the rest of his life.

Successful companies grab stupid patents... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312222)

... and throw some crumbs to their critics who, fighting with one another and being riddled with plagiarists (like the article's poster) and illiterates (like Perens), manage no coherent or credible objection or defence. I despair...

SLASHDOT - BORG (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312362)

Yeah, I'm glad I'd wrote that anonymously as moderation around here has become ridiculous again - 'tow the company line', or lose your karma.

It's no longer possible for discussion to happen around here...


Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312517)

Yes because your post was sooooo intelligent! Seriously, even the worse debating team would kick you out if you think that was a good comment to post. You basically attacked a bunch of people you don't know for no good reason and didn't contribute ANYTHING worthwhile to the discussion. Even if I agreed with your points I think I'd of had to mod that one down!


Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312621)

Oh, my post had less content than copying verbatim from The Register?

I have debated and have pointed out that people are just reading out word for word from third-party texts and/or making themselves look stupid through basic grammatical errors... and not been thrown off the team. In fact, in my day I was rather successful.

I have a good reason for attacking these people - they're seen as OSS proponents. We might as well give up now!

I'll take so what ? for 500.... (1)

Darkinspiration (901976) | about 9 years ago | (#13312234)

His comment is irrelevent. There is no commun initiative to protect the makers of OSS agains patent lawsuit. This is a step in the right direction. Maybe the database will be unhelpful maybe not. That's not really the point. The point is that someone is reacting in a way that could help us all. You should not dismiss theyre efforts so easely. Instead you should work toward a solution to the bigger problems. How to completely safeguard open source software maker against patent lawsuit.

Re:I'll take so what ? for 500.... (2, Insightful)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | about 9 years ago | (#13312570)


And Perens has no ideas of his own to bring to the table, so he should fuck off.

I personally doubt that just having a patent commons is going to be all that helpful once Microsoft starts suing OSS people (as they undoubtedly will once they see they have no choice left if they want to survive as a company), but it can't hurt to have one to back up the other efforts Eben Moglen outlined at LinuxWorld.

At the least, it could be used to help keep out the riff-raff - the lame smaller companies who jump on the "sue OSS" bandwagon. Eben specifically stated this project was intended to prevent SCO from happening again. And SCO certainly qualifies as a "lame smaller company."

Bruce tells the truth about OSS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312239)

"We don't take kindly to your kind of people here..."

"ficken", eh? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312243)

cool /. name...

warum bin ich nicht darauf gekommen?

Get a Life Open Source (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312261)

Perens, speaking at LinuxWorld, compared the patent pool to "spitting in the wind" -because the patents it contained come from "the wrong people."

Yes, I fear this is where the open source movement may be headed--into a nutty world where they are the chosen few, everyone else is an infidel, and Microsoft is the Great Satan. All the obsession with ideological purity we saw in French Revolution (Great Terror) or Soviet Communism (Trotsky) will be applied to software.

These people need to "get a life." Open source is a good idea, but it isn't the Answer To Everything, nor are those who disagree necessarily evil.

G. K. Chesterton got it right when he remarked that "When people cease to believe in God, they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything." Open software is not even that important an "anything." It's just software. It won't give you good health. It won't give you a wonderful marriage and delightful kids. It won't cause you to wake up in the morning with a song in your heart. It's just bits and bytes on a hard drive.

Relax, take the time to smell the roses or whatever else you find pleasant. Don't build your life around hating the "wrong people" so much you reject their donations to a patent pool.

--Mike Perry, Untangling Tolkien

Re:Get a Life Open Source (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 9 years ago | (#13312304)

These people need to "get a life." Open source is a good idea, but it isn't the Answer To Everything, nor are those who disagree necessarily evil.

I think you're confusing the Open Source movement with the Free Software movement. Free Software is about morality. Open Source is about better software. We both want more freedom, but for different reasons.

Re:Get a Life Open Source (2, Insightful)

rk (6314) | about 9 years ago | (#13312443)

Don't build your life around hating the "wrong people" so much you reject their donations to a patent pool.

A careful reading of what Perens said will reveal what he meant by "wrong people". The people who would put such patents in a pool are already friendly to open source, and are thus least likely to start trouble for open source products.

I see his point. Putting patents in a pool like this is a noble gesture, and it's certainly useful that these patented techniques will be allowed in open source software, but it doesn't buy open source much in the way of legal protection.

Re:Get a Life Open Source (2, Insightful)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | about 9 years ago | (#13312593)

I'm not interested in distinguishing whether Bill Gates or George Bush is "the Great Satan".

An asshole is an asshole, it's that simple.

There are fanatics in everything - including Windows and Linux and OSS and interior design and poodles.

So what?

There are also idiots who like to post pompous bullshit on /. Especially when they miss the point of the discussion, as your last line does.

Perens was stating that the "wrong people" are people contributing patents to OSS who already support OSS. He would prefer Microsoft to do this. He knows Microsoft won't. His conclusion that the Patent Commons Project is worthless does not follow from his premise, but his premise is correct - and completely irrelevant to your post.

Don't build your life around trying to convince everybody to love everybody else. Ain't gonna happen.

This is like getting nukes... (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | about 9 years ago | (#13312270)

...advocated by enviromentalists and peace activists to defend their position. Perens is right, that the means are wrong although i do not agree with his numbers.

Open source advocates should lobby for no software patents, because by using the "enemy's" weapon it validates it. Do not give credibility to patents, lobby against them.

Proof by contradiction (1)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | about 9 years ago | (#13312327)

Using the "enemy's weapon" does not always invalidate a defense. After all no-one is hurt by the use of the enemies weapons in the GPL, maybe with the exceptions of those whose power of abuse is limited by the existance of the GPL.

Re:This is like getting nukes... (1)

liquidpele (663430) | about 9 years ago | (#13312357)

They should horde up as many "duh" and stupid patents that as possible, just to show how stupid the idea of software patents is, in my opinion.

Re:This is like getting nukes... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 9 years ago | (#13312370)

If I may, I will abuse your analogy a little.

If you are a country, and a potentially hostile country gets nukes, then it makes sense for you to have them too - it means that attacking you with nukes is a bad idea. Of course, another good choice is to enter an organisation such as Nato or the Warsaw Pact, where nuclear-capable nations agree to launch nuclear retaliation against anyone who starts a nuke-fight with any of them. Now, imagine that there is another player in this game, one who lives in an orbital habitat. They can easily drop nukes on anyone, but you'd have to hit them with a perfect shot to make them even notice - fall-out isn't much of an issue in space. Oh, and their habitat is movable, so the chances of hitting them are approximately nil.

To explain this analogy:

Nukes are obviously patents. Linus has tried to collect some nukes of his own. This is not really necessary, since if Microsoft (a potentially hostile nation) decided to enforce patents against Linux then people like Sun and IBM would complain - and IBM is to patents what the USA is to nukes, someone you really don't want to mess with.

The final part of this analogy is small IP-only firms. Companies that buy up a patent purely for the purpose of litigation. They don't make anything, so a defensive patent chest is useless against them. There is no real defence against them other than reform of current IP laws.

Re:This is like getting nukes... (1)

dmaxwell (43234) | about 9 years ago | (#13312405)

I've wondered if business method patents couldn't be used against some of these IP-only firms. Since there are thousands of trite business method patents to go along with all of the trite software patents, surely some of these could be stretched to apply to any business. Even a so-called business like a IP troll firm should be vulnerable to some of these.

Re:This is like getting nukes... (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | about 9 years ago | (#13312403)

You have a nice sounding analogy there but i think you made the wrong correlation. This would be more akin to stealing the enemy's weapon stock pile or designs and destroying them. rendering them powerless. also, there is no reason to assume that by taking patents you are condoning them. Condoning them would require holding them over someone to prevent them from doing their work, or, gettng paid for it. However, I believe the idea here is just to protect those who WANT to give their work away for free.

Don't need a moral victory (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 9 years ago | (#13312510)

Open source advocates should lobby for no software patents, because by using the "enemy's" weapon it validates it. Do not give credibility to patents, lobby against them.

Idealists don't win wars. MS is taking a war to linux, and as a linux user, I'd like Linux to stick around as a strong, viable OS. I don't really give a shit about the software patent movement - I think it has little chance in the US - and I don't really see a reason to weaken Linux's position and legal strength to satisfy idealists of a separate movement. No thanks.

In other words, a moral victory is neither.

Re:This is like getting nukes... (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | about 9 years ago | (#13312636)

OSDL and the other OSS organizations intend to lobby to change patent law. And they intend to actively reverse patents that threaten OSS.

So what's your point?

Eben Moglen laid out a program at LinuxWorld this past week. Perens has laid into ONE aspect of the program - the Patent Commons Project - and ignored the rest - presumably just to start a flame war.

I agree that ALL so-called "intellectual property" should have absolutely NO legal protection. But in the real world, this isn't going to happen. So OSS needs to try to defend itself any way it can.

If I produced a "killer" app - one that could put Microsoft out of business - I'd patent the algorithm and copyright the expressions of that algorithm. I'd make it all closed source until Microsoft was out of business. THEN I'd open source it. Why OSS it early and let Microsoft grab it and use their "legal" and monopoly-built financial clout to defeat it?

In martial arts, you do what is necessary to win - no matter how "dirty" the technigue. The only art I can think of that suggests doing less than that for a spiritual purpose is aikido. And even they don't suggest you give up a technigue to hamper yourself from winning.

I've often said that Lawrence Lessig is fighting with both hands tied behind his back because he supports the notion of intellectual property. And I still believe that. And I believe that supporting patents and copyright while advocating OSS is the same error.

But I don't believe that OSS should IGNORE patents while they're being actively used against it.

Who's writing these headlines? (3, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 9 years ago | (#13312273)

Obviously should have read "Perens poo-poos penguin patent pool".

"Lloyd's taking on open source IP risk" (3, Informative)

Quirk (36086) | about 9 years ago | (#13312287)

The Reg has a pertinent piece on the venerable insurance company Lloyd's [] being close offering..."independent insurance protection worldwide against potential IP litigation involving Linux and open source software".

Re:"Lloyd's taking on open source IP risk" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312390)

You can use a broker to get a lloyd's 'name' to write an insurance contract on any risk you want - already. The 'names' do take on 'custom' risks, the drawback is that the risk is rather uncertain and the cost could be potentially high for both sides...making it a more standard offering should make the premiums reflect actual risk rather than risk which includes huge uncertainty of the risk:)

He's right about one thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312292)

The patent system is seriously in need of fixing.

Having a lot of patents works because anybody who sues you over one patent can be sued by you over another patent. Microsoft sues IBM, IBM sues Microsoft. Mutually assured destruction (slight hyperbole).

Having lots of patents doesn't work if the company suing you has patents as its only business. In that case, you have nothing to blackmail them with. Having lots of your own patents is no protection at all.

Lots of people are angry about the patent system, so there is a mood to fix it. The trouble is that if it gets fixed the way Microsoft wants, we won't like it very much. Bruce may be right, we should get way more politically active.

Political Solutions (1)

MrSoundAndVision (836415) | about 9 years ago | (#13312334)

I agree with Perens statement that to the way to counter this attack on open source is through a political approach, rather than agreeing to come up with some pool of open source software.

Even with the ideal pool of open source software, there are already patents that, if enforced, would be crippling.

Lobbying politicians, however, is a joke. Does Perens really think that open source developers can out-lobby even just Microsoft? Bear in mind that lobbying is something that's ongoing, next year your favorite Democrat legislator might be beaten and then the lobbying process starts over again.

I think what we need are some open source developers in government. Seriously!

If Patent War does break loose ... (2, Insightful)

alucinor (849600) | about 9 years ago | (#13312341)

If there is a patent war, this will assure the dominance of China, India, Brazil, and Eastern Europe in both open source and software innovation in general.

A cynical part of me almost wants to see the West shoot itself in the foot with patents, but then I remind myself, "Oh wait, I live in the West."

Re:If Patent War does break loose ... (2, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | about 9 years ago | (#13312364)

Maybe you are a bit late, but didnt you notice that "eastern europe" has become "the NEW europe" and is whoring itself to the usa like no tomorrow?

Re:If Patent War does break loose ... (1)

alucinor (849600) | about 9 years ago | (#13312384)

I guess I didn't notice ... what kind of things are happening?

Re:If Patent War does break loose ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312548)

Free trade, open borders, democratic representation, capitalistic economics, that sort of thing.

Re:If Patent War does break loose ... (1)

cdn-programmer (468978) | about 9 years ago | (#13312715)

whoring my ass. If you didn't notice - Putin has decided to keep the oil reserves Russia has secret.

There is an energy war happening right now. While hopefully energy issues will not be linked to patent and OSS issues - the idea that Eastern Europe wants to hitch its wagon the the faltering USA economy and legal mess is very unlikely. Quite the opposite.

The US can do whatever it wants to and the rest of the world will put its feet up - grab a beer and vie for the popcorn stand.

Ahhhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312343) many important people.

What the article is about (5, Informative)

Roland Walter Dutton (24395) | about 9 years ago | (#13312349)

Oh Ghod, here we go again. Since the submitter hasn't given a remotely useful summary of what Bruce Perens' actual problem with the patent pool is, I will explain it here for those of you who won't RTFA.


There are two main types of possible patent agression: 1) from patent trolls and 2) from big companies with lots of software as well as lots of software patents. Let's see how our new patent pool does against each of them.

Case 1:

PATENT TROLL: Your software violates my patent on the letter 'g'. Pay me $40,000,000 to go away.

LINUS: Your software violates several thousand patents in *our* patent arsenal.

PATENT TROLL: I don't own any software; all I have is this portfolio of groundbreaking, original patents. Pony up.

Now *nobody's* patent pool is useful in case 1 (unless it just happens to contain prior art on the troll's patent). Patent pools are generally for use in case 2.

Case 2:

MICROSOFT: Your software violates 42,000 of our finest patents. Go to jail.

LINUS: Your software violates several thousand patents in *our* patent arsenal.

MICROSOFT: Oh, that's too bad. Would those be the patents loaned to you by other major software companies? The same major software companies who have given us an unlimited, perpetual license to use all their software patents in exchange for a similar license from us? Yes? Gosh, now I'm scared.

So if the Linux patent pool is no use in case 1, and no use in case 2, it's no use at all, correct?


Now I don't really know how correct Bruce Perens' position is, although on the face of it it does seem highly reasonable. What I do know is that whether you think Bruce Perens suX0r, or whether he founds too many nonprofits, or whether or not he could defeat the fscking Green Lantern, is *completely* *irrelevant* to the actual question, which is really pretty damned important. So: can we talk about the *actual* *issue* now, and not whether we like Bruce Perens?

Perens isn't a lawyer, so he is simply wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312388)

The answer is simply this: if patents are assigned to OSDL, they are not bound by any licensing agreements donators may have made to others.

Further, if programmers and vendors all donate to one common place, the pool gets bigger and bigger, and your leverage in any such type 2 scenario gets bigger as a result.

The patent commons doesn't have only defensive purposes however in the scenario you posit. There will also be a database of prior art associated with the project.

It's a good project. Those that think the only solution is to outlaw software patents, like Perens, will oppose it. Longterm, they may be right to hope for that, but Microsoft is really on the move, and it does look like patents are the weapon of choice, and something needs to be done right now, and if you think the US is going to outlaw patents any time soon, you are wrong. Given that reality, now how does the patent commons idea look?

Re:Perens isn't a lawyer, so he is simply wrong (1)

RickHunter (103108) | about 9 years ago | (#13312404)

if patents are assigned to OSDL, they are not bound by any licensing agreements donators may have made to others.

I seriously doubt that's true. That would place a large number of these companies - which have "non-agression treaty" contracts with others - in violation of contracts they've already signed. Thus, these companies would not donate any patents to the pool.

More likely, all that most of the patent licenses say is "you won't sue us if we violate these patents".

Re:Perens isn't a lawyer, so he is simply wrong (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312494)

Bruce incorrectly assumes that the only patents in the pool will be from IBM, etc. He is mistaken. He assumes the lawyers who set this up are stupid. They decidedly are not.

People who are not in the legal field need to realize that they are not qualified to give "opinions that matter" on legal issues, and for sure not off the top of their head like Bruce did. He should issue a clarification statement, in my opinion, or go down in history as clueless or a headline-seeker. It's unseemly what he did. Besides, anyone who understands patent law and has the facts on this project will know he's wrong; but the damage he has done is done. Shame.

Re:Perens isn't a lawyer, so he is simply wrong (1)

Roland Walter Dutton (24395) | about 9 years ago | (#13312546)

I'm all in favour of an effective open source/free software patent pool, precisely because I abhor software patents. Not only does it promise to protect free/open source software from threat 2, but because it would indirectly help to end threat 1. * The problem is whether the current Linux patent pool is actually going to be effective. IANAL either, but I'd be very surprised if the big software companies' cross-licensing agreements could be circumvented just by handing patents to a third party, because that would be seem to be much too easy to game. For example, Microsoft would be able to hand a bushel of patents to Concerned Citizens Against Hewlett-Packard.

* I assume that software patents have three attractions for big companies: attacking/bullying other big companies, attacking/bullying free/open source efforts, and attacking/bullying small proprietary software firms. Attacking other large firms is too dangerous because of the fact that other large companies can retaliate in kind. If attacking open source is also too dangerous because of an effective FOSS "patent nuke", then that only leaves the small proprietary shops. And presumably if they ride them too hard they'll just drive more of the small commercial development from proprietary to open-source as well. Against that, they will still face the expensive nuisance of patent trolls and the risk of one of the big patent-holders doing something crazy. In that situation, they may feel a lot less keen to defend software patentability. If the big lobbying money behind software patents goes, the patents will probably go, and the pure-play trolls will be out of business too.

Re:What the article is about (1)

alucinor (849600) | about 9 years ago | (#13312407)

I guess the only real viable solution (which is what is happening anyways) is for open source to get so entrenched at the governmental level, that governments don't want to see it harmed, and also see it as enabling them to have power above US corporations (and though it can be bribed, even the US government at the highest levels wants to have more power over its IT than its own corporations, which open source allows).

Re:What the article is about (1)

Roland Walter Dutton (24395) | about 9 years ago | (#13312626)

I think that part of the solution is also for free software to get entrenched in powerful companies and non-profits too. For example, I don't think the big stockbroking firms would take it lying down if they were told that they couldn't run Linux on their traders' terminals anymore. I'm pretty sure that considerations like this are a large part of why Microsoft hasn't launched a new patent offensive already.

The big shortcoming of the "get entrenched" approach is that while it's likely to buy good protection for big, successful free software projects that big institutions use a lot - Apache, GCC, the Linux kernel, and the like - it may not do much for the thousands of smaller projects that don't have any sugar daddy. It's great to hear big companies promising to protect Linux - will they protect you if you decide to write a new OS kernel that might be the new Linux someday, or a little tool that will be valuable to seventy grateful users? We are in danger of reaching a situation where development continues on the big projects but individuals and small groups are too scared to work on small ones.

Re:What the article is about (2, Insightful)

back_pages (600753) | about 9 years ago | (#13312457)

I'm not familiar with Linus' proposal (or existing tool?) but thank you for the explanation of Perens' position. I am extremely familiar with both programming and the patent system.

Your summary seems extremely plausible. Having an arsenal of patent leverage could easily be useless leverage in the scenarios you describe.

I think that first and foremost is fulfilling the need in the software world for a patent liability analysis/consulting industry. The patent system is widely misunderstood by the average Joe working in software.

Slashdot, the Fox News of the Patent System, is proof positive of this observation.

While reform, via legislation or case law, is an ideal solution (using both definitions of "ideal") a more immediate and likely solution, in my opinion, is including patent liability in your software project. Market analysis, marketing, tax experts, and human resources are existing overhead in software development companies. I'm just making the observation that assessing your patent liability in a professional manner, by experts, with some form of insurance, seems to be the next logical step.

Of course, when the patent system is "adequately" reformed, that will be unnecessary. But which seems like the best solution for tomorrow or 2006? Continue blindly, hope you don't get sued, and wait for reform; or pay an expert to determine whether you're on thin ice regarding patent infringement?

A first step toward making this an industry-wide practice could be a service like Groklaw that helps to inform and educate those average Joes. I'm not sure that devoting resources to develop a Mutually Assured Destruction patent arsenal will possess any real expectation of success.

Re:What the article is about (1)

surprise_audit (575743) | about 9 years ago | (#13312615)

I think that first and foremost is fulfilling the need in the software world for a patent liability analysis/consulting industry.

No, that's just pandering to the lawyers. What's really needed is to convince the government that it should reform the patent system. It shouldn't be possible for anyone to be granted patents for some of the crap that the USPTO recently granted, and it should be easier for patents to be challenged and revoked.

Unfortunately, that would require a degree of maturity that big business simply doesn't have. As with everything else, the revamped system would be abused by those with deep pockets, to the detriment of those without. A company with a large cash reserve can simply ignore patents because they can afford to drag things out in court until the patent owner runs out of money. Look at the recent EU vs Microsoft case - OK, that wasn't about patents, but the same principle applies - Microsoft was told to pay big fines that amounted to little more than pocket change compared to their $40bn cash reserve.

Perhaps the easiest patent reform would be to disallow corporate ownership of patents. Let the actual inventor own the patents and provide a method to expedite settlement of patent infringement cases.

Re:What the article is about (1)

bperkins (12056) | about 9 years ago | (#13312574)

He's right that it would be far better to somehow magically remove software patents. Nobody is arguing with that. Unfortunatly, Perens is advocating a course of action that has been underway for ten years or more and has gotten exactly nowhere.

The reality is that the U.S. will not get rid of software patents. Even if we are able to prevent more software patents from being issued, there are still the existing patents which need to be dealt with(*).

As usual, Linus has created contovesy by suggesting we trade ideological purity for practical matters. While it's not exactly consistant to rail against patents and hold them yourself, it's a plan that at least hasn't been tried yet. Peren's plan will not work. Linus' probably won't. Which one sounds better?


Dear Senator Smith:

I am a shareholder of Foobar Software. You voted for legislation that eliminated all software patents, reducing the assets of my company by $999 billion. Can you explain why I should vote for you in November?

Re:What the article is about (2, Informative)

lma (109377) | about 9 years ago | (#13312594)

Case 1 is always a problem, and no one expects a patent pool to solve it. The argument here reads a bit like this to me: "Your solution to problem A doesn't solve problem B, therefore your solution is bad." Huh?

Case 2 is solvable by a patent pool. The argument made here that a patent pool is ineffective depends on the fallacy that patents in that pool have already been licensed to a potential aggressor through some other means. Again, I think that everyone recognizes that to be effective, the pool must contain original IP not already licesned to a potential aggressor. The discussion we should have is how to encourage and enable the growth of that part of the pool.


News for Nerds... (2, Insightful)

Whafro (193881) | about 9 years ago | (#13312352)

That doesn't mean that it's okay to forget how to assign possession to words. Please, editors and posters, realize that his name is Torvalds, and when he owns a pen, it's "Linus Torvalds' pen."

Word choice, grammar, and punctuation matter. If you're one of those people saying "I'm a nerd, I don't have to know how to write" then please, spare the rest of us, and don't submit stories to major "news" sites.

Editors who don't catch these things are simply pathetic, and it's inexcusable.

That is, unless we're talking about someone else named Torvald, in which case I move to strike my previous comments.

Re:News for Nerds... (2, Informative)

The Axe (93018) | about 9 years ago | (#13312658)

Actually, I believe it would be "Linus Torvalds's pen."

You put an apostrophe followed by an s to indicate ownership for singular nouns, even if the noun already ends with an s. With plural nouns, you omit the s after the apostrophe.

Singular example: The class's discussion lasted an hour.

Re:News for Nerds... (1)

Whafro (193881) | about 9 years ago | (#13312682)

There's contention as to this rule, and while you're not completely wrong, many would say that you're not completely right, either.

Most people go with what sounds right vs. what sounds awkward:

"The Jones's House" (said "The Joneses House")
"In Jesus' Name" (said "In Jesus Name")

In this case, I'd posit that Torvalds falls into the latter case, and therefore would be Torvalds'

Re:News for Nerds... (2, Informative)

soma_0806 (893202) | about 9 years ago | (#13312701)

I consider this pretty pointless and anal in general, but if you're going to be critical, you must also be correct.

While it is true that the possessive in the title is incorrect, according to MLA formatting as well as Strunk's Elements of Style, which is pretty much the authority on such matters, your suggestion is acceptable, but more correct is to add an apostrophe s. ex. Torvalds's. It's actually rule number one in Strunk's Elementary Rules of Usage.

Aside from all that clap-trap, I notice gramatical errors in numerous "professional" publications that don't have the additional challenges of slashdot all the time. (For example, speed is kind of important here, so maybe things don't get checked over by three or seven different editors). I know it matters. Of course it matters, but you sound pretty snarky in your reply, so it may bode well to ask yourself just how much it should matter.

Also, I am an engineer, not an English major, so my reply may indeed be replete with errors. I love it just the way it is, just like slashdot.

When fighting a war (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312365)

When fighting a war it is best not to exclude any weapon. The patent pool is a start and may well prove usefull. If the Linux communitty was to hire several patent lawyers and start documenting and patenting every possible idea in Linux and GNU software generally so that they have patent records and rights to fight with that would help too. Getting a team of lawyers together to start combing through every patent that Microsoft, Sun, Intel, Apple, and whoever has submitted in the area of software for patents that are to vague, or are not unobvious to someone skilled in the art or which otherwise fail the test of patentability and challenging all these would help. Begining a lobbying and educational effort to eleminate software patents would help. Getting active in politics at a local level and getting congresspeople elected who will support a no vote on Softwar Patents wil help. None of these alone will do the trick and I think it is a distinctly bad idea to poopoo any particular approch because it's not the one you want.
I suspect this is going to be a multifront war and we're going to need every one of these approches before we win it. When the courts allowed, and then the Congress and treaty interpretation ratified, the idea of software and business methods patents we unleashed a monster. It's a multi-headed hydra that's going to take a multi-faceted approch to beat.

Re:When fighting a war (1)

Jane_Dozey (759010) | about 9 years ago | (#13312537)

IIRC the FSF already has a bunch of lawyers. The main problem with patenting things is money. You have to cough up the cash everytime you wish to patent something and people generally don't have this pool of money to work with. Unfortunatly, while a patent pool would be a start it's an expensive start.

Who has the better overall track record? (1)

Herschel Cohen (568) | about 9 years ago | (#13312373)

In my opinion Linus.

Remember Perens was co-founder of the Open Source (Foundation/whatever), whose goal was to entice commercial interests to open source. Perhaps a bit too successful, but the point is afterwards he belatedly recognized "Open Source" effort was at least partially misdirected.

While I know too little about UserLinux, there is a critique of Perens' role: []

read the comment under the name of syntaxis, which has a quote from back in March but "... Sarge has been out for ages now and UserLinux still hasn't released ...". In a link in the comment Perens says he is awaiting only release of Sarge.

[Regarding this portion of - guests even posted here, you need not be a subscriber to read the comments.]

A solid plan? (2, Insightful)

GenKreton (884088) | about 9 years ago | (#13312385)

Perens seems to fail at laying out a solid plan or alternative to the open source patent portfolio Torvalds and others are trying to accrue. While criticism is good, without proposed solutions it is only negative.

With that said nobody claimed this open-source patent portfolio they are developing would be the be-all end-all solution to patent problems but it is a step in the right direction. Sometimes you need many lines of defense. Lobbying our political leaders costs more money than most FLOSS supporters have save a select few companies (like IBM who still love to horde patents).

This patent portfolio is needed in the meantime and not meant to be a comprehensive defensive line anyways. So why such negativity without a solid alternative?

A few points (2, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | about 9 years ago | (#13312398)

1) The patent system is unjust, broken, and appearently intentionally so.
2) Software patents are a bad idea
3) Patents are expensive to get and expensive to assert...but not as expensive as having to defend against
4) Even if a patent you hold in your pool can't be used to counterattack, it still can't be used against you.
5) Things start small. The current roster of patents donated may have all of the faults that Perens cites, but that doesn't mean that the ones that follow will.
6) You got a better idea? Go to it. I'm not stopping you.

Perens is right that this isn't a cure all. It's not the defense we want. This doesn't mean it's totally worthless.

Re:A few points (2, Informative)

prof_tc (774589) | about 9 years ago | (#13312602)

I agree that it's not what we want, but it is a stopgap. While the patent system is screwed up, its all we have to work with until we get people to see the truth.

Until they do, we have to defend ourselves with the weapons we have.

Perens being a downer again (1)

NekoXP (67564) | about 9 years ago | (#13312437)

He can make anything sound like the end of the world, can't he?

The patent pool is a START. Having "big names" contribute to it strengthens the
pool's credibility. In a couple years the pool may be very very useful and
contain patents from the RIGHT people.

Even Microsoft relies on Open Source sometimes. There is no reason why they
wouldn't or couldn't contribute; for instance they may have a bunch of patents
they might want to let people use in order to increase interoperability with
Windows (as this is, ironically, the first step in migrating to Windows from
Old Unix) or perhaps to increase licensing revenue for other things (i.e. maybe
they would let people use the iPod Interface Patent from a couple stories back,
and reap more money from the associated WMA licensing on commercial devices with
"open source" firmware?)


Right for the wrong reasons (2, Insightful)

karlandtanya (601084) | about 9 years ago | (#13312511)

Patents as used today are tools of intimidation.

All a patent (or a library of them) buys you is pretext to go to court. I think the term is "standing".

After you get onto the battlefield, you still need to actually defeat your opponent. In civil court in the US, this is accomplished with money and popular appeal.

While it's possible for the free software movement to appeal to the public as David to [whoever]'s Goliath, technical people don't do a good job of selling ourselves. Maybe it's our natural distaste for sophistry and our intellectual arrogance. My point in this paragraph is to dismiss the court of public opinion. Even if David wins here, Goliath has to give a crap about their image in that particular instance. And Goliath will be back.

Which leads to the real issue. Money. David's got a couple dozen patents and a few grand (hell, give him a couple hundred grand). Goliath has hundreds of times the resources in both arenas. So David wins a battle or two. Goliath wins by sheer attrition.

The solution here is for David to bind his interests to the interests of a powerful party. Convince business and government that:

--The continued existance free (as in beer) software,

--drastic changes (back to reasonable limits) to the patent process,

--and the development and business models promoted by the GPL, LGPL, BSD-license, (pick your favorite)

benefit them in a direct, immediate, and measurable manner, and you have a battle you can win.

Co-opt the resources of your opponent. Better still, convince your opponent that you are his friend and he needs you in order to achieve his goals.

Folks, we (the OSS community, developers, testers, users) need to realize we're doing a terrible job of selling ourselves. Take a lesson from our favorite whipping-boy. Get governments, schools, businesses dependent on open source software. Dependent on the fact that it is free and open-source software, not just on a particular app. Hell, convince Microsoft that linux is not competition, but a resource they can benefit from only as long as it's free. Why not?

Is Bruce still relevant? (0, Troll)

Phrogger (230179) | about 9 years ago | (#13312525)

Does anyone else think that Bruce Perens is becoming an irrelevant also-ran? It seems to me that he's better known for starting projects in a flurry of publicity that wind up as vaporware (User Linux anyone?)

    So now he has the role of pundit, sniping at others from the sideline.

Re:Is Bruce still relevant? (1)

HanzoSpam (713251) | about 9 years ago | (#13312584)

Does anyone else think that Bruce Perens is becoming an irrelevant also-ran? It seems to me that he's better known for starting projects in a flurry of publicity that wind up as vaporware (User Linux anyone?)

Bruce Perens is what you'd call the Jesse Jackson of OS/FS. He spends most of his time and energy jumping in front the cameras, and trying to get in front of parades that have already left.

Re:Is Bruce still relevant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312668)

Userlinux isn't exactly vaporware. In fact you can download it from it's official site (
It's not exactly what it supposed to be but it DOES exist and it's still in active development.

Bruce seems more like an ideas and opinion man. He's not irrelevant yet (IMHO RMS is more irrelevant than Bruce) but seems to be struggleing to find something really useful to contribute :-/

Obfuscation (2, Insightful)

foonf (447461) | about 9 years ago | (#13312526)

It sounds like Perens is attacking this proposal for not doing something which it never claimed to do. If Microsoft or some other anti-OSS software company wants to use their patent portfolio against open source projects, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it except perhaps get the patent invalidated, if there is a case for doing so. What it sounds like this was intended to do, and seemingly does do, is present patented technologies that open source projects unambiguously CAN use without fear of retribution.

So what does Perens want? The only way to securely eliminate the threat of Microsoft, etc. using patents agressively against open source would be to eliminate patents altogether, at least on software and anything related to software. That might be a reasonable position that deserves consideration, but if that is what he is advocating he should say so openly so that it can be reasonably debated, rather than making insinuations like this.


Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312666)

MOD UP! Insightful!

Proper attribution, please (2, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | about 9 years ago | (#13312542)

Unless "ficken" is "Gavin Clarke in San Francisco", a writer for The Register, "ficken" didn't write it at all. He just copied and pasted it verbatim from the article without providing attribution.

Article submitters need to give proper attribution when they quote another article, and /.'s editors really need to make sure that the articles they approve provide that attribution when the submission does nothing more than quote another article verbatim. You editors do read the linked pages before you approve the articles, right?


Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13312618)

FUCK PERENS! He's a fucking ZERO! Who the fuck does he think he is? What has he done? All he is capable of doing is CONSTANT WHINING! Kiss my ass Perens!
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