[Linux-aus] Fwd: Software patents - managing risk

Anthony Hornby anthony.w.hornby at gmail.com
Mon Feb 9 22:21:22 EST 2009

Apologies to those that get this twice, I sent it to the wrong address

Regards Anthony

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Anthony Hornby <anthony.w.hornby at gmail.com>
Date: 2009/2/9
Subject: Software patents - managing risk
To: Linux Australia <ctte at linux.org.au>

Hi Everyone (again),
software patents may come up as an issue as well.

Leaving aside the whole debate about the appropriateness (or not) of
software patents, how would you counter arguments about the risk of
patent infringement claims against open source projects?

I intended to say something along the lines that all small to medium
software companies have exposure to patent claims from the larger
companies with massive patent portfolios and this is true regardless
of open source or proprietry nature of the product. There seems to be
a stand off (mostly) between the really big players, the IBM's.,
Microsoft's, Novell's, Sun's etc (mutually assured destruction

The free software foundation is amassing some open source patents
isn't it and also there were some releases of patent portfolios from
IBM in the recent past? Who defends open source projects from patent
infringement suits if  the suit brought isn't directly threatening an
IBM or similar 800 pound gorilla's interests?

I guess one point I can make here is that there are no certainties in
life and that patent suits are unlikely to completely kill projects -
though they might require significant code re-writes and a lot of
uncertainty. If they do then I guess you need to fall back on your
well thought out back-out strategy (which of course you prepared prior
to choosing the technology and kept up to date with possible

Have I missed anything? I am not after a detailed legal discussion of
the issues, more how small / medium / large orgainsiation might have
to approach managing the risk.

Any other comments about managing risk are also useful :-)

All help / comments / suggestions appreciated.

Thanks very much to all those who have helped with responses so far.

Regards Anthony

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