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

Silvia Pfeiffer silvia at silvia-pfeiffer.de
Tue Feb 10 01:02:15 EST 2009

Typically, if patents are discovered on which a open source project
infringes, the project just codes around the patent and re-releases
the code. This hasn't happened often, but it has been heard of.

As for audio and video codecs: if you really cannot avoid using
patented technology, there are now mechanisms for licensing: you can
e.g. get a license from Fluendo for mpeg playback pugins for gstreamer
and then you will legally use mpeg technology
http://www.fluendo.com/shop/product/mpeg-playback-bundle/ .

And lastly: the risk that a piece of software infringes on a patent is
as high for open source software as it is for proprietary software.
The only difference is that it can be more easily discovered for open
source software and therefore open source software developers - if
they are aware of patents - will generally avoid them. They will often
even take active action to find out about any potential patents that
they might infringe on and code around them from the start - which is
what happened with the open media codecs speex, vorbis, and celt. So,
overall, open source software will actually be cleaner from patent
infringement than proprietary software, since it would be more easily

Does this give you sufficient ammunition?


On Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 10:21 PM, Anthony Hornby
<anthony.w.hornby at gmail.com> wrote:
> Apologies to those that get this twice, I sent it to the wrong address
> originally.
> 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
> perhaps).
> 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
> alternatives).
> 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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