More about software patents

Steve Hamm

I sure got knocked around by TechBeat readers for my pro-patent posting last week. Thirty people say I'm an idiot. The folks at Red Hat, the leading distributor of Linux software, were much kinder. They sent me a note to tell me about the stand they've taken on patents. They agree that software patents have their place, but they want to make sure the process isn't abused to the detriment of collaboration. I can endorse that.

Red Hat has a three-prong intellectual property initiative:

Fedora. This is the free version of Red Hat Linux. The company had been running it as an internal project, but will now release it by creating the Fedora Foundation, which is much like the Mozilla Foundation that manages the Firefox browser project. Red Hat will continue to provide money and engineering to the project, but hopes to gain more popular support for the project by setting it free.

Government policy. It's trying to reform government patent policies in the US and Europe--making requirements for getting a patent more stringent.

Software Patents Commons. Red Hat is working on creating a software commons based on Larry Lessig's Creative Commons idea. It wants to encourage collaboration by sharing rights that are under copyright.

Sun President Jonathan Schwartz mocks Red Hat for opposing patents because it doesn't have any. (In fact, it has a few.) Red Hat doesn't deserve his abuse.

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