Patents? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Patents

Mozilla joins OIN, Fortinet and OS community kill a Patent

There was a bit of a buzz (OK a rather small buzz) about Mozilla joining the Open Invention Network this week. The reasons that Mozilla gave for joining can be found on their blog here. For those of you not familiar with the OIN, it was formed to create a "patent pool" that would be used defensively in case any big, bad wolf (read Microsoft or any of the Ix companies) would try to threaten Linux with patent infringement.

I think the time has come and gone where Linux zealots need to break out in cold sweats at night over the fear of a patent claim taking out Linux. The secondary reason for the OIN is that companies donate their patents to be used royalty free by others and promise never to make a patent claim in Linux either.  I think that is great that all of those patents are pledged royalty free.  

Maybe all of the OIN members should sit around a nice fire on a tropical beach singing Kumbaya while burning notices from the Patent & Trademark office. But let us not forget, as the Mozilla post points out, open source is not a big fan of patents in general anyway. 

So why did Mozilla join OIN?  Is it just being a good doobee (extra points if you know what being a good doobee is and hint it has nothing to do with drugs)? Do any of the patents that Mozilla, which hates patents have protect Linux? I don't know. But I would be curious to hear if you do.

I think a far better example of how the open source community should deal with patents involves a case where a bad patent is heading to oblivion.  I first wrote about the case of Trend Micros '600 patent on this blog a few months ago. But I have been following this story for a few years.  The folks over at Fortinet who were one of the victims of this patent abuse, reported on their blog that the US PTO have issued a formal order granting Fortinet's petition to re-examine the validity of this patent. 

Of even greater note though is that the open source community also filed a petition for re-examination and according to the Fortinet blog gave even more evidence of the invalidity of this patent.  The open source community rallied behind this issue and appears to be putting this one to bed.

That is where I would like to see the open source community putting its efforts. Lets get rid of so many of these patents that were granted, but will not stand up in the light of day. Using patents as a defensive shield may sound cool, but it only masks what really needs to be done. Improper or wrong patents need that hinder the evolution of open source need to be exposed and declared dead.

A company like Mozilla would be a great asset in leading that sort of effort.

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