AfterDawn: Tech news

Open source leaders slam software patents

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 03 Feb 2005 1:38

Open source leaders slam software patents The war of words going on between Microsoft and the Open Source community has heated up, as Linus Torvalds, Linux founder led an attack on software patents. Mr Torvalds said that patents are a big problem for the open source movement. Chairman of the Mozilla foundation, Mitchell Kapor, fears that Microsoft will one day lead a campaign of patent lawsuits. Linux is a freely available alternative to Microsoft's Windows operating system. A community of programmers develop Linux based on open source principles, which means other user's are allowed to make their own modifications without having to pay any license fee's.
IBM has already made 500 of its patents freely available and more companies are expected to do the same. In the United States alone there are anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 software patents, many of which should have never been granted, open source developers claim. "Some of the patents have dubious validity and are being wielded by some big companies to force smaller companies to buy licenses in the knowledge that they can't afford to take them to court," said Dr Jeremy Philpott of the UK Patent Office. Others prefer to call these patents, WMD's. "If totally pushed to the wall - because their business model no longer holds up in an era in which open source is an economically superior way to produce software...of course they're going to unleash the WMDs," Mr Kapor is reported as saying.

Microsoft did not wish to comment directly about the attack, but instead referred the issue to trade body Intellect, of which it is a member. "As far as Intellect is concerned, open source and patents have co-existed for many years without problems," said spokeswoman Jill Sutherland. "The industry respects the open source movement and in fact many of the members we represent use the open source system to develop software, We think the important point to make is that companies should be able to choose between patents, copyrights and open source as to the treatment of their intellectual discoveries, and not be forced into using one or the other," she added.

BBC News

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