Open Source

Red Hat gets offensive in its patent strategy

Red Hat has gone on the offensive with patents. Jack Wallen thinks this smacks of the mid-'90s Microsoft. Read on to see what Jack thinks of this approach to protecting intellectual property.

Recently Red Hat has decided to go on the offensive with their patent strategy. With this patent Red Hat is attempting to patent "Method and apparatus to deliver messages between applications".

To me this smacks of the way Microsoft deals with patents. They patent "ideas" or "the framework of an idea" in case someone happens to get the same idea or a similar idea. This "offensive patent" strategy is very much in line with the Microsoft way of business. Of course Red Hat does have a different twist. What they have promised is these "offensive patents" will not be enforced against open source development.

This reminds me of the jokes tossed around in the 1990s of Microsoft threatening to patent ones and zeros. Although the ones and zeros patent idea was a joke, the idea was not far off. Microsoft was attempting to offensively patent everything it could.

Of course, I understand why Red Hat would feel this necessary. But there are other ways around this that are less "'90s Microsoftian." The most applicable idea is "prior art". Basically what this means is any information (in any form) made public that is dated and relevant to the patents' claim of originality can be used to dispute a patent. With that in mind I would much rather see Red Hat (in true open source form) create a sort of "patent wiki" that would post all information relevant to any ideas or technologies they are working on. With dated (and well documented) information, this would serve as strong defense against anyone applying to patent something Red Hat was already working on.

I wouldn't want the court of public opinion to start looking at Red Hat in the same way they looked at Microsoft in any way. Red Hat has done so much for open source over the last decade, the very idea that they feel it necessary to start working offensively.

And, like they say in professional sports, the best offense is a good defense.

What do you think? Would you rather see Red Hat working defensively or offensively in the patent arena? What about yourself? As a developer, do you prefer to patent everything or do you count on "prior art" to work as your defense?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

8 comments
motie38
motie38

Yes. Did you mean "the best defense is a good offense?" This has been the patent strategy at Red Hat for a long time. It's not new. Anyway, Red Hat has proven their commitment to not only open source, I think, but to the GPL. The fact is, software patents shouldn't exist in the first place, and should be invalidated in a supreme court decision. Patents are for hardware. Copyrights should be the proper way to deal with software, which is at it's heart a language, and copyright's deal with linguistic works. But in this imperfect world where software patents have thus far been tolerated, I think Red Hat has the right strategy.

hhluce
hhluce

which includes everything but the claims, fully discloses the invention, and is deemed abandoned after one year. If left to expire, the invention disclosed enters the public domain and is unpatentable.

DiHydrogenMonoxideWalker
DiHydrogenMonoxideWalker

I think that the best defense is a good offense.... especially when it comes to a patent troll like M$. They don't care about their "ip" they just want another weapon to legally practice economic totalitarianism. I can't wait for the day when microsoft will actually have to compete fairly like every other company where they have to build really really decent, bug free software that runs on open industry standards that prevent vendor lock-in. Until then however, we must pull out every weapon necessary to fight them, even if it means using their own weapons against them. It's time to "go to the mattresses"! it's time to fight... and fight to the death!

Jaqui
Jaqui

Copyright. my preferred method of protecting I.P.

asdf99
asdf99

The thing is, a rejected patent is almost as useful as a successful one, as what RedHat is doing appears to be largely _defensive_, ie be holding patents, they ensure that M$ can't hold the same one. If one is rejected, it is prior art, and good evidence against M$ being able to patent the same (non) idea.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

offensive. What's the point of a patent like that? Even if you trust red hat not to take the p1ss by laying claim to an architectural fundmanental, how can you trust a potential new owner. What's next a for loop? ffs...

gi7omy
gi7omy

Don't you mean 'copyLEFT' LOL

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