Alan Cox and Patent Stockpiling at Ars

by on January 17, 2007 · 4 comments

I’m excited to report that the good folks at Ars Technica, probably the best source of in-depth technology news and analysis on the web, has asked me to contribute to their site. Ars will be familiar to regular TLF readers because we link to them all the time. If you aren’t already a regular reader, you should be. And not just because you’ll occasionally find my writing there.

My first contribution focuses on Alan Cox’s application for a patent on digital rights management technology:

It’s unlikely that Cox’s patent is part of a grand plan to rid the software industry of digital rights management technology. Rather, the patent application is probably part of Red Hat’s patent self-defense strategy. Microsoft has darkly hinted that Linux and other free software infringes on Microsoft’s patents. Red Hat is responding with defensive stockpiling, applying for about two dozen patents in the last two years. Most likely, it’s working to build a patent portfolio extensive enough that it will be able to retaliate should it become the target of patent litigation.

The fact that even Red Hat, a company publicly opposed to software patents and unlikely to assert them against anyone, feels the need to apply for dozens of patents suggests that there are serious problems with the American patent system. The resources Red Hat spends hiring lawyers to obtain patents it will most likely never use could be more productively spent hiring programmers and customer support personnel to do useful work.

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