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LinuxPlanet: Patent War Pending?

Dec 09, 2002, 19:00 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Robert McMillan)

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"Are software patents about to kill open source? The growing number of questionable software patents and the inability of individual developers to defend themselves from frivolous patent suits has many in the open source community concerned. Now that Microsoft has settled its antitrust case, some hackers worry that it will become more aggressive in its attack on open source. And that could spell a frivolous patent lawsuit for some projects: Wine, Samba or Linux, to name three.

"To find out what the open source community can do to mitigate this risk, Linux Planet asked the Open Source Initiative's Lawrence Rosen for his thoughts on the subject. Though hackers tend to be skeptical of lawyers, Rosen is one who can command their respect. For one thing, he's a computer geek at heart, with--in addition to his law degree--a master of computer science from the University of North Carolina. For another. For another, he's devoted many long hours to the Open Source Initiative, where he's served as general counsel, secretary and executive director.

"LinuxPlanet: Do you think the Kollar-Kotelly decision is going have an impact on open source projects like Samba, Wine, or Linux? Some developers feel that this decision will embolden Microsoft to engage in frivolous patent suits.

"Lawrence Rosen: First of all the patent law gives Microsoft, or any owner of a patent, a legal right to a monopoly. And while people may quarrel with whether that's good or bad, that's what the law is. And so the question is only whether Microsoft is going to use its patents in unfair furtherance of its monopoly in other areas in order to protect its market in Windows and other unrelated things..."

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