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Thursday, August 05, 2004
Red Hat, IBM Blast IP Litigation

Red Hat and IBM blasted patent litigation threats hovering over the Linux industry amid reports that Microsoft is seriously considering a legal offensive against the open-source operating system.

Executives issued their statements after that recently-published report and as the city of Munich, Germany, halted its 14,000-seat Linux migration project reportedly due to concerns about software patent legislation pending before the European Union.

During his keynote, Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik got a round of applause when he said he and the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), will challenge how patents and copyrights are awarded in the U.S. and their application from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

"We'll do our best to try to change this," said Szulik, adding that his firm and others will push the U.S. Government to adopt a form of digital rights protection law that forces vendors to disclose intellectual property in order to receive protection. The U.S. Government, Szulik said, should "force full disclosure, so if an organization won't disclose source code then let them file for trade secret protection."

A report issued by the Open Source Risk Management organization this week maintains there are no court validated software patents infringed by the Linux kernel. However, the report said there are 283 issues but not court-validated patents that that could potentially be used to support patent claims against Linux.

This week, Red Hat teamed up with Black Duck Software, a firm that helps develop and manage IP, to mitigate some of the intellectual property risks associated with Linux. A new provision in Red Hat Open Source Assurance Plan, for example, will include prevention and protection, Red hat said.

At LinuxWorld Expo on Wednesday, IBM Senior Vice President Nick Donofrio defended patent law but said IBM " a big Linux backer " won't be filing any claims against Linux.

"Collaborative innovation forces people to rethink their IP models. We pledge to strike the right balance [between innovation and patents]," said Donofrio, who also received thundering applause for his comments. "It is true that IBM is the world leader in patents, but I can assure you that IBM has no intention of [applying] its portfolio of patents against the Linux kernel."

Microsoft declined to comment on this story.

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