Patents and OpenMoko

Sean Moss-Pultz sean at
Fri Feb 8 17:00:20 CET 2008

On 2/8/08 Nick Guenther wrote:


> >> I really hope that OpenMoko will not be covered by any patents. 
> (but I'm
> >> > > sure that there's a patent for a device allowing wireless 
> communication
> >> > > somewhere)
> > >
> > > I totally agree with Lionel here. It will be bad PR wise and it's 
> very difficult to
> > > enforce. Openmoko hardware and software are already covered by 
> copyright, and I think a
> > > patent doesn't add any protection. Even if parts will be covered 
> by a patent, chances
> > > are that some smart company can circumvent it by making small 
> changes/improvements.
> > >
> > > Besides, what's there to patent? If I understand correctly, 
> anything that's published
> > > (or available publicly) before the patent cannot be patented 
> anymore, so that would
> > > include all openmoko software up to today, the CAD design for the 
> casing, ideas on the
> > > wiki etc.
> I normally don't like to add too much noise here, but I really
> strongly must echo this sentiment. Why is a free software company
> patenting anything? 

You should think of OpenMoko as a product company. We build our own 
software AND hardware. Free Software is only one ingredent in a very 
large picture of what it means to make open mobile devices. Our freeing 
of the case CAD files is not software (per say). In the future you will 
see a lot more. We don't believe software is only place people need 

> Isn't everything in Openmoko supposed to be
> already open? 

I'm not sure I understand this sentence correctly. Anything we do is 
open when we open it. But products don't get created out of thin air. 
GTA02 is amost year in a making.

> Is there really any judge in the world who would believe
> that anything you've done constitutes enough new work to be
> patentable?

I hope so ;-)

> Forgive my ignorance if that's what it is, but I was under
> the impression that the sole purpose of OpenMoko was to build an open
> phone, not to invent anything new (and in fact, to rely on old and
> well known components for stability).

Yes this is mistaken. We try to always build stuff that is new. All of 
our hardware designs, for example, are built from scratch. We do not use 
reference designs.

We want to push the future of open mobile devices. Not (just) use what 
already exists. This puts us in a situation very real to the patent 
world. We cannot (as much as we'd like to) ignore it and hope things 
will magically go away. Nor do I want to spend our efforts reforming 
another system. Everyone only has a limited amount of time. Ours is 
focused on freeing the phone. And then exploring what that means.


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