Patents and OpenMoko

Nils Faerber nils.faerber at
Mon Feb 11 18:49:51 CET 2008

Sander van Grieken schrieb:
>> 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.

Oh, and it just occurred to me...
AFAIK GPL V3 explicitely forbids software patents on GPLed code, does it?

Will that mean that OpenMoko code will stick with a modified GPL V2 (V2
usually has the clause "or any later version" which would include V3 and
thus also the non-patent clause) or change license altogether?

Software patents are evil - there is no way to argue for it.
The only way to defend against patent issues is to have a nice and
provable prior art collection. A public SVN, public WiKi and public
web-pages are IMHO the best way for that. Web bots mirror the whole
stuff on hundreds of independant servers and it can easily be researched
by everyone.
More should not be needed.

The assurance you might feel by having a stack of patents is more like
self-deception. Do you really think you can compete with your patent
portfolio with a company like Nokia? Motorola? Samsung? NEC? Qualcom? No
way. So why trying?

Wouldn't it better to head a new development without patent fear?
To show to other companies that patents are not the only source of
whisdom, cash-flow and money making? I think the IP issue is largely
exagerated these days. Yes, there are IP infringements in countries like
China. But how do patents help there? They don't. They only handicap us,
the people from exactly the countries that made the original invention.

I had the impression that OpenMoko was already heading a revolutionary
new way of creating a product, i.e. working together with a community,
in the open and to work *together*.  A company that first time has
proven that making a mobile phone is no rocket science and not an area
covered with legal trapdoors - up to now it worked!
If you want to patent anything, well, do it with the hardware. The
hardware patenting process is well defined and a patent in some hardware
areas of the NEO phones will not hurt anybody.

But please do not consider software patents at any time! You will
instantly loose your credibility in the open source world.

Or to make it more concrete: If OpenMoko should file *any* software
patents I would have to stop to work with OpenMoko, as sorry as I would be.

> grtz,
> Sander
  nils faerber

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