Monday, August 02, 2004

Linux's Patent Risk: Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) announced today that it had found 283 issued, but not yet court-validated, software patents in the Linux kernel.

The findings are the result of a thorough Linux patent review sponsored by OSRM, a firm that provides risk mitigation and insurance offerings to the open source community. The review however did not find a single patent infringement that had currently been court validated.
"By saying that these 283 patents could cover Linux means that [patent holders] have claims that could be infringed by practicing the Linux kernel," Dan Ravicher, founder and executive director of the Public Patent Foundation and senior counsel to the Free Software Foundation, told "When patents get tested in court, the court finds them invalid about half of the time, so the court doesn't just accept the patent office's decision," Ravicher said.

"None of the 283 that I've identified are actually being litigated so far as I know, but the extent to which Microsoft is asserting its patents through means other than litigation is indeterminable," Ravicher said. "In many cases, there could be confidentiality agreements in place that prohibit us and the public from knowing exactly what Microsoft is doing and how they are trying to go out and assert their patents."

OSRM, however, is not going to reveal any hard specifics on the 283 patents. Ravicher explained that being aware of the particulars of a patent could potentially expose a developer to risk.

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