Thursday, February 17, 2005

PATENT POOLING FOR NONPROFIT FUNDRAISING? (eWeek) Shabbir Safdar, CTO of Mindshare Interactive Campaigns, a Washington firm that runs many nonprofit and political fundraising efforts, has created a cross-licensing patent pool for nonprofits who do the kind of work he does.

Safdar's worried that nonprofits—whose resources are spent on fundraising—will not be able to protect themselves if they're accused of violating patents. There haven't been any suits yet, but Safdar worries that the fight over the patents used to register and protect the various processes involved in online fundraising—currently the focus of most online political activity—isn't far away.

So Safdar's created the Nonprofit Innovation Alliance. The group, which includes Beaconfire Consulting, CharityWeb, Convio, GetActive, Mindshare Interactive Campaigns, Itero, Public Interest Data Inc. and RightClick, hopes its no-cost cross-licensing agreements among patent holders will cut out the lawyers. The group is hoping to expand.

"No one may be refused," Safdar joked of the organization's motto. "Our goal is to make the nonprofit marketplace a business method patent-free zone,'' he said.

Unfortunately, Kintera, possibly the best-known nonprofit software company, isn't really interested in participating. Or if it is, its CEO, Harry Gruber, has a funny way of showing it. "I think it's naïve,'' he said.

Claiming that none of the Innovation Alliance members have patents to share with his company, Gruber said it makes little sense for Kintera to enter into any sharing agreements with them. "It's like saying, 'Let's go play marbles. You have marbles, I don't.'"

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