Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Open Source" Approach Being Tested In Industries Outside of Software

Due to the fact that the software landscape intertwines multiple technologies and companies to each other, developers have long recognized that collaborative efforts can sometimes produce superior commercial results as compared to exclusive regimes, where a handful of patent owners try to dictate future innovations in a technological field.

Unlike standardization groups, open source software includes a spectrum of programs, the best known of them the Linux operating system, that are not under the lock and key of a single company but are developed by the communal efforts of volunteers who often start with little more than a common interest.

Two years ago, patent pledges became popular, when IBM pledged 500 patents to the Open Source community. This created more pledges from IBM and other software giants (HP, CA, Microsoft, Red Hat, Sun, Oracle), which ultimately culminated in the Patent Commons Project. Alliances continue to be made with universities and other Open-Source developers in an attempt to spur innovation in software.

Now, the push for Open-Source has spread to electronic hardware. Currently, developers have expressed frustration over hardware with “Linux support” that's used on anything besides x86 GNU/Linux. Lack of source code support for multiple operating systems and hardware platforms have people wondering if hardware isn't due for an "Open Source tune-up" as well.

On Monday, Bruce Perens, an author of the Open Source Definition that codified elements of the collaborative programming philosophy, announced the TAPR Open Hardware License, a document written by John Ackermann designed specifically to govern hardware designs that can be modified and redistrubuted. Perens plans to submit the license to the Open Source Initiative for its as an open-source license.

The license includes provisions to prohibit those who distributed designs under the license from filing patent infringement lawsuits against those who use those designs. The license also includes a central site to which hardware developers can provide feedback on the design and a variation that prohibits commercial use of the design.

On the Biotech side, Novartis, who helped uncover which of the 20,000 genes identified by the Human Genome Project are likely to be associated with diabetes, is deciding to share its information for free on the World Wide Web. Also, Pfizer has promised to make available for free a swath of genetic information emerging from a three-year collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.

Read Stephen Shankland (CNet) , "Perens set to tackle open-source hardware"

See also Matthew Herper and Robert Langreth (Forbes), "Biology Goes Open Source"

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