Florian Mueller, Open Source Patent Activist, just released the following information. He believes that patents already used by IBM against TurboHercules are also a threat to other major FOSS projects. He now calls on the community for action.
OpenBSD, Xen, VirtualBox, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite and Kaffe could also face patent infringement assertions -- "FOSS Patents" blog lists patents and explains how those patents may read on other Free and Open Source Software Projects -- "Call to Research" on FOSS community for further analysis and identification of additional issues
Brussels, Belgium, 12 April 2010 -- Florian Mueller, the founder of the European NoSoftwarePatents campaign who recently published a letter in which IBM threatens the Hercules open source emulator with 173 of its patents, has today published an initial analysis according to which a dozen of the patents IBM asserted against Hercules may also read on other major Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) projects, including but not limited to OpenBSD, Xen, VirtualBox, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite and Kaffe.
Mueller lists those patents on his blog and provides a general description of the programming techniques covered by those patents and inhowfar they are a potential threat to other FOSS programs.
Mueller is not yet aware of any actual assertions by IBM of such patents against other Free and Open Source Software than the Hercules mainframe emulator, but "[c]onsidering that IBM has already used them in a threat letter to TurboHercules, those patents must be considered particularly dangerous", says the activist. He was widely credited for his contributions five years ago to the rejection of a European proposal for software patent legislation.
In order to look into this in more depth and find additional IBM patents assertable against Free and Open Source Software, Mueller issues a "Call to Research", encouraging members of the FOSS community to provide further analysis and identify additional problems that IBM's patents -- especially the ones already asserted against the French open source startup TurboHercules -- could represent. The blog post indicates that Mueller will look at the community contributions to this effort and indicates that IBM will ultimately be requested to remove the potential threat emanating from its patents to Free and Open Source Software in general, describing the original pledge of 500 patents as only a "drop in the ocean".
In a previous blog post, Mueller stressed that "IBM's attack on Hercules is an attack on interoperability and FOSS innovation". While there are only 10,000 to 12,000 mainframe computers in use today and there is consequently only a limited number of Hercules users, the activist believes the FOSS community should look at the "broader implications" of the case. for the open innovation model and for interoperability between FOSS and proprietary systems: " Do you still want to be able to open Word and Excel documents with OpenOffice? Do you want to run a heterogeneous network of Windows and GNU/Linux machines and exchange data freely? If the answer is yes, then you should care about Hercules", Mueller writes. In his post he expresses the belief that those and similar views are shared by a majority of the FOSS community: "No one in his right mind wants patents to be used against FOSS."