Red Hat pushes for patent reform

Red Hat is to make industry patent reform a key issue of its open source strategy.

Red Hat is to make industry patent reform a key issue of its open source strategy.

At last week’s Red Hat Summit in the US, Red Hat deputy general counsel Mark Webbink pushed a three-part intellectual property strategy to promote product innovation.

The first part of the strategy builds on the work of the existing Fedora project, the free Linux project sponsored by Red Hat.

Red Hat is creating the Fedora Foundation, with the intent of moving Fedora project development work and contributed code to the Foundation.

Red Hat will still provide financial and engineering support to Fedora, but by creating the Fedora Foundation it intends to promote broader community involvement in Fedora-sponsored projects.

The second front of Red Hat’s patent strategy is to continue to pressure the US government and the European Parliament on patent reform.

Red Hat wants patent systems to hold patent applications to a higher standard of scrutiny, to ensure better patent quality and to expand the rights of third parties to challenge questionable patent applications and issued patents.

And thirdly, Red Hat is to create a “Software Patent Commons” to help promote the development of innovative software by sharing information and views among developers and leading software technologists.

“Patents are not equal to innovation,” said Webbink. “More often, innovation occurs despite patents. What we observe today in the software industry is the use of patents to maintain market share, even where that market share has been obtained by anti-competitive means.”

He said, “We need to move away from a system of software patents compromised by trivial, incremental enhancements that block innovation, to a system that is aimed at rewarding substantial innovation.”

Much of Red Hat’s product technology is already offered to the open source community to enable further development.

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