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09 December 2008, 16:42

Linux Defender - A new free initiative to protect open source software

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Today, Tuesday, 9th of December, a consortium of technology companies, has launched a new initiative designed to protect open source software against aggressive patents.

Called Linux Defenders the new, free, service provides a group of engineers and lawyers who will help shape, structure, and document new open source software inventions in the form of a "defensive publication". Linux defenders then submit this "defensive publication" to the web site, which is a database used by patent examiners when they are evaluating patent applications for true novelty. Defensive publishing of this type is a pre-emptive measure against those who file, often unsound, patents based on already available information, purely for profit.

Software inventions can be submitted to Linux Defenders through their web site, which is due to be operational today.

Keith Bergelt, the chief executive officer of Open Invention Network (OIN), the consortium launching the site says “The idea is to create a defensive patent shield or no-fly zone around Linux,”. The core members of OIN are IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony. The Linux Defender program is being co-sponsored by the Linux Foundation in San Francisco and the Software Freedom Law Center in New York.

Such projects are extremely important to the long term future of open source, which by its nature is vulnerable to patent attacks. As open source grows and gains commercial acceptance, it becomes a more tempting target for patent trolls.

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