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Free Software changing Microsoft's patent strategy
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<h1>Free Software changing Microsoft's patent strategy</h1>
<p>In October Microsoft took a big step concerning its
software patents by joining the <a href="https://lotnet.com">LOT
Network</a> (LOT stands for "License on Transfer") and the <a
href="https://www.openinventionnetwork.com/">Open Invention Network
(OIN)</a>. This is a clear sign of progress on the long road to handing
control of technology to the people, and the FSFE encourages Microsoft
to take additional steps in this direction.</p>
<p>The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) works towards a world
where software does what software users want it to do, and believes that
everybody should be able to participate in the development and
distribution of software, if they are interested to do so. Since its
foundation, the FSFE has <a href="/activities/swpat/swpat.html">raised
awareness about the dangers of software patents</a>, which among other
things add legal and financial risks to commercial Free Software
software development. In short, software patents are harming users,
developers, and society at large.</p>
<p>Since the 2000s, Microsoft has used software patents to slow down
Free Software adoption in businesses and public administration by
claiming patent infringement of important Free Software components and
taking billions of dollars from Free Software re-distributors, including
companies selling phones with Android systems.</p>
<p>However, in recent years Microsoft has published non-core software
under Free Software licenses, purchased Github (a platform used a lot
for Free Software development), and communicated more positively about
Free Software. Now, Microsoft joins LOT and the OIN, two organisations
that work to solve the problems created by software patents.</p>
<p><a href="https://lotnet.com/how-lot-works/">LOT strives</a> to
protect members against so-called "non-practicing entities", which are
companies that operate by extracting money from others through patents
that they hold, despite not developing products or services of their own
based on these patents. Non-practicing entities are not interested in
any cross-licensing of patents.</p>
<p>The OIN works to protect a defined set of Free Software technologies
from patent litigation. More than 2.600 members of the OIN have signed a
non-aggression agreement that covers a defined list of Free Software
packages called the <a
href="https://www.openinventionnetwork.com/joining-oin/linux-system/">"Linux
system definition"</a>. In a nutshell, this means that under the "Linux
system definition" all members of the OIN have a license for the patents
of all the others members. However, any member, including Microsoft, can
withdraw from the OIN agreement within 30 days.</p>
<p>It must be emphasized that joining LOT and the OIN does not
automatically solve the general problem of software patents, nor some
specific patent threats. Indeed, Microsoft has neither dismantled nor
freely licensed its entire patent portfolio, and would therefore still
be able to sue companies and projects not covered by LOT's and the OIN's
agreements.</p>
<p>The FSFE nevertheless welcomes Microsoft's steps, and encourages them
to continue in this direction. We join our sister organisation, the Free
Software Foundation (FSF), in <a
href="https://www.fsf.org/news/fsf-statement-on-microsoft-joining-the-open-invention-network">their
statement</a> that Microsoft should:</p>
<ul>
<li>"make a clear, unambiguous statement that it has ceased all patent
infringement claims on the use of Linux in Android";</li>
<li>"work within the OIN to expand the definition of what it calls the
"Linux System" so that the list of packages protected from patents
actually includes everything found in a GNU/Linux system"; and</li>
<li>"use the past patent royalties extorted from Free Software to fund
the effective abolition of all patents covering ideas in software".</li>
</ul>
<p>The FSFE will continue to support companies in their efforts to use
and develop more Free Software, and to end the problem of software
patents.</p>
<p><blockquote>"The change of Microsoft's approach shows how crucial
persistence and patience are on the long road to software freedom. For
decades, thousands of Free Software contributors have explained the
advantages of software freedom to individual users and developers,
companies, and the public sector. Over time, this created more and more
demand for Free Software, a demand which companies wanting to stay
relevant in the future cannot ignore. To achieve the next steps, users
should continue to demand Free Software, and developers should use their
power to demand from potential employees that they show a strong
interest to work with Free Software", says Matthias Kirschner, President
of the FSFE.</blockquote></p>
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<tags>
<tag key="front-page"/>
<tag key="swpat">Patents</tag>
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