Linux Defenders: Go-Betweens to Police Patent Trolls

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 09, 2008

Open Invention Network along with a series of powerful partners ranging from IBM to the Software Freedom Law Center to the Linux Foundation has unveiled Linux Defenders, a federated effort to shield the open source community from patent trolls. The program calls for open source developers large and small to contribute new open source software inventions to the group's attorneys and engineers so that they can help build moats to to keep out people pushing dubious patent infringement charges. Here's why this is a good idea, where the concept has worked very well before.

Federated efforts like Linux Defenders should go on throughout the open source community, and it's important that big companies and organizations partner with each other in these efforts. Just look at the huge number of legal and other types of successes that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has had in defending innovative technology purveyors. The group's volunteer efforts are often picked up in the technology and mainstream press. Often, the EFF doesn't even need to take a case to court before it sends people standing on shaky legal ground scurrying away from disputes.

"A large number of poor quality patents have the potential to stifle innovation," said Eben Moglen, chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, in conjunction with the Linux Defenders announcement. "The Software Freedom Law Center is pleased to co-sponsor Linux Defenders with the goal of ridding the world of patents that unscrupulous organizations use to cripple the innovation inherent in freely redistributable, open source software."

The Software Freedom Law Center and The Linux Foundation are contributing substantial resources to the effort. In addition the Linux Defenders site is being co-developed and hosted by New York Law School. It sounds like there is some serious legal muscle behind this initiative.

As I write this, the site is not yet live. I just get a prompt to enter a password and nothing else. However, the group has pledged to make the site available today, so if you don't get there to take a look at first, try later. You can get to a page for reporting patent trolls, found here. Update: is now live.

The idea of more go-betweens and qualified people protecting open source software is a good one. Let's hope this effort is as successful as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been.