AlwaysOn: Open source and patent trolls

Summary:Speaking at a panel at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit 2006 addressing the question of whether all software, or even hardware, will go open source, MySQL CEO Marten Mickos said: "There is no technical argument for keeping code closed. In five or ten years there will be a way to make money and keep every single line of code open.

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Speaking at a panel at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit 2006 addressing the question of whether all software, or even hardware, will go open source, MySQL CEO Marten Mickos said: "There is no technical argument for keeping code closed. In five or ten years there will be a way to make money and keep every single line of code open." Today, historical pressures and licensing issues are holding back companies from embracing open source more fully, he said. Open source companies are experimenting with different business models, such as commercial open source, which includes some proprietary, closed components in a solution, different kinds of licenses and services.

Technically, there is no reason the majority of software can't be open source, once the patent infringement issues have been handled--but that's a major hurdle. Bruce Perens, vice president of policy at SourceLabs, said patent issues are the Achilles heel of open source. He expressed concern that small- and medium-sized companies won't survive if they get his with software litigation. Even if they are right, they couldn't afford to survive a lawsuit, he said.

Ron Hovsepian, CEO of Novell, cited the Open Invention Network, which is buying up patents for cross-licensing purposes to defend the Linux environment, making them available royalty-free to developers. Mickos proclaimed that patents are the Achilles heel of the entire software industry. He called it a societal problem, and compared it to the evolution of smoking. First, it was a medical experiment to see if there were health benefits, but it was a killer. Patents are killing innovation within what he termed the superior open source model. "Europe in software patents is doing smarter things. The U.S. needs to catch up. Software patents are plain bad," Mickos said. "We all need to join consortiums [like the Open Invention Network] to protect you, but when it really gets bad, legs get broken and bad things happen."  He may be referring to his leg, which is in a cast (see below), but I doubt that a patent troll caused the damage...

 

 

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Mark Spencer, Digium; Marten Mickos, MySQL; Ron Hovsepian, Novell; Matt Ettus, Ettus Research; Bruce Perens, SourceLabs

Topics: Patents

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