Will Cisco-FSF lawsuit make it to court?

Summary:It's time for Cisco to make a decision, because every day now costs the FSF money, which will raise the cost of a final settlement. Unless it wants its contribution to the economic stimulus to come in the form of legal fees.

Cisco CEO John Chambers, from the Cisco Web site
Unlikely.

Since filing its GPL violation suit against Cisco last month, the Free Software Foundation has grown very quiet.

Christmas was a good excuse. New Year's too. But the holidays are over, yet still not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.

Thus reporters have been ordered to investigate the case. They called some lawyers, even some good ones, and see trouble ahead for the FSF.

Cisco has good lawyers. Any decision, even on the FSF's terms, will then be used to limit rights under the GPL.

My guess is negotiations are continuing because neither side has a real incentive to go to court.

The language of any legal decision would likely be less clear than the clear language of the GPL 2. But if the GPL can be challenged successfully, so can every EULA out there -- including Cisco's own.

In my view the GPL 2 is one of the clearest legal documents ever written. As clear as the Constitution itself. Which has been litigated continuously since its adoption, with court decisions that often turned plain language into its opposite.

It's like the difference between writing for a paper (or a blog) and writing an academic paper.

The latter may be dry and turgid, but it is specific, nailing down what prettier words might obscure. Most litigation seems to have the goal of turning plain language into academic language.

The difference between legal writing and academic writing is that the former always has wiggle room. Decisions depend on what the meaning of is is.

My guess is neither side wants to go down that rabbit hole. Cisco wants to save face, but the FSF won't be played for a fool.

It's time for Cisco to make a decision, because every day now costs the FSF money, which will raise the cost of a final settlement. Unless it wants its contribution to the economic stimulus to come in the form of legal fees.

Topics: Open Source, Cisco, Legal

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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