Here’s the best thing companies can do to help Open Source – patent their software… and release it under the GPLv3 license.
You’ll not get any argument from me that the patent system is broken. Firstly, the Patent Office hands out T-shirts to their examiners that read, “We’re the Patent Office, Not the Rejection Office”. OK, that should give you a slight inkling of where they stand on the issue. But more importantly, patent examiners are paid to
- open a case
- ‘dispose’ of a case
If they reject a patent it’ll come back with a challenge. They don’t get paid for this. Guess what they do?
But, back to the thesis at hand – GPLv3 states that if you release a piece of code that the code can’t become non-free by a patent you have on the code. This means the code effectively comes with a patent license. Code can be copied, reused, etc., under the GPLv3, so the patent license extends to all uses of the code.
Since the patent system is broken, we have to work with what we’ve got (fixing it is something to be done in parallel, but a separate issue). Companies who support Open Source, need to file for as many patents as they can to prevent the usual patent offenders from filing bogus patents and then threatening to prosecute the Open Source community.