Digging in the Nokia-and-software-patents topic
Many times when Nokia members like myself try to discuss further on open source involvement the argument on software patents comes back. For instance, in my last blog post about Connecting open source and mobile users – the Nokia plan. There are many good comments about patents in the thread. One puts it in the classical accusation:
> Why are Nokia’s representatives lobbying for software patents in the European
> Union and in various other locations?
If you care about the topic you can help by providing more precision and data in the accusation and the demands: Is Nokia really lobbying for software patents nowadays? Which countries are we talking about apart from the EU? What does “lobbying” exactly mean? What would you find reasonable about Nokia dealing with software patents?
A FFII report made four years ago seems to be the source of the complaints, but what was that action and where it stands today? Are there more original sources to look at? Searching the Internet most of the stuff seems to be echoes and opinions resonating each other and sometimes linking to the original FFII source.
All this is what I’m investigating these days. I’m no expert in the topic but I’m familiar with the No Software Patents campaign, I know some of the colleagues involved in Intellectual Property at Nokia and I have this journalist background so helpful sometimes. After a first round I’m quite optimistic seeing progress on this issue only by communicating more and better what is Nokia actually thinking and doing about software patents.
Some basic hints about the topic I found interesting to learn about:
- There are traditional patents on engineering inventions (i.e. hardware) that are out of question in the No Software Patents discussion. Then there are purely software patents – the matter discussed. But there are also patents on software-interacting-with-hardware which in the case of Nokia, a company shipping devices with software inside, are very relevant. The boundaries between these boxes are not always clear.
- Nokia is patenting software, just like the rest of its direct competitors do. Software patents do exist at least in the United States and not following that game can be so expensive (companies shipping patented features have to pay the owners of the patents) to rule you practically out of the market. The patent game might bring you to court and probably to huge indemnifications… probably not if you are a free software developer hacking for fun but surely if you are a wealthy company with successful products sold in boxes in the market. Search for patent litigation in the IT industries (many of the big companies you know have been to court because of this) and you will see the numbers.
- There are basically two attitudes for a company when playing the patent game: preventive and aggressive. Preventive means that you patent in order to make your own products getting some advantage and being well positioned when it comes to make compensation roundups with your competitors. Aggressive means that you use patents as a primary mean to damage competitors or even make a business around patent pledges. Nokia plays preventive, and specially when it comes to deal with the open source community the strategy is not to be aggressive at all. There was this formal precedent: Nokia announces patent support to the Linux Kernel. Beyond press releases, the respect about the achievements of open source development is part of our daily work (contributing Nokia to this open source success as well).
Let’s move forward in this debate. No need to campaign or flames: good arguments are enough. I’m also happy facilitating the contact between the organizations working against software patents and the right people at Nokia. I’m sure already today there are less discrepancies than most people think, and any exchange will be fruitful.
Filed under: maemo | 15 Comments
Tags: IPR, Nokia, opensource, patents, software