22 September 2017
Raleigh
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Red Hat expands Patent Promise


Open-source software provider Red Hat has revised its Patent Promise, which was initially intended to discourage patent aggression against free and open-source software.

The expanded version of the defensive patent aggregation scheme extends the zone of non-enforcement to all of Red Hat’s patents and all software under “well-recognised” open-source licenses.

In its original Patent Promise in 2002, Red Hat said software patents are “inconsistent with open-source and free software”.

The company said: “Red Hat representatives have addressed this issue before the National Academies of Science, the US Federal Trade Commission, and the US Department of Justice. Red Hat is also a signatory to a petition to the European Union encouraging the EU not to adopt a policy of permitting software patents.”

Red Hat said that, despite this, the world does not operate in that way and currently permits software patents.

It said: “A relatively small number of very large companies have amassed large numbers of software patents. We believe such massive software patent portfolios are ripe for misuse because of the questionable nature of many software patents generally and because of the high cost of patent litigation.”

“One defence against such misuse is to develop a corresponding portfolio of software patents for defensive purposes.”

Red Hat says the updated Patent Promise “represents the broadest commitment to protecting the open-source software community to date”.

Michael Cunningham, executive vice president and general counsel at Red Hat, added: “Red Hat’s Patent Promise now covers the lion’s share of open-source code and continues to cover all of our patents.”

He said: “We encourage others to make commitments like these. The innovation machine represented by the open-source community is an enormous positive force for society. Our patent promise—we believe the broadest in the industry—is intended to support and nurture that community and force.”

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