Remember the Gif submarine patent from Unisys?
It’s a classic story of why OSS and standards in general do not mix with patents.
While at business rules forum this year I was asked by Larry Goldberg, one of The Decision Model (TDM) authors what our plans were for Drools and TDM. You can read more about what TDM is here:
While discussing future ways we could work together I asked them what their business model was. After discussing consulting and training I asked if there was a scalable business model, thinking maybe certification centres around the TDM brand. He answered IP. I asked what IP, for I was not aware of any software they had, he answered TDM is patented……… Say what now?
Yes I was kinda stunned by that too. I replied I couldn’t discuss TDM any further or look at software that implemented it, without Red Hat legal guidance. This field is covered extensively in research, I don’t believe they have anything that for instance isn’t already covered by the god father of decision tables at Leuven University, Jan Vanthienen.
Mr Goldberg seemed confused by this, offering that everyone has to deal with patents when using software. Obviously someone who has not got the Red Hat message. So for those that don’t know, let me spell it out 🙂
Open Source and Patents do not mix. When you get software from Red Hat you are guaranteed its 100% Open Source, not maybe OS or partly OS. From top to bottom, inside and out 100% OS goodness. But it doesn’t stop there Red Hat guarantees and indemnifies it’s customers that the software is not IP encumbered in any way. Those are cast iron assurance built universally into the Red Hat brand, and it’s why Red Hat is the world’s number one OSS company.
So you can imagine that making available the patent encumbered TDM as part of Drools does not fit with the above assurances and does not and will not happen.
For those vendors, OSS or not, make sure you are aware of this and have agreed licensing deals before walking into this IP trap and getting gauged later.
I hope that the TDM people might consider giving universal and perpetual access to their patent to allow wider adoption. I believe Red Hat has a patent pool they can donate too, if they need help in how to do this.
I would add that I have simplified things here. For instance various Open Source efforts are under way for defensive patents, to protect OSS, http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Defensive_patent_pools. Also some OSS licenses, like Apache allow patents but give universal access, while retaining the rights to act defensively. We have patent applications in the Drools team For this reason. You can read more about the Red Hat patent promise here:
Disclaimer: This post is made in a personal capacity. Nothing written above should be construed as Red Hat’s corporate position.