A new way to end the patent madness

Defensive Patent License could make life much less complicated for developers of new technology -- if adoption is widespread

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Defusing patent aggression with DPL
What if patents could be "de-weaponized"? Jason Schultz and Jennifer Urban have been honing an idea to deal with this problem for several years, according to a video lecture where they discuss it. Their release of the DPL this week is significant event.

Like all the best ideas, it's simple enough. As a business, you publish a statement that you are henceforth licensing any and all patents you own under the DPL and will make such licensing a condition of sale of any of your patents. From that point, without needing to enumerate the patents you own or negotiate terms with any other business, you are entitled to use all patents ever licensed under the DPL by all other businesses. The catch? You may never again use patents offensively against other signatories of the DPL. By this simple step, all patents owned by all DPL signatories are "de-weaponized."

Will this solve the patent wars? Definitely not immediately, and maybe not at all. First, the incentive to join the family is only as big as the family itself, so it will need to be an exponentially growing movement. Second, companies that already have vast patent portfolios used as a semi-secret profit center -- like IBM -- will be unlikely to join because it offers an easy way for their victims to avoid having their innovation taxed. Third, it only affects patent trolls once most patents have been de-weaponized. As long as there's a large, healthy market in patents not subject to the DPL, patent trolls will flourish.

Even assuming huge success for the DPL, patent trolls will persist until their current patent portfolios expire. Finally, it probably has no effect on the sale of patents after the demise of the original DPL signatory, so a free market in weaponizable patents will likely continue indefinitely.

That may all sound negative, but I welcome the Defensive Patent License, both as a tool and as a contribution to the debate. I'd encourage any business working with open source to take a good, close look at it -- an imperfect defense is better than no defense at all.

This article, "A new way to end the patent madness," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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