Another day, another trip to Brussels. Today the Openforum Academy, the Openforum Europe think tank “with a broad aim to examine the paradigm shift towards openness in computing” is inviting to a round table and discussion about “Patent non-aggression pacts: a way forward for technological innovation?” Next to Clara Neppel, an examiner in the field of computer-implemented inventions at the European Patent Office, and Carlo Piana of the FSFE, I will be speaking about Open Invention Network and it’s role as a non-aggression network with a strictly defined field of use, namely Open Source software. The results of the round table will be compiled into a whitepaper and published later by Openforum Academy.
Patent non-aggression pacts are a controversial issue. When individual companies pledge non-aggression, like Twitter did, that is laudable. Essentially, Twitter announced that it will not turn into a patent troll, a significant and important initiative that has the potential to trigger cultural change for the better in the software industry. However in other such cases, similar pledges were violated later-on, so how trustworthy are they, and can they be enforced if disagreement arises? This is one of the central questions I hope to get an answer to by those with a legal and policy background at the round table. When applied bilaterally by large corporations, non-aggression pacts may raise anti-trust concerns. However this is a case of “blame the game, not the player”, similar to the discussions around non-practising entities. Patents are temporary monopolies, they are an instrument specifically designed to control competition. Entities specialising in doing that are part of the system, similar to arbitrage traders in the stock market. They may even play a significant role for the functioning of the market for patents itself, by posing competition and pushing for patents to be sold at market price. If the behaviour of non-practising entities is a cause for concern, the game needs to be changed, and then the players will change, too. There are troublesome developments regarding patent trolls, but those are operating within the patent system we have created.
Open Invention Network is unique in that it is a non-aggression network open for every entity that is willing to pledge non-aggression within the Linux System definition. In my talk, I will focus on how non-practising entities and non-aggression pledges are integral parts of the patent system, the differences between the various kinds of non-aggression agreements, and under what criteria of entry, field of use definitions and cost of participation such agreements non-aggression pacts benefit technological innovation.