Embedded World has started today in Nürnberg, Germany. I am here with Open Invention Network to spread the idea of defensive publications and OIN’s non-aggression community of companies in the Open Source sphere. Highly innovative companies present here, and many of them face the same dilemma — if the innovators decide not to patent their inventions, they run the risk that another party applies for a patent of the same invention later. The decision not to patent could be for ethical reasons because they understand that software patents are harmful, or for business or many other reasons. The problem stays the same, there is a threat that patents are awarded even though similar solutions already existed.
There are many software patents out there that experts consider obvious, not inventive or trivial. All of those three are reasons that the patent should have been rejected. Especially important for complex but non-inventive ones, the patent examiner did not discover relevant prior art when scrutinising the patent application. The state of the art was not documented and accessible in a way that supported a good decision. Defensive publications are one answer to this problem. They offer a cheap and fast way to document inventions. Also, defensive publications are available for areas that legally should not be patentable, like software as such.
Through linuxdefenders.org, companies and research institutions, but also individual developers can submit defensive publications relevant to Linux and Open Source in general. Linux Defenders is backed by Open Invention Network on it’s mission to prevent bad software patents. We want to support developers and inventors to document their ideas as explicit prior art. Our goal is to ensure freedom to operate for the innovators in Open Source. If you are interested, worried about your invention or have any questions, you can find Armijn Hemel and me in hall 5, booth 341. Or ping me on Twitter @mirkoboehm.