Red Hat Clarifies Patent Stance, Emphasizes Commitment to Open Source


Leading Linux distributor Red Hat is defending its position on software patents. Rob Tiller, Red Hat's assistant general counsel and intellectual property VP, wrote Tuesday that the company's position on patents and in support of open source has not changed:

"Red Hat has a a long track record of supporting FOSS generally, and it has worked hard to address the shortcomings of the patent system. We intend to continue that support and those efforts."

He explained that any patents the company obtains relating to the AMQP specification are not intended to be used against those who use/implement the specification. He notes that all the AMQP working group members are required to grant an irrevocable patent license to users.


The patents would be used like the rest of Red Hat's patent portfolio -- as defense mechanism. In other words, Tiller said, "it is designed to discourage patent lawsuits by giving us the ability to retaliate against potential patent aggressors by asserting counterclaims as a defense."


The idea is similar to one Bingham McHale partner and IP attorney Matthew Schantz shared with me recently. He said:

"Patents in the U.S. initially belong to the individual inventors, so they can choose to give their rights up to the public outright, or even conditionally. In fact, that might be a great extension of the open source movement for particularly valuable innovations: getting patents and putting open source licenses on the patents..."