Alan Hargreaves' Blog

The ramblings of a former Australian SaND TSC* Principal Field Technologist

Sun: Patent use OK beyond Solaris project

There is a very interesting article at zdnet titled Sun: Patent use OK beyond Solaris project.

As many of you will already know there have been a number of concerns raised about exactly what the 1600 odd patents that are covered by the CDDL can be used for.

Most recently, Dan Ravicher wrote an open letter to Sun asking for important clarification.

Interestingly Richard Stallman wrote quite a restrained piece which appears to leave the door open for Sun to ‘do the right thing’.

Now, on reading Steven Shankland’s article (the one in this title), it appears that this might just be the case.

Now, before I go any further I have to say…

I am not privy to anything that Sun has not yet said on this issue, my comments are based purely on personal opinion and what Steven has quoted in this article.

Quoting from Steven’s article

Sun itself has given mixed messages. Sun President Jonathan Schwartz said in November, “It is not our intent to say, ‘Here is our intellectual property and we’ll sue you.'” A company representative said Tuesday that Sun wouldn’t sue Linux users for using the patents.

But Sun’s published statement position is less generous. The company’s press release said, “OpenSolaris developers and customers alike no longer need patent protection or indemnity from Sun and other participants in the OpenSolaris community for use of Solaris-based technologies under the CDDL and OpenSolaris community process.”

That’s a pretty straight forward statement from Jonathan.

I would also note that the statement made in the second paragraph does not exclude what was said in the first, merely points out that those people using Open Solaris are covered.

Now, earlier in the article we have some interesting quotes from Tom Goguen.

The server and software company clarified its position somewhat on Monday. “Clearly we have no intention of suing open-source developers,” said Tom Goguen, head of Solaris marketing. However, he added, “We haven’t put together a fancy pledge on our Web site” to that effect.

Some kind of pledge is possible, Goguen said: “We’re definitely looking into what would make sense and what would make the community feel more comfortable with the patent grant we have made available.”

To me it looks like an announcement along these lines is iminent. I look forward to watching a few pundits remove egg from their faces. Really folks, we are not the bad guys, and we are trying to do something worthwhile. There is no great conspiracy here.

Again, it’s worth noting that all of the patents covered by this grant are directly relevant to the software in question, and not simply patents that we are chucking over the wall because they are about to expire and might or might not be useful.

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Written by Alan

January 31, 2005 at 4:52 pm

4 Responses

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  1. If sun clarifies their patent position and it turns out its a ibm-style patent grant I will take back everything I have said against opensolaris. It’s just right now not only do I have clue of what my rights are with the 1600 patents I dont even have a list of patents! Nor has sun put anything on their site, all of this has been arm waving to the press. So I am left to believe the only patent grant would be from releasing code under the CDDL. And the only thing released is dtrace, and I am sure all 1600 patents could have been used under dtrace. It would seem Goguen is calling a pledge trvial in the article (by refering to it as ‘fancy’) but I dont know why he expects open source developers to jump on board with only promises and not something legally binding. I really do hope sun does the right thing and opens these patents for all of the open source community and clarifies what exact rights developers have.


    February 1, 2005 at 5:00 am

  2. A proper patent grant might actually mop up some of the damage the vacuous “1600 patents” PR release caused in the first place.
    The issue isn’t necessarily whether Sun are bad now, but whether they’ll be bad in 20 years.


    February 1, 2005 at 12:41 pm

  3. Personally I was amazed by the extremely vicious reaction from the Linux community. I think SUN should watch their back ‘cos I think the Linux guys just declared jihad against you folks.


    February 1, 2005 at 7:14 pm

  4. “I think SUN should watch their back ‘cos I think the Linux guys just declared jihad against you folks.”
    I think it’s less of a proper ‘jihad’ and more of a ‘watch out for our Linux stock portfolio.’ Look at some of the big names speaking loudest against OpenSolaris and, then, look who they work for. Everyone flings FUD, even Sun occasionally, but the Linux folks are really good at flinging it really hard, so hard that you almost have to believe them (despite the fallacies and poor grammar;)


    February 1, 2005 at 9:39 pm

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