RedHat Release Statement on Patent Usage

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 10:50 PM

Leading Linux distributor RedHat, Inc. announced today a policy on its much publicized patent registrations. According to the company, “we are forced to live in the world as it is, and that world currently permits software patents. A relatively small number of very large companies have amassed large numbers of software patents. We believe such massive software patent portfolios are ripe for misuse because of the questionable nature of many software patents generally and because of the high cost of patent litigation.”

The statement at the company's web site continues:
“One defense against such misuse is to develop a corresponding portfolio of software patents for defensive purposes. Many software companies, both open source and proprietary, pursue this strategy. In the interests of our company and in an attempt to protect and promote the open source community, Red Hat has elected to adopt this same stance. We do so reluctantly because of the perceived inconsistency with our stance against software patents; however, prudence dictates this position.

The company goes on to state that those who license software under the GNU GPL, IBM Public License, QPL, or “any RedHat open source license” may use these patents without permission or royalty. This does, however, leave into question whether RedHat will eventually allow other popular licenses such as the Lesser GPL, Mozilla Public License, or the BSD/MIT licenses to use the patents.

You can find out more details at RedHat's web site. Expect more details on this continuing controversy in the upcoming days.