Linux Defenders: A Little Help From Our Friends - InformationWeek

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12/9/2008
11:08 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Linux Defenders: A Little Help From Our Friends

The newest chapter in the ongoing saga of patents-and-Linux tackles the whole issue from an entirely new direction: empowering the process of prior art discovery. It's a smart approach, especially since real patent reform is still years to decades away.

The newest chapter in the ongoing saga of patents-and-Linux tackles the whole issue from an entirely new direction: empowering the process of prior art discovery. It's a smart approach, especially since real patent reform is still years to decades away.

To be honest, I expected something like this to spring up in some form or another -- and what's striking is how the idea I'd batted around resembles what the Linux Defenders folks are doing. I'd considered something along the lines of a social-information / Wikipedia-like site, where people could look at dubious patent filings and tag them with prior art references -- either previous patent filings or real-world examples.

The Defenders program, though, goes a step further by actually engaging with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office directly. That's been a key missing ingredient from this recipe for some time: picking up where the USPTO's own mechanisms -- by all reports hopelessly overburdened -- leave off and also by not shunting the burden sideways to the court system.

I'm mentioning that last part for a reason. Earlier in the year when I was at OSCON, one discussion revolved around better education for judges about technological patent issues, but one conversation later I realized that was not going to work. Judges have even less time on their hands to educate themselves about such issues than patent examiners, and are that much further away from the front lines for this kind of activity in the first place.

What I'm waiting for now is the first live, honest-to-goodness, proof-of-concept defensive publication submission through this system -- and to follow the whole process from start to finish. My ears are bent in anticipation.


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