This german news item (heise.de) speculates that software patents in Europe will allow big companies like Microsoft to kill the open source movement. It forces open source projects to play according to the rules of capital. Patents are nothing more than land mines in a economic war. I can’t see why Microsoft wouldn’t use patents like these against any open source project that Microsoft does not want to exist. Open Source will be what Microsofts wants it to be.
The problem is that open source projects are not designed to be profitable. Most projects I can think of would die if the software developers are forced to become lawyers and patent hunters.
Dave Winer today reminds his readers that he was aware of the problem while ago:
Five years ago I said here that it was time to do something about patents, if we wait, there will be a meltdown. I don’t think too many paid attention. Today patents are central to every software strategy, not because we’re all going to be defensive with them, as so many say.
Obviously software patents are here to stay. So what to do about it?
The European Union could offer free patents and consulting for any project that has been OSI certified and support initiatives that create ideas to patent these. These “free patents” could be used for at no cost by any OSI project. It could demand commercial projects to licence the patents while the licence fees could be determined to refund the free patent system and the open source project. So the price for free patents would be to have no 100% revenue of fees into the project itself.
The economic value would be that even the BigCos can use the enormous resource of free patents to improve their products.