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Software Patents: Trolls and Other Bullies

Project: Open Invention Network

Lots of small and medium free software projects are staffed by volunteers that don't have any money to tempt a patent aggression entity. There's been plenty of talk about patent trolls, but money isn't the only motive for a patent suit. Even if non-practicing entities are eventually curtailed, ill-intentioned practicing entities may not be affected. The free software community will still have to worry about anti-competitive suits, nuisance suits and suits designed to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the adoption of free software. So, what can we as free software builders, promoters and users do to protect the code we care about?

Some solutions are only effective against non-practicing entities, while others may impact all kinds of bad actors. The strengths and weaknesses of proposed legislation, recent and ongoing campaigns and academic writings will be examined. If legislators and international trade negotiators won't take a stand against anti-competitive patent aggression, then we must do so as a community. Find out about some of the community solutions that are underway and how we can combat the threat of anti-FLOSS plaintiffs together.

Deb Nicholson

Deb Nicholson wants to make the world a better place with technology and social justice for all. After many years of local political organizing, she started handling outreach for the Free Software Foundation and became an enthusiastic free software activist. She likes talking to developers about software patents, to project maintainers about leadership and to activists about free software. She is currently the Community Outreach Director at the Open Invention Network and the Community Manager at GNU MediaGoblin. She also serves on the board at Open Hatch, a.k.a. Free Software's Welcoming Committee. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts surrounded by a community of food nerds and noisy musicians.