Subject: A different patent covenant...
From: Brian Behlendorf <brian@collab.net>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2006 13:59:23 -0700 (PDT)


...one that still accomplishes a patent holder's goal of realizing 
economic return from a large number of potential users, but which places 
the burden of worrying about the flaws of the patent system onto those who 
want to play the patent game:

"I hereby grant an unrestricted license for implementation, use, and 
distribution (etc.) of any software that implements my patents, for no 
fee, to any entity who agrees to license all of their own patents under 
this same license to any entity.  Alternate commercial licensing options 
are available upon request."

This would preserve a revenue stream for the patent holder from other 
large patent holders who have not made the same kind of grant.  Small 
companies with few patents will be incented to make such a covenant; large 
players with existing large revenue streams from patent licensing will 
probably hold off on doing so.

Yes, "all their own patents" is very broad.  More "viral" than the GPL. 
This is because patents themselves are a very broad enforcement mechanism 
- I can be subject to a patent I've never even seen.

Companies who register patents solely for defensive purposes are still 
protected if they make such a covenant, because the other party will 
nearly by definition not agree to such a covenant.

I daresay IC would make just as much money from this approach as from 
their proposed covenant.  I know it would be more acceptable to many of 
the open source projects out there than a "non-commercial use" kind of 
license.

 	Brian