back to article Red Hat pledges patent protection for 99 per cent of FOSS-ware

Red Hat says it has amassed over 2,000 patents and won't enforce them if the technologies they describe are used in properly-licensed open-source software. The company has made more or less the same offer since 2002, when it first made a "Patent Promise" in order to "discourage patent aggression in free and open source …

  1. Hans 1

    “To the extent a party makes, uses, sells, offers to sell, imports, or otherwise transfers Covered FOSS, Red Hat agrees not to use such actions as a basis for enforcing its patents against the party”.

    This means RedHat won't sue you if you use covered software.

    Our Promise is not an assurance that Red Hat's patents are enforceable or that practicing Red Hat's patented inventions does not infringe others’ patents or other intellectual property.”

    This means you are on your own, should anybody sue you for patent infringement for use of covered software.

    Please define "patent protection" ?

    1. Duncan Macdonald

      It means that you are safe from the patents that RedHat owns. No one could provide protection against third party patents (or even list them all - there are too many).

      1. Steve the Cynic

        "or even list them all - there are too many"

        Presumably the Patent Office lists them all?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "No one could provide protection against third party patents..."

        This is actually a pretty common feature of open source software sales - the license for the software will provide indemnity against future patent actions concerning the software in addition to the usual support and value-add feature gubbins.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      It says:

      "We won't sue you".

      It could not ever say:

      "Nobody else will ever sue you."

      What makes you think it could?

      Literally, I could patent something tomorrow and sue you over it. It might be completely obvious and baseless but you'd have to go to court to prove that. Are you expecting Red Hat to somehow change the legal system so that that never happens to anyone, ever, anywhere in the world no matter how unscrupulous the company doing so (e.g. SCO)?

  2. Tim99 Silver badge


    Provided you install systemd.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. MacroRodent

        Re: Promise

        Ah, but systemd is part of that 1% not covered - not the 99% that is. [...]

        FUD. systemd is under one of the covered licenses (LGPL). The licenses are listed openly, as noted in the article, so it is very easy for anyone to check if some piece of software he is interested in is covered by the promise.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Promise


          No, humour. Of the black kind.

    2. PNGuinn

      Provided you install systemd

      One would hope that for the sake of all mankind systemd is patented up to the hilt and that Red Hat would sue the *rse of anyone even thinking to be encumbered by it.

      One would hope.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they are covered by the open source licence why patent them in the first place?

    1. ExampleOne

      To prevent them being used in non-opensource software?

      Does the promise also include clauses about "Sue us for patent infringement and your protections go bye-bye?"

    2. Velv

      Not all patents are taken out purely for financial reasons. Sometimes it is good for an innovation to be protected by patent to prevent nefarious types from exploiting the invention, say by producing and selling fakes (which could be potentially fatal with things like pharmaceuticals). It is up to the patent holder to determine if they’re going to charge for a license or not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        say by producing and selling fakes (which could be potentially fatal with things like pharmaceutical

        If it's sufficiently different from the original to be fatal it's probably not covered by the patent...

    3. a_yank_lurker

      @AC - A very good reason to get a patent is to protect yourself. If you own the patent you can not be sued by a troll or you can make the troll's life miserable with prior art (your patent).

      All Red Hat is saying is anyone can use their patents if they do certain things without having to get explicit permission from them. Just make sure you understand the requirements and that you can meet them and you will not be sued by them. As the patent holder, Red Hat can make whatever rules it wants for licensing the patent.

  4. frank ly

    These patents

    Red Hat has 2,000 and Microsoft has 10,000. How many would stand up to the cold light of examination for prior art, genuine novelty, not being obvious to anyone with technical experience and ability, etc?

  5. pmcbride


    "Our Promise does not extend to hardware by itself."

    So hardware by itself is not covered.

    "Our Promise extends to combinations with such Covered FOSS if the claimed invention is substantially embodied in the Covered FOSS portion of a combination and if all other portions of the combination are merely enabling or general-purpose technologies or practices."

    So hardware in combination with Covered FOSS is covered if the claimed invention is substantially embodied in the Covered FOSS and the hardware is merely enabling or general-purpose.

  6. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Meanwhile here in the free world

    Meanwhile here in the free world... software is not patentable. Business processes are also not patentable.

    A fine approach only marred by having to deal with poor quality regimes where software and/or business processes are patentable.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not a Licence?

    Why do they make this "Promise" rather than provide an actual "Licence"?

    Serious question. Anyone know the answer?

    I would have thought that a licence would be much better. If Red Hat were to grant a licence and then be bought out by Evil Corp, that starts suing people, then the victims could respond with: "I have a licence!" With this "promise", victims could only respond with: "Hey, but you (I mean your predecessor) promised!" In some jurisdictions there's stuff like "promissory estoppel", apparently, but Evil Corp could still respond with: "Well we broke our promise. So sue us. But in the meantime, and even if you win when you sue us, you have no licence. Police and customs have been informed." Not so good.

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