Looks like we are getting a lot of discussions on patents in
fedora-devel list now. Perhaps the section on patents can explicitly
mention our stand point on patents a bit more clearer? I am thinking of
something like the following within the guidelines or in a separate page
references by the guidelines:
Any patent system that allows patents over software (Not just US but
other countries around the world) is flawed and it is almost impossible
to develop any complex software without infringing on patents and this
is a pretty difficult problem especially for Free and open source
software. The Fedora policy is that we will try to avoid patent
infringement issues by refraining from including software that has
patent encumbered components where the patent owners are known to be
aggressive and are enforcing the patents actively.
If you suspect that you might be including code that is affected by
patents such aggressive enforcers, it is recommend that you contact
Fedora Legal in private (http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Legal#Contact
since raising these issues in a public forum can draw the attention of
patent owners and bring unnecessary legal trouble to developers. Free
software developers should avoid trying to do the patent searches
themselves. Many software patents are unenforceable or invalid but
knowingly infringing on patents will have a higher penalty in many
legal systems (In US, you will have to pay triple damages).
There are multiple ways of dealing with problematic patent issues.
a) get the patent owners to license the patents in writing in way that
is compatible with free and open source including but not limited to the
requirements of GPL license
b) upstream developers might be able to use a plugin system and Fedora
can simply refrain from including those plugins. Users from regions
where software patents are not valid can continue using such plugins
obtained from third party repositories. This is the case for multimedia
frameworks such as gstreamer included in Fedora
c) upstream developers might be able to workaround the patent by using a
different implementation technique. You must coordinate with
professional legal people on this.
d) find prior art that invalidates those patents with the help of
professional legal people.