Novell Inc has taken its new stance on software patents in order to protect innovation in the industry as a whole, not just the open source community, according to a European regulator.
The Waltham, Massachusetts-based Linux and identity management company this week vowed to use its patent portfolio to protect open source software products and voiced its opposition to proposed changes to the European Union software directive that would ease restrictions on software patents.
While the patent protection policy focuses on open source, Jeremy Bevan, Novell VP of solutions management, EMEA told ComputerWire that it is focused on protecting innovation in the IT industry as a whole, and beyond. The basic starting point is not wanting software patents to be used to stifle innovation, which is a potential with these proposed changes, he said.
When you look at the industry as a whole, business is operating in a much more collaborative way. The open source model is a way of collaborating on other things, not just software, he added. What’s important here is that the use of patents to stifle innovation is not a good way to do business.
Bevan also revealed that Novell is in the process of communicating with EU member states to encourage them to think again about proposed EU software directive changes that would ease restrictions on software patents, and encouraged other vendors to do the same.
We are at the moment in the process of a series of communications within all the countries in the EU. We feel we have a strong position and case to help them understand these issues, he said. Clearly we’re not the only company that doesn’t believe patents should be used in this way. We think these companies should do that, and they are.
Novell announced its new patent policy to protect open source software in order to counter rumors about open source software, according to Bevan. We felt a growing need to do this over recent months, he said.
There have been various rumors about the possibility of patents in open source technology and what will happen, he added, saying that the company wanted to reassure its customers that there’s no greater risk with open source than with proprietary technology.
While the new policy was not formulated in response to a specific threat against any open source projects, Bevan added that the company felt the debate about patents in open source technologies was being blown out of proportion.
Bevan said the patent protection policy extends beyond the Linux operating system that Novell distributes thanks to its acquisition of SuSE Linux to also include other open source products, such as the Apache web server, MySQL database and OpenOffice.org productivity suite. We’re prepared to defend all of those, he added.