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Five large technology companies are joining forces to acquire patents related to open source operating system Linux, in an effort to sustain demand amid the threat of licensing charges.
I would love to think they have had a change of heart as regards open source ..but they have way to many lawsuits pending trying to do just the opposite ..and the recent root kit on your CD reported elsewhere here by Digital Ghost is but the latest example ..
Would love to eat my words / missgivings ..but
I am surprised someone like apple is not involved in this as well, since their OS is based on Linux.Wrong, it's based on unix.
Both wrong ;) Mac OSX is based on FreeBSD [freebsd.org], a free Unix-like OS which shares no patented Linux code whatsoever and is licensed differently. Apple have no vested interest in acquiring Linux patents.
IBM on the other hand are famously "betting the business" on Linux, and have a strong interest in fostering open source initiatives and actively protecting Linux from patent claims.
Both wrong ;) Mac OS X is based on FreeBSD
It is a bit more complicated than that. It is based on the Mach microkernel and BSD-Lite (details at [developer.apple.com ]). It is related to FreeBSD because it was influenced by FreeBSD and because FreeBSD is also based on BSD-Lite.
shares no patented Linux code whatsoever and is licensed differently
I think you are confusing patents with copyright.
Patents cover ideas (functionality, algorithms etc.) not the particular implementation that is a particular piece of code.
Neither Linux nor the BSD type OSes have copyright problems worth worrying about. On the other hand, as they provide very similar functionality, a patent that affects one is likely to affect the other.
Apple have no vested interest in acquiring Linux patents.
They do because patents that affect Linux will also affect BSD type OSes, including theirs.
but would have the effect of not allowing anyone else to patent the idea or invention
I wonder if there isn't a case for a government safeguarding or underwriting linux patents indefinately as being in the public good.
you are right that you can not patent something that has been previously invested by someone else (prior art).
However proving the existence of prior art is quite complicated. Further more someone can still patent something built on top of your unpatented invention (an improvement to it, an invention of their own that incorporates it etc.).
What we could be with is a GPL for patents.
Imagine if TCP/IP had been patented and then licensed on condition that you could not claim at patent on any technology built on it, all those silly patents of the obvious would have been impossible.