In the movement toward patent reform, the Patent Office, Congress, and the courts aren't the only targets for change. Individual and corporate patent owners have steps they can take to reduce the harmful effects of software patents and disempower patent trolls, largely through alternative licensing schemes.
We're excited to announce the first set of patents released under one such scheme, the Defensive Patent License (DPL). The 23 patents, owned by EFF cofounder John Gilmore, were created by Pixel Qi, a startup that aimed to advance low-power LCD screens. With these patents under the DPL, anyone can license them royalty-free as long as they license their own patents (and commit to licensing future patents) under the same terms—even if they don't have any patents at all.
The Defensive Patent License, pioneered by a team at NYU and Berkeley law schools with support from EFF, sets out to create an environment where patents aren't bludgeons for offensive litigation campaigns, abused by companies to engage in expensive lawsuits and by trolls to threaten true innovators. Inspired by free software and free cultural license, the DPL allows for patent-owners and developers to benefit from openly sharing their portfolio.
We'll be participating on a conference call on Tuesday, December 9 at 1 pm PT/4 pm ET to announce the latest version of the DPL and its first licensor. To join, dial 1-866-740-1260 and use access code 642 1957.
While broad reform of the patent system is much needed, we encourage innovators and startups to check out alternative licensing schemes like the Defensive Patent License. (More can be found in our Hacking the Patent System guide [PDF].) Not only do these discourage offensive abuses of patents, but they promote a system that actually focuses on innovation instead of litigation.