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Red Hat

Red Hat is a software company which lobbies against software patents.

Lobbying against software patents

USA: Bilski submissions

Red Hat filed strongly anti-software-patent briefs for both the 2008 in re Bilski case and the 2009 Bilski v. Kappos case.

EU anti-swpat lobbying

During the EU Software Patents directive, Red Hat financed the No Software Patents campaign. Their counsel at the time Mark Webbink was also regularly in the European Parliament.[1]

Anti-swpat lobbying in India

In response to a 2008 proposal in India to change the patents manual to allow software patents, Red Hat submitted a letter arguing to continue excluding software from patentability.[2]


By Red Hat

No known cases. (And no reason to think there have been any.)

Against Red Hat

Open Source Assurance program

The text(s) of Red Hat's "Open Source Assurance" program[4] are not publicly available. This is a service Red Hat provides to it's paying customers. According to Red Hat's FAQ:[5]

The terms of program include the following (i) replacing the infringing portion of the software, (ii) modifying the software so that its use becomes non-infringing, or (iii) obtaining the rights necessary for a customer to continue its use of the software. In addition, Red Hat will defend a customer (i.e., hire and pay for a lawyer) in the event of an intellectual property lawsuit and will pay damages that result from a judgment or settlement against the customer.

SOAP patent controversy

Despite lobbying against software patents, Red Hat raised some concerns in 2009 when it applied for software patents related to the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). Red Hat offers a non-aggression patent promise, but this promise is indeed a "promise", not a licence, and it's not irrevocable. Thus, if Red Hat had a change of management or was bought out, these patents could be used aggressively. The existence of the promise would only provide an equitable defence.

The promise is also limited to only protecting the free software community.

While Red Hat previously owned software patents, these were just incidentally acquired when Red Hat bought other companies. The SOAP patent was worrying because it was the first sign of intent/desire to hold patents in its area of activity without granting a general licence. Some companies apply for patents to build up a portfolio for defensive purposes. If this was Red Hat's intention, they could have granted a general licence stating that these patents would only be used defensively, i.e. against patent holders who had attacked Red Hat or its partners.

Press coverage

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External links

Related to Fedora

Fedora is a partly independent project with large involvement from Red Hat.