IIW last week in Mountain View was an exhilarating experience. One of the most gratifying moments for me was when Bill Smith, Gerry Beuchelt, and I had the pleasure of preannouncing the news of Sun’s non-assertion covenant on OpenID to a good-sized crowd, many of whom are OpenID developers and thus directly affected by IPR (intellectual property rights) considerations on this technology.
I believe Sun has been the first to make a statement on OpenID IPR like this, and Sun continues to push the edge of the envelope in stating clear, unambiguous wording that gives unprecedented assurance to those developers who worry about patent lawsuits coming down on their heads. The official wording and some helpful Q&A are now available on a page we’ve set up to record and track our declarations around OpenID. Big thanks to Eduardo Gutentag and Sun’s legal team for supporting our request on this and making it happen.
Thanks also to Sun’s CTO, Greg Papadopoulos, for his continued support of what we’re doing on OpenID. If you haven’t yet seen his recent musings on software patents and the ideal state of innovation we’re driving towards, check it out. Here’s one excellent snippet, but make sure to read the whole thing:
Patents are a far more blunt instrument than copyright, and tend to teach far less than code. I just don’t know of any developer who reads patents to understand some new software pattern or idea.
At our IIW session, I offered some context for our announcement that seemed to resonate with people: Big companies do things like this to help preserve the right of individual developers to give away their contributions if they wish. Some things to note about our covenant:
- It’s irrevocable. We’re not going to yank it out from under anyone.
- It’s not constrained just to features “necessary” to implement the spec (a legal term of art that functions as the cover to a can of worms).
- Its only condition applies to those who exhibit legally threatening behavior — to anyone.
I believe these are the best possible terms to encourage maximum software innovation, and encourage others to take such a stance themselves.