by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 26th 2007 11:27am
While you can question the motives, Sun has actually been quite vocal recently over the question of software patents. Sun CEO Jonathon Schwartz has pointed out that successful companies innovate while unsuccessful ones litigate. And, indeed, Sun hasn't been going around filing patent lawsuits left and right, (or threatening to do so) like some other companies. However, it's quite clear that Sun understands the value of defensive patenting, since patents have become the nuclear stockpiling of the software world. Thus, it should come as no surprise that following Network Appliance's decision to sue Sun for patent infringement that Sun has struck back hard, accusing Network Appliances of violating 12 patents, and basically saying that many of NetApps' offerings are in violation and should be blocked. Schwartz makes it clear that he'd prefer to avoid this sort of nuclear response, but he's sending a message: if you're going to sue rather than innovate, you need to be prepared for the response to come back much more forcefully. There's no doubt that some of this is clearly posturing on Sun's part, to win more fans in the open source community -- but that's a perfectly good reason for doing what they're doing. The end result is expressing what many of us around here believe: competition drives innovation. Patents, on the other hand, remove competition -- and therefore tend to hinder that innovation. Having to use patents defensively is an unfortunate and expensive negative externality of the system, and it's nice to see Sun publicly supporting that position.
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