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The clash of IoT IP policies: Intel vs Qualcomm

Posted: 07 May 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel? Qualcomm? AllSeen Alliance? Open Interconnect Consortium? IP policies?

However, we should add that lawyers and corporations didn't just let engineers win and leave them alone. They couldn't help horning into the process, riding the claim that they're protecting users of open-source software.

Thus, the process of developing IP policies inside any big industry group is never simple or straightforward. Perhaps it's best described as a tug of war between engineers and lawyers.

Looking back on three decades punctuated by the birth, adoption and evolution of various "free software" and "open-source" software development projects, Updegrove observed that the industry has followed two separate routes, one driven by engineers and another by companies, in designing what each community thinks as the best IP policy.

Brief history of IP protections

Like any technologies used in industry projects inevitably keep evolving, IP policies have also changed, progressed and subsequently got more complicated.

As Updegrove said, among open source licences, there is an "extremely brief" permissive free software licence called BSD licence. It imposes minimal restrictions on the redistribution of covered software, he noted.

Implied in the BSD licence was that a downstream developer or user of software licensed under the BSD licence won't be sued for patent infringement. While this is a consensus built up over time among developers and software users, Updegrove pointed out that lawyers feel more secure when patent obligations are more clearly stated. To give more solid legal assurance to users of software, newer open source licences such as Apache 2.0 licence, for example, now include specific text mentioning the grant of patent licence.

Updegrove acknowledges that the evolution of such open source licences has been partly triggered by the nervousness of corporations and lawyers. Moreover, their pursuit of additional layers of intellectual property protection is hardly over.

Some parties are even pushing for "a patent pledge." Instead of granting a licence to the patent, the new pledge commits the patent owner not to sue someone using, modifying or distributing open source software covered by the patent, even though no licence has been granted.

"A patent pledge can be used to provide additional protections to users of software that the open source licence itself does not provide," said Updegrove. "So if a given project is under a very short permissive licence, a group of companies can decide to provide an additional umbrella over the project code" using this legal device.

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