Deputizing Patent Trolls to Defend Free Software

I wrote a bit ago about DPL, a patent license to help defend free software and open source projects from those exploiting patents to suppress innovation and competition. Even though DPL is still at a very early stage in its development, outspoken anti-software patent advocate, Florian Mueller, doesn’t think it is aggressive enough. He suggests we need an “offense is the best defense” strategy, trying to convince some patent trolls to accept the DPL, protecting other signatories, then turning their attentions to non-DPL protected projects and companies.

This general idea is not new, trying to co-opt an otherwise bad actor to try to re-focus them to a more constructive end. The example I see pop up every few years is that of re-writing a computer virus to deliver some inoculation or fix. I seriously doubt the DPL is set up with this in mind and following through on Mueller’s idea could trigger a potentially disastrous early test of the license. The unintended consequences are usually what forestalls trying this sort of harnessing of dubious tactics for good ends.

I understand the frustration he expresses in his explanatory post, I do. I still don’t think this idea is a good one, one that will achieve the intended effect. He wants to increase the difference between standing within the safe circle of the DPL and acting on the outside, where predatory patent claims and interlocking, high cost licensing deals are more the norm than peaceful cooperation. I think there simply has to be a better way to produce that gradient between membership and non-membership than through deputized and endorsed trolling against non-DPL members.

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