after one gpl body blow, skype yells uncle

As most of you probably know, there has been a case that just went to court earlier today in Germany on the GPL. It had been described by Harald Welte as one of the more time consuming cases he has worked on. For those of you not familiar with him, Mr. Welte founded, an organization that helps to enforce the provisions of the GPL.

Skype had apparently used certain elements of the Linux kernel in its WiFi phones without complying with the GPL, and was set to challenge the validity of the GPL based on its alleged contraventions of German legislation – in particular anti-trust legislation. It would be interesting to see the analysis in that regard, particularly on the anti-trust front, but so far I’ve not been able to get my hands on a translated copy of the pleadings – if anyone knows where to locate, do let me know.

Anyway, apparently, they didn’t get too far. According to the entry in Harald Welte’s blog, apart from the validity of such claims, the somewhat ironic result to which the court alluded at the hearing is that if Skype were able to successfully assert the invalidity of the license, then it would also be difficult for them to claim any right to use the impugned code. Makes sense. Invalid license = no use rights.

After the court suggested that Skype’s likelihood of success would be low, Skype apparently threw in the towel in such a manner that they would not be able to revisit it further, effectively giving the victory to Welte.

I find the case and Skype’s litigation strategy somewhat puzzling, both given the decision in the 2006 D-Link case, also in Germany and the relative costs of litigation in comparison to compliance. That being said, I haven’t been able to obtain much in the way of original documentation regarding the particular GPL violations that Skype allegedly committed. Presumably, Skype went down a path in its use of GPL code that would result in it incurring significant expenses (or facing significant risk, of some sort – perhaps exposure of their own proprietary IP?) if they were required to comply after the fact. Presumably, they would not have found themselves in this situation if they had turned their mind toward structuring their use of GPL code appropriately, by either ensuring they could comply in a cost-effective manner, or not using the GPL code.

Hmmm…. interesting…. oops, might have just violated a patent…

Well, not quite. Being a bit tongue in cheek. But continuing on a theme of interesting patents, a story in Boing Boing referring to Flickr filing a patent for “interestingness” and how some feel they shouldn’t be able to:

I read the Flickr patent this morning and FWIW I don’t think Flickr should be able to get a broad patent on “interestingness”. There’s a very large number of papers in the image processing and collaborative filtering areas that all define various notions of relevance, interestingness, salience, or novelty. A specific innovative technique might be patentable, but not the general idea of computing how interesting an image or media object is to a person or set of people.

Of course, to flickr’s credit, I’m not sure whether flickr’s patent is so broad to be too broad. It does, after all, go through and enumerate certain steps in its method that don’t necesarily need to be steps in other methods of determining “interestingness”, so I don’t think it really goes so far as to patent the general idea of computing or figuring out how interesting a media object is. If it were,  well, you might be in violation right now. That is, if you find this entry interesting. Or at least more or less interesting that some other entry…