Nov 6

Jesse Robbins

Jesse Robbins

Sun's counter-attack on NetApp and the defense of free software...

Jonathan Schwartz is treating NetApp's lawsuit over ZFS as an attack on free software. He posted his position and plan for counter-attack to his blog:

Their objectives were clear - number one, they'd like us to unfree ZFS, to retract it from the free software community. Which reflects a common misconception among proprietary companies - that you can unfree, free. You cannot.

Second, they want us to limit ZFS's allowable field of use to computers - and to forbid its use in storage devices. Which is quizzical to say the least - in our view, computers are storage devices, and vice versa [...] . So that, too, is an impractical solution.

We're left with the following: we're unwilling to retract innovation from the free software community, and we can't tolerate an encumbrance that limits ZFS's value - to our customers, the community at large, or Sun's shareholders. [...]

So later this week, we're going to use our defensive portfolio to respond to Network Appliance, filing a comprehensive reciprocal suit. As a part of this suit, we are requesting a permanent injunction to remove all of their filer products from the marketplace, and are examining the original NFS license - on which Network Appliance was started. By opting to litigate vs. innovate, they are disrupting their customers and employees across the world.

In addition to seeking the removal of their products from the marketplace, we will be going after sizable monetary damages. And I am committing that Sun will donate half of those proceeds to the leading institutions promoting free software and patent reform (in specific,
The Software Freedom Law Center and the Peer to Patent initiative), and to the legal defense of free software innovators. We will continue to fund the aggressive reexamination of spurious patents used against the community (which we've been doing behind the scenes on behalf of several open source innovators). Whatever's left over will fuel a venture fund fostering innovation in the free software community.

And on that note, I want to thank the free software advocates from across the world who've offered expert testimony, and reams of prior art to defend ZFS, and the community of which Sun's a part. Please rest assured we will use this opportunity to highlight the futility of using software patents to forestall competition - in the commercial marketplace, and among the free community.

You can read the back-story here:

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Comments: 3

  Swashbuckler [11.06.07 11:49 AM]

Give NetApp some credit, they're willing to actually enumerate the patents that they believe are infringed by OSS, unlike a certain company in the great Northwest...

  Karl Fogel [11.06.07 08:35 PM]

That's very strong (and welcome) language from Schwartz.

I wonder if other companies will take his use of the phrase "defensive portfolio" as some kind of legal committment that if they don't sue Sun for patent infringement, Sun will never sue them for patent infringement.

  markit [11.07.07 04:59 AM]

Sun should:
a) make ZFS license be GPL (3). At the moment can't be merged with Free Software, and is really a pity
b) state loud that Software Patents need to be *abolished*. Often Sun's position is about "certain software patents are good", while NO software patent (=patents upon ideas) is good in any case
c) don't donate to "peer to patent" initiative, that is something that will damage Free (and proprietary) Software, providing patents holder a way to know "which patents can be considerable good to spend in a trial" (http://lwn.net/Articles/238884/)

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