23 international patents on low-power screens for computers and phones are now licensed under the new Defensive Patent License (DPL) version 1.1. The patents were invented by Pixel Qi, a sunlight-readable, low-power liquid crystal display startup. They are now owned and licensed by John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Defensive Patent License Birthday Party, held on November 15, 2013, marked the unveiling of the DPL 1.0 to the world. Held at the Internet Archive, an audience of about 50 lawyers, activists, and founders heard the Archive's own Brewster Kahle speak about the broken patent system and the origin of the DPL as a way to solve it.
In recent months, the dormant and somewhat decaying intellectual property arsenals built by technology companies in the 1990s and 2000s for supposedly “defensive” reasons have been deployed. Yahoo! sued Facebook; Oracle sued Google; and Samsung sued Apple. Microsoft and Nokia have also been drawn into the fray. The result is millions of dollars in legal fees and years in court, raising concerns among Silicon Valley innovators that the software patent arms race is beginning to take a costly toll. Lawsuits between competitors are nothing new, but what stands out here is the fact that litigants on both sides question whether software patents should exist at all. They litigate, but wish they did not have to do so, leaving one to wonder if there could be another way.
Let’s start with the obvious: The patent system is broken. Inventors are shutting down their businesses, small developers are removing their products from the U.S. market to avoid bogus legal threats, and industry groups are warning members that obvious technological improvements might draw lawsuits.