Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel at Red Hat, joined Chief Executive Officer Matthew Szulik in calling for changes in patent and intellectual property protection policy during a speech at the Red Hat Summit in New Orleans.

Webbink called for “reform to remove barriers to innovation”.

Szulik has made similar calls in recent speeches. In a keynote speech at the Summit, Szulink said “No longer should patents and copyrights be held hostage”.

Javed Tapia, director of Red Hat India, told the Indian web site Sify that patents create a “minefield”.

“For genuine innovators and entrepreneurs, patents have become broken glass on the highways of progress,” he said. “With patent restrictions, entrepreneurs and innovators have to be extremely careful to ensure that they are not walking into a legal minefield.”

IBM, Nokia and Red Hat are among companies that have announced access to protected software related to Open Source development.

Red Hat labeled three initiatives it has launched as an “intellectual property strategy aimed an ensuring an open right to innovate”.

Red Hat’s initiatives include establishment of a Fedora Foundation for support of Red Hat’s Fedora open source development project. (See os.newsforge.com/os/05/06/03/1422220.shtml?tid=2 for more details and discussion of the Federoa decision from NewsForge.)

Webbink also reiterated calls for “reform” in US patent applications requiring :a higher standard of scrutiny that ensures better patent quality” while expanding rights of third parties to challenge patents. Red Hat is also arguing for change in the European Union.
However, Red Hat’s call ran into resistance at the EU last month.

“If you allow anyone to get this information for free you have no way of having any kind of license,” Francisco Mingorance, director of public policy for the Business Software Alliance trade association that includes Microsoft and Apple, told the EU Parliament, according to Reuters. The inventors “are deprived of their original investment,” Reuters quoted Mingorance as saying.

The third part of Red Hat’s strategy is to create what it called a “Software Patent Commons” that would encourage “wide sharing” of copyrights.

“Patents are not equal to innovation,” Webbink said at the Summit. “More often, innovation occurs despite patents. What we observe today in the software industry is the use of patents to maintain market share, even where that market share has been obtained by anticompetitive means. We need to move away from a system of software patents compromised by trivial, incremental enhancements that block innovation, to a system that is aimed at rewarding substantial innovation.”

For details, see: www.redhat.com/legal/patent_policy.html