On this blog, we have written a number of times about patent trolls, the patent system and our efforts to change it. Rackspace is increasingly the target of lawsuits filed on behalf of these patent trolls; suits that aim to disrupt our business and extract a tax on innovation. Patent litigation is the fastest-growing part of our operational expenses at Rackspace — faster than salaries, faster than R&D, faster than datacenter energy costs.
Not one of these suits comes from a competitor. No one claims that we surreptitiously “copied” their technology. And in our opinion, not one of the so called “software patents” being used against us and other businesses that are actually developing software is valid or infringed. Instead, all of these suits are from patent trolls (non-practicing entities or “NPEs” in polite company) that acquired software patents later and are using those patents as weapons to hold up the companies that actual employ people and build value in our economy.
We’re fed up, and we’re doing something about it. We are absolutely going to promote legislation to solve this problem. We particularly like an idea that Dr. Richard Stallman wrote about recently in a Wired article, namely, that the effect of patents are changed, such that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement. While nothing short of eliminating software patents will satisfy us, we intend to work hard on anything practical that will move the law in the right direction. That leads us to something that we think could make a difference.
At Rackspace, we believe that an open cloud will create the best opportunities for developers and end users. We also know that most of the innovation around computer systems and software now happens in the open source community. We see that innovation every day in the communities in which we participate, such as OpenStack. The problem is that so much of that innovation is in code that is invisible to the patent office.
Recently, we posted a new job on online employment and freelance job site Elance – you can see the text and the link below (an Elance account and log in are required). The job is the first in what we hope is a series of jobs where freelancers document important technologies in OpenStack and in other communities. We plan to make documentation available to the patent office via the IP.com database. By fanatically documenting the solutions that are developed in the OpenStack community, we hope to keep these fundamental cloud computing technologies open and publicly available for everyone to use, including our competitors. We also hope this will help keep these technologies out of the claws of patent trolls.
We don’t know if this will work. It may take some time. But it is the right thing to do.
You can view the Elance job post at: https://www.elance.com/job/35235531/proposals
And here is the full text of the post:
Creating descriptions of OpenStack technologies for prior art publication
We invite you to submit your proposal to create publications describing OpenStack networking technologies for ip.com’s Prior Art Database – see http://priorartdatabase.com/defensive-publishing.html.
This is a pilot program for the rapid, cost-effective development of prior art publications. If successful, we anticipate ongoing, recurring work to create prior art publications for other OpenStack technologies. We welcome your independent formulation of a scope of work and fee structure that meets our goals to define a repeatable process for creating searchable prior art publications for the benefit of the OpenStack community.
The deliverable will be provided as an article or series of articles in Plain Text (txt), Microsoft Word (doc), Rich Text Format (rtf), or HTML (htm/html). The article (or series of articles) should clearly and completely describe some aspect of the networking technologies at use in OpenStack, including installation and use of OpenStack networking technologies, the APIs, plugins, techniques, technologies and associated standards.
Project will be paid on per-article basis. When providing time and cost estimates in your proposal, please include each of the following:
1. Review of any materials that are relevant to the Quantum networking project and the use of software-defined networking (SDN) within OpenStack generally. This includes materials published at www.openstack.org and on other publicly accessible sites, such as developer documentation, wiki, developer mailing list, IRC postings, design summit blueprints and publicly accessible launch pad notes, articles discussing SDN, OpenFlow, OpenvSwitch, and other technologies for use with OpenStack Quantum.
2. Providing a 3,000-10,000 word written description of one or more aspects of the OpenStack Quantum technology, with particular emphasis on any new or innovative aspects. Each written description should focus on one aspect of the technology and include a title, abstract, relevant keywords, a description of the problem addressed, the solutions available within OpenStack, the implementation of those solutions, alternative implementations that are known or considered, and possible future uses of the technology.
Your fee proposal should not include the ip.com publication fee.
We would require the assignment of the copyright in your work, but would list you as the author of the work to the extent the ip.com publication platform enables the listing of separate author names. We may engage a subject matter expert to modify or expand on your work.
Please note that we are not trying to expand our rights in any intellectual property that is the subject of this request or your work. We hope to implement a rapid and cost effective means to protect the OpenStack community. If a suitable process/fee structure is developed via responses to this proposal, we expect to solicit further participation on the same terms.
Please submit your proposal no later than November 22, 2012. Please include in your proposal a statement of the time to complete the work, with a completion date no later than November 30.