[Arm-netbook] FSF-Endorseable Hardware companies

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Thu Mar 19 22:11:23 GMT 2015

On Thursday 19. March 2015 22.42.32 Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote:
>  well, i believed that patents would do the job exactly as actually
> turns out that Certification Marks (the twin brother of Trade Marks)
> actually does.
>  so what i intend to do hasn't changed, but people's *understanding*
> has changed.

Well, the means of doing things may also have changed, too. ;-)

> > Since then, I think your policies (and associates)
>  my *former* associates turned out be a a bunch of short-sighted
> financially-motivated individuals who would do whatever it takes to
> make profits first, disregarding all and any principles and goals
> required in order to achieve those profits.

Sorry, I meant to indicate that they were your associates at the time, not 
your current associates.

>  *my* policies, principles and goals haven't changed: they're just now
> better understood.
> > have changed and that you're aiming to go down the
> > trademark-plus-certification route to avoid unsafe clones bringing the
> > initiative into disrepute
>  ... and to protect people from being injured or killed by unsafe
> clones: yes absolutely.  that has always always been the goal, even
> when i believed that patents would be the means by which that could be
> achieved: turns out that it's Registered Certification Marks that are
> the better vehicle.
> > (which I also imagine is a lot more viable a
> > strategy, anyway).
>  it's always been the strategy, paul.

Sure, I believe this. I was just puzzled about anyone using patents to achieve 
this goal, though, because patents seem to cost real money to keep up (at 
least according to people I know who in their work have filed them, only to 
give up on renewing them because of the financial burden, subject to my 
partial recollection of various conversations). That may be true of things 
like trademarks (and other marks), too, but when people apply for those, it's 
quite clear what they have in mind, and I presume that they are also more 
effective when any kind of infringement occurs.

> > I'll gladly update the above page to clarify the situation
> > if this is indeed the case. :-)
>  yes please, i didn't realise that there was a page which mis-advised
> people based on a misunderstanding of what i said.  i believe i can
> say that safely (without offense paul!) because (a) you find the
> certification marks explanation acceptable but the patents one not and
> (b) i do recall endeavouring to make it clear, but really: there's
> *really* nothing new or different between what i said four years ago
> and six months ago [apart from the tool four years ago was patents,
> and the tool six months ago was certification marks].  *really*.  so,
> from (a) and (b), we can logically and rationally deduce that there
> must have been a complete misunderstanding.

OK. I'll update the page and clarify the situation. In fact, given the level 
of interest in this initiative, I think it's probably a good idea to have a 
separate page about such topics, anyway, and that might allow for a longer 
explanation about what you had in mind.

> what i do remember though about the conversation four years ago was
> that there were a lot of people really "not getting it".  also, i am
> keenly aware that there is a huge aversion to patents in the software
> libre community, as they tend to be severely abused, lending an aura
> of "total automatic distrust" of the inventors.  as a result of that
> abuse we know that there are now several linux patent groups formed: i
> recall that it was almost *demanded* of me to transfer full
> responsibility and control of the patents to those groups!  groups who
> have *no way* to fully grok the scope of this project.

Well, patents are effectively monopolies, but unlike things like copyrights 
and trademarks they violate various principles that people regard as being 
central to notions of justice and fairness. For example, you can unknowingly 
infringe some patent and be held responsible whereas such things are pretty 
much impossible with copyrights (your code, independently developed, ends up 
being the same as an existing work) or trademarks (your product's logo happens 
to look almost exactly like the logo of some other product or initiative in 
the same commercial field).

So, any fear of patents is particularly valid and understandable, I feel, and 
it's why various open hardware groups have tried to regulate patents in a way 
similar to that done by copyleft licensing. Meanwhile, the various patent-
sharing groups, although having something of a protective effect, don't really 
attempt to address the underlying problem, partly because various member 
organisations of these groups happen to like what patents have to offer their 

Your perspective on patents is probably different from mine, and I'm not going 
to try and convince you to change your perspective, however. But for those of 
us who cannot just regard patents as tools, it is very positive that you're 
choosing different tools (that also happen to be more widely understood and 
accepted for the purpose in question) to achieve your objectives.

>  since then, if you recall, when i entrusted responsibility for
> getting the MEB crowdfunded to a third party with good software libre
> credentials, i had to fight to keep it on track, even to the extent of
> posting very embarrassing public corrections on their forums due to
> them making unauthorised committments about changes and additions to
> the standard that, if implemented, would throw the *entire* standard
> into disrepute.

I have to admit that I didn't follow the forums in question (which I guess 
were something to do with Improv).

>  so with that as just one example that i - all of us - learned from, i
> think you can see why it is not safe to entrust anything like patents
> or trademarks to any other third party... yet.  *once this is all
> established* and running safely, then yes i will set up a foundation,
> with strict rules, find some appropriate directors, and leave it in
> their hands.  but that will be several years yet.

Fair enough.


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