Addressing the Chilling Effect of Patent Damages

Last year, we unveiled the Mozilla Open Software Patent License as part of our Initiative to help limit the negative impacts that patents have on open source software. While those were an important first step for us, we continue to do more. This past Wednesday, Mozilla joined several other tech and software companies in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in the Halo and Stryker cases.

In the brief, we urge the Court to limit the availability of treble damages. Treble damages are significant because they greatly increase the amount of money owed if a defendant is found to “willfully infringe” a patent. As a result, many open source projects and technology companies will refuse to look into or engage in discussions about patents, in order to avoid even a remote possibility of willful infringement. This makes it very hard to address the chilling effects that patents can have on open source software development, open innovation, and collaborative efforts.

We hope that our brief will help the Court see how this legal standard has affected technology companies and persuade the Court to limit treble damages.

1 comment on “Addressing the Chilling Effect of Patent Damages”

  1. sg57 wrote on

    Community mods take flack because their orgs say they can’t discuss anything patents in public for fear of projects being sued and shuttered. This scenario played out over half a decade on Fedora/RHEL disabling elliptic curve crypto in OpenSSL and finally reenabling it after much legal diligent diligence. Users complain that it’s delay or nefarious inattention, when it’s probably a lot of uncertainty given that suits for software patent infringement is basically unlimited, unknowable exposure, while granted claims are too vague to hold up to the USPTO’s own professed standards of inventions not obvious to those in a given field and patent trolls exhibit de facto behavior of racketeering. Why isn’t that a crime? Maybe lobbyists (legitimized corruption) at local, state and federal levels across judicial, legislative and executive branches (which all have to fundraise and make awkward commercials) have negated checks and balances of a once functioning representative republic?