Public Patent Foundation

Representing the Public's Interests in the Patent System







January 28, 2005


SUN PATENT GRANT UNCLEAR: PUBPAT Sends Open Letter to Sun Seeking Answers


NEW YORK -- The Public Patent Foundation ("PUBPAT") sent Sun Microsystems Chairman and CEO, Scott McNealy, an open letter today about the announcement earlier this week that Sun was granting the open source software community access to more than 1,600 patents.  PUBPAT's letter, written by Executive Director, Dan Ravicher, told Mr. McNealy that there are serious questions about what Sun really means to do with its patent grant and that free and open source software developers need clarification in order to get a handle on when Sun can and cannot come after them for patent infringement.


"The announcement was so broad in comparison to the related legal documents, that serious questions now exist regarding what rights the public has to Sun's patents," PUBPAT said in its letter.  "Free and open source software developers must have clear answers to these questions so that they can understand what rights they have to Sun's patents."


PUBPAT laid out several questions resulting from Sun's patent grant, including which license must be used for software to be safe from Sun's patents and whether Sun has waived rights to make patent claims against software written by anyone other than Sun.  There was also a question about Sun's relationship with Microsoft, and how it may impact patents and the open source community.


"In Sun's announcement, they make sweeping statements about how the open source community will immediately gain access to 1,600 active Sun patents for operating systems, but the legal nitty-gritty behind the announcement shows that Sun has retained the right to aim its entire patent portfolio at GNU / Linux or any other free and open source operating system, except, of course, for their soon to be released version of Solaris," said Ravicher.  "Developers need to be very careful about the details here and not be misled into thinking Sun has given them more than it actually has."


More information about PUBPAT's open letter to Mr. McNealy regarding Sun's patent grant, including a copy of the letter, can be found at PUBPAT ACTIVITIES > Educating and Advocating.




Jill Ratkevic, Bite Communications: (415) 365-0482;




The Public Patent Foundation ("PUBPAT") is a not-for-profit legal services organization working to protect the public from the harms caused by the patent system.  PUBPAT provides the general public, particularly those persons or businesses otherwise deprived of access to the system governing patents, with representation, advocacy, and education.  To be kept informed of PUBPAT News, subscribe to the PUBPAT News List by sending an email with "subscribe" in the subject line to



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