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Linux Patent Protection Group Loses Ally

Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) has lost Pamela Jones (PJ) of Groklaw fame over the so-called FUD factor.

OSRM, which was formed in 2003 with the goal to support the growth of free and open source software, confirmed that Jones had resigned her position as litigation risk research director for the group.

The development comes after Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer cited OSRM's study about Linux and intellectual property risks as part of his recent remarks to Asian government officials.

"Open Source software does not today respect the intellectual property rights of any intellectual property holder," Ballmer told the group. "There was a report out this summer by an Open Source group that highlighted that Linux violates over 228 patents. Some day, for all countries that are entering WTO, somebody will come and look for money to pay for the patent rights for that intellectual property."

The study he referred to by OSRM found 283 issued -- but not yet court-validated -- software patents in the Linux kernel. However, Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation and counsel to the OSRM, said Ballmer mischaracterized the report. He said the study was more an indication of problems in the U.S. patent system than of actual intellectual property risks in open source software.

In a posting on Groklaw, which has become a leading community authority on the proceedings involving SCO Group's copyright-themed lawsuit regarding Linux, Jones cited the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) the study may have caused as a reason for her departure.

"The FUD is unfair, but it doesn't matter. FUD is always unfair. One must simply deal with it," wrote Jones, who is referred to as PJ. "In analyzing my choices, I kept coming back to the same thing. If my working for OSRM is doing harm by creating FUD possibilities, I need to remove that issue. Money is nice, but integrity is everything. So, I have resigned."

She also referred to similar moves by SCO Group in citing the study and the questions it raised, as part of her departure.

Daniel Egger, OSRM founder and chairman previously told internetnews.com that the study generated lots of interest and headaches for the group. The study's intent was to show that some risks with Linux are manageable and that insurance could address them, but he said it also sparked misunderstandings.

"There is no added risk of patent infringement with open source software than with closed source software," said Stacey Quandt, analyst with Robert Francis Group Analyst. Like many research firms that cover open source for enterprise customers, Robert Francis Group recommends that customers assess their tolerance for risk regarding potential intellectual property infringement and look to indemnification policies for protection.