Friday, December 23, 2011

The Decision Model IP Trap - Part Deux

part 1 part 2 part 3

A while back I published this article titled the “The Decision Model Trap”, http://blog.athico.com/2011/11/decision-model-ip-trap.html. In short it highlighted the dangers of adopting a patented methodology and my opinion on Red Hat's stance on the matter. The patent is owned by the Knowledge Partners International (KPI) who push TDM.

My article was referenced in a thread, started by Jacob Feldman from Open Rules, in a linkedin group for “The Decision Model”. It's a closed group, A copy is provided online here. The original link is here:

I'll quote Jacob below:
“First I learned about a possible patent for The Decision Model from Mark Proctor – see http://blog.athico.com/2011/11/decision-model-ip-trap.html. But it was impossible to find any references to it on the web. Besides, neither Larry nor Barb ever mentioned anything about the patent (at least to me). So, I thought that was just a misunderstanding.

However, on Dec. 6, 2011 USPTO apparently granted a patent to Larry and Barb – see http://www.freepatentsonline.com/8073801.html. I believe it would be only helpful if the Decision Model authors openly explain their position regarding this patent to all of us. Otherwise, such a “holiday present” may scare the entire decision modelling community to stay away from TDM. “

The thread turned hostile with a KPI representative demanding I clarify my motivations and then resorting to belittling me – but I'll come back to that later. The result was that eventually KPI made an announcement on their objectives and intentions with regards to the patent and TDM. The link for this is here:

Lets look at this briefly:
Objectives of the Patent Policy:
  • To ensure that we are able to evolve what we started without risking an infringement of someone else's patent.
  • To share the ideas behind The Decision Model in an orderly way.
  • To protect its rigor, hence its reputation.”
With the current insanity of the various patent systems, having to play the patent game, just to protect yourself is a reality. However restricting 3rd party use of that patent is not necessary to achieve the later two goals. Trademark and certification is a perfectly adequate, if not far superior and more effective way to achieve those goals. Unless they have other objectives, not listed, I invite them to license their patent under terms similar to that in the Apache Software License.

Then lets get onto their next statement:
"Vendors who provide Open Source Software, and who wish to incorporate TDM can obtain a royalty-free license for Open Source software. There will be a certification fee and process for Open Source vendors who desire this optional software certification."

Talk about the classic honey trap. Ring ring, ring ring..... "hello?... Hey KPI it's 2002 calling, they want their business ideas back". For those that don't get the joke it's a play on the "hey hunny, its the 80s calling, they want their hair back" :) Seriously the world has moved on, it's clued up, they don't fall for that clap trap any more. KPI, there is an awesome website, that covered the SCO débâcle, called groklaw.net - very recommended reading. If you are an OSS vendor and take KPI up on their offer, you aren't not Open Source - end of story. Just don't do it to yourself, you deserve better, your customers deserve better.

It's old news now that KPI through a partner is trying to infect the OMG Decision Model and Notation standard effort, http://www.omgwiki.org/dmn-rfp/doku.php. Private emails have been sent between the various heavyweights in the OMG process. I think the general sentiment was "not a chance in hell". So that's one nail in the coffin. A proprietary and encumbered methodology will die when faced with an un-encumbered official and open standard.

They may however try to argue that their patent covers the resulting DMN standard, regardless of whether the DMN group accepts their proposal. The result on the industry in general could be chilling. I would urge KPI to re-read groklaw.net about what happened to SCO when they tried to enforce bogus patents. Yes that's right, “SC...Who?” - it's doubtful your reputations and company brand would survive if you became hostile on an open standard and/or an open source implementation of that standard. RIP TDM.....

So let's now get back to that linked in forum posting. As the thread was started by quoting my initial blog, when someone asked what impact this could have on the industry, I felt that I had every right to re-iterate a key point from the article. That while TDM continues to be patented the industry will move around and beyond it, and that the work we are doing lifting from the extensive research made available in the Prologa and XTT2 will also make it's patent irrelevant.

Michael Grohs, VP of Business Development @ KPI, jumped in demanding I declare my motivations – as if I was some how being underhanded. I don't think he had taken the time to read my article. I think it makes my stance and motivations very clear. But then I believe he was more interested in posturing than substance. I'll show two key points from the article, I think they show my stance and motivations pretty clearly.
“...snip...
Open Source and Patents do not mix. When you get software from Red Hat you are guaranteed its 100% Open Source, not maybe OS or partly OS. From top to bottom, inside and out 100% OS goodness.
...snip...
In the mean time we in the Drools team will continue to take our inspiration from the excellent and unencumbered research projects; Prologa and XTT2.
http://www.econ.kuleuven.be/prologa/
http://ai.ia.agh.edu.pl/wiki/hekate:xtt2”

The thread continued to regress into noise. With further indications that I was trying to be underhanded, by demanding I declare my motivations. It was insinuated that I don't live in the real world, that the patents I have through Red Hat make me hypercritical for demanding “special rights”:
“but then world is full of people who believe that they are entitled to special rights which they believe other people should not have. “

In general there seemed to be a lack of understanding on the use of defensive patents within OSS, particularly on how they have virtually no restrictions, beyond that defensive clause – as specified in the Apache Software License. There also seemed to be a lack of understanding on the walled garden patents create, shutting off the OSS research world - which is why I oppose this so vehemently.

Finally Michael, a VP @KPI, just decided to get full out snotty on me. I couldn't figure out if he was trying to belittle me or indicate that I was being underhanded by concealing that I work for Red Hat – or maybe both. I guess when you have nothing of substance to say, just use insults:
Michael:”Mark I understand that your and Edson's patent is assigned to your employer Red Hat and not to the World, but correct me if I am wrong. So it is actually Red Hat who does the gifting. “

I apologise in advance for the slightly over pompous use of “I”. Those that know me, know that while I evangelise the technology, that I will big up the Drools community in general and it's achievements - I do not try to add grandeur directly to my personage, that actually I'm a little shy of direct attention. I believe Michael thought I was some peon of a developer, scuttling along to my masters commands. So given the circumstances, I felt that a point should be made:

Michael:"I understand that your and Edson's patent is assigned to your employer Red Hat and not to the World, but correct me if I am wrong. So it is actually Red Hat who does the gifting. "

mark:"I'm really not sure what point you are trying to make with this comment. When you have to reach for semantic interpretations it makes you sound bitter and doesn't become an industry professional. I'm not even sure I should dignify it with a response.... but then I wouldn't be me :)

"So it is actually Red Hat who does the gifting"
I don't make it any secret that I'm employee of Red Hat, I'm very proud to work for the worlds number one Open Source company.

But I don't know if that is the point you are trying to make, or if you are trying to belittle me by arguing semantics on the appropriation of the term "we". Much as Suleiman keeps trying to talk down to me by using terms like "real world" and "special rights". So I guess I should answer both possibilities, neither are becoming for you.

I'm the co-founder and creator of Drools, I did this before joining JBoss. The choice to license Drools under the Apache Software License was mine and done before joining JBoss - JBoss was later acquired by Red Hat. It is this license, that I chose, that grants those free and perpetual rights. In fact it is this license that ensures that neither I nor Red Hat nor anyone else contributing to Drools project may file a patent that is not covered under this free and perpetual rights, when that patent relates to Drools.

While at Red Hat it was my choice to file the patent and my choice to do the work necessary for the patent, I could have chosen not to file a patent. Edson also had those same personal choices and we did the work together.

I would say considering those choices that I made I have a write to use the term "we". We as in myself, Edson and Red Hat.

"and not to the World"
You are trying to argue the points of assignment and usage and gift? I'm not sure which part of the following you don't get:
"a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable (except as stated in this section) patent license to make, have made, use, offer to sell, sell, import, and otherwise transfer the Work" "

It doesn't get more "gifting" than this. Well maybe it can. Having watched a user gorge themselves on christmas pudding, mince pies and port. I could wrap the patent in silver paper with stars on it, tie a red bow around it, put on my Red Fedora and climb down the chimney and ram it down their throats. Is that "gifty" enough for you? :) to clarify the term "their" I mean "the world".

......next? “

Anyway I'm looking forward to what Jan Vanthienen, one of the decision table godfathers, has to say on the matter in the new year. I'm guessing that he's not pleased that someone took his work, changed the names used in the terminology and patented it.

Mark
Disclaimer: This post is made in a personal capacity. Nothing written above should be construed as Red Hat's corporate position.