Open Source developer gets bill for $203,000

Blimey! Big boys bullying poor people, this is what it is, I'll say!

Ben Jacobsen, a model railroad hobbyist, wrote a bunch of software to let you connect your computer to your model railroad and control trains with it. He chose to not only give the software away for free, but to make the source code available as well, so that the model railroading/hacker community could improve it and customize it to their liking.

And then KAM Industries, maker of commercial software that serves a similar role, tried asserting their 'patent rights' over doing just that.

When the author of the open source railroad controller asked for additional information about what claims were being infringed, KAM sent him an invoice for $203,000, claiming that the 7000 or so users of his software resulted in damages of at least $29/each.

It turns out that the patent in question was applied for after Ben Jacobsen published the source code of his program on the internet, and therefore his program qualifies as prior art. Unfortunately, because of the way these patent disputes work, it may be very costly for Ben Jacobsen to defend his right to keep working on his own software.

To me this smells like an old grudge - there are some papers referring to a domain name dispute on the web site. Maybe KAM is just trying to own the market by any means necessary?

Anyway, the whole story is like from the nightmares of any open source developer - you write your software for years, get a bit of fame, get loads of happy users, a bit of money, and WHAM! Some big company tries to squash you like a bug because you are too good at what you do.


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"Main_blogentry_200406_2" last changed on 20-Apr-2006 15:16:52 EEST by JanneJalkanen.
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