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Lawsuit threatens to break new ground on the GPL and software licensing issues

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GPLv2 is one of the most widely used FOSS licenses, if not the most. It is the license for some of the most important and commercially valuable FOSS projects, including the Linux kernel, whose contributors include such uncomfortable bedfellows as Oracle and Google, Intel and AMD, and Cisco and Huawei. If XimpleWare is right, and a license under GPLv2 offers no protection from the licensor's patents, Linux would be a landmine for these companies, and really for any company with fewer patents than IBM.

Even without an explicit patent grant, lawyers advising businesses on FOSS issues generally agree that GPLv2 protects licensees (at least those in compliance with the license terms) from patent suits by licensors. This is because the law provides for an implied license (or judicial estoppel) where a licensor's conduct leads the licensee to believe it will not be sued, or where fairness otherwise demands that the licensor should be prevented from suing. Because the GPL encourages licensees to copy, modify, and distribute the licensed software—all conduct that would infringe any patents on the software absent a license—licensees can reasonably expect that the software's producers won't sue them for doing those things. (Adam Pugh and Laura A. Majerus of Fenwick & West discuss GPLv2's implied patent license in greater detail in this paper.)

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Goodbye Solaris

  • Guilty SPARC: Oracle euthanizes Solaris 12, expunging it from roadmap
    Rumors have been circulating since late last year that Oracle was planning to kill development of the Solaris operating system, with major layoffs coming to the operating system's development team. Others speculated that future versions of the Unix platform Oracle acquired with Sun Microsystems would be designed for the cloud and built for the Intel platform only and that the SPARC processor line would meet its demise. The good news, based on a recently released Oracle roadmap for the SPARC platform, is that both Solaris and SPARC appear to have a future. The bad news is that the next major version of Solaris—Solaris 12— has apparently been canceled, as it has disappeared from the roadmap. Instead, it's been replaced with "Solaris 11.next"—and that version is apparently the only update planned for the operating system through 2021.
  • Oracle Finally Confirms It's Canning Solaris 12
    At the beginning of December there were rumors of Oracle canning Solaris and now that's finally been confirmed by Oracle more or less as they will not be delivering Solaris 12. According to Ars, they got confirmation from Oracle that they will not be going ahead with Solaris 12 as planned. Solaris 12 has been canceled and wiped off their roadmap. Oracle is said to be working on a "Solaris.next", but no details yet. This "Solaris.next" is also reportedly the only planned Solaris update through 2021.

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