Qt Project and Linux Defenders, an initiative of Open Invention Network, are cooperating on creating defensive publications about innovations in Qt. The goal of defensive publications is to document the Open Source body of knowledge so that it becomes relevant prior art for later patent applications and patent invalidations. Defensive publications are comprehensive, one to two page technical reports that document ideas, how they works (usually with a visualisation of sort) and how they changes the state of the art. There is no formal granting process like for patents and cost is negligible. As soon as a defensive publication has been accepted, the described innovation becomes state of the art and is no longer patentable by other parties. There are a number of example defensive publications over in the Linux Defenders web site. Open Invention Network submits defensive publications into a database searched by patent offices worldwide. The database is hosted on IP.com which is a digital notary, meaning that the documents are time stamped and trusted.
Authoring defensive publications on Qt
The goal is to identify the relevant innovative features or implementation details in Qt for every minor release (5.0, 5.1, …), create defensive publications about these, and publish them along with the Qt release. The developers of the feature and the author will be attributed in the publication.
Identifying new developments that are worth publishing
Identifying the cool new ideas is not a hard science. It requires the input from developers that are involved in the project, and are able to recognise when things are done in an innovative way. Inspiration can be drawn from the Qt roadmap, the issue tracker, developer days and contributor summit presentations, and of course from the regular Qt development process. Every contributor is encouraged to flag features or commits as innovative, so that those are taken into account for publication. Nominations can be sent to the Development mailing list or the Qt Forums.
Writing a defensive publication is just another task on the way to a Qt release. These tasks are tracked in the Qt issue tracker and become part of the release roadmap.
TODO: How exactly are defpubs tracked in the issue tracker.
How to write defensive publications
Defensive publications are one to two pages and consist of the following elements: a title, a few paragraphs of text, a list of steps that need to be taken to recreate the invention and at least one picture that describes the flow of data, or the steps to be taken, and so on. Technology specific jargon should be avoided to make the defensive publication apply as broadly as possible. For example, you should not use 'MySQL' but 'database'. It is OK to contain references to other resources, such as conference publications, magazines/books (preferably with ISBN/ISSN numbers) or source code repositories or software downloads. SInce the documents are time stamped these references will be recorded as well and make it easier for patent examiners to find the references.
Q: do I need to do a prior art search when writing a defensive publication to see if any patents cover the technology?
A: No. Defensive publications do not have the same legal status as patents. Doing a patent search on statements of prior art does not make sense: you would needlessly limit yourself and do a lot of interpretation of patents, which is best left up to the courts.
Q: doesn’t writing defensive publications make me vulnerable for lawsuits because aggressors can see in which direction I’m developing? Aren’t defensive publications the same as handing them a lawsuit on a silver plate?