Can commercial companies sue an open source project like Gnome for patents rights? I had this question till I asked Karen Sandler (Executive Director of Gnome) which she is lawyer.
All patents can apply to anything, just about! The system’s pretty terrible. (You might want to watch patent absurdity http://patentabsurdity.com/) While for profit companies can sue nonprofits, it’s not a very appealing thing for them to do and would probably make them look bad. Which doesn’t mean they can’t do it, it’d just less likely that they will.
The big body of free software that we’ve been creating, on the other hand, can limit the kinds of things that those companies can claim patent protection on, so the more we create and document it well, the better off we all are. There are a number of different views on this, including promoting defensive patent licensing schemes and patent pools like OIN.
Debian published an FAQ that was written by SFLC which might be a good starting point: debian.org/reports/patent-faq. You can also read more at endsoftpatents.org and there’s a section of SFLC’s legal primer about patents at softwarefreedom.org.
Gnome Calendar is at version 0.2 at the moment and nothing it really works. Even if it is to early to “review” Gnome Calendar is a nice example of what Gnome Founder Miguel de Icaza has said:
“Every piece of software written today is likely going to infringe on someone else’s patent”
If you do something different they might blame you that you re-invent the wheel; if you do something similar, they might blame you that you just copy others. Of course there isn’t such thing as black and white and I can’t really understand this persistence of some people with Gnome and Apple – see? Gnome also copies Google!
Everyone copies everyone ..and if you’re positive, you can say that people share ideas :)