Bradley Kuhn, the technology director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) expressed dismay this week after learning that Black Duck Software was granted a patent that covers software methods for detecting and resolving open source software licensing conflicts. Kuhn, who plays a major role in the SFLC's GPL enforcement efforts, contends that Black Duck's patent is far from novel and describes techniques that he has been using for licensing compliance analysis for over a decade.
Black Duck was founded in 2002 with the aim of providing automated solutions for tracking the provenance of source code in applications. The company's first product, called Protex, reached the market at a time when the software industry was being confronted by emerging legislation and high-profile litigation that raised concerns about software licensing practices. At the time, the ill-fated SCO trial was just starting to heat up and there were still unanswered questions about whether the newly-passed Sarbanes-Oxley Act would require more rigorous internal audits of software licensing. Black Duck turned the industry's fear over these issues into a marketing tool and became one of the leading vendors in the compliance management market.