"They are sold to the public as being about supporting innovation, but their impact on industry is a nightmare," said Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu Linux. "They don't help IBM, they don't help Sun, and they don't help Microsoft. But the free software guys are worried about this."
So worried, that the Free Software Foundation added to its near-final GNU General Public License (GPL) 3.0 specific language that addresses patent deals that could erode the unique open-source qualities of the Linux operating system.
The hype has reached such proportions that Dan Frye, vice president of Linux and open technology at IBM and head of its Linux Technology Center, said during a panel session at last week's summit, "everybody, just chill when v3 comes out."
GNU GPL 3.0 is slated for final release on June 29.
Linux creator Linus Torvalds, who is employed by the Linux Foundation, wrote on the Linux kernel mailing list last week that the Linux kernel may stay under Version 2, which he said is a better licence, but that Sun's choice of licensing for open-sourcing Solaris could influence the decision.
The Linux kernel is made up of a number of components, developed by various individuals under a number of different open-source licences, which means all those stakeholders would have to agree to switch to Version 3.
"People are looking to Linus for that kind of leadership," said Google's DiBona. "I think v3 will be evolutionary, which is what it is supposed to be."
Others say the issue of GPL 3.0 licence adoption goes much deeper than just patent concerns.
"Even if v3 is better than v2, it has to be significantly better to undertake all the pain to change the kernel code [licensing]," said James Bottomley, a kernel developer and CTO of SteelEye Technology, which makes high-availability software for Linux systems. "We are not gong to waste six months to change the kernel. This is a pragmatic argument, not a legal one."