The value of IT patents in the world of open source

Patents in the Information Technology industry can be valuable as they protect innovative ideas and solutions to technical problems. By having a patent, a company can prevent others from using, selling, or manufacturing similar technology without their permission. This can provide a competitive advantage and help the company to establish itself as a market leader. Additionally, patents can also be licensed or sold for a profit, providing a source of revenue for the patent holder.

Patent troll attacking open source developer

However, as always, we have to be careful: the value of a patent in the IT industry can also be limited by the speed at which technology is changing and the difficulties in enforcing patents in this field. As a result, the value of patents in IT can vary greatly and it is important to carefully consider the potential benefits and limitations before investing in them.

So, as you are aware, my team are working on multiple open source projects, morganstanley/ComposeUI: A .NET Core based, WebView2 using UI Container for hybrid web-desktop applications ( is among them. Applying for a patent for an open source software may seem counterintuitive, as open source software is typically made available to the public under an open source license, allowing anyone to use, modify, and distribute the software. However, there may still be some reasons why a company or an individual might choose to apply for a patent for an open source software:

  • Defense against patent trolls: Even though the software is open source, a company or individual may still apply for a patent to use as a defensive measure against patent trolls. Having a patent can help prevent others from making frivolous patent infringement claims.
  • Commercializing the software: A company or individual may choose to apply for a patent as a way to commercialize the open source software. For example, the patent can be used to offer consulting services, support, or other value-added services related to the software.
  • Protecting specific innovations: While the software is open source, there may be specific innovations within the software that the company or individual wants to protect. In this case, applying for a patent can help prevent others from using or commercializing these specific innovations.

So are there patented open source projects out there? Sure! An example of a patent for an open source software would be the “Method and System for Facilitating Electronic Transactions Over a Network” patent held by the OpenSSL Software Foundation. OpenSSL is an open source software that provides a secure way for websites to transmit data over the internet, and it is used by many websites and applications. Another example of a patent for an open source software is the “Method and System for Compression and Decompression of Data” patent held by the 7-Zip Software Foundation. 7-Zip is a free and open source file archiving software that is widely used for compressing and decompressing data.Β Despite being open source, the OpenSSL Software Foundation and the 7-Zip Software Foundation holds these patents to help protect the specific innovations in their software and to provide a defensive measure against patent trolls. By holding the patent, they can control how the technology is used and ensure that it remains available to the public under an open source license.

If you look from the other angel, there are other reasons why patenting open source software makes sense, like:

  • To attract investment: By holding a patent, an open source software project can demonstrate its innovation and attract investment from potential partners or investors.
  • To establish market position: Holding a patent can help establish a company or project as a market leader and give them a competitive advantage in their industry.
  • To protect against infringement: Having a patent can provide legal protection against others who might use the technology without permission.
  • To create a licensing revenue stream: An open source software project can license its patents to others, generating a new revenue stream that can be used to fund further development and improvement of the software.

It’s worth noting that these benefits of patenting open source software are not guaranteed, and each case is unique. The decision to patent open source software should be based on a careful consideration of the specific circumstances and goals of the company or individual.

Arriving to… Crossroads

And another project just got opensourced by my team, this being called ‘Crossroads‘. It is a small nifty tool that enables to do something similar as self contained .NET Core applications are making possible – just this supporting other technologies than .NET Core, like Node.js applications or applications using more than one technology.

Crossroads itself is a .NET Core commandline tool, a kind of packager for developers. As mentioned above, this is a generic solution to host any application within Crossroads package executable and further launches application’s executable. Developers will specify arguments such as name, icon, version etc. for branding during the package generation. The specified argument name will be used to rebrand the internal application as needed.

So, in a nutshell, Crossroads allows you to:

  • create an executable package
  • customize your package with a name, icon, version and other attributes
  • run applications through crossroads generated package

Generating… non-documentation

In the last few days I got involved in an interesting question – if you to have an internal conference with 250 presenters, multiple timeslots, live sessions, recordings, materials and more – and you need to create a website for it, what would you do?

One of the obvious choices is to write a custom app for it, has a database (document db or graph db or something similar NOSQL), a 2/3 tier architecture, etc. Or… if I’m anyway trying to understand the options around document generation, I could generate the website from some lousy excel sheets and upload to a CMS that would handle commenting and links and similar.

So I did the latter, using a little bit of XLSX parsing, use of good old Apache (N)Velocity (currently maintained by the Castle team), a little bit of window dressing and figuring out some stupid limitations around transposing arrays with double nested loops using the Velocity language, and:

Blurred image of a generated project page

Please, let me introduce

Another day – another open source project from my team, this time a small nifty tool called β€œplease”, akin something that already been mentioned in one of the ADRs (ADR003):

- We would depend on using an eng/Dependencies.props file instead of having the versions of Nuget files
repeatedly entered into the csproj files
- We would use automated tooling to achieve the maintenance of Dependencies.props file

So, in the end, not only these, but a bunch of other small functionality has been added to this swiss knife of a tool that you can just ask to do stuff, nicely πŸ™‚

It can easily:

  • Consolidate nuget packages across a solution, or only a subset of them
  • Keep package versions in a central props file and maintain that file
  • Move and rename projects
  • Clean up in case you manually moved and renamed
  • Clean up <Compile Remove="..." /> items, with or without globbing
  • To find stray projects
  • To remove ‘junk’ from solution directory
  • To change the PATH variable (useful when working with dotnet tools)
  • etc.

Dr Jekyll & …

Every good project need good documentation, and every good documentation needs a good engine to create and maintain it with.

So, am I going to chose Jekyll for maintaining the (currently mostly empty) ComposeUI documentation site | A WPF .NET Core based, WebView2 using UI Container for hybrid web-desktop applications ( website? Most likely not. We currently have quite a few contenders for documentation generators – so no, most likely it is not going to be Jekyll our final choice (although nice to have a native support from gh-pages for it for sure, and gives an opportunity excuse to learn a new language and technology, Ruby and the Gems). Contenders are now: Jekyll, Hugo, Docosaurus, Docute, Docsify, Sphinx, Doxygen, etc. Each have their pros and cons, and it is not necessarily that we would only chose one of them. Also, whenever possible, we would aim to generate as much of it as possible – not due lazyness, rather to make sure it is always updated whenever we touch the source code.

So do bear with us, soon we would fill the documentation site with some basic (Jekyll) content before finding out our choice of documentation generator(s).

Why choosing .NET for ComposeUI?

If you do have a working application using Winforms. WPF or similar technologies, your team won’t receive a tangible business benefit from rewriting their existing codebase to web technologies – versus remaining focused on features to drive revenue. .NET on the desktop and WPF specifically looked to be abandoned leaving people in an undesirable state with UWP and Windows 10. The rejuvenated commitment, open sourcing, and full support from Microsoft for WPF in .NET 3, .NET 5 and upcoming 6 have lowered the pressing strategic need to migrate platforms unless appropriate.

To provide features and support for existing and new .NET applications, while simultaneously providing a better and integrated solution for existing and new web applications, the best choice is to remain with .NET. While we did consider to fork Electron or to extend a vendor solution to provide the .NET hosting we need, the amount of work, the resistance of open source maintainers to contributions, and the lack of innersource access make this a showstopper. Disparate window and application interoperability based on messaging alone would be a significant step back in our desktop platform.

.NET (Core) is an open source, multi-platform framework. For Microsoft, it is the future – with the new unified platform pieces (Project Reunion, WinUI 3, MAUI, etc) announced at different conferences, .NET 5 did replace the aging full .NET framework. When it comes to actual business logic, .NET can be used to target Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android, tvOS, watchOS, WebAssembly and many more. The new .NET also solves the standalone side-by-side installation problems that were rooted in Microsoft binding the full .NET Framework to the OS – different versions of .NET Core for different applications can now be run on the same computer. It also provides high performance capabilities throughout the full framework with new language features like Span as well as optimizations within base libraries including but not limiting to Collections, Math, Regex, Strings and File Handling. Nevertheless, should not forget – it is truly open source, Microsoft already merged and released multiple changes that originated from my team, to support custom filesystems, Kerberos edge cases, database drivers, performance fixes, and many more.

Based on the requirements we have, and the direction from Microsoft, we are choosing .NET (core) WPF for now. This decision ties the (pluggable) shell component to Windows only. Of interest is the progress around Windows Virtual Desktop 2.0 (was just renamed to Azure Virtual Desktop). While it remains to be seen whether it is a strategic option, the lock-in has potential to be mitigated. AVD enables accessing cloud backed desktop UIs on non-Windows devices, including support for touch and pen for iOS and Android devices. To support in-house, there has been discussions of making AVD available for on premise (Azure Stack based) solutions as well.

Using AD…what? ADR?

And the ADR for using ADRs is there in ComposeUI/ at main Β· morganstanley/ComposeUI (

If you are watching the new repo, you might have spotted that the first few PRs are about adding a set of “ADR”s, Architecture Decision Records.

So you could ask, why? You could ask the same question, why a project is using X instead of Y – actually a new person joining a team definitely going to ask the question, why you using Entity Framework and not NHibernate? And believe me, most likely you would hand wave and say “for historic reasons” because you would absolutely not remember anymore. And that’s generally very unfortunate.

Documentation. Yes, I’m also a developer, and I also hate writing documentation. Who doesn’t hate that? Actually, I think, above a given age, when you are being told ‘documentation’ you do have a particular picture in your mind, which is books and books of lot of pages, probably bound together using twines called project documentation while still using Rational Unified Process or Microsoft Solution Framework like I did? Or the other way around, yes, there are tons of documentation, scattered among different systems, hosted off the code, in wiki or something – gets outdated the day you write it, not part of the source control, not structured (or rarely), therefore, why to write it at all, again?

So, documentation, why hate it, but can it be done better? I don’t think I ever started to like writing documentation, believe me. But writing Architecture Decision Records, following a certain scheme in them and keeping them in the same git as my code – that’s more of my liking, believe me. So, just to summarize, an Architectural decision is a software choice. One that addresses either a functional or a non-functional (like project structure – or the fact you do write ADRs!) requirement that is architecturally significant – framework choices, programming languages you choose, OSes you target, data storage, communication patterns, persistence, validation, logging, telemetry; you just name it. Of course, you should not take the term “architecture” too seriously or interpret it too strongly. I mean, look at not-that-recent update of ThoughtWorks’s radar when talks about ADRs: Lightweight Architecture Decision Records | Technology Radar | ThoughtWorks – they went from ‘trial’ in 2016 and speaking about evolutionary architecture to a mainstream adopt in just a few years. And they also suggest to store them in version control instead of wiki/website. Let me finish it with the sentence from the Radar: “For most projects, we see no reason why you wouldn’t want to use this technique.” So, our is not different πŸ™‚

Ok, so, where is the project?

I got a few people coming back to me after reading the previous post, Going opensource – why?, asking, OK, so, where is the project, how come the repo GitHub – morganstanley/ComposeUI is still empty?

I might have not written it clearly enough OR you might have not read clearly enough the previous post (most likely the former), so this time the idea is that the project would be developer in the open instead of playing a magician’s role with a rabbit and a hat – we wouldn’t just pull up a finished project without the reader understanding the steps we took to arrive to it, rather each discussion, each wrong idea, etc would be also developed and showed in the wild open.

I hope this helps regards some people who quickly just clicked through the link at the top of the previous post, waiting to see the actual project – yes, this is not exactly the case here πŸ™‚

Going opensource – why?

Small update on Ok, so, where is the project? added as a separate post πŸ™‚

I suppose you haven’t spotted yet – we just created a new opensource project, GitHub – morganstanley/Compose . It might worth explaining the why behind that choice.

It is always appropriate to challenge the need for a project to be open source, given the lack of foreknowledge of anyone else having a desire to use a platform versus the other possible options or their own proprietary one. While we have the desire and the capability to support this if it comes to be, it’s not the primary motivation. With a foundational architectural aspiration of a pluggable platform, it’s important for it to be possible to selectively choose components from open source and if needed, from commercial vendors that make sense given your requirements. There is no reason for a company to own every line of code or to find something available that tries to meet all our needs. Vendors will always yearn to get their foot in the door and being open source accelerates and simplifies partnerships through increased visibility and collaboration without the red/yellow tape or proprietary integrations or NDAs. We have already seen this model work successfully with other projects like desktopJS as ongoing collaborative efforts with vendors to use and extend simply for their own (sales) demos to others. While it is naΓ―ve to think they aren’t also doing this to make it easier for us to choose their platform. It has proven the usefulness of open source being successful in other ways than just marketing, recruiting or reuse by others. It is also a tool to better work with the industry to outsource or “buy” features off the shelf that give a commercial momentum with faster delivery. Having this project in the open is also useful to drive the roadmap of some companies by adding use cases that finserv developers need and expect.

Open source also provides us with innovative methods to explore different avenues of staff augmentation – e.g. working in an open manner eliminates the onboarding needs as well as associated overhead resulting in immediate participation and contribution.

A tangential benefit of being open source is keeping us free of binding ourselves unnecessarily to internal tooling and processes and implementation. By using off the shelf build infrastructure and GitHub capabilities we will be able to swiftly adopt and leverage industry leading DevOps tooling.

So what does open source mean to me? Whether you are operating on the cloud or on premises, you want to spend most of your time on solving the business problems in front of you, not on re-inventing the wheel of algorithms, APIs, pipelines, deployment and so on. Fortunately, we get to stand on the shoulders of giants by relying on robust well-maintained open source libraries or specialized vendor software, when appropriate. Most of the popular modern solutions work equally well on the cloud and in an internal infrastructure. In our view, .NET developers should be working on problems that are critical to the functioning of the company, and it’s the job of projects like this one to enable that focus by providing the functional foundational building blocks. We do help finding and creating the robust solutions to the generic problems so practitioners can remain focused on the aspects that are specific to their business. By developing battle tested code, harnessing the brain power within the OSS community and building relationship with selected vendors, we are able to provide the best-in-class tools and libraries for all .NET Developers. This amounts to less custom code scattered across, that becomes a technical debt, and results in an easier learning curve for anyone joining a firm – like ours.

Where customizations are required of other OSS projects, we promote contributing those changes back to the project on the firm’s behalf – this is in line with the overall firmwide OSS strategy.

We are doing .NET Core – .NET Core itself is a fairly young technology and the usage of it is also at the very beginning of its journey. Our mission, our approach and our thinking will evolve as .NET Core adoption matures and as the subject itself evolves. This will always be a collaborative effort and we do invite input from all of our constituents. This input allows us to be better informed and to better understand the needs of practitioners around the world. My group, my team will strive to be a resource for .NET Core expertise on desktop, cloud, software, vendor needs, advanced techniques, academic research and related topics. But for this, we need to go open source πŸ™‚

Morgan Stanley at Microsoft //Build’21

After having our logo up last year and being talked about, and being showed as part of the 2014 Build keynote (What kept me busy recently #4), this year we would be again part of //Build – this time my manager, Dov Katz is going to be interviewed by Ben Walters, we even got a real vanity URL, πŸ™‚ Beside this, it’s expected that even I’d show up for a short segment speaking about the WebView2 journey as part of MyBuild – Microsoft Edge: State of the platform πŸ™‚ And as above, Dov as part of MyBuild – Morgan Stanley joins Customer Tech Talks to discuss operating at the speed of international finance with WebView2.