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Re: Patents again

From: telford
Subject: Re: Patents again
Date: Sat, 09 Oct 2004 15:28:50 -0000

In gnu.misc.discuss Abdullah Ramazanoglu <> wrote:
> begin  Kari Laine <> dedi ki:

> A particularly interesting question for me among others is, what is the
> status of a patented code introduced into a GPL program by the patent
> owners themselves? Do they automatically give up their relevant patent
> litigation rights against *all* GPL software base?

They don't automatically give up their patent rights but if they want
to be able to legally distribute a GPL program with their code introduced
into it then they must provide a GPL-compatible license for the patent.
If they decide to distribute such code without a patent license then
such distribution is illegal and may count against them if they want
to hunt down users of their code.

> If not, then what if
> some company at this very point is busy inserting a lot of patented code
> into Linux?

Then they will be found out eventually and their actions will be
closely scrutinised.

> Other questions are,

> - Should we abstain from getting into patent craze in denial of the
> concept? Or should we abuse the game by overplaying it, thus rendering it
> non-applicable, thus cancelling the game?

I believe that open source companies should get whatever patents they
can and then license them under GPL-compatible licenses. Then they should
sell off the rights to hunt down non-GPL (i.e. unlicensed) infringers
of those patents. Those rights should be sold to legal companies who
are not interested in cross-license deals and who will extract fees
out of non-GPL users.

> - Howto create a self-funding open source patent organization? Other means
> of self-funding "open patents"?

By selling off those rights that are no use to GPL users (as above).
Once an irrevocable GPL-compatible license for a patent is granted by
the patent holder, it should be possible to sell off the remaining rights.

> - How to get patents cheap?

That's the hard one...

Publishing an idea openly is the cheapest way to kill patent
opportunities on that idea. It won't earn money but it might stop
you losing. Provisional patents are cheap but don't last long,
plus the time spent writing up the patent can be extensive and usually
requires legal fees which end up costing quite a bit.

> - How about a GPP (General Public Patent) legal document which makes the
> patent the valid currency, just like GPL makes the source code the valid
> currency?

I agree, getting together a standard formula for "how to do ... with
patents and open source" would be useful. I'm not qualified to put
together the details of such a formula, best I can do is an overview
of how it should work.

> - Whether IBM, RedHat etc. allies getting "defensive" patents is a relief
> or a threat?

The more dependent IBM and RedHat are on GPL software, the more
difficult it becomes for them to turn against the free software
community. Note that RedHat could be taken over, stripped down and
any patent assets could be sold, granting a perpetual license to
the community is the best act of good faith. IBM are very versatile,
they make good use of Linux but they don't depend on Linux, they have
lots of other options.

        - Tel

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