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Re: Patents again

From: Paul Jarc
Subject: Re: Patents again
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2004 02:07:14 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.110003 (No Gnus v0.3) Emacs/21.3 (gnu/linux)

Abdullah Ramazanoglu <> wrote:
> begin  threeseas <> dedi ki:
>> The fact of the matter is that patents on software are mostly all bogus 
>> anyway, and that is what is going to be determined.
>> What is simply happening now is that the patent office doesn't have the 
>> time to really do the work of computer science, and they shouldn't have 
>> to for that is a job for computer science, not the patent office. So 
>> they simply pass it off to the legal system, by issuing patents on 
>> anything that passes the paperwork abstraction test.
> Wishful thinking. Just because you think it *should* be done in a certain
> way, that doesn't mean it *is* going to happen that way.
> Furthermore, patent office passing bogus patents to legal system is only
> welcomed by big players, as it only plays into their hands.

I'm not sure, but I think you may be misinterpreting threeseas.  (Or
else I am.)  That first quoted paragraph seems like a description of
what should happen, and saying that it will happen may be wishful
thinking, arguably.  But the second paragraph seems to match many
others' descriptions of what actually is happening, and I don't think
threeseas is saying that this is a good thing.

> Just as an example, what if some fake developer with a phoney usenet
> id shares his "ideas" and discusses about some concept, and casually
> drops in snippets of code in a developer usenet group, which is
> "unfortunately" already patented?

Why do you bother supposing subterfuge would be involved?  Someone
could just as well reinvent the patented technique independently, but
after it was patented, and then the patent holder could enforce the
patent some time later, preventing people from using the technique
without paying for it.  Patented ideas should be avoided in free
software regardless of how they are introduced.  Of course it is hard
to know when an idea is patented, as you say.

> As a side note, I must say that I'm shocked with the indifference of the
> folks in gnu.misc.discuss group.

I don't know what kind of response you expect, since you are only
describing a potential problem.  There are already ongoing efforts to
fight software patents in general - see <URL:>,
for example.  If real cases of this potential problem do appear, I bet
it would be handled similarly to the LZW/GIF case: free software will
simply stop using the patented technique/format and switch to another
one.  The transition is not instantaneous, of course.  It's up to each
individual user to decide whether to avoid the patented technique, pay
a license fee, or risk prosecution.  But free software will make a
non-infringing alternative available fairly quickly, I believe.


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