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Re: GPL's anti-patent stance misses the true opportunity

From: Ciaran O'Riordan
Subject: Re: GPL's anti-patent stance misses the true opportunity
Date: 29 Mar 2007 11:02:41 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.09 (Gnus v5.9.0) Emacs/21.4

"quanta" <> writes:
> While there is no doubt that software patent does stifle innovation,

Maximising innovation is not the goal of the GPL.

> Remember the U.S. Patent No. 5,995,745?  For those who don't know what
> it is, it is the patent granted to Finite State Machine Labs Inc., in
> which the patent holder allows royalty-free use of the patent when
> used under the terms of Open RTLinux patent license Version 2, which
> is GPL-compatible.

Does GPLv3 dd3 conflict with doing that?

> Instead of making blanket statements that software patents are
> evil,

The technique you mention above doesn't protect us against the dangers of
software patents.

Software patents make software development risky, and they particularly
inhibit the development of useful software - software that is compatible
with the most popular existing software.

The idea of building a pool of patent such as the one you mentioned above
has been discussed since around 2000, but no one has been able to make it
work.  One problem is that patents are so expensive to get and enforce.
Another is that the companies that are both friendly to free software and
already own many patents have usually already signed cross-licence
agreements promising not to use their patents against the other large patent
holders (i.e. the people we're trying to protect ourselves against).
Another problem is that this strategy has zero effect on patent holders who
do not develop or distribute software (patent trolls).

It looked like a nice idea, it was discussed at length by many people who
care (including the businesses who rely on free software), but it seems

> Unfortunately, those within FSF aren't don't exactly have the
> brightest business skills to even think of it.

I don't accept that, but I should point out that for GPLv3 they have help
from four committees, one of which is made of lawyers, another is made of
big free software using businesses, totalling 130 people.

Maybe you've spotted something that all those people missed.  If so, please
submit a comment to

> After all, GPL successfully uses copyright
> to promote software freedom without abolishing copyright, the same can
> be applied to software patents to remove its intrinsic problems.

Copyright and patents are so different that one thing being true for one of
them does not imply anything about it being true for the other.

CiarĂ¡n O'Riordan __________________ \ _________ \  GPLv3 and other work supported by \   Fellowship:

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