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Patents Your Rights Online

EU Study Looks At Software Patents 67

Posted by michael
from the one-click dept.
Cardinal Biggles writes: "A study into software patents commissioned by the EU seems to conclude that software patents are OK, it's just the U.S. Patent Office that sucks. It addresses Open Source, but seems to suggest that Open Source projects should get patents of their own, and finance their project using the licensing fees. Meanwhile, the European Commission has opened a public consultation on whether software should be patentable. The request for comments itself, IMHO, sounds not very neutral about software patents. You can get your comments in until 15-Dec-2000!" The study appears to be pretty thorough. And I advise any European developers who care to get their comments in about software patents! It's your career...
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EU Study Looks at Software Patents

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  • Assuming the summary is correct...

    Finance Open Source projects through licensing fees?

    Further proof that the Eurocrats are basically nitwits who couldn't get work in their own countries!
  • by Siqnal 11 (210012) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:08AM (#670319) Homepage
    In the future, patents might be a way to protect protocol freedom. GNU is opposed to software patents, but a protocol itself really isn't software, and I see no reason why they could not create a patent version of the GPL. Just as GNU uses copyright law, in the form of the GPL, to protect software freedom, they might be able to use patent law to protect the freedom of protocols.

    --

  • by billybob2001 (234675) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:16AM (#670320)
    Could someone explain why patents are necessary when copyright is automatically conferred when, for example, a book is written?

    I know people try to steal copyright, but authors have caught on, and now assert their copyright explicitly.

    If copyright is breached, the owner can sue for plagiarism etc, without needing to get involved in patents at all.

    I always though patents were meant to be applicable to products/processes, rather than documents - which is what source listings are.

    Apart from from the copyright expiring (which may not be relevant in a fast-moving environment) what else makes this impractical?

  • by DaveWood (101146) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:16AM (#670321) Homepage
    Expect the comission to be subverted, and software patents to persist in Europe. Software patents are good for large, established players, and they are good for lawyers, two very powerful lobbies, here and across the pond. It would take a miracle for the collective interests involved to miss their mark.

    There are much larger problems at hand in government's relationship to industry anyway (i.e. bribes seem to be de facto legal). Focus on solving those first, and then worry about details like patents.

  • by Peter Dyck (201979) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:19AM (#670322)
    It's time to get organized and impose the slashdot effect on the European Commission.

    I for one am going to write a snailmail letter both to my representative in the Parliament and the Commission (lucky to have one) and urge him investigate this matter and act against software patents. I've got a couple of friends whom I've managed to get to act as well.

    The time to act is now!

  • As a Canadian, I was wondering if anyone knew about patent laws up here, and whether much precedent had been set regarding Canadian open-source projects (or North American, etc. projects that could be used as benchmarks/precedent if one were to apply for a patent).

    1. My Second Vote Was For Gore [mikegallay.com]
  • This is why Stallman's Free Software vs. Open Source Software argument is so important. Free software can go to hell, as far as this study is concerned.

    Screw the poor! Line the pockets of the rich!
  • by DaveWood (101146) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:30AM (#670325) Homepage
    Copyright covers plagiarism, which in the context of source code means I could be violating someone's copyright if I cut-and-paste their code and call it my own, use it for my own purposes, etc... without their permission, that is. And open source authors effectively give that permission to everyone, pending a few small details (GNU, for instance, has a number of preconditions - such as that you have to distribute the sourcecode yourself, etc.) Of course, I can read someone's code, learn from it, and write my own code that does the same thing. It may even be very similar, but that would be legal (again, there are a few caveats here, but that's basically the case). Even as a relative radical when it comes to intellectual property law, this pretty much seems fine to me.

    Patents are much, much worse. Software patents enable Compuserve, for example, to patent a compression algorithm or a program that reads or writes a specific file format. Once such a patent is granted, it is illegal for me to write a program that uses that compression, or reads or writes data compatible with that format - no matter how I implement it.

    The fun part is what people patent: Windows, pull down menus, command-line interfaces, GIFs (you've heard about the infamous GIF patent, of course!), one-click shopping, word processors that can right align text, you name it, the US Patent Office will grant it to you. I honestly don't think they even read them anymore. And if someone from the USPO wants to show up and self-righteously say "Oh yes we do read them" then... my God, that's even worse.

    The reason you can tell the EU is going to have software patents is because their argument - that the USPO is the problem, not software patents themselves - is patently false. An obvious placation.

    In a world with software patents, every programmer is likely to violate hundreds of patents throughout their career. There is no way they can know which, since they cannot read and remember the entire patent base, no matter how well-maintained. Every program is a ticking time bomb of patent litigation, as you never know when someone might turn up and say, "Hey! My grandfather patented that in 1986! That'll be 70% of your gross please, or get ready to spend $100-300 thousand defending yourself in court!"

    Enough said.

  • oh...thanks. I guess I never really understood that.

  • ...seems to suggest that Open Source projects should get patents of their own, and finance their project using the licensing fees...
    Well, then it wouldn't be a true Open Source project, if people had to pay to use the code.
  • I think part of the difference is that U.S. patents, at least, require the well known criteria of novelty, nonobviousness, and usefulness. This last criterion would be difficult to apply to copyright: is a creative work more or less obvious than, say, a research document? On the other hand, the study intro points out that an additional requirement is in place for European patents: it must be a technology. This is not an explicit part of U.S. patents, but many people kind of think of it that way, which puts another difference between patent and copyright.

    Part of the difficulty with software is that although the source may be considered a document, can one also consider the compiled code a technology? For example, if you were the first to write autocomplete or something that qualified as nonobvious into a word processor, would that be a document (the source code for a subroutine) or a technology (what the user sees)? If it's a document, what's to stop someone from writing his own implementation of it? That's what companies want to protect, and that's why they don't think copyright is enough.

  • Finance Open Source projects through licensing fees?

    One *possible* interpretation is that you license the patent for use in non-open-source stuff, and charge fees for that, but give a no-fee license to GPL stuff. Makes no sense for BSD licensing though.
  • by DaveWood (101146) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:42AM (#670330) Homepage
    There's a simple reason why. Patents cost a lot of money and time and effort to get. Dealing with them is onerous except for the few large companies and organizations this blatantly corrupt process is intended to help out in the fist place.
  • by volpe (58112) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:46AM (#670331)

    #include <IANAL.h>

    Patents cover the use of *methods* of doing something. And, in many cases, you need to use it commercially in order to infringe. OpenSource refers to a particular *implementation* of that method. It is possible to keep a method patented, and still release an OpenSource implementation of that method. People can get the software and play with it all they want, but they need to license the *patent* if they want to use the method embodied in that patent, regardless of whether they use the OpenSource implementation or roll their own. One example of this is the Visualization Toolkit (VTK) [kitware.com] software library. Some components of this toolkit contain methods patented by GE Corporate R&D [ge.com] (where VTK was originally developed) and Kitware [kitware.com], a company started up by two of its original authors. The vast majority of VTK does not involve any patents, and all the code is OpenSource, but if you need to use one of the pieces that implements a patented technique, and you want to use it in a commercial product, you need to license the patent from whoever owns it.

  • Someone has to devise a simple and self evident argument that business people understand showing that software patents are bad for their business. (Clearly patents can be good for business, but ONLY for the business that owns the relevant patents and this is at the expense of ALL the other businesses that can benefit from the idea. Maybe a way to put it to a business person is "do you feel lucky?")
  • I've submitted about this study 4 days ago, but then it got rejected. Nice to see that it was about me, not the US-centered bias of the ./

  • by bluGill (862) on Friday October 27, 2000 @06:53AM (#670334)

    okay, in theroy caopyrights expire too, but there will be none (in the US) that expire for the next 20 years or so... Patents expire, and in a fairly short timeframe.

    When I think of all the old games that I used to love on my 8 bit atari, well all are copyrighted, and so I cannot legally copy them anymore. with 5-1/4 disks going bad all the time there isn't much that we can legally do to save those classics. If those games were patented instead, at least I could legally copy them. (Note, that I still don't think patents should apply to whole games, maybe the concept, but not the game)

    I think that software patents should be allowed, but not yet! That is until we get to the point where a new software takes a lot of work to devolpe, and most concepts are worked out we shouldn't allow patents. Once things have settled down, sure you can patent your auto-spell checker in your word processor, because word processors as a concept a mature. However you shouldn't be able to patent a GUI menuing system because these systems are still undergoing research and are not mature. (This is an example, please don't disagree with the examples, disagree with the idea behing them)

  • On the U.S. situation:

    What is being done and what can be done to counter the results: Clearly invalid patents are recognised as such. Their existence is an embarrassment to the system but is hardly a significant barrier to software developers. The invalidity of patents in these and, the more important, less clear cases is increasingly been brought to public notice by internet exchanges e.g. by the open-source community. Backing this up is the reality that the Courts will not allow invalid patents to be enforced. Knowledge of that makes weak patents a very weak negotiating weapon. But there is a learning curve whilst the computer program developer community becomes aware of these factors.
  • From the article:

    It is clear however that the United States provides the best test case as the United States has the greatest experience with patents on computer program related inventions.

    1.On the one hand there is abounding evidence that the profitability and growth of independent and SME software developers in the States has often been to a significant extent dependent on possession of patent rights. (For how patents help, see above.)

    2.On the other hand, there is deep concern

    2.1 that patents are being granted on trivial, indeed old, ideas and that consideration of such patents let alone attacking such patents is a major burden, particularly on SME and independent software developers
    2.2 that patents may strengthen the market position of the big players; and
    2.3 that the computer program related industries are examples of industries where incremental innovation occurs and that there are serious concerns whether, in such industries, patents are welfare enhancing.


    Perhaps we should adopt the UK's [slashdot.org] method of registering patents. Allowing BT to patent hyperlinking (in spite of prior art) would help 'the little guy,' as opposed to the oh-so-cruel-and-different US patent process.

    Yes, our patent system is very f'ed up. So is yours. Have a nice day.
  • by AFCArchvile (221494) on Friday October 27, 2000 @07:02AM (#670337)
    "A study into software patents commissioned by the EU seems to conclude that software patents are OK, it's just the U.S. Patent Office that sucks."

    Damn right. With blaring examples like the Cue:Cat's base64+XOR "encryption method", and Amazon.com's "One click shopping", it's a wonder that the government hasn't taken action to refine the requirements for a patent. Then again, Congress is really delayed as it is (debates, quorum calls, and filibusters; oh my!).

    On a side note, for the person who wanted to patent the "no click banner ad", you've been beaten to the punch. A web casino already did something like that two years ago with a Java applet; whenever you hover your pointer over the banner ad, your browser goes there. However, it got annoying as hell and died.

  • "When I think of all the old games that I used to love on my 8 bit atari, well all are copyrighted, and so I cannot legally copy them anymore."

    Uhm, have you heard of your right to fair use? If you purchased a copyrighted work, you can make a reasonable amount of copies for your own personal purposes. Copyright laws do not prevent you from making copies; they prevent you from redistributing any copies you make.

  • Software patents enable Compuserve, for example, to patent a compression algorithm or a program that reads or writes a specific file format.

    Sure, patents make that possible. But, as you are apparently referring to GIFs, you are off base.

    The GIF format is not patented, by anyone. The LZW compression algorithm, that GIF uses, is patented, not by Compuserve, but by the Unisys corporation.

    Just thought I'd clear that up.

    -c

  • From the article: Interested parties, the public at large and Member States are invited to comment until 15 December 2000 on the basis of this consultation paper.

    Most /. readers work with free software in one way or another; therefore we are interested parties. So where do we add our comments? I saw no "Reply" button or anything on the page [eu.int].

  • This does not in any way reduce the strength of the argument. The fact that they did not patent the entire file format, but rather only an essential piece (you can't make GIFs that are readable to most programs without LZW) is an even more eloquent example of how dangerous software patents are.

    As for the rest, the reason Unisys owns that patent is because they own Compuserve, or what is left of it.

  • by Ektanoor (9949) on Friday October 27, 2000 @07:18AM (#670342) Journal
    Ok I think US Patent Office has been doing the MOST STUPID THING. However the proud of the European Commission on claiming that US Patents fail because they are technological arts is even more dumb.

    What is software? A technological art. The windows, mouses, clicks, arrows, links, pages are all ABSTRACTIONS. Once I wrote here to pick some guy from Amazonia and to show him what we see on our screens. I wonder what he would say.

    All software and even hardware is a mixture of mathematics, logic, empirics and our capacity to abstract. Tell me what is the command ping. Can anyone tell me exactly say what this thing is? Yeah most would say "it tests the link between two computers". But take a look at your early days and try to remember how hard it was to understand the "ms", the address names, the IP numbers and all the sequence they made. Ignorance? Correct. Until the abstraction reached you. So that you forget to remind that "ping 127.0.0.1" may not fitunder such definition. So you correct to "link between devices". However lo always remains a software abstraction as it possesses no real device.

    I think that US Patent Office had VERY GOOD INTENTIONS when first it started to patent software. And it was correctly patenting them as they are in fact a technological art. Only short-sightness spoiled things. US Patent Office should clearly not to be blame on this. No one could ever dream on what computers would turn into. Yesterday, they were simple algorithms you launched through punch cards and got results in a printer terminal. Today they are Second Reality. A world that even substitutes our existing one and even dominates it. A world getting deeper and deeper into Abstraction. A world no Dali would ever imagine in his wildest dreams.

    Now technocrat Europe tries to make a bigger error. My, my, software development will be possible only in Russia. No wonder that now we are already on the top. No kidding people! Try to take a look at this:
    http://chronicle.com/free/v47/i08/08a04301.htm

    And btw: Patenting software and even hardware is FORBIDDEN here. They are considered as Works of Art and fall into copyright laws...
  • I've yet to see an open source license that required applications built on top of its platform to cede back IP rights - clearly that would destroy incentive to use that platform.

    ... and it wouldn't be an open open source platform. Nor would any license that tried to do such a thing be enforcible in any real way. I'm sure if RMS thought he could get away with it, he would try it.

    I wonder who they talked to about this. The comments about open source are really glaringly ignorant. Even the trade rags haven't said anything this stupid in a _long_ time.

  • Copyright provides perfectly adequate protection from software piracy. Patents are inheritently protectionist and anti-competative. IHHO Patents ARE inherently bad.

  • Hello AC.

    Check out the Scandinavian countries. They're all run by socialist governments with the highest standards of living in Europe.

    Is that something you've read, or are you speaking about how it was 15 years ago?

    I'm living in Sweden right now, and I wouldn't call our government 'socialistic' (even though they do so themselves). Neither would I say that we (still) have the highest living standards in Europe. I think it would have been possible to keep it up, if our bankers back in the 80's had a bit more brains. But, you can't change history, only learn from it, so I'm looking for a country where I won't have to pay enourmous taxes just to get nothing back
  • Oh, and how do you propose to pay for your open source patents?

    The EU are right on the ball with this, referring to Open Source. Open Source projects have money, from IBM etc.; they can pay for patents, which suits the Vested Interests just fine.

    It leaves out every kind of Free however. Tough.

    I was talking to someone from WIPO yesterday about the importance of supporting people like me: free software programmers. Small inventors (in effect) who do not want to make pots of cash through monopolising our inventions. I prefer other ways to make pots of cash.

    The person from WIPO really believed that WIPO's work towards easier world-wide patents will help the small inventor. Sometimes true, for those who want to make pots of cash through a monopoly on an idea. But for me? They take away my freedoms and give me what I don't want in return.

    We must fight for our intellectual property rights. I.e. the right to think and create independently, and to freely share our thoughts and creations. That right is never really taken away, but there's a big difference between world-wide agreements to permit it, and world-wide agreements which punish you for it.

    Even if the world's governments, economic systems and means of administering "justice" change for the better, agreements like the international patent treaties have a powerful long-term effect that will take a long time to reverse. Because everyone will have to agree to undo an unfortunate promise they made earlier. It's reversible, but difficult and much pain is to be had. Much better to avoid the mistake in the first place.

    Dearest EU, your economy and quality of life are developing very well without software patents. You do not have to emulate the US of A to attain what you see as its successes. You can do it yourselves, as you are doing already. There's a great deal of strength, wisdom and heart among your members. And a great deal of good, lucrative technology is blossoming right now, within the EU's tradition of technological collaboration. Take a look at your own successes. They are where your strength lies. Enjoy.

  • by dbarclay10 (70443) on Friday October 27, 2000 @07:31AM (#670347)
    Finance Open Source projects through licensing fees?
    Further proof that the Eurocrats are basically nitwits who couldn't get work in their own countries!


    Oh, pay attention. An open-source project can make money, TODAY, using the same principle.

    You have a GPL'd library. A good one. No proprietary app can link against it, either! Sounds great, eh? :) Well, if you hold the copyright(and if you're the author, you do), and Mr. Big Software Company Exec would like to make a proprietary app that links against your code, you can let him, either for free or for a wad of cash. You own the copyright, you set the licensing terms.

    It's the same idea with patents. You patent a rather ingenious algorithm, and make an open source(GPL) implementation. For anyone else to use that algorithm, they have to get permission from you, else they'd be in violation of patent laws. In this case, EVERYONE has to ask permission(unfortunatly, this includes Open Source initiatives). It's really no different than with the regular GPL using copyright laws. Except it applies to everyone, so you can deny other Open Source initiatives the priveledge of using your patented algorithm.

    Yeah, that's not the best, but it's not like you make it out to be.

    Dave
    'Round the firewall,
    Out the modem,
    Through the router,
    Down the wire,
  • A few years ago, Bruce Lehman, the then head of the USPO, blew into San Jose and held "hearings" on whether the US Patent Office should grant software patents. It was a farcical hearing - developer after developer denigrated software patents.

    Then the corporate attorneys would speak. I specifically remember Borland's corp attorney saying what a wonderful thing software patents would be. Towards the end of the "hearing", a developer pointed out the fact that the overwhelming majority of developers present had testified against the idea and Lehman, an attorney, mused about how interesting that was. Damn lot of good it did - he knew a great welfare-for-attorneys scam when he saw one.

    They really shouldn't call them "hearings" - "ventings" would be a better term since the outcomes tend to be pre-determined.

    Software patents - did I mention I'm agin em?"

  • .int is used for international entities. I've seen it here, and the UN [un.int]. Unfortunately, its not available for sale, otherwise I would have so tried to get 'unsigned.int' ;-)

  • As for the rest, the reason Unisys owns that patent is because they own Compuserve, or what is left of it.

    AOL owns compuserve.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Enough said.

    You said it, kiddo!
  • A world getting deeper and deeper into Abstraction. A world no Dali would ever imagine in his wildest dreams.

    Actually, Salvador Dali had some really cool ideas that he expressed through his works of art. One of my favorite paintings by him is titled somethig like -"nude, or computer image of a $1 bill at 25 feet". It's a digital scan of a $1 bill with the resolution messed around that looks like a nude, but when you get far enough away for the resolution to be right, it's Jefferson (or whoever is on the $1(US) bill).

    Dali was a thinker and a philosopher who communicated through drawings and paintings. If you get a chance to check out his works esp. from his later years he has some cool insights into DNA and computers and what the digital world will become. His paintings are amazing anyways, and you realize that there are some cool underlying ideas, but when you read the titles, the ideas come out even clearer.

    He's actually a very recent artist, and was alive and working when the first computers were coming into existence. I'd love to have him still around today to get his insights into technology and the universe.

    Sorry, waaaaay OT, but I can't have ya dissin the S.D.


  • Patents may secure a company's income, while at the same time, the patents will prevent eutopian software configurations. Are we saying, as a community, that we would prefer to run shitty, expensive software? Let's leave this door open. dolo

    Fix?
  • Here - there is even an e-mail address:

    The public at large and all interested circles may direct their comments to the Directorate General for the Internal Market, either by mail to the following address: European Commission, DG Internal Market (MARKT/E/2), Rue de la Loi, 200 (C100 5/13), B - 1049 Brussels, or by e- mail to be directed to MARKT-SOFTPAT@cec.eu.int [mailto] . Any comments should be received on or before 15 December 2000.

    I recommend all EU slashdotters to comment. It is more important than voting! Get on with it.

  • I highly respect Dali's works and they are among those I like most. However I think that the father of Surrealism would get pretty scared about what we are doing now. Sincerly it is a pitty that he died too early. In terms of computer revolution I mean. I wonder what he would think about this mess we have today...

    S. Dali in 2000: "You see? I was right!" :)
  • Patenting software and even hardware is FORBIDDEN here. They are considered as Works of Art and fall into copyright laws...

    You mean it doesn't have anything to do with a communist dictatorship maintaining control over it's economy, businesses and individual lives?
    ----

  • People should realize that there is absolutely no conflict with patenting open source (or even free, RMS-style) code. The endemic problem that FSF and open source addresses is proprietary code, which is, in fact, almost the antithesis of patented code. Almost.

    A patent is a disclosure. It is a public document that clearly describes an artifact or a process so that other people can use it. Along with this disclosure, however, comes certain rights granted to the inventor. The rights to monetary rewards, primarily.

    Something that's proprietary is not disclosed. That's what non-disclosure agreements are all about. The real problem with proprietary code is that they usually come with licenses that stipulate that users must not reverse engineer, or modify that code.

    The GNU Public License is rather like a patent in that it makes the source code a public document that allows others to make use of the process. It just goes much further than a patent, however, in that permission is granted up-front for anyone to use the code. The one (big) proviso is that those who modify it or distribute it must respect the rights of others to do exactly the same thing you're doing (I know it's a bit more complex than that, but that's the basic intent).

    Given this, there should be no problem patenting open source or GPL'ed code, although I seem to recall some small stipulations about monetary cost in the GPL. So that might limit your ability to get monetary rewards. However, there is no limit imposed by a patent on that.

    If you patent some code, but you waive your rights to some reward or control, then it basically becomes public domain. That would be pretty silly, though. It would only make sense to attach some sort of license with it.

    Standard disclaimers apply: IANAL.

    Footnote: It just occurs to me now, as I write this, that there may be restrictions on what you are allowed to license, depending on whether a patent exists for that thing, even if you are the owner of that patent... Anybody here know about these details?

  • For everyone that didn't know, there is an online petition [eurolinux.org] which is trying to stop exactly this. Everyone go and sign it to try and make sure that software patenting doesn't happen in Europe
    --
    SaZZer "Life is a lesson, you learn it when you're through", Limp Bizkit, M:I-2 Theme
  • For stealing software or hardware one may charged to pay a fine or to stay in jail up to three-five years, depending on the articles of the Penal Codex that may be applied. So do you think this is communism?

    Besides the state does not have the right to use certain types of software. There are specific laws and rules that disallow people to use them. For example military cannot use Windows in several fields of activity.
  • I have occasionally fantisized about patenting some useful technique, and then publishing a license that says:

    You may use my patent for free if and only if your code conforms to the GPL.

    This would give the GPL (at least as it applies to the patented technique) real legal teeth.

    The bug is that I can't figure out where the money needed to file suits to enforce the license would come from.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Of course, to do the first scenario, you have to make sure that you own a copyright on ALL of the code in your project. Right now if I write a GPL'd library or app, I can cut and paste from, say, emacs or gcc or some random GNOME or KDE stuff. If I want to be able to sell it, I can't do that, since I don't have permission to let other people use the code in a proprietary way.

    It seems like this removes one of the big advantages of free software, code reuse. You can't reuse ANYTHING GPL'd that you don't own if you intend to sell proprietary rights to the final product.
  • To the barricades! :-)

    I just sent this off to the Commission:

    As a software developer, I find the idea of software patents
    abhorrent, for several reasons.

    The global information infrastructure depends on the use of
    open standards. Patents might have made sense in the days when
    products from one vendor did not interact with products from another
    vendor. However, computer programmes are increasingly interdependent.
    For example, TCP/IP, the network protocol on which the Internet is
    based, is in the public domain. If its authors had patented it, we
    can be sure that the Internet would not exist today.

    As software patents proliferate, it becomes increasingly
    difficult, if not impossible, for most software companies to determine
    whether any given piece of code that they are developing infringes on
    one of the multitude of software patents in existence. The legal
    risks of writing any computer programme could well become prohibitive.
    This factor alone could cause innovation in the software industry to
    grind to a halt.

    Software patents cause the industry to waste time and effort. In some
    cases, when a patent covers an algorithm which everyone desperately
    needs, the industry as a whole works around the problem by creating
    non-patented alternatives. This is what happened to the encryption
    algorithm, RSA. (As a result, RSA has not renewed its patent, which
    expired this year.) This process wastes time and money. Moreover,
    the result is that the patent does not benefit its owner.

    However, it is possible that a patent may be issued for an algorithm
    that is universally needed, and for which no alternative can be
    devised. In this case, we can expect several harmful effects. Large
    companies, which can afford to pay the licence fees, will flourish at
    the expense of smaller ones. Fewer applications will be developed
    using the algorithm in question, and they will cost more; it will
    therefore provide less benefit to society. Not only the software
    industry, but the world as a whole, will be held to ransom. That is
    precisely the sort of monopoly power that no company should have.

    It is folly to think that software patents could be beneficial to the
    industry or to society at large. They can only result in hopeless
    legal quagmires, and in the stagnation of the software industry.

    --
  • No, Compuserve's customers were sold to AOL. Other of Compuserve's assets, i.e. the patent, were retained by Unisys.
  • Who... by the way... have made a quiet killing extorting money from any company that attempts to make software which can generate GIF images. Yes, that means Adobe, that means Microsoft... they've all paid the ransom.
  • I thought the GPL says that you cannot include GPL'd code in a closed source project.

    Does the original author of the GPL code have other, special rights? I'd like to know, I read the GPL once, but it's not really what I would call light reading.

    I would be very apppreciative if somebody would explain this to me.

  • The PDF report has been mirrored on Freenet [freenetproject.org] at KSK@pdf/eu_patent_report [fproxy [localhost]].

    --

  • Hey there,

    I just found this story [slashdot.org], right here on SlashDot as I was delving a little more into this topic.

    It talks about a "GPL-like system for Patents," that someone is setting up. I have no idea if there's some kind of sponsorship happening (I'd be pretty amazed if there were), but there you go, for what it's worth.

    Cheers!

  • Since I have an idea simmering in the back of my mind that is based on my dissertation work and that I suspect will be very valuable once I get it together, I definitely like the European perspective. My idea is very unobvious and will take significant work to develop. The problem with the US PTO appears to reflect cluelessness about what is obvious rather than pure wrongheadedness.
  • With blaring examples like the Cue:Cat's base64+XOR "encryption method"

    Actually, their "IP" is the connection of a barcode with a "network event" -- typically doing a 'net query or making a browser do something. Not the 'encryption.'

    -M

    ________________________________________
  • Good call, if he's that worried about it he should go buy the original carts from a thrift store. Then he could have copies of the roms without legal worries.
  • Does the original author of the GPL code have other, special rights?

    Um, yeah - the original author can literally do whatever they want with their code. When they place it under the GPL, their rights are unaffected; however, they are granting you permission to use the code as long as you do so in accordance with the GPL.

    So the original author can place the code under multiple licenses, if they wish - as an example, consider the perl code, released under the GPL and the Artistic license; you get to choose which license you would like to comply with when you use the code. If you write some software, you can do the same thing - release a version under the GPL, and license the same version to someone else under different (either more or less restrictive to them) terms.


  • This doesnt sound right to me

    If you write some software, you can do the same thing - release a version under the GPL, and license the same version to someone else under different (either more or less restrictive to them) terms.

    Does that mean you can put code out there under GPL, have a thousand people help you with it, and then sell it under a different license.
  • yes and no...

    you can sell what you wrote, but unless those thousand people sign their rights to you, you can't sell, their patchs.and it's not like those thousand people can't just fork the code, if they don't like you selling out....

    nmarshall

    The law is that which it boldly asserted and plausibly maintained..
  • Does that mean you can put code out there under GPL, have a thousand people help you with it, and then sell it under a different license.

    Under copyright law, I think it depends on how much they conribute, and under what terms they license their code back to you...

    If they're doing "minor" work (just a few lines) then their code is sent to you with no explicit license, I believe that you get to keep it.. (although I could be wrong on this part)

    However if it's a major chunk of code, and/or they release it to you under GPL, then you can't incorporate it into your product and release it under a different license without their consent, because their code is protected by the GPL..

    The thing to remember that the GPL doesn't need to cover entire working programs, it can also cover code snippets and anything in between.
  • Who... by the way... have made a quiet killing extorting money from any company that attempts to make software which can generate GIF images.

    That should be almost any company..

    There is at least one that I know of that didn't do this.. the program was called ImageFx (it was for the Amiga).. Apparently Unisys (perhaps trying to look 'beneficial' to the world?) included a clause in their licensing that said that any code in the public domain would be exempt from the extortion^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hroyalty payments...

    Like all good image processing programs, ImageFX is modular - so the maker (I think it was GVP) immediately stopped releasing ImageFX with the GIF filter... then uploaded the filter onto AmiNet, releasing it as PD!

    Ahh.. I love that story.. it still brings a smile to my face..
  • The hackers broke through the base64+XOR "encryption". However, they didn't circumvent, misuse, or even use the :Cue barcodes. Therefore, they didn't violate the DMCA! Damn, I wish that the lawyers knew this one.
  • redundant? How can a third post be redundant? it wasn't particularly insightful or anything...but redundant? wth?

    also....i understand the license agreement and all with opensource products, but can't that be done in some way other than actually patenting a piece of software? there should be an "antipatent" or something.

  • Well, then it wouldn't be a true Open Source project, if people had to pay to use the code.

    People who use doesn't have to pay, only people who infringe, depending what the definition of infringement is.

  • This is why I have the name.
  • We're talking about a patent in Europe here, so the costs aren't quite that high.

    On the EPO webpage [european-p...office.org], you can find a breakdown of the costs of a patent in Europe.
    The total cost of an average patent is listed as 29800 Euro or about 25000 USD. While I agree that this is still outside the scope of most open source projects, it's quite a bit less than the 100k you quoted.
    And no, these are not only the fees, but 'professional representation before the EPO' is included.

  • It's the same idea with patents. You patent a rather ingenious algorithm, and make an open source(GPL) implementation. For anyone else to use that algorithm, they have to get permission from you, else they'd be in violation of patent laws. In this case, EVERYONE has to ask permission(unfortunatly, this includes Open Source initiatives). It's really no different than with the regular GPL using copyright laws. Except it applies to everyone, so you can deny other Open Source initiatives the priveledge of using your patented algorithm.

    ...and it's the easiest way to kill an offending Open Source initiative. Patent something useful, submit (or have somebody submit) it to an Open Source project, wait 'til they include it (because they have no practical chance at all to check if it's patented or not), and then sue their pants off.

    They're essentially hosed. Even if the patented part is not fundamental and can be removed to get around your patent, they're in a legal battle they can't afford nor win. And after you did that to the first project leader, other people will be very careful to take over the project.
    Software patents are dangerous for Open Source projects, because it's so easy to check if they infringe them. Closed Source is a lot safer because nobody knows what's inside.

    Patents made a lot of sense in the age of the steam engine, when they were invented. They prevented somebody from looking at your solution, copy it and get away with it. They're much less useful for ideas (that's why you can't patent them), and software IMHO is a lot closer to ideas than steam engines.

  • No, punishment for stealing is not communism. Never said anything about stealing software. Just patenting software. A law that doesn't allow people the ability to patent ideas and innovations as their own seems to me to be a controlling mentality, which could very well be associated with communism as we've seen it in this world.

    Besides the state does not have the right to use certain types of software. This is different. This is a rule for the government by the government. It is not a rule on the people in general, is it? If it were, then yes, that could also be associated with communism. But it isn't. It's just a good practical method of making sure your government uses the right tools for the right jobs, and it's policing itself, so there's no problem.

    For example military cannot use Windows in several fields of activity. I think it's obvious why that's the case...
    ----

  • No - note the wording: I'm talking about the same (presumably the initial) version of the code, which you as an author would hold all rights to.
  • Oh, and how do you propose to pay for your open source patents?

    With those licensing fees, of course.

    It's impractical, but *technically* not impossible. (Which is unfortunate. It's easier to convince someone of an impossibility than an impracticality.)

Building translators is good clean fun. -- T. Cheatham

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