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Re: [xml-dev] Re: W3C ridiculous new policy on patents

On Wed, Oct 10, 2001 at 09:17:40PM -0400, John Cowan wrote:
>Amy Lewis scripsit:
>> Is this deliberate naivete?  A number of "hot" open source projects
>> have been shut down due to enforcement of patents ... sometimes patents
>> that are defensible, but more often, since most software patents are
>> indefensible on their faces, not.
>Can you mention some examples?

Recent or more ancient?


RSA (only in the US; threatened enforcement sometimes implied a belief
in ownership of all 'difficult' problems as the basis of encryption)

unix compress (from which we get gzip ... an alternative implementation
is often a result)

LZW compression (a particularly interesting example since, as I
understand it, Unisys bought the patent as part of a merger, paying
extremely little, but have very aggressively pursued it, a less than
stellar example of supporting creativity ... patent shut down projects
devoted to producing gif encoders, or changed their focus, and was the
straw that generated the effort that produced the PNG specification)

mp3 (LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder; here it isn't clear if Ogg Vorbis
provides a viable alternative, but the patent owners attitude in the
case is distinctly predatory)

I don't know if the BSD/386 project was stifled in the early nineties
with patents or with copyright law (if with copyright law, it's one of
the few cases), but it was briefly unavailable due to intellectual
"property" threats.

Further examples can probably be generated; these are the ones that
come to my mind, for one reason or another.  I think the decss fiasco
is based on 'trade secret' violation rather than patent law.  Someone
might be able to discuss the hypercard/hyperstack issues.

The general rule is not that the hackers exposed have to pay over their
life savings, firstborn children, and damages yea unto the seventh
generation.  That's the fear.  Mostly the projects just get shut down,
because offering an unlicensed, effectively free alternative is
believed to undermine the profits of licensees, thereby reducing the
income of the licensor.  Threat of a lawsuit thereby stifles innovation
and the progress of the useful arts.

Amelia A. Lewis          alicorn@mindspring.com          amyzing@talsever.com
The flesh is strong.  The spirit stronger.  So shed your skin, baby.
Let it through.  Come on over.
                                                -- Amy Ray