Old subject: Patents and hardware implementations
I'm rehashing an old subject mostly because I'd like to save Branden
trouble in the near future (how kind of me... nah).
Back in June 2000, James Treacy asked about the SGI Free Software
License B. Go look at the archives if you are interested in the whole
discussion. One of the points in that license is that SGI does not
grant permission to implement patented methods or designs in hardware.
In other words, if the software contains an implementation of a
patented device, you are free to use, copy and modify the software as
*software*, but you are not allowed to use it as a starting point for a
hardware implementation of the device. The license is worded a little
differently, but i think I'm not deviating from the intention.
It has happened that certain hardware company has granted permission to
use its patents for a software implementation of a feature that's now
implemented on a large part of their product line. The permission they
granted is software-only. You cannot use the software implementation
as a starting point for a hardware one. Moreover, if you are making a
hardware device that implements the feature, you have to obtain
permission from this company. This particular software is eventually
going to become part of XFree86. XFree86 project is not going to have
*any* problem with it because the terms and conditions are compatible
with their preferred license.
My personal opinion is that this is ok. This does not conflict with
the DFSG because this is not software we are talking about and until
now I haven't read a convincing argument that is does indeed relate to
the "fields of endevour" clause (DFSG 6). Starting from a very naïve
position, yes, this is saying "you cannot use this for X", but the
particular case in question makes it hard to come up with a realistic
example. At the time of the original discussion, -legal seemed to
agree that this is ok (IOW, noone actually said those terms make the
To add another twist in the maze, I did upload a package licensed under
the Free Software B license. James Troup said to me on IRC that he'd
think about the license and ask here in case he had any doubts (this
is, to the best of my recollection, what James said, I apologize
beforehand if I'm putting words in his mouth). He never asked, but
neither got the package installed on the archive. After some period of
silence, being the irrational whiner that I am, I just got tired of the
whole thing and removed the package from the incoming queue, so I can't
say for sure what his position regarding the issue is.
So there, let it be archived this time.
Marcelo | Item 41: Differentiate between inheritance and templates
firstname.lastname@example.org | -- Scott Meyers, Effective C++