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Re: LZW patented file left in .orig.tar source package?

David Turner <novalis@gnu.org>:

> Looking at it from a larger viewpoint, the idea that merely distributing
> source code and saying, "don't use this" gets around patent law is
> fairly silly.

Not really. Particularly if in fact no one is using that part of the
code distributed by Debian.

> The only sane interpretation is that creating source code
> is "making" the invention, and that source code is the invention. I
> can't see any other interpretation that doesn't lead to absurdity.

On the hand, perhaps the only way to understand patents is to embrace

How do you propose to cope with patents where there is nothing to be
"made"? For example, there are patents covering teaching methods that
don't depend on any special equipment or materials. There are patents
on business methods that cover activies with no associated hardware or
software. There is a patent covering a "method of swinging on a swing"
(the swing itself is standard; the patent covers a particular way of
using it; no additional equipment is required).

The only sane interpretation is that patents cover ideas and the use
of the idea. Distributing a description of an idea in such a way that
you are not causing other people to use the idea does not to me look
like an infringement.

Some patents include working source code that implements the idea. The
patents are available on-line from the US patent office. Is the US
patent office itself infringing? I don't think so. I think the patent
is infringed when someone uses the code (or the idea) for fun or
profit, and someone who incites or assists people to do that may be
guilty of contributory infringement.

Is Debian inciting or assisting people to infringe the LZW patent by
passing on this code where the only change Debian has made is to yet
further discourage people from using the patented idea?


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