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

On Fri, 2002-10-25 at 17:17, Edmund GRIMLEY EVANS wrote:
> 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
> absurdity.
> 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).

Look for "uses" in 271 (a).

> 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.

Patents cover all sorts of things -- the ways in which patents can be
infringed are manifold.  Both "making" and "using" are among these ways.

> Some patents include working source code that implements the idea.

Most don't, especially these days.

>  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.

Or when someone sells the code or imports it into the US, according to
the plain language of the act.

I would say that code in a patent is generally not adapted for actual
use, while code in (say) GIMP, is.

> 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?

I think that's possible, yes.  The original distributor is probably
infringing too (if s/he's usian).

-Dave Turner
GPL Compliance Engineer
Support my work: http://svcs.affero.net/rm.php?r=novalis&p=FSF

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