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LZW patent runs out in the US at 20.12.2002?

I saw recently that there was a problem with OpenOffice having LZW
patented code in its source. I imagine this kind or similar problems have
effected other packages.

There has been an interesting thread on the comp.compression newsgroup
that I have been watching. I've been waiting to see if more details would
appear, but I guess now is a good enough time to get a Debian perspective
on this issue. The thread can be found archived on Google at:

When can LZW code be distributed in Debian? I'm still uncertain, but it
looks like it will be within the next two years (maybe in about a month).

Some relevant snippets:
On 2002-09-04 01:04:02 PST Uli Margull said in http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&selm=al4ekj%24935%2402%241%40news.t-online.com
Since I was curious, I asked our patent attorney, and heres what he said:
1. Germany: the patent DE 3476617 was filed 18.6.1984, and is
valid 20 yrs, which means it is valid until 18.6.2004 (if all
fees are payed up to then)
2. The US-patent is valid thru 20.12.2002. This is a little more complicated,
since the rules changed. Here, its because the patent is valid 17 yrs
from when its granted (not filed!), which was at 10.12.1985 (Dec. 10th, 85).
(For patents that are filed after 8.6.1995, its 20 yrs from the file

So maybe since the patent runs out in the US at 20.12.2002, they do not
pay fees in europe and then it ends when the fees run out, which is
18.6.2003. If the pay the last fee (or have payed already), then its
valid until 18.6.2004.

On 2002-09-02 01:00:09 PST Haruhiko Okumura said in http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&selm=m3fzwsvn80.fsf%40localhost.localdomain
Japanese Patent 2610084 was originally
filed on June 20, 1984, from which date it should be valid for 20
years within Japan (not from 1983, I think, but please note I'm not a
lawyer/attorney).  Esp@cenet (http://ep.espacenet.com/) lists it as
JP7249996 (Publication Number H7-249996).

     Drew Daniels
I'm looking for jobs&contracts...

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