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Re: libdts patent issue?

On 7/16/05, Diego Biurrun <diego@biurrun.de> wrote:
> Software patents are not legal in Europe.  Period.  The European patent
> convention from 1972 explicitly excludes software from patentability.
> Attempts to pass legislation that would have allowed software to become
> patentable have failed.  The worst thing we could do now is give in to
> the patent scare tactic and stop developing and distributing software
> that might infringe patents that might have some validity.

Is there no "presumptively valid" standard in any country in Europe --
or does it not apply to patents that actually issue under that
country's laws, unless and until they are demonstrated to be invalid
in court?  Otherwise, if Debian collectively wants to keep
distributing libdts in Europe, I think it would be prudent to obtain
the advice of competent counsel, which I emphatically am not (and
neither AFAIK are you).  And for that matter, do you think Debian is
magically insulated from US law?  Put aside the knee-jerk hostility to
the phrase "software patent" for a moment, and ask yourself:  what
would you do if your assets were on the line?

> If DTS Inc. would have prevailed in court is very very questionable.
> Regretfully the university hosting libdts and the VideoLAN developers
> did not have the motivation, energy and money to fight this out.

I've read that thread, including your contributions to it, and it does
not surprise me in the least that you are the first to advocate
fingers in ears.  Which may be the right answer, or may not, depending
on factors like whether CD vendors get the C&D letters before Debian
does -- making it a little bit socially awkward for Debian to piss
away any possible goodwill that might obtain, from the entity which
AFAICS has the upper hand under real-world law, some forbearance with
respect to copies of Sarge already pressed.

> Why stop at libdts anyway?  During the course of the discussion we came
> up with a lot of MPEG-related patents, so why not remove all multimedia
> packages same as Red Hat did?

Not a very successful reductio ad absurdum.  The scope of patents
differs, the declared enforcement intentions differ, the grounds for a
laches (unreasonable delay of prosecution) defense are a lot stronger
WRT projects that the patent holder has known about for many years,
etc., etc.

> This is a very slippery slope, if a few software patents get accepted as
> valid soon all of main will have to be removed.

Yeah, right.  The sky is falling.  Read a software patent that has
withstood close scrutiny sometime; you are likely to find that it
contains a non-trivial invention, arrived at after much
experimentation, that is not just a matter of natural law -- just like
any other patent fit to be granted.  The examiners let a lot of crap
go by but that's not what drives the patent system, as you can tell by
looking at the size of the "expired for non-payment of maintenance
fees" list each year.

- Michael

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