Re: Policy on code covered by patents but not compiled?
On 12/16/05, Nathanael Nerode <email@example.com> wrote:
> Consider the following situation:
> * Code (say MPEG encoder code) is considered to be covered by patents
> * Those patents are considered to be actively enforced
> * Code implementing an MPEG encoder is shipped in a source package
> * This code is not compiled or used, and the user is not encouraged to
> compile it or use it, and is actually warned against compiling or using it
> without a patent license.
> Now, it seems to me that this shouldn't create any legal patent problems.
> Under patent law, describing how to perform a patented process is supposed
> to be legally protected -- in fact, it's required under the patent
> publication laws.
I think you're right -- patent law is designed to allow this kind of activity.
However, the light-weight nature of bits means that someone could think
of this as a grey area.
I'm inclined to say that these sorts of activities should be allowed unless they
become specific problems. I wouldn't want to get into a "we're following the
letter of the law but violating its spirit" sort of situation, but a
of common sense should keep us clear of that.
As an aside, even if this did turn out to be a grey area, it might turn out that
the specific patents turn out to not be general enough to be legally
this kind of context. (In other words, if something like this did get taken
to court it might turn into precedent which weakens the strength of the