Subject: Re: Question about documentation and patents
From: Matthew Flaschen <>
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 16:41:38 -0500

Chris Travers wrote:
> On Dec 9, 2007 8:08 AM, Grayg Ralphsnyder <> wrote:
>> I think that documentation would be covered by copyright and not
>> license.  A listing of the actual source code would be covered by the
>> same license as the actual software.  If the source code is included in
>> the documentation, is the documentation in its entirety covered by the
>> source code license?  That "increase the value of the variable a by one"
>> is an algorithm.  What to do with that - copyright, license ?  What if
>> it was the algorithm (method) for Fourier Transform ?
> ok, suppose I release documentation under the GNU GPL and document (via
> source code samples) a method under which I have a patent.
> I would argue that the GPL v2's implied patent licenses would certainly
> *not* apply here since mere use (i.e. reading, etc) of the documentation
> doesn't violate my patent.

I agree.  Use of documentation is reading and referring to it.  Use of
software is running it.  "Reading and referring" are actions that can't
infringe a patent (except for rare cases, like the patented XML schema
example mentioned).  Running a program can infringe a patent.

Even if the documentation contains code, that code can't be run as is,
so there's no license to do so.

I will so that this discussion casts more doubt on whether literary
works (software is copyrightable in the U.S. because it has been ruled
to be a literary work) should be patentable.

Matt Flaschen