Subject: Re: Online patent exchanges
From: "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 18:29:37 +0000

Kragen Sitaker wrote:
> 
> Craig Brozefsky writes:
> > Any Free Software company that pursues software patents IMO, does not
> > deserve the name.  It does not fit into the O.S. definition as I read
> > it either.  This practice would also not fit with the GPL as I
> > understand it.
> 
> I'm surprised nobody has yet mentioned the LPF patent cartel idea.  The
> idea is that companies (presumably free software companies) give their
> patents to a single licensing agency.  This licensing agency would
> permit free use of the patents in free software, and also in
> proprietary software by companies that did not initiate patent
> infringement suits against companies in the cartel.

Actually, I believe I referred to a number of patent pooling proposals
in my introduction of the poison-pill termination clause topic.  FSF,
John Walker (Autodesk), and L. Peter Deutsch have persued the concept
previously.  Eric S. Raymond is working on a current proposal.  While I
think a patent pool would be helpful (and agree with Stephen Turnbull
that multiple such cross-linked pools would be better than a single
body), I don't feel it puts the patent problem at the level it needs to
be to provide comfort to free software developers -- with the developers
themselves, rather than a number of "patent patrons".  Moreover, patents
are expensive to aquire, retain, and utilize in infringement suites.

Copyright + licensing seems a much more appropriate and usable option
IMVAO.
 
> It is analogous to the GPL -- we'll suspend our intellectual-property
> rights as long as you suspend yours.  The difference is that, while
> copyright only affects people who choose to use something you produce,
> patent is a license to raid people who never benefited from your work
> at all.

That's more or less exactly what the termination clause poison pill
would accomplish.

> Would this be prohibited by antitrust law?  The idea seems to have died
> with the LPF.

There are anti-trust concerns in patent pools.  Some research I did on
the subject about a year ago suggested that there are conditions under
which the DoJ will look favorably on a pool.  This depends highly on how
the pool is structured, who may join, and how many patents -- and of
what significance to a particular application area -- are involved.

> --
> <kragen@pobox.com>       Kragen Sitaker     <http://www.pobox.com/~kragen/>
> Tue Sep 14 1999
> 55 days until the Internet stock bubble bursts on Monday, 1999-11-08.
> <URL:http://www.pobox.com/~kragen/bubble.html>

-- 
Karsten M. Self (kmself@ix.netcom.com)
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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