Subject: Re: Examples needed against Soft Patents
From: Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com>
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 2004 02:29:04 -0500

Bernard Lang writes:
 > - I definitely need a detailed commented list of free projects,
 >   everywhere, that have been stopped because of patents.

It's not a question of a project being stopped.  Only a very small
minority of patents are "basic" patents -- that is, that cover every
possible method one might use.  What happens, though, is that people
have to do extra effort to work around patents.  For example, the
public key cryptography patent referred to in other posts was a basic
patent.  If you wanted to do legal open source public key
cryptography, you had to wait or figure out a way to use licensed
software.  On the other hand, the LZW (aka "GIF") patent was not a
basic patent.  Other compression algorithms could and were devised.

 >   there have been software patents in the USA and Japan for 20 years
 >   (their number ... it is actually more like 10 years, I think)
 >   but free software is still doing well in both countries.
 > 
 >    How do you answer that?

I point out that Free Software Businesses haven't earned an awful lot
of money yet.  Until we get really rich, or else cause somebody else's
riches to be threatened, there's no point in trying to sue us for
patent infringement.  The real trouble here is that nobody has any
idea how many, or what patents are being infringed.  There are too
many patents to know what they all do.

Essentially, the people who make that point are saying "Well, those
open source developers have been walking around in a minefield for 20
years, and not a one of them has blown up yet."  That's as foolish as
the guy who jumps out of a 100-story building and says at the 50th
floor "So far so good!"  Sooner or later, some open source developer
is going to be sued, and bankrupted.  THEN you will see how bad
software patents are.  I hope that never happens, but there is every
reason to expect it to happen.

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