Subject: Re: IC's patent-pending technology
From: <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2006 19:08:42 +0900

Jamie Lokier writes:

 > You say benefit.  I say, I now have to reserve a bit of my brain which
 > says "be careful to avoid this _style_ of coding, except when I'm

"style"????

 > _sure_ the code I'm writing will only be used in an open source
 > project, and even if a particular method might not be covered by IC's
 > patents (because the burden of remembering _exactly_ what's covered is
 > too much)".  To my mind, that's a burden even if I can use it in
 > certain circumstances.

We developers can do a lot better than that.  The paranoid developer
would regret the extra effort, but would avoid the problem by creating
an API, and a module implementing it in some other way.[1]  If the
chance that "some other way" would turn out to be unacceptably
inefficient was non-negligible, then you also create a prototype
implementation under the patent, mark it as "proprietary" and X-ref to
it from the documentation of "some other way", as well as from the API.

Burden, yes.  But is it a large burden compared to the work required
to redevelop it?  Tom Lord bid "a few months."  What's your bid for
redeveloping?

And what is the bid for creating the library, given a well-described
algorithm?  Substantially lower, no?

If it's not, you have a good case for breaking the patent, right?  But
Tom Lord has reported that he believes a patent (with limited term) is
justified, so I don't think you'll win.

 > It's one more thing to be careful of.  And it's an area of
 > algorithm design where I have to worry.

Here the semantics of "worrying" is simply "looking up prior art".  If
you're not doing that already, either you're doing this for the fun of
it, or we could argue that you're wasting social resources (ie, your
own time and skills) on redundant work.

Footnotes: 
[1]  This is what Ghostscript did for LZW writing, eg, for rendering
Postscript to GIF.  Some BSD developer went to the trouble of doing
the same for libreadline, since it's not free enough by their
standards.  In both cases the API was already developed, and I
wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't the case here too.