Subject: Re: New angle on the patent problem
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 04:00:56 +0000

"Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:
> >>>>> "kms" == Karsten M Self <> writes:
>     kms> The main criticism I've seen is that the concept might be too
>     kms> powerful -- an outright patent grab by free software.
> I think you may be referring to may comments; if so, I would like to
> dissociate myself from the term "patent grab".  What concerns me is

The term is, I believe, my own, though it came out of conversations with
an IP attourney (Andrew Greenberg, also of Hackers fame).  The
limitation on an outright grab of my proposal is that the "grab" is only
sanctioned where the patentholder uses relevent free software. 
Patentholders not using free software would be immune to the defense.  I
suspect their number may be rapidly falling.  Free software has the
potential to become as far-reaching and spider-like as patent.  *That*
is part of the appeal.

> Companies like Sun and IBM are already haltingly moving in the
> direction of using ("exploiting", if you like) OSS implementations and
> supporting them.  This kind of move might worry their lawyers, and
> even more so those companies whose lawyers have _no_ experience in OSS
> license issues.

Very valid point.  Stephen's raised this issue with me in private, and I
share the concern.  I may have the opportunity to discuss the issue with
legal representatives of several of these firms.  I think that success
of the concept requires finding an appropriate balance of carrot and
stick.  Overwhelming superiority of free software doesn't hurt either.

> I would be really interested to see commentary from the lawyers who
> wrote the Sun Community license.

As would I <g>.

Karsten M. Self (
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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