Subject: Re: New angle on the patent problem
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 07:24:41 +0200

Spirit of the patent law... not even clear that computer program
patents are compatible with that spirit. At least according to the
father of US constitution:

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea,
which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to
himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the
possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.
Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because
every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me,
receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his
taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should
freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual
instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been
peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like
fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any
point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical
being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions
then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property." - Thomas Jefferson,
  in Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 6, H.A. Washington, Ed., 1854,
   pp. 180-181.

Furthermore, patent law says when you are breaking a patent, and legal
penalty is a separate issue. Your right to revoque a licence is yet
another independent issue, only dependant on the wording of the
licence. You can revoque for any reason, or no reason, if the licence
says so, and was accepted on those terms by the licencee, since he is
not even paying (otherwise he might possibly have a case).

Bernard Lang

On Mon, Sep 13, 1999 at 07:07:38PM -0700, Assaf Arkin wrote:
> I believe I found a bug in the logic we're pursuing. (Once again, I'm
> not a legal advisor)
> A software license only applies to a piece of software, not a class of
> software, and especially when dealing with patents.
> Thus, if X claims patent infrignment in Emacs, the GNU license can
> prevent X from using Emacs by termination of the copyright license, but
> it cannot prevent X from using Linux, GCC, or other software distributed
> under the exact same license.
> If this issue came to a court, the court would rule that the FSF has
> full right to prevent X from using Emacs while the suite is pending, but
> that right cannot be extended beyond Emacs, or otherwise it would
> violate the spirit of the patent protection law.
> Thus, by interpreting patent law based on the spirit of the law, the
> limitation will be reduced to a single piece of software.
> arkin
> -- 
> ____________________________________________________________
> Assaf Arkin                     
> CTO                        
> Exoffice, The ExoLab Company             tel: (650) 259-9796

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