Subject: Patents support FSBs
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 07:44:51 -0500

Just a note that the patent issue isn't simple. In discussions I've had
with a number of companies engaging in GPL-based distribution, a common
view is emerging. I imagine it would apply to other licenses as well.  The
view seems to go:

     I'm willing to give my patents away so long as everyone
     else has to.

As software evolves and companies continue to ship new versions, the amount
of stuff that is patent-licensed under GPL grows rapidly.  Meanwhile, those
people who wish to use the patents in proprietary form still have to pay.

The end result is that free software is advantaged by patents when handled
in this way.

In general, I think that software patent was a mistake.  I said so at the
time.  I can't say that I have thought out a position on software patents
vis a vis free software. I merely wished to point out that the interactions
of conventional intellectual property mechanisms with free software are
sometimes counterintuitive.

All that said, I believe that *my* approach to running an FSB at this time
would be to patent aggressively and license under the logic above.  The
purpose of this would be (a) to advantage free software and (b) to have
playing cards in the patent extortion game.

Just a personal opinion.

Jonathan S. Shapiro, Ph. D.
Research Staff Member
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Phone: +1 914 784 7085  (Tieline: 863)
Fax: +1 914 784 6576