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Hodgman

Software patents

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I didn't know this about US patent law until wiki-ing around, but this is interesting:

In the United States, the patent grant is presumptive, e.g. a patent shall issue unless the patent statutes preclude the grant. In other words, the burden is on the Patent Office to prove why a patent should not be granted.[3] Once a patent issues, however, it is presumed valid and a court may declare it invalid only on the basis of clear and convincing evidence.
[edit][/quote]

Maybe that's a large problem why things that are not novel sneak into patents so frequently? I think at least part of the problem is that experts aren't as involved as they should be also.

One thing worth listening too is the "This American Life" podcast on patent law. It's an NPR show, so it should be freely available online. It's a great episode that goes into great detail on the law though.

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lol @ samoth laugh.png

I don't have much more to contribute, I got myself so worked up writing that post last night that I had trouble sleeping. First world problems...
However, it's really good to see the guy mentioned in my first post being told how bad and wrong he is on his blog:
http://www.blogger.c...754373617059493
There's even a current nVidia employee on there basically telling him that his patent is invalid.

[edit]He's also getting a good amount of hate on twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffatrad/status/227898174482837507 Edited by Hodgman

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Hi - I'm the author of crunch. I've put out a blog post about the whole thing:

The Saga of Crunch: A short history, the patent situation, my last email to the patent holder and what I'm doing with the library next:
http://richg42.blogspot.com/

And I won't be removing/deleting the Comments section. ;-)

-Rich

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I've always been intrigued by the notion of using patent law against itself - sort of like Microsoft's Open Specification Promise but taking it a step further and even going public domain.

The idea is that you invent a technology, patent it, and then public domain it. That should protect it from patent troll activity well enough. I will however admit that as an EU citizen I may be a little (or a lot!) naive about the finer points of US patent law, so I'm quite open to any kind of further comment on this.

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I have heard you and I am granting the open source community immunity from this patent.[/quote]

Seems like this won't be an issue.

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If you want to fix this, then the obvious solution is to get a law degree, campaign to become a US politician, win your election, do good service, kiss up to the president, get appointed to the Supreme Court, and then write a new law. Simple! Capitalism is your friend here, don't you know?

Seriously though, you bring up a good point: an idea without implementation should be considered fair game. Of course, it can totally go the other way: I know of a guy who took a deck of cards, threw 20 of them in the dustbin, and printed the word "Kaiser" on the backs of the remaining 32 cards -- which is the name of an extremely well-known card game (on the prairies anyway) that has been around at least since Ukrainian immigrants first came to Saskatchewan, which was quite a long time ago -- and managed to get a copyright because he "implemented" it. What a fucking douchebag, because it's likely that no one else will ever be able to implement a version of Kaiser on the computer, etc. without some kind of royalty payment to this guy (there is a software implementation by another person, and it's got the douchebag's name and copyright spattered all over it). The guy wasn't even born yet when this game was invented. I hope the guy gets hit by a falling satellite, and lives. Needless to say, my friend once invented a loose derivative of Texas Hold 'Em and the first thing I did was scoured the Internet for anything similar, found nothing, then implemented a version with AI in OpenGL/C and gave him the source code as a gift. No big rush to get it published (hi RIM!!), just covering his bases for him (hi Steve!!), because this world is indeed full of fucking douchebags that make me look like a saint by comparison.

Isn't there a law that says that if something has been in use for X number of years then you can't patent it? It's something like Public Domain or Fair Use law or something like that.

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I have heard you and I am granting the open source community immunity from this patent.


Seems like this won't be an issue.
[/quote]

It still is an issue, and it will always continue to be one for any oss project threatened with patent violations.

If you accept him saying that, then you are operating under the assumption the project actually does violate the patent (or admitting it did violate the patent). Just because he thinks the project violates his patent, doesn't mean it actually does; that is for the legal system to decide.

Looking past that important point, will that statement on a blog be upheld in a court of law a legally binding agreement? I think not, but that's not up to me to decide. There needs to be two sides to the agreement. What does it mean to be a part of the open source community? Which one (there are public and private ones)? What about commercial usage? There's too many questions to simply take that at face value and think it's "ok" now.

Maybe he changes his mind, maybe he sells the patent to someone else who has a different opinion, or maybe he means it, and won't ever take action. Who knows, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that before you use the library, or any library for that matter, you have to be aware of patent issues and be able to handle them accordingly. In this specific case, it's been shown that you might run into patent issues, so you will have to plan for the worse and seek legal counsel if you really want to be sure.

FWIW: I think Doug Rogers got the short end of the stick here. Looking at the released initial e-mail, I think it was pretty civil, done in a respectful matter, and in a way that was not meant to have things blown out of proportion. But what about the title you might say? Well it's an appropriate title to ensure the e-mail gets read. If I saw an e-mail with that title in my inbox, I'd surely click on it. But as with anything on the internet, things tend to get blown out of proportion way too easily. It's not like he was threatening a lawsuit in the shown e-mail or had actually filed a lawsuit, he seemed to want to try and talk things out and now look where that got him.

It really sends a bad message because perhaps people might feel less inclined to try and open a dialog in the matter rather than just rushing straight into a lawsuit. Compare the e-mail Rich got vs the one Notch got. Which would you rather...? Anyways, I'm just commenting about the specific stuff at hand rather than patents in general. There's no need to beat a dead horse; the patent system needs to be drastically overhauled when it comes to software.

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If you accept him saying that, then you are operating under the assumption the project actually does violate the patent (or admitting it did violate the patent). Just because he thinks the project violates his patent, doesn't mean it actually does; that is for the legal system to decide.

I wasn't assuming the project actually violated his patent, but you make a good point. That statement implies he thinks it does, which might cause troubles in the future for the reasons you mentioned.

What I was trying to say was, he seems decent enough to not bother Crunch again. That's not to say that Rich doesn't have to worry/prepare any more, but it does take the edge off.

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What I was trying to say was, he seems decent enough to not bother Crunch again.


But it says nothing about the users of Crunch, nor what happens if you take Crunch and use it in a commerical product which is ok by Crunch's license based on my quick reading of this, but is it ok via his 'I wont have a go at the Open Source community' promise?

Personally if I was working on a closed source project, such as a game, I'd either keep my usage of Crunch quiet or just reinvent it in-house and don't make the usage of the tech known in an attempt to just avoid any issues at all.

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[quote name='Mussi' timestamp='1343384324' post='4963588']
What I was trying to say was, he seems decent enough to not bother Crunch again.


But it says nothing about the users of Crunch, nor what happens if you take Crunch and use it in a commerical product which is ok by Crunch's license based on my quick reading of this, but is it ok via his 'I wont have a go at the Open Source community' promise?

Personally if I was working on a closed source project, such as a game, I'd either keep my usage of Crunch quiet or just reinvent it in-house and don't make the usage of the tech known in an attempt to just avoid any issues at all.
[/quote]

Most likely he'd go after commercial users, this is how it often work with patents that are infringed on by free/gratis libraries, suing poor people is not a good idea. (It brings you badwill and even if you are right and win they won't be able to pay you what they owe)

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