W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > November 2002

Re: Restrictive Patent Usage

From: Federico Heinz <fheinz@vialibre.org.ar>
Date: 28 Nov 2002 15:33:26 -0300
To: Dan Kegel <dank@kegel.com>
Cc: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <1038508408.17066.620.camel@michelle>
On Thu, 2002-11-28 at 14:49, Dan Kegel wrote:
> Are you quite sure that article 7 of the GPL means what you think it means?
> The pertinent part appears to be:
>  > If you cannot distribute
>  > so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and
>  > any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not
>  > distribute the Program at all.
> This one has more potential.  What are the obligations under the GPL?
> I looked, and I can't find one that the draft policy interferes with.

We must be looking at things from different perspectives. Let's create a
concrete scenario, and see if we agree on how things work.

1. Say, I'm writing an HTTP server.
2. In said server, I use some handy GPL'ed code, which binds me to
either distribute the server under GPL, or not to distribute it at all.
3. Now further assume that, in said server, I also implement some W3C
standard that requires a royalty-free, field-of-use-restricted license.
4. Since my server must be distributed under the GPL, as part of it I
must grant the user the right to take *any* part of it, including the
patent-encumbered bit, and to integrate it into *any* program he/she
wishes to (say, a driver for Theo de Raadt's baby mulching machine), as
long as that program is also GPL.
5. Now, this new driver may very well fall outside the "field of use"
for which the patent is available through a royalty-free license.
6. Since I cannot anticipate the fields of use in which users of my
server may want to reuse my code, I can't grant them blanket permission
to do it, as required by the GPL, for the patent holder can object to
the unlicensed use of their "valuable intellectual property" (I can't
believe I wrote that... I must go wash my hands right now).
7. Thus according to the GPL, I cannot distribute my server at all!

Of course, the assumption that I want to use GPL code in the server is
just for the sake of illustrating a case where there's a conflict
regardless of my licensing preferences. There's also the case where I
don't use any GPL code from others at all, but I just *want* to release
the program as GPL, and the same conflict remains: the patent-encumbered
bit of code prevents my releasing the program under copyleft.

Then again, I haven't had nearly enough coffee today, so maybe my
"reasoning" is completely off-base... :-)


Received on Thursday, 28 November 2002 13:32:09 UTC

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