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Re: EOLAS ACQUIRES MILESTONE INTERNET SOFTWARE PATENT

From: Nick Arnett <narnett@verity.com>
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 1995 18:55:50 -0700
Message-Id: <ac5ee5e50002100476c4@[192.187.143.12]>
To: Steve H Rose <habib@world.std.com>, pei@gnn.com
Cc: www-talk@w3.org
At 1:06 PM 8/21/95, Steve H Rose wrote:
>Ok, folks, since I'm not a lawyer, I feel free to shoot my mouth off on a
>subject I know very little about :-)
>
>>From my limited understanding, a patent is a legal protection over a very
>specific invention.

Actually, a primary purpose (if not *the* primary one) of patent law is to
assure that all inventions eventually become public domain.  In fact, one
of the strongest arguments against software patents is that the patent term
is so long that most are worthless by the time they become public domain.
If you want to keep your idea forever, you make it a trade secret -- e.g.,
if the formula for Coca-Cola were patented, we'd all have it now.

>As far as I know (I could be wrong), you can't
>patent an idea.

You're probably thinking of copyright.  You can't copyright ideas;
copyright protects expression only.  Patents *do* cover ideas.

>So, the patent, if granted, could cover a specific
>approach to embedding program objects, but could not prohibit someone
>else from using a different technology to do the same kind of thing.

That's *always* true, subject to a court's interpretation... ;-)

I'm not a lawyer, but I follow intellectual property issues closely and
edited and published a book on the subject.

I'm somewhat familiar with the subject of the patent; we even interviewed
one of its inventors for a Web technical lead position at Verity, about a
year ago.  I'm not particularly worried about the impact it would have on
things like Java and such.  I believe that this invention was shopped
around to various companies.  One might read a bit into the fact that in
the end, it wasn't acquired by a third party but by a company led by the
inventor.  Of course, this might mean either that it's so valuable that no
one else could afford it... or it could mean that no one else thought it
was worth acquiring.

No one on the list has made a comparison to emacs yet!  That's the first
thing brought up by most engineers I talked to about this a year ago.

Nick

P.S.  The news that Verifone is acquiring EIT is much more interesting!
Received on Monday, 21 August 1995 21:56:54 GMT

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