Re: Software patents and Intellectual Property - obsolete

From: Lynn Winebarger <owinebar(at)se232(dot)math(dot)indiana(dot)edu>
To: "Ean R (dot) Schuessler" <ean(at)novare(dot)net>
Cc: Tor Slettnes <tor(at)slett(dot)net>, spi-general(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org, esr(at)thyrsus(dot)com
Subject: Re: Software patents and Intellectual Property - obsolete
Date: 1999-03-12 15:28:41
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On Tue, 9 Mar 1999, Ean R . Schuessler wrote:
> I agree with these sentiments. I think that we can go much further than
> writing our congress, however. I would like to see us assemble a class
> action law suit against the federal government with the purpose of declaring
> that the current U.S. Patent system violates the garaunteed right to
> freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is arguably the most important
> right granted in the constitution and intellectual property has become
> a thinly veiled sham that grants corporations nearly absolute control
> over the basic components from which new ideas are constructed. At the
> current rate, in some short time it will become nearly impossible for
> hobbyist programmers to practice their art without risking the violation
> of some overly broad patent.
I have been doing some reading on copyright/patent law for software
(though I am not a lawyer!), and from what I've read, it seems the courts
are inclined to take into account whether or not the supposed infringement
was in the public interest or not.
Also looks like reverse engineering by disassembly may be all right,
_if_ you have an authorized copy, and it's the only (reasonable) way to
get at the non-copyrightable elements of the software (ideas and facts).
If the software is covered by a patent, that's a point in your favor
too, since patents are supposed to encourage opening up ideas, not adding
extra locks on them.
Warning: above is my interpretation of legal gobbledy-gook - whether
it's true or not I don't know. What I am pretty sure about is that the
results of an infringement suit (copyright or patent) will probably be up
in the air until a lawsuit has actually gone to trial.

PS. I might agree with the class action lawsuit, but more because the
govt. is being negligent in its assignment of patents thereby giving out
govt-backed clubs for harrassment of potential software developers.

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