[OT] Re: Geoworks and their patent

Tyler Baker tyler at infinet.com
Wed Jan 26 21:20:13 GMT 2000

Vilya Harvey wrote:

> David Megginson wrote:
> > In general, though, are there any recent examples of the big tech
> > companies (i.e. Microsoft, IBM, Sun, etc.) trying to enforce a
> > software patent?
> The obvious example that springs to mind is Unisys and their patent on a
> particular compression technique (was it LZW compression?). The patent
> covered compressed GIF files, among other things, and was the cause of
> much consternation for the global graphics community. Unisys have been
> fairly active about enforcing the patent too, I believe.
> An interesting point though, is the response that this generated: the
> enforcement of the patent on GIF files led directly to the development of
> the (superior) public domain PNG file format, which is slowly but surely
> replacing GIF as one of the formats of choice for images on the web. I
> think there's probably a lesson in that somewhere...

Yes, but sometimes there is no better way to do a simple obvious thing that should never
of been patented in the first place. If someone were able to patent water (which is not to
crazy of an idea judging by how liberal the US patent office is), how on earth would
anyone be able to find a good substitute. I think that many large corporations (Unisys
excluded) who have an interest in public opinion don't enforce their many patents nearly
as much as some of the smaller companies who are in the "patent business", precisely
because they fear being loathed by developers in the manner that Unisys has become
universally loathed as a lame company by just about everyone I know in the technology

If software patents are to stay around, I feel that they should be limited to no more than
5 years (instead of 20 or more) and the company that applies for the patent must be
obligated to make an effort at marketing their technology or product. Legitimate small
software businesses that fear being crushed by a large corporation cloning their
technology would still be able to get significant first-mover advantage (5 years is a long
time in internet time), but at the same time these "technology patent businesses" that
just patent vapor-ware and never do anything with the patent other than enforce it will
have to find something else to do other than create headaches for the rest of the
development community.

Any ideas?


P.S. - The last time I checked politics here in the US, Al Gore seems to be on the side of
MS and Intel with regard to software patents. I have no idea what the other candidates'
positions are on this issue, but perhaps one of the other candidates, such as McCain might
have a different perspective.

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