[vorbis] Patents and GPL (was: Re: PlusV)

Craig Dickson crdic at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 18 13:28:09 PDT 2001

Jack Moffitt wrote:

> I agree that this might be the case.  But what happens with the
> violation is by the author? :)
> Ie, in the case of PlusV releasing a patented codec under the GPL or in
> the case of LAME or FreeType's authors doing similar things.  What
> state is that?

Ah, I see. So if I have a patent, and I write a program based on my
patent, and I release the program under GPL, what happens?

Well, the issues are at least resolveable, since I hold all the cards. I
may not like the solution, but at least I'm in a position to do whatever
it takes to resolve the problem.

One question is, who is in a position to sue me? I'm the copyright
holder of the program, and I am the patent holder. I'm not going to sue
myself. Is anyone else in a position to sue me (perhaps for deceptive
practices)? Or, looking at it another way, does the GPL somehow prevent
me from enforcing my patent?

Let's say you download my source code and release a modified version.
Can I still sue you for patent violation (and win), or does the GPL
protect you, somehow implicitly granting the sort of no-charge,
no-royalty license that would be required for GPL compatibility?

Does the fact that patents and copyrights are two different things enter
into this? Is it possible for a copyright-based license such as the GPL
to imply a patent license, or make it harder to win a patent claim?

The logic I would like to see the courts apply in such a case goes
something like this: In releasing my program under GPL, without making
any explicit exception for the use of the patented material, I
implicitly granted permission for the use of the patented material
without royalty or fees of any kind, because otherwise the GPL makes no
sense as a license for this code. It's silly to release code under a
license that grants permission to release derivative works (under
copyright law) and then claim exclusive rights under patent law.

Again, IANAL disclaimers apply.


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