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Linus Comes Out Against Patents

Linus Comes Out Against Patents

Despite an open letter written the other day and signed by Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox, the two prime developers of Linux, in which they come out squarely against patents because they are inimicable to Linux development, the European Parliament on Wednesday pretty overwhelmingly passed a piece of controversial legislation called the Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions that would create pretty much the same kind of software patent model in Europe as the US has, something that's anathema to the open source and free software mob. It would standardize patent law and enforcement across Europe. The bill was loaded down with Linus-approved amendments, however, and under those circumstances it remains to be seen whether it survives what somebody rightly called the European Union's Byzantine lawmaking procedures. One of amendments, opposed by the US State Department, would allow a patented technique to be used without authorization or payment if it was imperative to interoperability.

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David 09/29/03 12:08:14 PM EDT

They haven't watched US history to know that such patents are simply bad. Software is not a machine, and there are simply too many ways to create the same functionality.

Now, if software patents meant that we couldn't use the same coding technique, I'd buy into it, but with patents you are supposed to be able to create "improvement patents" that show that a newer technique may in fact make an older patent even better. But with software, these are being based on "business process," not the techniques actually used in building the "machine." Clearly, if you build a tool in C, and I write it in Java (without seeing your C code), they should never infringe, but with so-called process patents, just the fact that I'm doing something similar makes it a violation.

It's as if a can maker could own the patent to putting ANYTHING into ANY type of can. Patents on such inventions were never allowed to be that broad, but instead you had lids that popped, lids that pushed in, lids with precut holes covered by a metallic tape, cans in which the entire top pops off versus just a small hold for drinking, and cans that need to be opened with a can opener. All of these had different patents.

We're not allowed this with software-based process patents. That's a fraud since it confuses one implementation with an entire category of implementations. Since software can implement the same functionality in untold numbers of combinations, it proves that patents don't make sense.

They are much close to copyright items in that each expression, so long as created without copying the other's, it free expression. In fact, these patents in software are clearly violating the U.S. freedom of expression law because it says I cannot say something that I've written completely with my own mind without paying another for that right.

Too bad they are following our ignorance. Maybe they'll attack Syria or Iran so they can be more like U.S. ;)