[pp.int.general] Patent system similar to GPL?

Gareth Nelson gareth at garethnelson.com
Mon Feb 28 11:39:40 CET 2011

If you insist that someone using your patent licenses any patents they
hold, or even better you could insist that they place a copyright
license on any software that uses your patent which grants particular
freedoms, then it has a beneficial effect.
Even if you can't liberate ALL the patents that might apply, you can
at least liberate SOME of them.

As an example, suppose you get granted a patent on some critical idea
related to compiler design (it doesn't matter what). Someone writes a
compiler that uses that idea and patents a bunch of other related
The end result is a compiler that infringes on multiple patents
including yours while the author also has a few unique patents of
their own.
Let's call the numbers: 10 patents from third parties, 10 from the
author, 1 from you
You license your patent to them under these terms: "You must offer a
free license to all your patents that are applicable to any product
using my patent using the same terms as I offer to you".
They license their patents as per those terms.
Due to this the general public have gained the free use of 11 patents
under a copyleft-style license that will keep them free.
There are still 10 they can not use, but you can't influence that either way.
Without the copyleft-type terms you can offer a general grant to the
public and they gain the free use of only 1 patent.

All things considered, it's better for the general public to gain free
use of more ideas even if you can't liberate all ideas covered by
patents. Rational decision theory would say we're bound to use the
pseudo-copyleft patent license if our goal is maximising the number of
ideas the public may freely use. Obviously a better name other than
copyleft needs to be used, but the same concepts can be used.

On Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 10:26 AM, Richard Stallman <rms at gnu.org> wrote:
> Copyleft applies to works that contain code derived from your work.
> It requires those works' copyrights to be licensed under the same
> copyleft license, so that they permanently carry that license, even a
> century or two from now when your copyright has expired.
> This requirement applies to the modified work as a whole.
> Whoever makes the modified work has the copyright on that modified work,
> and thus has the legal power to release it as copyleft requires.
> If he wants to use pieces he got from others, he is required to follow
> the copyleft license for the whole resulting program, including those
> pieces.
> Copyright covers copying (in a broad sense).  He can tell if he is
> copying something, so he knows which code's copyrights are going to be
> relevant to the combination he makes.  Copyright explicitly does not
> cover ideas.  So if there is some code he can't get permission to use
> in the copylefted combination, he does have the option of replacing
> that code from scratch.  (This may be a lot of work.)
> But you can't tell when you infringe a patent.  A patent is not
> attached to a particular part of a particular product.  A patent is a
> monopoly on an idea.
> So if you try to make a "similar" arrangement to copyleft using patent
> law, you won't get similar results.  A product that uses your patented
> idea surely uses many other ideas.  The person who designs this
> product may not have or get any relevant patents, but third parties
> probably have some, and the designer often won't know they exist.
> If you insist that ALL those patents be licensed out to the public,
> the problem is that (1) he doesn't know what they are, and (2) when he
> does know of some patents, he has no leverage to persuade their third
> party holders to agree.
> However, if you don't insist on this, the third party patent holders
> will ruin the desired effect.
> --
> Dr Richard Stallman
> President, Free Software Foundation
> 51 Franklin St
> Boston MA 02110
> www.fsf.org, www.gnu.org
> ____________________________________________________
> Pirate Parties International - General Talk
> pp.international.general at lists.pirateweb.net
> http://lists.pirateweb.net/mailman/listinfo/pp.international.general

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