Subject: Re: GPL code contamination?
To: Greg Troxel <>
From: Richard Earnshaw <>
List: tech-kern
Date: 04/23/2005 19:30:00
On 23 Apr 2005 13:46:38 EDT, Greg Troxel wrote:
> IANAL, TINLA, speaking only for myself blah blah blah

> If the code requires patent licenses to function, that's a separate
> issue.  

> But if that's the case, GPL'd code cannot be distributed
> anyway.

I believe this is wrong.  It's certainly a dangerous assumption to make, 
because from it one might conclude that anything under the GPL is thus 
patent free and hence safe.  With the situation with US patent law as it 
is at present (tripple damages for knowing infringement) patent attorneys 
I've spoken to have said that it's generally safer for a programmer *not* 
to check for possible infringements and to just do it anyway and hope...

Patents give their holders the right to stop competitors from infringing, 
but it doesn't force them to do so (unlike trademark law).  You cannot 
assume that because a piece of software is distributed under the GPL that 
there are no enforcable patents covered by it (and I don't just mean 
unknown patents).  Patent holders are perfectly within their rights to 
grant rights to a particular software package to use patented technology; 
and those rights might not transfer free of charge to a derivative.