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TCP-group 1995


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Re: LPF Statement on the GIF controversy (LZW patent)




Ron Atkinson wrote in a message to Mike Bilow:

 RA> I don't know why it took so long for Unisys to decide to
 RA> start cracking down on people using LZW, but they only seem
 RA> to be out trying to catch people making money off of the
 RA> compression, not trying to get people who give the software
 RA> away or allow others to use it for  free (like what we
 RA> typically do with NOS). I doubt they'll bother with NOS.

In order to protect the validity of a patent, the holder is obliged to try to
enforce it in an essentially non-discriminatory manner.  While Unisys is not
required to go out and sue users and developers of freeware, they are precluded
from explicitly saying, "You freeware guys, forget it.  We're only worried
about people who are making money."

The reasonable practice with freeware, I would guess, would be for Unisys to
demand an acknowledgement in the software or documentation of their patent
claim, thereby saying that the freeware is produced under a license.  Unisys
doesn't have to collect money or prohibit the use of their patented material in
freeware, but I can see them demanding an acknowledgement of their claim as the
condition for license.  That would actually put software such as KA9Q in a very
awkward position, which would be the intention.
 
-- Mike




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