[IPOL discuss] Patents and IPOL code

Pascal Getreuer getreuer at gmail.com
Wed Apr 6 20:40:56 CEST 2011

> The problem is that other countries, like USA, allow patents on software.
> But I think that this doesn't represent a problem for IPOL, because
> we're under the French law.

I am not sure about this.  Since IPOL distributes to the US by
allowing US visitors to download code, this may yet be a problem.  In
the least, we still need to warn US visitors that they may be

There is an interesting paper that describes the situation in the US:
Daniel Lin, Matthew Sag, and Ronald S. Laurie, "Source Code Versus
Object Code: Patent Implications for the Open Source Community," 2001

To summarize the paper:
   1. It is definitely clear that the PTO generally considers
distributing a program binary ("object code") of a patented algorithm
to constitute infringement.
   2. The PTO is currently unclear (self-contradictory, in fact) on
whether distributing source code of a patented algorithm could
constitute infringement.
   3. However, based on the decision in the 1994 Lowry case, it
appears that distributing source code cannot constitute infringement
(this is the central argument of the paper).  Patent rights are not
infringed until the source code is compiled and the program binary
executed or loaded into memory.
   4. Unfortunately, even if distributing source code does not
constitute infringement, the distributor is still liable for
contributory infringement or inducing infringement, since the source
code enables others to infringe.

Based on this, IPOL may be safe with the US if only the source code is
distributed (no compiled program binaries) and, to address
contributory/inducing infringement, a warning is included to say that
it is up to the users themselves to check whether they can use it

Here is a warning message combining Nicolas' suggested warning and the
LAME encoder statement:

"Be careful before you download, use, modify, or redistribute this
code.  Many people believe that compiling or running this code would
violate patents in some countries.  However, *only* a patent lawyer is
qualified to make this determination.  IPOL tries to avoid these legal
issues by only releasing source code.  We are not lawyers, the
situation is different for every country and changes over time, and so
it is your responsibility to check that you are not doing something
unlawful.  If and only if you are free from any patent restriction,
then you can enjoy the BSD license terms."


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