GIMP threatened with a software patent lawsuit
FURTHER TO YESTERDAY’S discussion about Mono, it is worth pointing out a comment which was made there about Mono being a threat because it sits at the bottom of candidate applications. This means that removing Mono or changing a feature can have a ‘tidal wave’ effect on many applications that are built upon Mono.
As a case of point, consider news that came up very quietly. Not many people know about GIMP being litigiously threatened, but it’s there in PUBPAT. It’s fairly recent news.
he Public Patent Foundation (“PUBPAT”) announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted its formal request to review a patent relating to photomosaics (large pictures made up of many smaller pictures) assigned to Mr. Robert Silvers, who has been aggressively asserting the patent against many individuals, small businesses, and even against an important open source software program (GIMP).
The image mosaic plug-in for the GIMP is no longer supported or distributed. Mr. Robert Silvers, the holder of a patent related to the technology that was used in the plug-in, argued that the software would directly infringe his patent rights. It is not clear if the patent is applicable in this case. But I have neither the time, interest or money for legal action. So I complied with the cease and desist request.
PHOTOMOSAIC® is a registered trademark of Runaway Technology, Inc. The photomosaic process is patented (US Patent No. 6,137,498) and protected by the patent, copyright, and other intellectual property laws of the United States and other major countries.
Benjamin Henrion tried to raise the issue in the GIMP IRC channel, without much success.
20:15 < zoobab> hi 20:15 < zoobab> http://www.digitalmajority.org/forum/t-114601/kirchgessner:the-gimp-plug-ins 20:15 < zoobab> mayeb you could add a news about the patent s* on gimp.org? [...] 20:16 < zoobab> http://www.digitalmajority.org/forum/t-114600/pubpat:government-finds-sunsta... 20:18 < zoobab> does someone has a copyf of this plugin? 20:19 < zoobab> http://www.kirchgessner.net/photo-mosaic.html [...] 20:35 < rubikcube> zoobab: there's none at registry.gimp.org at least
Going back to Mono, imagine having to change something in its behaviour in order to dodge an explicit patent threat. It would not be merely a plug-in. It would be a whole stack that many other applications depend on. Moreover, the patenter is most likely to be Microsoft, which constantly attacks GNU/Linux. Even a cease and desist request, as in the case above, would be hugely problematic as it would disrupt development of many applications at the same time. Microsoft prefers to choke just one throat .█
Keeping one’s head out of the sand