[SciPy-dev] Python (Enthought Edition) for Windows test release

eric jones eric at enthought.com
Fri Jan 28 21:18:35 CST 2005

Hey Joe,

I haven't checked into the patent issues at all with lawyeres, so we 
should definitely turn off the patented code for the distribution.  I 
needed to test one of them for some internal work, hence my request to 
have them turned on for a distribution.  Turns out we didn't need them 
after all for what we were doing.


Robert Kern wrote:

> Joe Cooper wrote:
> [snip]
>> Yeah...My position was "I will not include the patented classes, 
>> until those patents are confirmed expired".  Eric vetoed that 
>> position on the basis that he thinks one of the patented classes is 
>> pretty cool. 
> Well, yeah. If it weren't cool and useful, it wouldn't be patented.  :-)
>> I think there was some debate on whether some or all of the patents 
>> were still enforceable.  I suppose we'll have to see.
> (Before I begin, I will state that I am not a lawyer; this is not 
> legal advice.)
> Which ones? Two of the patents look like they are going to expire this 
> summer (assuming the usual 20-year patent term) but not before then. 
> One of the patents is still pending.
> vtkDecimate
> http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&r=1&l=50&f=G&d=PALL&s1=5590248.WKU.&OS=PN/5590248&RS=PN/5590248 
> 5,590,248
> February 24, 1995
> [Note: the title given in the header file has a typo: 
> s/Reducting/Reducing/, and the patent number given is just wrong.]
> vtkDividingCubes
> http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=4,719,585.WKU.&OS=PN/4,719,585&RS=PN/4,719,585 
> 4,719,585
> August 28, 1985
> vtkGridSynchronizedTemplates3D
> vtkRectilinearSynchronizedTemplates
> vtkSynchronizedTemplates2D
> vtkSynchronizedTemplates3D
> Patent pending
> vtkImageMarchingCubes
> vtkMarchingContourFilter
> vtkMarchingCubes
> vtkMarchingSquares
> vtkSliceCubes
> http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=4,710,876.WKU.&OS=PN/4,710,876&RS=PN/4,710,876 
> 4,710,876
> June 5, 1985
> vtkSweptSurface
> http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5,542,036.WKU.&OS=PN/5,542,036&RS=PN/5,542,036 
> 5,542,036
> July 5, 1994
> The others have no comments about patents, but I believe they depend 
> on the other classes in VTK/Patented.
>> Anyway, my understanding is that free distribution is never a 
>> problem. So our primary responsibility is to warn people of their 
>> existence within the distribution, so they won't use them in 
>> commercial software without awareness of their liability...since they 
>> have to read the VTK docs to use them, I would guess that would know 
>> which classes were questionable.  But I'll add a "README.PATENTED" to 
>> the docs directory and docs menu to explain it all.
> The problem with this is that patent infringement isn't like GPL 
> infringement. GPL's conditions are triggered when you redistribute 
> code, but simple use of the software is unrestricted. That's why it 
> makes sense to include readline et al. with a warning that if people 
> intend to redistribute Enthon binaries, they have to also distribute 
> (or offer to distribute) the readline sources. They don't have to 
> think about the GPL until they start distributing stuff, in which 
> case, reading licenses is something they have to do regardless.
> However, patent infringement triggers on *use* for commercial purposes 
> (which, as of 2003, now includes essentially all university research 
> as well). Anyone using Marching Cubes to make an image is potentially 
> infringing on the patent; if and how they distribute the code that 
> makes the image is immaterial. Every time a user sits down with Mayavi 
> or tvtk, they're going to have to think about which classes to avoid 
> if they care about not infringing on the patents.
> Now, if Eric has talked with Enthought's lawyer about this, I'll shut 
> up about the Windows and Linux releases although I still don't feel 
> right about doing it myself for the Mac version.

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