[SciPy-user] Enthon for the Mac

Robert Kern rkern at ucsd.edu
Tue Nov 23 23:38:17 CST 2004

John Hunter wrote:
>>>>>>"Robert" == Robert Kern <rkern at ucsd.edu> writes:
>     Robert> The patent license isn't just needed for implementing
>     Robert> marching cubes in a program that you sell. It's also
>     Robert> needed for applying the algorithm for commercial
>     Robert> purposes. If I use VTK(+Patented) to make pretty pictures
>     Robert> in the course of my job, I need to pay for a patent
>     Robert> license. Research in an academic or governmental context
>     Robert> may or may not be considered commercial. In the absence of
>     Robert> a clear license for non-commercial and research use, I'm
>     Robert> not tempted to guess their intentions.
> I'm not a lawyer (my wife is, does that count?),

No.  :-)

And while we're at it, I am not a lawyer, either. This is not legal advice.

> but I did read the
>  VTK README regarding patents before posting.  It says
>   VTK has a generous open-source copyright modelled after the BSD
>   license. Yes, you can use VTK in commercial products. The only
>   caveat is that if you use any classes (there are a small number) in
>   the VTK/Patented directory in commercial application, you will want
>   to contact the patent holder (listed in the class header) for a
>   license. The complete text of the copyright follows.
> To me the key phrase is using classes "in commercial application".  I
> read (past tense) "application" to mean a computer program that you
> sell to people, eg, MS Word.  I (now) see there is an alternative
> meaning of "commercial application", the generic one, "the ability to
> use learned material in new and concrete situations".
> Do you agree that the reading of this license hinges on how you
> interpret the phrase "commercial application"? 

It's not a patent license. It is a copyright license, and does not 
confer any license to use the patented algorithms, commercial or 
non-commercial use aside. The patent owners of the algorithm are not the 
copyright owners of VTK, and the VTK people have no ability to grant a 
patent license for the code in question.

In the US, true non-commercial use does not count as infringement of the 
patent. I believe that the verbiage they use here is referring to that. 
Unfortunately, it's incredibly misleading because the courts have 
recently become extremely strict and narrow as to what they consider 
non-infringing use. See my response to Fernando for a link to a relevant 
Supreme Court case.

> If you read it in the
> sense of a program you want to sell, an "application" in geek
> parlance, it is fairly permissive in a commercial environment.  If you
> read it in the non-geek sense of using learned material in a new and
> concrete situation, it is fairly restrictive.

I do believe that the latter is the intended meaning. I believe that it 
is improper grammar to say "in commercial application" when you mean the 
former. The grammatically correct version, if the geek meaning is 
intended, would be "in *a* commercial application."

Nonetheless, I believe the issue is moot since the VTK developers have 
no ability to grant a patent license for the algorithms.

> Goddam lawyers (wife excluded...).

Robert Kern
rkern at ucsd.edu

"In the fields of hell where the grass grows high
  Are the graves of dreams allowed to die."
   -- Richard Harter

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