Analysis on balance: Standardisation and Patents

Alex Hudson home at
Tue Dec 2 21:42:52 UTC 2008

David Picón Álvarez wrote:
> From: "Alex Hudson" <home at>
>> It doesn't seem to make any argument why sub-licensing would be
>> desirable and/or necessary for free software.
> Interesting, for some reason I was under the impression that sublicencing 
> was part of the essential legal machinery of free software, it turns out the 
> GPL 3 for instance does not use sublicencing but conveying gives a licence 
> from the upstream creator of the work.

GPLv2 worked in the same way too I think (though not worded as 
explicitly as it is in v3). In general, I tend to think of sublicensing 
as being very rare - you only really need it if you're changing the 
license (or, at least, varying it somehow).

> Well, in theory the whole point of IPR is that those things which are not
> valuable (common knowledge, lacking a creative input (in copyrights) or an 
> inventive step (patents) are in the public domain. Those things which cost 
> money/labour to create/invent are privatized in the hope this incentivises 
> people to invest that labour or money. If you can get the returns of that 
> privatization without making the investment, that's a failure mode of the 
> system, no?

I wouldn't say so, in the same way that not getting any returns by 
making that same investment also isn't a failure mode of the system 
either. It's a system of risk.

> Maybe worse is better is an acceptable strategy here. As in, maybe after
> things become so legally dangerous because thousands of SMEs have all kinds 
> of patents, the big companies would think twice.

Potentially, but I think it probably makes things worse. The problem 
SMEs have isn't that they can't acquire patents, it's that they can't 
litigate them effectively against competitors. They would be well-placed 
to wave them against free software though.



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