Programming Freedom
Number 10 
July 1994 

The League For Programming Freedom
One Kendall Square #143
PO Box 9171
Cambridge, MA 02139
Table of Contents 
Software Adventure By Gordon Irlam & Ross Williams 
Goodbye & Goodluck 
Another Annoying Patent By Greg Ahronian 
The LPF on the WWW 
Petition to Oppose Clipper 
Software Adventure 
We can best illustrate some of the problems that software patents 
cause, through the use of an imaginative scenario written in the style 
of the well-known computer exploration game "Adventure": 
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
    Welcome to Patent Adventure V3.4. - All Rights Reserved 1994. 
    You are the CEO of AcmeSoft - a fairly successful software company. 
    You are at your desk.  Suddenly the fax machine rumbles... 
    Command> READ FAX 
    It's from SharkTech!  They're claiming that your company's product 
    "Acme Professional" violates their software patent "Distinguishing 
    Nested Structures by Color".  They want 1% of your wholesale price 
    in royalties. 
    Command> GIVE ROYALTIES 
    Now they want 5%. 
    Command> GIVE ROYALTIES 
    That satisfied them.  Hmmm, the fax machine is humming again. 
    It's from ParaTech!  They're claiming your company's product "Acme 
    Professional" assigns clients to whichever server process is least 
    busy, and as a result want 3% of your wholesale price in 
    Command> IGNORE THEM 
    ParaTech have decided to take you to court.  Do you want to settle 
    for 10%, pay $800,000 in legal fees, or circumvent the patent? 
    Command> CIRCUMVENT 
    Your programmers say they can't circumvent the patent without 
    hurting performance --- causing you to lose you 30% of your 
    customer base.  Do you want to circumvent? 
    Command> CIRCUMVENT 
    You've lost 30% of your customers!  The fax machine is going 
    again.  This time it's from MeanTech.  They're claiming your 
    company's product "Acme Professional" violates their software 
    patent on storing document images on a CD ROM along with an 
    automatically generated index, and because they are a competitor, 
    they do not want a royalty.  They want you to remove the violating 
    code or stop shipping the product.  What do you wish to do: 
        1) Ship 400 floppy disks instead of one CD ROM. 
        2) Go to court. 
        3) Stop shipping the product. 
    Legal fees are $600,000.  Current funds are $400,000. 
    You've gone broke! 
    Do you want to play Patent Adventure again?> DEFINITELY NOT 
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
While the above scenario is fictional, it is far closer to the current 
situation than many in the software industry realize.  In reality: 
    * IBM holds patent #4,965,765 which covers the use of different 
    colors to distinguish the nesting level of nested expressions. 
    * Patent #5,249,290 covers assignment of client requests to the 
    server process having the least load. 
    * Patent #4,941,125 covers using a digital camera in conjunction 
    with character recognition software to store and index documents 
    on a CD ROM. 
    * And IBM really does charge small companies 1% of royalties to 
    license a single software patent, and 5% for its entire portfolio. 
The software patent system is clearly out of control and if not caught 
soon will change the face of the software industry forever.  Two 
thousand new software patents are granted each year.  They are being 
granted on software technologies as diverse and mundane as file 
servers and word processors.  It is already dangerous to create 
products containing data compression or public key encryption, and 
recently major inroads were made in the field of multimedia.  Here are 
some more examples to help give you a feel for the scope of the 
    * A spreadsheet in which each cell has a "next cell" attribute 
    defining the next cell to advance to after having entering data 
    into the current cell.  [#5,121,499]. 
    * A spreadsheet in which a single cell can contain multiple 
    (possibly optional) fields.  [#5,247,611]. 
    * A word processor that has a feature that allows you to specify 
    that a portion of the text should be shaded - such as may be 
    useful when revising a manual - by enclosing the relevant text 
    within commands that turn shading on and off.  [#4,924,411]. 
    * Use of a host independent network byte ordering.  [#4,956,809]. 
    * A parallelizing compiler that estimates the execution time for 
    each of a number of different parallelization conversions and then 
    selects the one that it thinks will be the fastest.  [#5,151,991]. 
    * Simulating the access times associated with a CD ROM by slowing 
    down a hard disk.  [#5,121,492]. 
These are just a few of hundreds of software patents that pose a 
critical threat to all software developers, large and small.  Many 
more examples are contained in Appendix C.  The fact that these 
patents all cover trivial ideas is significant, but not the only 
reason for the difficulties.  In this document, we argue that the 
nature of the software industry makes it an inappropriate subject for 
the granting of patents. 
Software Adventure was written by Ross Williams and Gordon Irlam, and 
is is portion of the LPF's tetimony at the Patent Office hearings in San
Jose.  To request a copy in its entirity send email to 
Goodbye & Goodluck 
At the end of this month longtime LPF volunteer Noah Friedman will be
leaving.  For over the past two and a half years Noah has been a 
godsend to the LPF, answering all email requests, working with the
membership database, and helping out with whatever has been needed, all 
in addition to his full time job with the FSF.  His "future plans include 
finishing school and several programs I haven't had time to hack on
for ages".   
Another Annoying Patent! 
    OH NO!!! 
    Just when you thought that telephone calling couldn't get any worse 
(due to annoying phone mail systems, and other such "breakthroughs"), along 
comes some technology that automatically switches your phone call, when it 
encounters a busy signal, to a node that provides advertising to listen to 
until the person you are calling is through, when it completes the connection. 
Having to listen to phone Muzak is bad enough while waiting, but now we have 
to listen to advertising? 
    OH NO!!! 
Greg Aharonian, Internet Patent News Service 
(for subscription info, send 'help' to 
Vital Information 
US PAT NO:     5,321,740 [IMAGE AVAILABLE]             ANS: 1 
DATE ISSUED:   Jun. 14, 1994 
TITLE:         Telephone marketing system 
INVENTOR:      Mark R. Gregorek, Mahwah, NJ,   Jeffrey C. Dillow, Sparta, NJ 
ASSIGNEE:      Quantum Systems, Inc., Mahwah, NJ (U.S. corp.)  
APPL-NO:       07/718,080 
DATE FILED:    Jun. 20, 1991 
ART-UNIT:      261 
PRIM-EXMR:     Thomas W. Brown 
LEGAL-REP:     Panitch, Schwarze, Jacobs & Nadel 
Submitted by Greg Aharonian, Internet Patent News Service

The LPF on the WWW 
A group of hardworking volunteers has been busy setting up the League 
on the World Wide Web.  They report that they recently got the 
domain registered (so the LPF now has an official domain).  The machine 
for the site should be set up in the near future, and then the volunteers 
will get working on designing and writing the LPF's pages.  The site 
should be up and running by the middle of August.  At that point they will 
need more volunteers, so if you have an interest, and would like to help 
drop me a note (  Thank you Marianne Mueller, Lile 
Elam, Gordon Irlam and Wendell Craig Baker for all of your hard work! 
                Petition to Oppose Clipper 
On January 24, many of the nation's leading experts in cryptography 
and computer security wrote President Clinton and asked him to 
withdraw the Clipper proposal. 
The public response to the letter has been extremely favorable, 
including coverage in the New York Times and numerous computer and 
security trade magazines. 
Many people have expressed interest in adding their names to the 
letter.  In  response to these requests, CPSR is organizing an 
Internet petition drive to oppose the Clipper proposal.  We will 
deliver the signed petition to the White House, complete with the 
names of all the people who oppose Clipper. 
To sign on to the letter, send a message to: 
with the message "I oppose Clipper" (no quotes) 
You will receive a return message confirming your vote. 
For more information about Clipper, please consult the CPSR Internet Library - 
FTP/WAIS/Gopher CPSR.ORG /cpsr/privacy/crypto/clipper 
This was passed along by longtime activist L. Peter Deusch ( 

LPF Boutique: 
Materials Available from the League  
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Large Liberty Posters: We have a few posters with the same image as the
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shipping and handling in the US for the first one to four posters, and 
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Coffee Mugs: Our 12-oz., microwave-safe coffee mugs have the Fanged Apple 
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If you want copies to hand out at an event give us 4 weeks notice and we'll 
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League Papers On-line: You can retrieve LPF written materials in TeXinfo 
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These include the position papers, all back issues of our newsletter 
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