GNU's Bulletin						    June, 1991

        The GNU's Bulletin is the semi-annual newsletter of the
   Free Software Foundation, bringing you news about the GNU Project.

Free Software Foundation, Inc.                Telephone: (617) 876-3296
675 Massachusetts Avenue          Electronic mail:
Cambridge, MA 02139  USA

AT&T Threatens Users of X Windows

by Richard Stallman

This spring, AT&T sent threatening letters to every member of the X
Consortium, including MIT, saying they need to pay royalties for the X
Window server.  This is because AT&T has patented the use of "backing
store" in a multiprocessing window system (patent number 4,555,775).
MIT is looking into how to fight AT&T in court if necessary, but we
don't know whether this can succeed.

Meanwhile, Cadtrak continues to demand royalties from the users of X
Windows for using exclusive-or to write on the screen, which is covered
by patent number 4,197,590.

The GNU system won't be terribly useful if it can't have X Windows.  But
that isn't the only essential system feature which is in danger.  Emacs
is threatened by IBM patent number 4,674,040 which covers "cut and paste
between files" in a text editor.  Many Emacs features are threatened by
patent number 4,458,311, which covers "text and numeric processing on
same screen."  Patent 4,398,249 covering the general spreadsheet
technique known as "natural order recalc" stops us from using it in GNU

There is little the FSF itself can do about these threats.  Fighting
just one patent in court would use up all our funds.  So we have added a
provision to version 2 of the GPL so that we can prohibit distribution
of one of our programs in certain countries if it is covered by patents
there.  Most likely, one of those countries will be the United States.

Beyond that, we have joined the League for Programming Freedom, which is
trying to get patents out of the software field.  If you develop
software for wide use, chances are you, too, will find you can't do your
work without infringing these patents.  Not to mention the thousands of
other patents that apply to software.  Doesn't it make sense for you to
join the League for Programming Freedom?

Copyright (C) 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.