[postgis-devel] Xing Lin's SoC project (raster support)

Tom Lane tgl at sss.pgh.pa.us
Thu Jul 12 23:49:32 PDT 2007

"Tim Keitt" <tkeitt at gmail.com> writes:
> On 7/12/07, Xing Lin <solo.lin at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Could we just take a modified version from Oracle GeoRaster or we can't take
>> anything even the idea of georaster model. But it is very common in
>> GeoScience and how could we avoid using it?

> My understanding is that the patent covers the method of
> implementation, not the idea. You can use the same idea, but the
> implementation cannot be the same as described in the patent.

No, it's much grimmer than that :-(.  Patent law is exactly about
patenting *ideas* --- you may have confused it with copyright law,
which is about restricting specific expressions of an idea.

To be sure you've steered clear of a patent, you have to be sure
you have not used any ideas described in the "claims" of the patent.

Now this game is rigged against you, because the normal structure of
patent claims is about like this:
	1. I claim the universe.
	2. I claim the Milky Way galaxy.
	3. I claim the moon, the sun and the stars.
	4. OK, I just claim the moon.
	5. I claim Tycho Crater.
and if the thing ever gets dragged to court, the judge will throw out
the first several claims and only allow the most specific ones that
clearly don't match any prior art.  But if you aren't versed in
patent law and art, it's hard to tell just where the threshold of
silliness lies.  And in any case it'll cost a lot to vindicate
your opinion in court.

(Shouldn't the USPTO have rejected the overly-broad claims, you
ask?  Well, if they weren't utterly dysfunctional they would have.)

> I still agree though that the patent is probably overly broad and
> covers things that have been done many times in academia and
> elsewhere. The problem is that even if it is invalid owing to prior
> art, the cost of defending against a claim is prohibitive.

Right, the real problem is in whether you are willing to bet $lots
that you can prevail against a patent troll.

			regards, tom lane

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