code and design

bruce at bruce at
Mon May 3 16:27:04 UTC 1999

From: "Richard B. Dietz" <rbdietz at>
> can a distinction be made between the code that goes into an opensource
> project under gnu gpl and the interface and/or artwork that comprises what
> the user sees and interacts with.  if the code specifies a novel
> interface, how can a gpl'd project protect the design from commercial
> scavenging?

Patent it, and blanket-license the patent to be used free with GPL-ed
software. This is a rather expensive process if we don't get pro-bono
help to go about it.

> should it?

I'd almost say no. However, even if an invention is in the public domain,
someone can patent an improvement on it and keep the original inventor
and the rest of us from using the improvement. 

However, if someone patents an improvement to your patented intention, the
improvement may still infringe on your original patent and you may be able
to compel that person to put the same blanket-license for free use by GPL
programs on their improvement, or collect a royalty for use with non-GPL
programs, or whatever deal you want to cut. I think this is a better idea,
because it keeps free software from being blocked from using some new ideas
by patents.  We might as well use the system against the other side.



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