The "intellectual property" misnomer

Tim Peters at
Sat Jul 12 09:26:15 CEST 2003

[Ian Bicking]
> Functionally, though, I think the term intellectual property here
> works.

Yup.  "Copyrights, trademarks, patents, stuff like that" is the common and
the intended meaning.

> PSF holds (to their knowledge) all intellectual property associated
> with Python

No, it doesn't.  Aahz was correct in clarifying that it's part of the PSF's
mission to obtain that stuff.  For the most obvious example, stare at your
Python license file:  copyrights in some of the Python source code prior to
the 2.1 release are still held by CWI, CNRI, and  CNRI also
holds several trademarks related to Python, and has applications for others
in progress (such as for "Python" itself -- that's been in progress for
about 3 years now!).

> -- there may be no patents, but with the statement they assert that
> either there are no patents or they hold them.

The PSF doesn't know of any patents associated with Python.  It's possible
that the PSF will apply for some, though, and I like using "intellectual
property" because it covers (in the common understanding) all stuff of this

> We also know (implied from other sources) that PSF does not restrict
> its intellectual property.

That's an explicit part of the PSF's Mission Statement.  For example, if the
PSF were to seek algorithmic patents, it would be to protect the free use of
algorithms in Python that may be patentable, or perhaps as a deterrent
against lawsuits (much as private corporations sometimes build a patent
portfolio as protection against patent suits from other companies -- "oh
yeah?  you sue us for process X, and we'll sue you for process Y, so let's
compromise and enter a cross-licensing agreement instead").  Not that there
are any current PSF plans to seek patents -- there aren't.  It would be
within the PSF's mission to do so, though, if we thought that would be in
the public interest.

> The intent of this statement is that someone using Python need not
> worry about "intellectual property" associated with Python, which
> includes at least patent, copyright, and trade secrets.

Well, the PSF would *like* to say that, but nobody can predict what courts
will say, and there's always some element of risk.  The PSF exists in part
to hold Python's IP in the public interest, but doesn't yet even hold all
that currently exists.

> I don't know how this applies to trademarks, since they are different
> from the others, and obviously PSF does not hold every trademark that
> contains Python and relates to computers.

The PSF doesn't currently hold any trademarks or service marks.  Guido has a
strong case (IMO) for a trademark on Python as applied to a computer
language, but the US trademark office doesn't make such fine distinctions

[Ben Finney]
>> If the PSF holds software patents in Python, I imagine many would be
>> outraged.  I don't believe it does.  If it's not the case, why imply
>> it with an overbroad term?

> I would not be outraged.

Good -- we've had quite enough outrage in this thread already, and, as
above, it is conceivable that the PSF may hold patents someday.

> If they enforced those patents, then I might be outraged.

Me too.  Unless it was just to destroy Perl <wink>.

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