[Mono-list] Re: someone, please clear out that patents issue

Mitchell Skinner mitchskin@attbi.com
14 Feb 2003 18:08:19 -0800


I have a lot of respect for the people on this list, and so this will be
my last mono-list post on the subject until and unless someone comes up
with actual new information.  Real Advice from a Real Lawyer, for

However, there are still some things that I think need to be said, so I
will try to say them all in this mail. :)

On Fri, 2003-02-14 at 08:32, Miguel de Icaza wrote:
> Documenting prior art and sending the information to the patent office
> is the right thing to do.  Any prior-art information and documentation
> gets attached to the specific patent application for future review, and
> to help the reviewers.

This is something I would like to try to do.  However, since as you know
I am not a lawyer, I'm not certain that the things I'm thinking of

For example, I think putting the collection classes in the first-level
namespace (claim 9) has prior art in java.util, but I'm not really sure.

Really what I am hoping to do with these messages is encourage a real
lawyer to step up pro-bono or encourage some group that has committed
substantial resources to mono to actually pay a lawyer to look at this
stuff.  Perhaps the Ximian board would see this as a reasonable price to
pay, considering the risk.  Alternatively, I would be able to chip in a
hundred bucks or so to a mono legal fund that would pay for lawyer time
to answer these questions.

> This is also not the end of the world.  So what if we have to change the
> behavior, and break compatibility?   Too bad, but if anything, it
> provides a nice foundation for innovation ;-)
> Take all the Mono assemblies that are not part of .NET: We still
> encourage developers to write assemblies that will be cross platform and
> that can be used in both systems.  Mono ships with 14 new assemblies
> (only one of them is Unix specific);  Gtk# ships with 11 assemblies and
> there will be more to come.

Well, I think breaking compatibility would make things more difficult
than you acknowledge.  If mono does so, the maintainers of the 13
cross-platform new assemblies that ship with mono will have to decide
which platform to target, and the assemblies will therefore no longer be
cross-platform (without the translator, see below).

> The worst case scenario is to provide translator tools that can
> translate applications from pure .NET to the Mono+whateverweinvent
> platform.  It is not a big deal.

The translator tools are not the only thing, "whateverweinvent" also
must be invented, and I'm not convinced that this is so trivial.  At
what point, if any, does the mono community think that the effort of
inventing a non-infringing platform is justified?  Perhaps when/if the
patent issues?  How much effort would this take (probably another lawyer

Do you think the translator should be at the source or JIT level?

> You can debate this too.  The .NET Framework API has plenty of
> problems.  It is a very good API, but it can be improved upon.  
> So what if we can not use the .NET Framework, the whole Mono team is a
> very talented team, with very talented developers (The best I have had
> the chance to work with), and am very confident they could assemble on
> top of the basic .NET framework a killer platform, with or without
> compatibility.

I have a huge amount of respect for the progress that's been made so
far, and for the people that have made it.  My desire is not to prevent
this work but to protect it, and also to get as many users and
contributors as possible.  Really, how many people are on this list
right now because of compatibility?  Mono would still be a wonderful
project without it, but not as popular, I think.

I guess what I'm saying is that keeping compatibility would be great,
but if that's not possible, then it would be good to realize that as
soon as possible and start working on the alternatives.

I know Miguel has had to deal with a lot of negativity toward mono (some
of it very vitriolic), and I also have a huge amount of respect for the
way that he's stuck to his guns, even after he found out he was mistaken
about the relative usefulness of JITing MSIL vs JITing JVM bytecode.

I hope that this gun-sticking-to attitude does not become a siege
mentality, and I hope that these questions that I think are very
important can continue to be discussed.  I also think they're on-topic
for mono-list, but probably someone will go and create a mono-legal or
something. :)


"amateur-pundit", though, that hurts.  Thbbbbt. <g> j/k

Mitchell Skinner <mitchskin@attbi.com>