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Software Patents

Software patents are a particularly large danger for those who wish to see the adoption of Free Software increase.  Software patents restrict people from implementing certain features without permission -- even if those features are developed and licensed as Free Software.  The result is that often times independent creation of software with the intent of it being freely distributed can in fact still be grounds for patent infringement lawsuits.

Software patents are most often a problem when it comes to implimenting proprietary file formats within Free Software.  When one wishes to read from or convert a proprietary file format to a free one, they must first be able to access it.  Since proprietary file formats are often patented, one must violate the patent and create or use an implementation of the restricted format before they can convert it to a free one.  This is an obvious catch-22 -- how can you convert to a Free format without first accessing your data in the non-free format?

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