[wilhelmtux-discussion] PDF Format open

Sascha Brawer brawer at acm.org
Don Jan 16 12:37:40 CET 2003

(I'm translating Gaudenz's comment to English, so everyone on the list is
able to read it)

Gaudenz Steinlin <gaudenz at soziologie.ch> wrote on Mon, 13 Jan
2003 18:04:42 +0100:

>> [And, please consider that PDF isn't open either]
>[PDF isn't open, though. Only Adobe can specify what PDF is, and is able
> to develop it further. However, Adobe allows all interested parties to
> develop a Viewer of Writer for PDF. Details can be read in the
> "Intellectual Property" chapter of the specification.]

Based on which legal grounds could Adobe stop others from advancing PDF?

Trademarks --- A trademark merely protects the name. Not a problem,
provided the extension is called differently.

Patents --- Patents cannot protect a file format.  What they do protect
is the *technology* to implement the format. But PDF basically is nothing
else but a simplified PostScript. As far as I know, PostScript draws on
Xerox's developments of the early 1980s. So, are there any non-expired
patent claims that Adobe could hold with regards to PDF? Some rather
marginal areas come to my mind, such as linearized PDF (also called "fast
web view"), and transparency. There might be others, but the basic
functionality was already state of the art a long time ago.

In any case, it would be very unlikely for a patent to cover just one
specific format. Probably every technology required to implement PDF is
also needed for SVG, CGM or any other format of similar capability.

Does anyone know how Software patents would change this situation?

-- Sascha