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Patent Violating Programming Contest

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You want to write programs? You have read that basic stuff such as text and graphics sharing the same screen or clickable tabbed palettes are patented? You are afraid that it might be no more possible in the future to make a living from programming?

You are not alone!

In fact, everyone shares these problems. Only the really big companies have enough patents which allow them to continue with their programming. Everyone loses; those big companies persist longer and thus can get rid of those small, nasty competitors. But wait: Someone wins: Those who do not program but only register patents can charge fees from everyone.

(For more about this, see:

So let us react in time: Let's get familiar with the violation of patents!

Patent Violating Programming Contest

Requirements for participation


Each participant grabs a patent which must be valid in the EU, for example from the Cauldron of the 10000 Patents,,
and checks by writing to <>, that noone else is already working on the same patent.


EP0590884: Image forming method and apparatus. CANON KK (JP)

The participant tries to understand the patent and to write a summary.

The essential parts are the claims of the granted version. Typically, there is a main claim and several sub claims covering some details - many nice things which all could be done with the main claim, if it were not patented. If the granted version is not yet available at, it can be retrieved as image data from


Main claim: Inclusion of additinal information into given image data, and detection of such an inclusion. The sub claims include steganographic inclusion of a unique ID.

For each language you get 1 point. If, for example, you send in a summary in your mother language plus English, you can get two points just for this.

Okay, let's go: Write a short program which violates the patent. Send it to us together with a description, how and why this program is violating the patent.


The program (a Unix shell script):

    cat $1 | tr x $3 > $2 && diff $1 $2


The program gets the name of a PPM image file as parameter $1. It gets 1 byte of additional information as parameter $3, includes this additional information into the image and stores it in a PPM file with the name given as parameter $2. After that, this modification is detected using the appropriate Unix utility "diff". This violates claim 1 of the patent EP0590884.

If the byte given as parameter $3 does not deviate too much from the letter "x", the modification is invisible for the naked eye. In that case, the program also violates claim 2 of the patent.

You get 1 point for each violated claim. For instance, it would not be a problem to generalise the shell script above to violate additional claims of EP0590884 - e.g. claim 17 using the Unix utility "uptime".

We are not finished yet: If you can show a violation of "your" patent performed by the German government, you get 10 points! (Please see the open letter of the FFII to the German government - and maybe sign that letter, if you have some relation to the German government.)

Please send the description of the patent, the program, and the description of the program as plain ASCII texts via email to <>. It is planned to publish everything on the web pages of the FFII once the contest is over.

If you send in a program, you agree that it may be used and distributed under the terms of the GNU GPL - er... could be used if there wasn't the patent.

The contest ends on 3 May 2003. That life form which has collected the maximum number of points, wins. In particular, if you submit more than one patent, the points are added up.

Important: Please do not run the programs, unless you have permission from the patent holder to do so. We do not intend to steal other people's valuable intellectual property (e.g. the idea to modify images). We are just going to expose the genius behind those ideas.


We would like to do some statistics with the stuff we get. If you like, please tell us the following:

After the contest

The patent violations performed by the German government will be added to the open letter of the FFII to the German government. By the way: If you like, you can sign this letter.

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Letzte Änderung: 14. März 2003