At 02:01 PM 9/14/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Depends on whether you have a design or concept patent.
Software patents in general are rather strange. Until not long ago the PTO would not accept patents on software, on that grounds that software was an expression of an algorithm, which fell under the mathematical formulae restrictions. They have allowed patents on the grounds that they describe using a computer to carry out a process. Software then, under this expanded definition, falls under process patents.
There are companies that hold patents on things like "Using a computer to perform automatic color separations" that have been issued and are in force. The patent covers the process of using the computer to do color separations, which pretty much covers any program that performs them.
I do have to say that so far the track record of these patents in court hasn't been very good. The Compton's patent was thrown out after a successful suit by other companies with similar products.
What it boils down to is that I'm one of those old-fashioned types that thinks that information wants to be free, and should belong to those who can make good use of it. Unrealistic? Maybe, but we sure had better software in the days when companies competed on merit, not for "intellectual property."