What if someone patents software after we start using the free version?

What if someone patents the software after we start using the free version?
The answer to this question depends on the circumstances. Protectible patent rights date back to the date of the patent application. If the licensor is permitted to distribute the software, nothing will happen when the patent is granted. If the licensor has no formal authority to distribute from the patent registrant but there is a question about whether the subject of the patent includes either prior art or is otherwise subject to challenge, again there may be no consequences. If you continue to use the product after the patent is granted and the patent holder never issues a cease-and-desist letter, again there would be no consequences. And so on...
This was first published in May 2004

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