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Patent US9952841B2 - Programming system and language for application development -

To make the question more concrete (based on this post in the Swift forum) -

  • Is it safe for a new distinct programming language (either open or closed source) to implement optional chaining (or any of Swift's features mentioned in the patent text), without risk of litigation?
  • Is it safe to develop a new Swift compiler independently of Apple and implement features mentioned in the patent text, without risk of litigation?

Are there any other important implications that independent programming language developers should keep in mind?

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Patents on software are a difficult topic, not in the least because it depends on your jurisdiction if they are recognized in the first place.

Assuming the patent is granted, it is recognized in your jurisdiction and that Apple actively defends the exclusive rights it gets under the patent (none of which will be a given), then it is not safe to independently implement the language features that fall under the patent. That goes both for a Swift compiler as for a completely different programming language.

As the Swift compiler from Apple is distributed under the Apache 2.0 license, which gives an explicit patent grant for patents embodied in it, you could safely derive your new compiler from the Apple one. And it doesn't have to remain a Swift compiler in that process.

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