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English Court Allows Patents For "Complex" Software

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the first-a-trickle dept.

Patents 132

jonbryce writes "The court of appeal in England has ruled that companies should be granted patents for 'complex' software products. In this particular case, Symbian had written something that makes mobile phones run faster. The court case has received very little attention because of the bank crisis, but it can be appealed to the House of Lords and then the European Court of Justice."

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Complex? (5, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349301)

I'm not sure how this ruling makes sense, given that the article didn't actually say what the legal definition of "complex" was.

Re:Complex? (4, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349365)

In legal context, it probably means "Any technology which you can successfully confuse a jury by explaining."

In other news, the Church-Turing thesis has been declared false by judicial fiat. Any algorithms which are discovered to be functionally identical to any others are to be rounded up and shot in order to protect freedom.

Re:Complex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349463)

the second part made me lol, but if it's true i'd like to see some links or something

(google can gfi, real links or die!)

Re:Complex? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349685)

If you read the actual decisions, it's got very little to do with how 'complex' it is, and more to do with whether or not it is 'just an application' or something that has some other extra effect. Also, this has absolutely nothing to do with any jury, and everything to do with judges who have got experience from all areas of life (the High Court has a specific technology division for a reason).

Oh wow. (5, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350683)

I took it as meaning "any program that cannot be expressed as an integer, by means of a Turing Machine, but requires an imaginary component".

Re:Complex? (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352243)

In legal context, it probably means "Any technology which you can successfully confuse a jury by explaining."

That's not so bad. I thought it might be any technology that a High Court Judge would be confused by.

Re:Complex? (1)

MindKata (957167) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352769)

"any technology that a High Court Judge would be confused by"

Finally, a practical use for my slashdot sig message, below... (I would love to see how long it took to explain even just binary in some court rooms).

Re:Complex? (5, Informative)

Alexander Sofras (1264020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349781)

What's even more worrying is that the judgement of the Court of Appeal does not EVEN ONCE mention complexity as an issue. Further, it can't be 'appealed' to the European Court of Justice, only a point of law can be queried there. Also, this case already brings the UK closer in line with the EU regarding software patents, and it's not easy to appeal to the House of Lords - they only hear about 90 cases per year and generally only on areas of law that are important to the public. This case is more of an argument about facts than an argument on a point of law.

The original High Court decision is here [bailii.org] and the Court of Appeal decision is here [bailii.org] .

Basically, Symbian was denied their patent, which revolves around faster accessing of DLLs (more details of which you can find in my first link). The patent was denied because the patent officer in question argued that what they were patenting was nothing more than a different way to call a DLL's functions and not anything that alters the way the computer's resources are managed. The High Court decided that she (the patent officer) had understated the technical merit and effect of the patent.

The Comptroller General of Patents then appealed against the decision to grant the previous appeal, bringing us up to the case in the Court of Appeal. The general argument revolves around whether or not what Symbian have patented is merely a computer program or whether it has some additional effect - if it were just a computer program, it would not be patentable. The Court of Appeal more or less restates the edecision of the High Court, adding that the patent is not 'just' a computer program, because it has the 'knock-on effect of the computer working better'.

Whilst everyone here will have their own view on software patents (largely in consensus here, I imagine), this is a poor summary - although I think that is largely due to the very poor write-up by the Times, which is trying to write in a way that is understandable to regular readers rather than those with a technical background. As stated, patents aren't granted for any old program, but the courts considered this to be more of a software process which improves the way a system runs, rather than a simple program that is executed and terminates. Just how correct they are in this decision is a different matter, but the Court of Appeal decision is not very long at all, for those who are interested.

Anyway, this case wouldn't have received any news coverage even outside the financial crisis, since it's far beyond the understanding of the average person in this country - and doesn't have anything to do with a potential imminent apocalypse.

Re:Complex? (4, Informative)

perrin (891) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352051)

Every computer program can be interpreted to "improve the way a system runs", and therefore be patentable under this theory, which is exactly the point. They have been doing this slimy workaround the "mere program" rule for a long time, arguing that the invention is a combination of software and hardware components (because software has to run on hardware, duh), and it forms the very basis for software patents in the EU.

Re:Complex? (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352257)

So you can only patent a computer program if it does something!

Re:Complex? (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353659)

"Every computer program can be interpreted to "improve the way a system runs""

Sorry, have to say it... Vista?

Re:Complex? (0, Redundant)

naich (781425) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353665)

Every computer program can be interpreted to "improve the way a system runs"...

I can't believe I'm the first person to insert a reference to Vista here. It's been 5 hours since this was written. Come on people - wake up!

Re:Complex? (1)

major_fault (1384069) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352897)

Read the first link and as a programmer I'd say this is a completely obvious solution to the problem they describe. Maybe I misread the patent as English is not mothertongue, but the logic of it as I understand it says when excluding technical slang: You can do two things, one is slow, but can be done always. Another is fast, but can't always be done. So we propose doing as much as possible fast and then the part we can't do fast, we do slow? Why on earth should this logic be patentable???

Re:Complex? (2, Funny)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349995)

How about this definition? If the software is as complex as the EULA you had to accept to install it, then it's in.

Re:Complex? (2, Interesting)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#25351189)

It really seems to be a way of getting around the phones operating system taking too long to process DLL's. Doesn't sound particularly patentable, nor does it appear to be particularly novel!

The fact is, the original patent examiner seems to have made the correct decision. It is probable that the speedup method has prior art, although perhaps not in the context of phone operating systems. (Patenting something to speed up operations in your own companies crappy operating system seems a little narrow anyway!)

Re:Complex? (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352793)

> your own companies crappy operating system

You really think you'd get away with that? Did you really think we wouldn't notice? Is it a deliberate troll?

It's "company's", not "companies".

Apologies to Not The Nine O'Clock News...ref: "Not the Parrot Sketch" :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UBOb7ar3qQ [youtube.com]

(Also, I personally don't consider Symbian to be "crappy". The SDK is a pain to work with, but the OS is pretty good, IMO).

Re:Complex? (2, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350157)

Not to be daft, and certainly not to promote a pro-patent view on /. but isn't this pretty much the exact purpose of a patent rather than the vague bland ones that seem to be making the way in droves? I say if you develop some tricky algorithm to make phones "work faster" than you should be allowed to patent it, and flog it off to the carriers.

If you ask me, it's the IBM Patent space Patent [slashdot.org] patents that we should all be worrying about. It someone invents something, power to them. If you patent something that is simply there to make it harder for others to be creative - THAT is when we should be writing to our collective members.

Why can't people just use their common sense [roflposters.com] when it comes to patents?

Re:Complex? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352569)

The problem is lawyers - they will argue that all software "makes the system work faster" or better or whatever ... then you will have people patenting the blindingly obvious ...

Common sense and the law do not mix ...

Re:Complex? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353339)

I would be in favour of software patents given two constraints:
  1. Their lifespan should reflect the speed of the software industry. 20 years is far too long. Five should be a maximum, and it should be very expensive to make them last more than three. Three years of monopoly gives a huge competitive advantage in the software industry.
  2. They should have very high standards for novelty. This means that someone who is an expert in the field should not be able to come up with the specified solution.

The problem, as the other poster said, is that lawyers are not qualified to make the decision of whether an algorithm is particularly novel, and neither are most patent examiners. The only way of filtering out these is to put up the fees to the extent that you can afford to pay a professor doing research in the field of the patent to evaluate it.

Re:Complex? (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353663)

I'm not in favour of software patents at all, and I'm fast coming to the conclusion that the whole patent system (software or otherwise) is flawed for one very simple reason:

The patent infringer may not have gained anything at all from the original "invention" - in many cases they aren't even aware of it.

If you invent something and I take your invention and build upon it then maybe you deserve some compensation since you have saved me some development costs. On the other hand, if I invent something completely independently, with no knowledge of your prior invention, there is absolutely no reason you should expect to get compensated since I have received no benefit from using your prior invention.

The patent system provides no test to show whether the infringer was aware of the patented invention - if you unknowingly infringe on someone else's invention then you are screwed (and even if the patent is invalid, it is often impossibly expensive to defend yourself so you're still screwed). At the moment, it is probably impossible to write any useful software without unknowingly infringing on some patent, so the whole thing becomes a bit of a lottery of releasing your software and hoping someone doesn't sue.

The same applies to hardware - I've seen people patent some tiny part of an ASIC design that does a fairly generic task. There's no way a third party is going to benefit from that patent because the only way they would find out about the design is by trawling the patent archives or reverse engineering the device (both options prohibitively expensive - far cheaper to design your own hardware). So the only use for that patent is to use offensively against a competitor who has unknowingly invented the same thing independently.

A stupid idea.... (2, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350251)

Sometimes really simple ideas are the hardest to come up with.

What's wrong with patents is when they allow ideas that any competent person would come up with in a couple of minutes if they ever needed to do it, ie. the only reason nobody "invented" it yet is that nobody ever needed it.

Example: "Compact text encoding of latitude/longitude coordinates" - Patent 20050023524

(Guess who patented that one...)

Basically it's just base-64 encoding of lat/long coordinates.

It may be "new" (in the sense that it was never done before) but any competent programmer could have come up with it with a few seconds thought.

By this yardstick my current software should have at least 10,000 patents covering it.

Re:Complex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25351195)

I'm not sure how this ruling makes sense, given that the article didn't actually say what the legal definition of "complex" was.

They're the English judiciary. "Complex" is anything with more complicated than a football.

Re:Complex? (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#25351371)

I'm not sure how this ruling makes sense, given that the article didn't actually say what the legal definition of "complex" was.

Not that I have much faith in the English justice system, but I'm pretty sure that judges will base their rulings on the actual law, rather than an article about the law.

write to your MP (3, Informative)

johnjones (14274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349339)

seriously what patenting simple things is wrong while complex things are good

software patents are simply not right for the patent system

if you live in the UK (only if so)

write to your MP simply by using this service
http://www.writetothem.com/

regards

John Jones

Holy crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349377)

John Jones?! The Martian Manhunter is posting to Slashdot?!

Re:write to your MP (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352299)

Somewhat off-topic, but what is a 'deltic'? Google only gives me locomotive links. :(

Re:write to your MP (1)

Xetrov (267777) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352725)

Perhaps he meant to say Dyslexic?

English law is not American Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25352547)

Fortunately we don't need to worry about this too much. English law is not the same as American law, cases do not set a precedent. In America (so I'm given to understand), a ruling like this would in effect, create a fairly solid law (depending on the court).

In England we don't set precedent, therefore one judges ruling has no effect on any other case.

Re:English law is not American Law (2, Informative)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352651)

A simple trip to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_law, 3rd paragraph) would save you a lot of embarrassment in the future.

English law is most definitely based on precedent. If fact, the reason that American law has precedent is because it is, in turn, based on English law, as are most of the legal systems of the former commonwealth.

This law might be ultimately decided in the Lords, but that is only if it is appealed. If it is not appealed at this point in time, it may be used a precedent in another case (at which point an possible appeal might also be made).

Re:write to your MP (2, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352927)

mathematical patents are simply not right for the patent system

There fixed it for you, since all software is just maths.

Photoshop is Complex (2, Insightful)

B4light (1144317) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349373)

But that doesn't mean Adobe should be allowed to patent software with the ability to edit raster images...

Re:Photoshop is Complex (1)

PCMX (1029966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349669)

Overlooking the other flaws in your statement, even if photoshop were to be considered "complex", editing raster images is most certainly not. And since in this respect patents are protecting a process, their raster image editing process would have to be patented, not photoshop itself.

Now, if you were to in fact create an innovative, more desirable method of editing raster images, you surely should have some IP rights over it since it has market value...

Re:Photoshop is Complex (5, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349973)

that's a poor way to grant patents. just because something has market value doesn't make it an innovation or an invention. anything that is useful has market value--especially if you're able to patent it and force others to pay you licensing/royalty fees to use it. the ultimate goal of the patent and copyright system is to promote public good and societal progress. public interest should always be placed above economic interest, not the other way around.

one of the inherent flaws with most patent systems is that once something is patented, even if someone else with no knowledge of the patent filing independently invents the same idea, they will either, be forced to pay royalties to the first inventor, or simply forbidden from using their own invention. it's a means of excluding others from the use of the patented idea, essentially giving the patent holder a monopoly. but why should someone be prevented from implementing an idea they invented independently just because they came up with the idea later? should being born 10 years earlier give a person the right to monopolize an obvious concept?

software patents exacerbate the problem when companies are allowed to patent mathematical algorithms or trivial/obvious functionality. things like UI interfaces, JavaScript popups, portable e-mail, etc. should not be patentable. these patents do not benefit society in any way, and they have hindered technological progress rather than promote it.

at the very least, non-commercial uses of patented ideas should not be prohibited. give the first inventor exclusive rights to commercial the idea, but if someone else comes along and re-invents the same concept for personal use, they should be free to do so. otherwise the patent system is just restricting free expression and stifling innovation.

Re:Photoshop is Complex (3, Interesting)

PCMX (1029966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350151)

that's a poor way to grant patents. just because something has market value doesn't make it an innovation or an invention.

Notice that my statement started with "...create an INNOVATIVE, MORE DESIRABLE method of..." The fact that it had market value came as a consequence, though I see that the end of the sentence makes it seem that market value gives causality to IP rights. What I did mean was that an innovative better process has merit and deserves some kind of recognition. Whether the system in place is the correct one is a different point altogether.

the ultimate goal of the patent and copyright system is to promote public good and societal progress

While I agree that should be the ultimate goal, it is simply not the way it plays out in a mostly capitalistic society. Truth is most people are motivated by self interest. For that reason independently of how we might agree societal systems should function, when it comes down to it people will use it for their own purposes.

one of the inherent flaws with most patent systems is that once something is patented, even if someone else with no knowledge of the patent filing independently invents the same idea, they will either, be forced to pay royalties to the first inventor, or simply forbidden from using their own invention.

While that is certainly a problem, there seems to be no clearly resolution for it, as far as commercial rights go. Either you forfeit or enforce the fact that the first person to register a product/process has rights to it.

software patents exacerbate the problem when companies are allowed to patent mathematical algorithms or trivial/obvious functionality. things like UI interfaces, JavaScript popups, portable e-mail, etc. should not be patentable. these patents do not benefit society in any way, and they have hindered technological progress rather than promote it.

The idea of a patent is to grant rights over non trivial/obvious things. I am not claiming the system works as it is intended to, but it is certainly is not meant to give rights over the obvious/trivial. The flaw here of course being the perception of what is/isn't obvious/trivial.

at the very least, non-commercial uses of patented ideas should not be prohibited. give the first inventor exclusive rights to commercial the idea, but if someone else comes along and re-invents the same concept for personal use, they should be free to do so. otherwise the patent system is just restricting free expression and stifling innovation.

I completely agree with you here. I believe that patents should concern themselves strictly with commercial use. Even independent of reinvention, I believe that if you have the means to implement anything strictly for personal use you should have the rights to.

Re:Photoshop is Complex (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25351157)

The idea of a patent is to grant rights over non trivial/obvious things. I am not claiming the system works as it is intended to, but it is certainly is not meant to give rights over the obvious/trivial. The flaw here of course being the perception of what is/isn't obvious/trivial.

It seems to me that if it is thought up by multiple people independently, then it is obvious/trivial.

Re:Photoshop is Complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25353131)

Section 60 of the UK patents act

"An act which, apart from this subsection, would
constitute an infringement of a patent for an invention
shall not do so if -
(a) it is done privately and for purposes
which are not commercial"

Re:Photoshop is Complex (1)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350329)

the ultimate goal of the patent and copyright system is to promote public good and societal progress.

More importantly, patents function as an incentive to inventors so that they will take significant risk bringing an invention to market, knowing that they will be granted a temporary monopoly on production of that invention. As much as I dislike drug companies, I recognize that patents on most drugs are deserved because there is a lot of time and development cost associated with bringing a new drug to the market, and the risk of a new drug failing before it can make it to market is substantial. I just don't see that with software companies, no matter how "innovative" their product is. Pay a few programmers to write something. Market it. Sell it. Sometimes your idea sucked and it fails. Sometimes it was awesome and it succeeds. It's just like any other business. I don't see why the software industry needs the protections of software patents to keep it going.

What is this actually referring to? (2, Informative)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349375)

What is the actual technique that the patent is being granted for. If this is something like a compressin algorithm or an application of compression to mobile phones, I call shenanigans on the Judge.

Re:What is this actually referring to? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349479)

Its called not running Java!

Re:What is this actually referring to? (1)

spydir31 (312329) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352441)

AFAICT without reading actual patent, they are creating a library with fixed stub functions(eg. a printf() stub that calls _printf()).
since all external function addresses are now known, there's no need to resolve them by name, etc.

Re:What is this actually referring to? (1)

spydir31 (312329) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352475)

btw, here [tinyurl.com] 's the actual patent application.

UK != England (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349379)

The article was very clear, no wait, extremely fucking clear that this is a UK matter:

Court ruling strengthens patent protection for UK software

Technology companies will find it easier to safeguard their innovations in the UK after a court ruled that software should receive wider patent protection.

The Court of Appeal said today that complex software such as programmes designed to make mobile phones and computers work faster can be patented in the UK.

Previously, manufacturers could claim commercial exclusivity for their products under copyright laws but had less legal protection for underlying technical processes.

As a result of the ruling, developers are likely to find it easier to secure approval from the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which has traditionally been reluctant to grant patents to cover software.

William Cook, a partner at Simmons and Simmons, said the court's decision would bring the UK's patent regime into line with Europe, which is much more open to granting software protection.

Confusing England with the UK is like confusing California with the USA. It's especially unforgivable when the correct term is screaming at you from the page and you ignore it and write your own tripe instead. "UK" appears in that article nine times, England not once. Take the hint.

Re:UK != England (1)

B4light (1144317) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349425)

What's the difference between UK and England?

Re:UK != England (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349515)

Re:UK != England (4, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349595)

The diagram is outdated. I believe the British own Iceland now.

Re:UK != England (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350111)

Apparently not the banks in Iceland. The pommies can't even withdraw a dime it seems.

Re:UK != England (1)

publicworker (701313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352457)

True, but I also heard they were trying to sell it on eBay (citation [reuters.com] )

Re:UK != England (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352595)

Not quite right with the above mentioned separate legal system in Scotland. Also, there are complications like the rights of anyone born in Northern Ireland to vote in the South and for Southern Irish to vote as though they were British if they are residing in the UK.

Re:UK != England (1)

Skinkie (815924) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349549)

England is a part of Great Britain, which is part of the United Kingdom. Like 'Holland' people probably use 'England' because it was the most important province for trading.

Re:UK != England (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349599)

The article also happens to be wrong. The ruling was made by The Court of Appeal of England and Wales.

Re:UK != England (5, Informative)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349663)

Except... that the Scottish legal system is separate and rulings in English courts do not necessary apply to Scotland, there are also some exceptions for English rulings in Northern Ireland. Thus the use of England is reasonable, though it probably should say England and Wales. In this case, the use of either the UK or Great Britain would be wrong, the summary is mostly correct.

Re:UK != England (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352379)

The Scottish legal system may indeed be separate, but the patent system is not - and a Scottish court can still use precedent set in a court of England and Wales to reach their own rulings.

Re:UK != England (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25354011)

Thus the use of England is reasonable, though it probably should say England and Wales.

Except that Wales isn't a country.

[Dons dragon-proof flame suit]

Re:UK != England (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349691)

Keep your alan's on...

Re:UK != England (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349947)

Shock, horror! London-based newspaper misunderstands the way that the legal system works north of Gretna!

Confusing England with the UK would be like confusing California with the USA, if there were no federal laws, but most of the power was still at the federal level, and it tried to make state laws not conflict with each other too much.

Insomniacs can read an example of how a law is framed (at UK level, by the UK government) to take into account the differences between the Scottish and Anglowelsh legal systems here:
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2000/20002334.htm [opsi.gov.uk]

To further confuse matters, devolution has given some (different levels of) legal powers to assemblies/governments in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and the ratification of European treaties means that European law can trump national law (not just the EU - see http://www.leeds.ac.uk/law/hamlyn/european.htm [leeds.ac.uk] )

If this makes any sense I'm not telling it right.

Re:UK != England (3, Funny)

beav007 (746004) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350281)

Confusing England with the UK is like confusing California with the USA.

Are you saying that California has become a sovereign nation, or that England has become a state of the UK, and the UK has become a country.

A closer analogy is confusing England with the UK is like confusing Mexico with Northern America (the continent). The issue with that is that is that Northern America isn't a united kingdom.

The correct analogy is: confusing England with the UK is like confusing 'chassis' with 'car'.

Re:UK != England (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350731)

Are you saying that California has become a sovereign nation, or that England has become a state of the UK, and the UK has become a country.

England is a constituent country of the UK. The UK became a country over three hundred years ago.

A closer analogy is confusing England with the UK is like confusing Mexico with Northern America (the continent).

You seem to be under the impression that the UK is merely a geographical region. This is not the case. It is a sovereign country that just happens to contain other countries. You know, a bit like how the USA is a sovereign country, with states within it. Oh, like my analogy.

Re:UK != England (-1, Redundant)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350533)

if sarah palin is to be believed, USA = Bumfuck nowhere...

Re:UK != England (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350909)

Confusing England with the UK is like confusing California with the USA. It's especially unforgivable when the correct term is screaming at you from the page and you ignore it and write your own tripe instead. "UK" appears in that article nine times, England not once. Take the hint.

Fuck you, son of a bitch. Why don't you pasty-faced limeys settle on a single name yourselves? I'll be damned if I'm going to wade theough english, british, britain, great britain, great britain and northern Ireland, the commonwealth and the rest of the shit distinctions you make. Settle on one and fucking use it all the time. I suggest fucking-limey and fucking-limey-land.

It's like trying to keep up with the chinese. When I was a kid, the capital was Pepin, then Peiping, then Peking. This week it's Beijing. Next week it will probably be Bejuiang. Fuck that shit. Notice also that all the names that used to be three parts are now being crammed into two -- Wen Lo Hak is now Wen Lohak. Fuck that shit, too.

Re:UK != England (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25351103)

Yeah, those fucking idiots should just call themselves Rest Of The World, huh? What's the point in distinguishing between them? It's not like they matter, they aren't American.

Re:UK != England (1)

paniq (833972) | more than 5 years ago | (#25351759)

In germany, "England" is often regarded as equivalent to "Great Britain". I think this might have led to the kind of misunderstandings you find in the original post.

Re:UK != England (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352567)

The legal system is for England and Wales. Scotland has its own legal system and even its own distinct ways of trying cases due to its coming late to the Union.

Re:UK != England (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25352623)

Confusing England with the UK is like confusing California with the USA. It's especially unforgivable when the correct term is screaming at you from the page and you ignore it and write your own tripe instead. "UK" appears in that article nine times, England not once.

Oh simmer down, all you mexicans look alike to us anyway. :)

Why? (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349399)

Amidst the fact that most of the world is going through a major crisis, who in world could think that what we need to do is give the corporations even more power while limiting competition? Wasn't the lesson we learned was that large corporations were bad and that you should give more power to the people? Apparently not.

Re:Why? (1)

PCMX (1029966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349551)

You are absolutely right! We should just get rid of the concept of IP and eliminate personal benefit for all future innovations. That surely will motivate people to work harder and develop new products/processes so that others with better means will reap the rewards in their place! Don't get me wrong - I am very much in favor of open IP, however proper credit & benefits are due to original/innovative work. My issue with the above post is mainly that it overlooks the fact that patents do not benefit strictly corporations. On another note, you make a good point on /. not having a -1 disagree moderation because I certainly disagree.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349625)

"That surely will motivate people to work harder and develop new products/processes so that others with better means will reap the rewards in their place!"

People work hard and develop new products because they make money from doing so; and few 'people' who develop those products actually make money from patents, it's primarily a means for companies to keep new competitors out of their markets.

I used to work in an area of IT where patenting hardware elements was common; the end result was that pretty much every company had a cross-licensing deal with every other company because none of them could function effectively without access to other patents in the industry. So patent lawyers made a lot of money so that the companies could do what they would have been able to do without patent laws.

As for 'original/innovative', I don't remember seeing a single patent in that industry that wasn't clearly built on ideas that had come before; the number of truly innovative and original ideas is tiny.

Re:Why? (1)

PCMX (1029966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349877)

People work hard and develop new products because they make money from doing so; and few 'people' who develop those products actually make money from patents

In this situation, you are speaking of a company developing a product, in which case they should certainly have some sorts of rights over it. As for the employees who actually performed the development, they did so "representing" the company and "forfeit" their "ownership" of the idea.

As for the specifics in different industries, that is beyond the point I was attempting to make. In the situation you brought up, the fact is that digital hardware lacks a good IP system, and in a lot of situations the protection of choice works akin to a "trade secret"

As for 'original/innovative', I don't remember seeing a single patent in that industry that wasn't clearly built on ideas that had come before; the number of truly innovative and original ideas is tiny.

Once again you are speaking of a specific industry. But even then, ideas clearly built upon ideas that have come before can still certainly be innovative. Although this is an extreme example, think wheel being an original idea & car being an innovative idea clearly based on the wheel which had come before.

Re:Why? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349695)

You are absolutely right! We should just get rid of the concept of IP and eliminate personal benefit for all future innovations. That surely will motivate people to work harder and develop new products/processes so that others with better means will reap the rewards in their place!

There is no reason you can't make tons of money making IP without patenting it. If software can be so easily reverse engineered to make patenting it necessary, it isn't complex enough to be able to be patented. Yes, that does mean that most software is un-patentable, but we are in about 60 years into the computer industry. Think of all the disasters that would have happened if we would have let patents in the first 60 years of other major industries. Perhaps 150 years into the future when all the basics have been taken care of software patents will not be absurd, but today, in 2008 it is equivalence to allowing literary patents. It would be like giving a publisher the exclusive rights to publish books about something and when a great author such as Tolstoy, or Shakespeare, or Dickens wrote a book about it and the publisher rejected it there would be no way it could be published. That is very, very similar with software patents.

Re:Why? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349955)

We should just get rid of the concept of IP

Indeed we should. The concept of thought as property is a problem in and of itself. The granting of temporary monopolies on specific implementations of ideas is one thing: holding that mere ideas can be property is something else again. I don't care what country you live in, the entire premise of "intellectual property" is amoral and fundamentally flawed.

Re:Why? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350079)

On another note, you make a good point on /. not having a -1 disagree moderation because I certainly disagree.

Mainly because disagreement is not only expected and accepted, but is the driving force behind Slashdot. If everyone agreed with everyone else, there'd be no need to post anything (preaching to the choir is boring.) We all derive considerable satisfaction by winning someone over to our side, of making them really think about things they take for granted. Goes both ways, of course ... I'm intellectually honest enough to admit when someone else has a more accurate perception than I do. That also is part of the appeal, if you're a person who is willing to learn.

Re:Why? (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350137)

don't project your personal values onto others.

many people like to invent things and come up with new, innovative ideas because it pleases them. they enjoy sharing their ideas with others and contributing to society--yea, it's a novel concept, i know. people were inventing ways to make life better long before capitalism and the subsequent commercialization of our society. it's in our nature to create, invent, and innovate. that's why people write open source software, conduct academic research, and create art.

the patent system simply promotes the attitude you demonstrate, which is that inventions are simply commodities to be commercially exploited. that's why we have patent trolls that don't contribute to society in any meaningful way, and instead go around suing people who actually do.

patents no longer serve their original purpose of promoting innovation while expanding the corpus of human knowledge. most patents these days are held by corporations, and the majority of them are of obvious or trivial ideas, which are simply patented to prevent others from using them, and contribute nothing to the wealth of human knowledge.

Re:Why? (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349657)

If you really want to get into it, the only entities that can actually enforce a monopoly are governments. If every one was well informed enough to not buy whatever product was monopolized, that company could do nothing about it besides get a law made. So use your currency wisely.

Re:Why? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349727)

If we had true free-market or minarchest/anarcho-capitalism it would work. However, like you said governments enforce monopolies by patents and copyrights. Take away patents and copyrights and we would see a huge booming computer market, but, alas, the government as seen it fit to protect monopolies.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25351637)

This is merely market fundamentalism. A truely anarcho-capitalist society would quickly destroy itself. Anarchists realised this a long time ago, that's why anarchism is also sometimes refered to as libetarian-socialism. The type of free market that is promoted by most naive libetarians doesn't work because they don't care about information. A free market where the people have the information to make informed choices works much better, unfortunately people are either not given the information, don't look for it, or ignore it when presented to them.
The same thing with representative democracy, it doesn't work well if the populace doesn't have the information to make informed choices.

Re:Why? (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353983)

Oh snap! Here I was thinking every one should be responsible for their own existence, but now I can see that I was wrong. You're right, we should have a group of elders or someone tell use what to do all the time. That would enhance the chances of my creativity making a difference in the world.

Re:Why? (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349821)

While I agree with you, courts are not the appropriate venue to establish what constitutes good public policy. If this decision is upheld, then it's a matter for Parliament to deal with.

Re:Why? (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349833)

I think what we've really learned, is that while its easy to exploit people's fear of terrorism, fear of financial collapse can fill the same role several orders of magnitude more effectively.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25351487)

No, if you listen to cheney and the republican lemmings, it's the poor and minorities which are bad, and clinton who is worse, for seeking the loans in the first place.

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Nobody expects the capitalist revolution! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25349925)

Our primary weapon is fear. Fear and greed. Greed and fear. Our two primary weapons are greed and fear. And unmitigated ego. Our three primary weapons are greed, fear, and unmitigated ego. Along with deception and coercion. Our five primary weapons... no... amongst our weapons... amongst our weaponry... are such elements as fear, greed... I'll come in again.

More lines, Jim! (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349677)

Damn it Jim, your code is too simple and elogent. Add more lines, we need a patent!

Re:More lines, Jim! (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349979)

The Judge in this case didn't grasp the difference between complicated and sophisticated. He certainly should have: the law is no different in that respect.

Complexity is relatively easy to achieve: just implement your code in a substandard, inefficient manner and voila!, you have complexity. That should not, in and of itself, be worth a government-sanctioned monopoly.

Re:More lines, Jim! (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353107)

I think you're confusing "complex" and "complicated". If I wrote a "hello world" program that took two milion lines of code that would be unnecessarily complicated, but not necessarily complex.

I hope they do appeal. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349723)

I am with poster "johnjones". Software patents have (as many predicted) turned out to be an abysmal mess. Software has always been protected by copyright, since the days of player pianos at least. Allowing patents has done a lot of harm, and no good that I have been able to discern.

Not to mention the problem of defining "complex", as mentioned elsewhere.

Re:I hope they do appeal. (1)

Atrox666 (957601) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352219)

Patents were so that people who invent things would get properly rewarded to stimulate innovation. Now greedy corporations own the soul of creative people and get compensated instead of the people who actually contribute to humanity. So the current patent system does not serve a legitimate purpose. The idea that you would have to pay some government and a bunch of parasite lawyers for the right to use your own idea is utterly repugnant. If you steal my stuff or tell my I can't use the product of my own imagination then a piece of paper from the government is not going to save you when I come knocking.

Software Patents kill Innovation (4, Insightful)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25349889)

Software Patents make writing software in a particular country a risky proposition. There are so many things the USPTO has let be patented, that I doubt you can write a single program without violating someone's patents. You have to wonder, if Software Patents existed in the US from the beginning, if the US Software Industry would have grown into what it is today? Easier to move to and write your software somewhere else (which now doesn't include Britain).

Re:Software Patents kill Innovation (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350017)

You have to wonder, if Software Patents existed in the US from the beginning, if the US Software Industry would have grown into what it is today?

Of course not. The modern patent system would have significantly repressed such developments in this country, and it would have been left for some other, more-enlightened country to have forged the Personal Computer revolution.

The fact that outfits like, oh, I don't know ... IBM, and Microsoft, have built gigantic patent portfolios for largely defensive purposes should tell us something. Microsoft, in particular, has never shown much interest in patent litigation, yet applies for a vast number of patents every year (many of them trivial.) In the current legal climate, such activity is necessary so it won't find itself in an indefensible position with regards to its own products.

Re:Software Patents kill Innovation (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352237)

Microsoft, in particular, has never shown much interest in patent litigation

They may not have actually brought cases against anyone, but they have surely used patents to threaten competitors. And doing that is not something I consider a defensive stance. Voicing threats of patent litigation is an offensive action, regardless of whether you execute your threats or not.

Something about software is different. (2, Interesting)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350963)

There's a difference between software and other industries, difference is in the way of infringement. In other industries most patent conflicts are about rip off of inventions, in the software industry, most patent cases are against people coming up with the same ideas and that's the problem.

  In most other industries, the patent system means that if I invent a nice mouse trap I can get royalties from the guy with the mouse trap factory a.k.a. the producer.

  In the software industry there is nothing to produce, there are no producers, only inventors a.k.a. programmers, and there are lots of them, which should mean lots of inventions. However the patent system used to the idea of lots of producers and few inventors, decides that whoever comes up with an idea and patents it first is "the" inventor, disregarding the fact that the same ideas are being produced concurrently elsewhere.

  The patent system was not conceived to handle such a massive amount of inventors and inventions, to put it bluntly, the more you cherish the idea of an "IP" driven economy the more you should adapt to lots and lots of coincidental development. Software patents are just wrong.

Stupid stupid patent office (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350035)

Having one type of software run more efficiently than another is (in CS terms) described as "Big O" efficiency. There are many grades of efficiency, log(n), nlog(n), n, n^2, 2^n, etc. That two pieces of software can be completely different and produce the same result means that they are a tautology (gee, just like a mathematical expression). That one can be much more efficient than another can also be true (just like a mathematical expression). All of the 'advances' in software come from university research. There is nothing in the 'advanced' version of this cell phone software that isn't prior art in Don Knuths 'The Art of Computer Programming'. Just because it seems 'advanced' to the patent office does not mean that its advanced. Over the last 60 years, every piece of software ever written was likely at least once re-written to make it perform the exact same function, faster. Its quite absurd, but coming from Briton, no surprise. Even more astounding, they can have the occasional Newton or Maxwell come along, and yet they can make SO MANY bad choices otherwise.

Irony (1)

lessthanpi (1333061) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350223)

Ironic, isn't it, that U.K. was the spearhead of freedom of speech and democracy in the Middle Ages and now is the most advanced in repressing it?

This makes no sense. (2, Insightful)

AndyCR (1091663) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350303)

First of all, you don't "patent" software - you patent portions of software. Patenting entire pieces of software would make no sense, as it would do nearly the same darned thing as copyrighting it. Second, what defines complex? All software ideas are complex. Is a BSP tree sufficiently complex? I imagine so, and a patent on that would have decimated the game industry early on.

Software patents are act of fraud.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350315)

See: Abstraction Physics [abstractionphysics.net]

This sure clears everything up.......NOT (2, Insightful)

Martian_Kyo (1161137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25352103)

Pity most ingenious software solutions are simple.

This just complicates things, most complex software is combination of widely known design patterns, which part of it will be patented?

Judges will have to be real code gurus to judge in these cases.

Not to mention that things like this will could only stifle progress if actively enforced.

"Complex" (1)

thue (121682) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353033)

Patent "complex" software?

Since they would not be patenting "simple" software anyway, since "simple" things are probably not patentable anyway, I read that as saying that they just want to allow software patents...

patents should not apply to software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25353311)

patents should not apply to software

Patent or Bugfix? (1)

karot (26201) | more than 5 years ago | (#25353517)

So, having used Symbian phones, I would suggest that what is really happening here is that Symbian are trying to patent a bugfix... The bug being that their phone O/S is painfully slow.

I very much doubt that they have invented something that will make all mobile phones regardless of O/S run faster, unless perhaps we're talking about little robotic legs? That would be a cool patent :)

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