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Cato Institute Critique of Software Patents

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the oprah-favre dept.

Patents 242

binarybits writes "I've written an article for the free-market Cato Institute about how patents impede innovation in the software industry. It points out that people tend not to realize how vast the software industry is. It's not just Google and Microsoft; virtually every organization has an IT department producing potentially-infringing software. Organizations as diverse as J. Crew and the Green Bay Packers have been sued for patent infringement. It's crazy to expect all these organizations to worry about potential patent infringement. Hopefully the Supreme Court's Bilski decision will lead to new limits on software patents."

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242 comments

Excellent, but... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254139)

do you really expect rational arguments in favor of the public good to be of any help against entrenched interests in this matter?

Re:Excellent, but... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254205)

Grrrrrrr, [timothyblee.com] I'm an apex predator and you are my lunch. I'm gonna eat you!

-- Timothy Blee, the submitter

Re:Excellent, but... (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254271)

Even from that perspective, it might be of some use. I'm not always a big fan of the Cato Institute, but they're influential among free-market conservative politicians. When it comes to entrenched interests with lots of lobbyists, Cato is one of them, so them lining up on this side could be useful. Of course, it remains to be seen how strong the support is--- will Cato actively lobby against software patents, or just publish the occasional article?

Re:Excellent, but... (0)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254369)

Basically, this is a good indication that the "fat cats" finally realize that software patents are "bad for business".

They finally had enough houses fall on them that they have finally begun to understand what we could have told them a long time ago.

Re:Excellent, but... (2, Insightful)

Alaska Jack (679307) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255093)

Hilariously wrong. Cato is a *libertarian* think tank. They have next to no influence, compared to the usual K-street actors (AARP, unions, industries of all kinds, trial lawyers, environmentalists, etc.)

Think about it: What libertarian policies have you seen Congress adopt recently?

    - Alaska Jack

Re:Excellent, but... (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255261)

Remember the Bush tax cuts? Remember the Cato-speared attempt by Bush to privatize Social Security? And who do you think is spearheading opposition to public health care at the moment?

Cato's got the ear of a whole lot of Republicans.

Re:Excellent, but... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29255447)

Libertarianism is anarchy for rich people.

Re:Excellent, but... (3, Insightful)

Dreadneck (982170) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254617)

do you really expect rational arguments in favor of the public good to be of any help against entrenched interests in this matter?

Rational arguments that are logically sound and easily understood actually are of help in this matter.

No matter how powerful entrenched interests appear to be, their power is dependent upon a majority of the people tolerating or being ignorant of their bad behavior and its consequences.

Convince enough of the people, with sound argument, that they are being negatively impacted and they will raise hell until the situation is remedied.

Politicians may be bought and sold by the special interests but ultimately, if the people become angered enough to speak up and act, the pols do what their constituents demand. Why? Because they can't enrich themselves if they get kicked out of office.

There's a reason that the entrenched powers seek to control the flow of information and, subsequently, to control public perception by way of opinion makers, so-called "experts" and commentators, who dictate the terms and content of both sides of the argument.

Think about it and you will quickly see why "rational arguments in favor of the public good" are important.

Hint: "It's simple - free your mind and your ass will follow." -- Junior, Platoon

Cato Rocks (1)

DaveInAustin (549058) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254143)

FTFA: They also sign broad cross-licensing agreements with other large firms promising not to sue one another. This has prevented patents from bringing the software industry to a standstill, but it's hard to see how the practice promotes innovation.
This is defense from a lawsuit by a company that makes useful products. It doesn't help against patent trolls.

Re:Cato Rocks (3, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254219)

This is defense from a lawsuit by a company that makes useful products. It doesn't help against patent trolls.

Basically, if you own a patent, you're actually better off not producing any products.

Re:Cato Rocks (1)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254427)

There's some truth to this. The company AMI Semiconductor stole a bunch of my patent-pending ideas back in 2000 and produced the Express Arrays with them. Basically, they paid us enough money to barely stay in business while we helped with the first array, and when it worked, they killed the deal, and took the technology. They crippled my little company, but we struggled and stayed alive. Had I gone after AMI, they would have killed us with court costs. One alternate plan I had if AMI succeeded in killing my company was to find a patent troll and go after AMI. However, we didn't die, and any sort of lawsuit would have been very distracting and stressful, and not in any way good for business.

Re:Cato Rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255799)

You still could have sold your patents to a troll - with an exemption for your company - just to be a bastard and to help you sleep at night.

Re:Cato Rocks (4, Insightful)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254473)

This is defense from a lawsuit by a company that makes useful products. It doesn't help against patent trolls.

So far, I think the only thing stopping patent trolls have been that companies that do make useful products have more resources, better legal department, and bigger war chest (yay, capitalism).

But the way lawyers have been getting their way in everything, especially in the D.C., who knows how long this will last.

Assholes (2, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254167)

There are three things that turn otherwise sensible people into assholes: money, cars and sex. So long as somebody thinks there's money to be made with them, they'll be around.

Re:Assholes (4, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254721)

And nachos. Don't forget nachos.

Re:Assholes (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254947)

Four things. Money, sex , cars, nachos, and beer.

I'll come in again.

Re:Assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29255187)

Five things. Money, sex , cars, nachos, beer, and nitpicking over losing count.

Re:Assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29255291)

money = sex, cars, nachos, AND/OR beer!

Slashdot users are fucking bastards (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254171)

You are all morbidly obese nerds who can't admit linux is not on the desktop so you become ron paul voters. I am going to bite off your penises and feed them to my dogs.

Re:Slashdot users are fucking bastards (1, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254267)

Well, will you at least suck it off before you bite it off? I'll save up a thick, chewy one just for you.

Re:Slashdot users are fucking bastards (-1, Offtopic)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254387)

Linux "on the desktop"? Who cares?

That's like being worried that non-domestic cars are on the roads.

If a market is functional, I don't have to worry about the sorts of Lemmings that like to follow the herd.

The real question is whether or not you envy anyone else as you drive down the road.

As a Linux user, I can't say that I do.

Re:Slashdot users are fucking bastards (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29255141)

I'm neither fat nor especially nerdy, I use Linux, and I think Ron Paul is a bloody idiot.

What's really huirting our economy: Italians (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254173)

Have you ever seen Barack Obama and an Italian in the same room? I haven't. Gee, I wonder what that means? For get car parts, in today's economy, we need goat parts to restart our creative and productive potential as a nation.

Yes, patent system not meant for software patents (5, Informative)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254201)

Patent attorney here. Yes, software patents shouldn't be there. Patents are there to stop people from sitting on their ideas. Stopping people from sitting on their ideas helps society, because it give society more knowledge. However, for software there is no need for this mechanism. There is no shortage of innovation because of lack of progress. If one person doesn't think of it, another one will. Also, the first sale doctrine doesn't work. If I have a patent on a resistor, and I sell it to you and you put it in a computer, you're free to do that. You don't have that with software. I can't buy a piece of, say, Word, and use it in my own programs. For the same reason, it is very hard to figure out whether your program is off the hook. Any aspect of a program could be patented. Finally, software patents are bad (with so called "wish" claims). I have programs developed for my company. It takes me 5 seconds to come up with an idea, but it may take the programmer 5 days, or 5 weeks, to implement. If I go with a software patent to a programmer, no time is saved.

The patent system is open source avant la lettre. An inventor has to provide all his knowledge (provide the best mode), in a way that can be replicated by an ordinary person skilled in the art, and it is available on line from patent offices. The "license" it comes with is a peculiar one (territorial limited/time limited), but it expires sooner than any copyright. But it is a rough tool. Fine for many types of inventions, including medical drugs, but not for software (or business methods).

Bert

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254263)

You bring up an interesting point: I would think a software creator would prefer a copyright over a patent because copyrights last much longer even though they are not as encompassing - from what this layman understands (IANAL).

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (5, Informative)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254279)

It is not either/OR. So, they get the copyright too. Double whammy.

Bert

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254331)

It is not either/OR. So, they get the copyright too. Double whammy.

Bert

Or one step forward and two steps back. Copyright is both a positive right (it gives the author the right to distribute and sell his product under his own conditions) and a negative right (you can forbid others to do certain stuff with your copyrighted work). A single patent, which is a purely negative right (you only get to forbid others from doing stuff), from someone else can however completely undermine the positive rights conferred by copyright.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (5, Insightful)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254801)

Copyright is both a positive right (it gives the author the right to distribute and sell his product under his own conditions) and a negative right (you can forbid others to do certain stuff with your copyrighted work).

No, copyrights are purely negative rights. They permit the author to forbid others from doing certain things with their work under certain circumstances. But they provide the author no affirmative rights to do anything with his work. An author's right to create or publish a work is an exercise of his right of free speech and press, no different than if he were to use the work of another in a manner not prohibited by copyright. In the US, this right is guaranteed by the federal First Amendment and by similar provisions at the state level.

This is why, for example, an author could create obscene works, or child pornography, or libel, and have a perfectly valid copyright on them (there's no morals clause to what is eligible for copyright), but not be allowed to publish or perhaps even possess copies.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (3, Insightful)

gnupun (752725) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254455)

I would think a software creator would prefer a copyright over a patent because copyrights last much longer even though they are not as encompassing

Copyrights are not enough. If X is the new innovative piece of code within a program, a competitor can buy the program, fire up a debugger, and look at the disassembled code for X. Once he understands how it works (reverse engineering), he can then recreate that code in a higher language, say C. Copyright does not work here. Then there are cases where the code is not that hard, and you can copy the idea by just looking at the end product. Therefore having patents is necessary.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254605)

Copyrights are not enough. If X is the new innovative piece of code within a program, a competitor can buy the program, fire up a debugger, and look at the disassembled code for X.

At this point he's infringing copyright just as much as when he'd making unlicensed copies.

Then there are cases where the code is not that hard, and you can copy the idea by just looking at the end product. Therefore having patents is necessary.

Well, no. It's only necessary if the competition stemming from this imitation kills the market rather than stimulate it. In general, more competition is better.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254817)

Copyrights are not enough. If X is the new innovative piece of code within a program, a competitor can buy the program, fire up a debugger, and look at the disassembled code for X.

At this point he's infringing copyright just as much as when he'd making unlicensed copies.

No, he's not. The output of his reverse engineering will be the abstract method that can be covered by a patent, but not by copyright. For example, after looking at the disassembly for X, and performing more analysis using a debugger, he figures out the steps to perform X are:
1) send Z message to component Y
2) perform calculation C on message response
3) ...
There are hundreds of different ways to implement the above steps in source code. So he can easily avoid copyright infringement. Patents protect the steps listed above, not how it's implemented, and therefore stop leeches from profiting from other people's work.

Then there are cases where the code is not that hard, and you can copy the idea by just looking at the end product. Therefore having patents is necessary.

Well, no. It's only necessary if the competition stemming from this imitation kills the market rather than stimulate it. In general, more competition is better.

Right, but competition usually means performing to equal or exceed your competitor. If you simply sit by and wait, then copy (steal) something innovative created by your competitor, that's not performing at all. It's just leeching off someone else's work to profit yourself. Soon inventors will get tired of getting taken advantage of, and only pursue inventions that take little time and money. That way, if someone copies their ideas, the loss won't be much. But society, as a general, will suffer more because many good inventions take more time and money, and those won't be created without sufficient protection.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (4, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255009)

Copyrights are not enough. If X is the new innovative piece of code within a program, a competitor can buy the program, fire up a debugger, and look at the disassembled code for X.

At this point he's infringing copyright just as much as when he'd making unlicensed copies.

No, he's not.

Yes, he is, at least in the EU. Reverse-engineering is forbidden by software copyright law here, except if all of the following conditions are true:

  • it's solely for the purpose of interoperability
  • the information you need is not readily available otherwise
  • you do not publish the information that you discovered this way (although you can sell programs making use of this information; not sure how this would work with open source)

See article 6 of the EU software copyright directive [europa.eu] .

The output of his reverse engineering will be the abstract method that can be covered by a patent, but not by copyright. For example, after looking at the disassembly for X, and performing more analysis using a debugger, he figures out the steps to perform X are:

At the very least, you are tainted when you do stuff like this. Phoenix didn't do clean room reverse-engineering for nothing when they re-implemented IBM's BIOS [computerworld.com] .

Then there are cases where the code is not that hard, and you can copy the idea by just looking at the end product. Therefore having patents is necessary.

Well, no. It's only necessary if the competition stemming from this imitation kills the market rather than stimulate it. In general, more competition is better.

Right, but competition usually means performing to equal or exceed your competitor.

And this can be in many ways: customer service, price, time to market, branding, offered products etc.

If you simply sit by and wait, then copy (steal) something innovative created by your competitor, that's not performing at all.

Actually, that is exactly how competition works. You take what already exists, duplicate it and presumably add value in one way or another (from the list above). A certain amount of imitation is mandatory to have a competitive market.

Thanks to copyright and to the complexity of making well-working and polished software, innovators automatically have a limited lead-time advantage. Artificially extending this by many years using patents is only justifiable if otherwise the entire innovation of the industry would collapse. And there are simply no indications that this is the case, on the contrary.

It's just leeching off someone else's work to profit yourself. Soon inventors will get tired of getting taken advantage of, and only pursue inventions that take little time and money. That way, if someone copies their ideas, the loss won't be much. But society, as a general, will suffer more because many good inventions take more time and money, and those won't be created without sufficient protection.

It turns out that the above is simply not true in case of the software world. Competition (i.e., what you call copying, stealing and whatnot) is what drives innovation in the software industry, and the traditionally mild IP-regimes have been very conductive to this. See the overview of studies [slashdot.org] I posted in a previous comment.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (4, Insightful)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254683)

"If X is the new innovative piece of code within a program, a competitor can buy the program, fire up a debugger, and look at the disassembled code for X. Once he understands how it works (reverse engineering), he can then recreate that code in a higher language, say C. Copyright does not work here. Then there are cases where the code is not that hard, and you can copy the idea by just looking at the end product."

I missed the part where that's a bad thing.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (2, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254991)

I would think a software creator would prefer a copyright over a patent because copyrights last much longer even though they are not as encompassing

Copyrights are not enough. If X is the new innovative piece of code within a program, a competitor can buy the program, fire up a debugger, and look at the disassembled code for X. Once he understands how it works (reverse engineering), he can then recreate that code in a higher language, say C. Copyright does not work here. Then there are cases where the code is not that hard, and you can copy the idea by just looking at the end product. Therefore having patents is necessary.

At which point he's put in at least as much effort as you did (reverse engineering is hard). Which means that he can't unfairly undercut you, so the only thing patents would do is hinder progress by letting you sit on your ass for 20 years.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255237)

At which point he's put in at least as much effort as you did (reverse engineering is hard).

Does that mean bank robbers deserve the money if they can penetrate the 20-inch vault door of a bank? Because penetrating that door is hard.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255363)

At which point he's put in at least as much effort as you did (reverse engineering is hard).

Does that mean bank robbers deserve the money if they can penetrate the 20-inch vault door of a bank? Because penetrating that door is hard.

Is this a serious question, or are you just trolling?

The purpose of patents (and copyright) is to promote innovation. They are not natural rights like life, liberty, etc. If they do not promote innovation, they should not exist.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (2, Interesting)

gnupun (752725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255717)

At which point he's put in at least as much effort as you did (reverse engineering is hard).

Does that mean bank robbers deserve the money if they can penetrate the 20-inch vault door of a bank? Because penetrating that door is hard.

Is this a serious question, or are you just trolling?

Of course, I'm serious. Your statement insinuates the reverse engineering person somehow has legal rights to the work of others just because reverse engineering the invention is hard. That's like saying robbing banks is okay because breaking through vault doors is hard.

The purpose of patents (and copyright) is to promote innovation. They are not natural rights like life, liberty, etc.

Government and business want innovation to gain more power and wealth. The consuming public wants innovation to improve their life, by making certain tasks easier or more convenient. But where do government, big business, or consuming public get off thinking they have a natural right to these innovations, to get them for free? All patents do is ensure the inventor, the person giving the benefits, is adequately compensated for his work, that's all. Without patents, the inventor is just a slave, working for free to improve the life of others, but receiving nothing in return.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1, Interesting)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254381)

Patent attorney here. Yes, software patents shouldn't be there. Patents are there to stop people from sitting on their ideas. Stopping people from sitting on their ideas helps society, because it give society more knowledge. However, for software there is no need for this mechanism.

[Citation needed].
Since State Street, there has been immeasurable innovation in the field of software. You've got nothing to back up this assertion.

There is no shortage of innovation because of lack of progress. If one person doesn't think of it, another one will.

The same could be said about any field of invention, including machines and compositions of matter.

Also, the first sale doctrine doesn't work.

... because it doesn't apply to patents. Probably, you're just including this to enlighten laypeople on Slashdot. I hope. First Sale Doctrine is in the realm of copyright.

If I have a patent on a resistor, and I sell it to you and you put it in a computer, you're free to do that.

Under what right? It's not First Sale. Rather, it would be a contractual right under our license (or assignment) agreement. On the other hand, you could sell me the right to say, hang your patented resistor in my "museum of electronics", while simultaneously not waiving your right to sue for infringement if I start using the thing as a resistor. Patent rights are significantly stronger than copyright, which is one of the reasons they're time-limited.

You don't have that with software. I can't buy a piece of, say, Word, and use it in my own programs. For the same reason, it is very hard to figure out whether your program is off the hook. Any aspect of a program could be patented.

Well, you could read the claims of the patent. That would make it very easy to figure out whether your program is off the hook. Sure, infringement analysis is still a two-step process, but it's not nearly as impossible as you, a patent attorney, claim.

Finally, software patents are bad (with so called "wish" claims).

Yes, in the same sense that mere diagnostic patents are bad. Sure is a good thing that current practice is moving away from those (and sure is a bad thing that SCOTUS didn't take it up in Metabolite). But that doesn't make all software patents bad, which is what you asserted.

I have programs developed for my company. It takes me 5 seconds to come up with an idea, but it may take the programmer 5 days, or 5 weeks, to implement. If I go with a software patent to a programmer, no time is saved.

If you got a patent on anything that took you 5 seconds to come up with, I think you're going to face severe problems in any suit over whether it's invalid over 35 USC 112. I mean, seriously, you think that something that takes someone skilled in the art 5 weeks to implement has been adequately described?

I've got a friend who just filed a cover sheet provisional for an invention... Now, he says, he just needs to find a programmer to design and write his software. See the problem? Same thing with your 5 second idea, unless it's so incredibly revolutionary yet simple that you can describe it in two sentences. And I find that unlikely.

The patent system is open source avant la lettre. An inventor has to provide all his knowledge (provide the best mode), in a way that can be replicated by an ordinary person skilled in the art, and it is available on line from patent offices. The "license" it comes with is a peculiar one (territorial limited/time limited), but it expires sooner than any copyright. But it is a rough tool. Fine for many types of inventions, including medical drugs, but not for software (or business methods).

I don't see why, particularly in light of your unsupported assertions above. Maybe an argument can be made (I would) that software patents should be shorter, due to the reduced development time necessary to make them, but that would be for Congress to decide, not the Courts, just like in Chakrabarty, the Court said that the statute as currently worded allowed patenting of artificially-created bacteria. Don't like it, get Congress to amend 35 USC.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (2, Informative)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254463)

The "exhaustion doctrine" is also sometimes known as the "first sale doctrine". While not identical to copyright first sale, it is analogous.

As far as State Street goes, have most of the software improvements since then been patented? No? Have some that would have happened anyway been patented in a bogus overbroad way by non-implementers? When I watch true innovators like RIM get their pants sued off by people who didn't do anything except sit around brainstorming 5 second ideas with their patent attorneys, I think it's pretty obvious the system is broken.

Most of the rest of your comment is pure claptrap as well. For example, if I buy a properly licensed special resistor, under the exhaustion doctrine I can pretty much do what I want with it, and the original licensor can't come back and get me for any infringement under the licensed patent.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254615)

As far as State Street goes, have most of the software improvements since then been patented? No?

Don't know. Quite a few have been. How many improvements are necessary to make a field patentable? Does the statute define a number? No?

Have some that would have happened anyway been patented in a bogus overbroad way by non-implementers?

That's happened with regard to machines and pharmaceuticals, too. If this is your reason to throw out software patents, then are you arguing for the end to the patent system in general?

When I watch true innovators like RIM get their pants sued off by people who didn't do anything except sit around brainstorming 5 second ideas with their patent attorneys, I think it's pretty obvious the system is broken.

Me too, particularly if you can write a patent specification that will overcome 35 USC 112 in 5 seconds. I mean, geez. Last one I wrote was 135 pages.

Most of the rest of your comment is pure claptrap as well. For example, if I buy a properly licensed special resistor, under the exhaustion doctrine I can pretty much do what I want with it, and the original licensor can't come back and get me for any infringement under the licensed patent.

That's not really "most of the rest". It's actually just one paragraph out of many, most of which don't refer to First Sale at all. Furthermore, it's obvious you didn't read the entire paragraph - specifically, look at the museum example. Your license to use a patented product may cover only certain uses. You don't get a magical exhaustion of all patent rights to use it in any way after that. This is different from First Sale doctrine, and that's the distinction I was attempting to make. If it wasn't clear, I apologize.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (4, Interesting)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254815)

Patent attorney here. Yes, software patents shouldn't be there. Patents are there to stop people from sitting on their ideas. Stopping people from sitting on their ideas helps society, because it give society more knowledge. However, for software there is no need for this mechanism.

[Citation needed].

Here's a bunch of citations [ffii.org] I once collected (note that it also includes a few opinions of political committees, but those are clearly marked).

Since State Street, there has been immeasurable innovation in the field of software. You've got nothing to back up this assertion.

I think we can indeed agree that software patents have not killed the software industry. That's however not a very strong argument if you claim that software patents are necessary or even helpful.

There is no shortage of innovation because of lack of progress. If one person doesn't think of it, another one will.

The same could be said about any field of invention, including machines and compositions of matter.

It's however doubly so applicable to software, because software innovation requires much less investment in materials, works with an idealised abstraction (rather than with finicky physical bits), and consists almost exclusively of incremental innovation. A.o., the FTC report and the report by the National Research Council cited above go into more detail.

Well, you could read the claims of the patent. That would make it very easy to figure out whether your program is off the hook.

Of "the" patent? You mean of all the granted patents, right?

And actually, the risk of whether or not you infringe on a patent (software or otherwise) is simply not manageable in practice. How do I know? Because you cannot insure yourself against such risks. AIG, Lloyds and others have tried for a short while to offer such policies, and suffered losses up to 3000% [edri.org] ! So if even those guys specialised in risk management can't determine the risk of infringing on a patent, what makes you think Joe the Programmer can do so with any degree of accuracy?

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (2, Interesting)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255255)

Here's a bunch of citations [ffii.org] I once collected (note that it also includes a few opinions of political committees, but those are clearly marked).

Thank you for that... I'll have to read through them. Will get back to you.

Since State Street, there has been immeasurable innovation in the field of software. You've got nothing to back up this assertion.

I think we can indeed agree that software patents have not killed the software industry. That's however not a very strong argument if you claim that software patents are necessary or even helpful.

Yes, but it refutes GP's argument that software patents are bad per se. It's equivalent to an assertion that if we didn't have the death penalty, there would be a thousand-fold increase in the murder rate. Sure, that's an interesting thought, but there's no evidence whatsoever, so on its own, it doesn't really mean much.

The same could be said about any field of invention, including machines and compositions of matter.

It's however doubly so applicable to software, because software innovation requires much less investment in materials, works with an idealised abstraction (rather than with finicky physical bits), and consists almost exclusively of incremental innovation. A.o., the FTC report and the report by the National Research Council cited above go into more detail.

Sure, but this goes to my later statement that software patents may deserve a shortened term. It doesn't support GP's argument that software needs no patent protection because, after all, it would get invented eventually.

Well, you could read the claims of the patent. That would make it very easy to figure out whether your program is off the hook.

Of "the" patent? You mean of all the granted patents, right?

This was a reference to GP's argument that it was impossible to determine if you'd infringe a patent. Which I find a bit disingenuous, him allegedly being a patent attorney.

And actually, the risk of whether or not you infringe on a patent (software or otherwise) is simply not manageable in practice. How do I know? Because you cannot insure yourself against such risks. AIG, Lloyds and others have tried for a short while to offer such policies, and suffered losses up to 3000% [edri.org] ! So if even those guys specialised in risk management can't determine the risk of infringing on a patent, what makes you think Joe the Programmer can do so with any degree of accuracy?

Joe Shmoe gets an insurance policy from Lloyds to cover him in case he infringes... At that point, he's indemnified. Therefore, he performs no due diligence, because it's expensive and he's fully covered against loss. I don't think it's particularly dispositive that people who are fully insured against any sort of loss act riskier than those who aren't.

Furthermore, while Lloyd's may be specialized in risk management, due diligence with regards to patents is another field entirely, requiring claim construction expertise rather than statistics.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255403)

It's equivalent to an assertion that if we didn't have the death penalty, there would be a thousand-fold increase in the murder rate. Sure, that's an interesting thought, but there's no evidence whatsoever, so on its own, it doesn't really mean much.

You can look at places without the death penalty and see that that claim is absurd.

You can also look at history and at other places to see what happens to innovation when there are no patents, or when patents expire. Which seems to show [ucla.edu] that innovation goes up slightly in such cases.

At that point, he's indemnified. Therefore, he performs no due diligence, because it's expensive and he's fully covered against loss.

But he never does that anyway, because if he did ask someone knowledgeable they specifically told him that looking can triple his liability and is therefore a really bad idea.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255425)

I think we can indeed agree that software patents have not killed the software industry. That's however not a very strong argument if you claim that software patents are necessary or even helpful.

Yes, but it refutes GP's argument that software patents are bad per se.

No, it only proves that they (or at least the way they are used by the majority of patent holders at this time) are not bad enough to kill off the industry. It does not in any way refute the argument that they are bad.

It's equivalent to an assertion that if we didn't have the death penalty, there would be a thousand-fold increase in the murder rate. Sure, that's an interesting thought, but there's no evidence whatsoever, so on its own, it doesn't really mean much.

There are many countries without a death penalty and with lower murder rates, which is an indication that this would be an incorrect assumption. The same goes for software patents: economic studies (Bessen&Hunt, also in the overview I gave in my previous post) show that companies investing more in patents, invest less in R&D (the rest is spent on patenting and subsequently regained via rent seeking). They also show that the number of court cases is exploding [ffii.org] (last slide).

An important fact to also keep in mind is that having patents an sich causes overhead. All money spent by the industry as a whole on obtaining patents, licensing negotiations, court cases, legal counsel regarding patents, etc is money that cannot be spent on R&D, customer service, etc. So having patents starts out at a loss, and it has to have really large positive effects to end up in the black again.

It's however doubly so applicable to software, because software innovation requires much less investment in materials, works with an idealised abstraction (rather than with finicky physical bits), and consists almost exclusively of incremental innovation. A.o., the FTC report and the report by the National Research Council cited above go into more detail.

Sure, but this goes to my later statement that software patents may deserve a shortened term. It doesn't support GP's argument that software needs no patent protection because, after all, it would get invented eventually.

It does support that argument, though it obviously cannot conclusively prove it. Where is your evidence that a shorter term is required rather than no possible patent attacks on re-inventors at all?

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (3, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255101)

Since State Street, there has been immeasurable innovation in the field of software.

That is entirely meaningless. What you need to measure is (1) how much of that innovation would not have happened without patents, and (2) how much other innovation would have happened without patents.

Figure out how much software there is where once you know what it does or how it works, re-implementing it would take 100x less effort.

Figure out how much software was lost due to "chilling effects" where people are afraid to do anything, and how much was outright killed (like for example Blackboard has been trying to do to everyone else in that industry).

I'm guessing that (1) is very very small, and (2) is significantly bigger but still somewhat small when taken as a fraction of all software.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255293)

Since State Street, there has been immeasurable innovation in the field of software.

That is entirely meaningless. What you need to measure is (1) how much of that innovation would not have happened without patents, and (2) how much other innovation would have happened without patents.

Agreed. And because that sort of vague hand-waving "what if" is entirely unmeasurable, you apparently agree with me that GP's blind assertion that software patents stifle innovation is unsupported by any evidence whatsoever.

Here's another one: say I said that if we incorporated the death penalty for shoplifting, there would never be any shoplifting. And for proof, I offer that there's shoplifting now and we don't apply the death penalty. Doesn't matter, it's still an unsupported assertion.

Figure out how much software there is where once you know what it does or how it works, re-implementing it would take 100x less effort.

I'm not sure what your point is. I can take any issued patent, read it, and understand what it does and how it works. I can then re-implement it with 100x less effort. For example, I know how to build a steam engine without ever having researched one. I likewise know how to build an offset-differential gear for a rear-wheel drive vehicle, without ever having researched one. Could probably draw a diagram, even. Should those things not be patentable?

Figure out how much software was lost due to "chilling effects" where people are afraid to do anything, and how much was outright killed (like for example Blackboard has been trying to do to everyone else in that industry).

Go ahead, please. I'm claiming that those what-if numbers are unknowable, so GP's assertion that "all software patents are bad 'cause they stifle innovation" is completely unsupported by any evidence. It doesn't mean it's wrong, it just means there's as much support for the statement as there is for claiming there's an invisible pink unicorn standing behind you.

I'm guessing that (1) is very very small, and (2) is significantly bigger but still somewhat small when taken as a fraction of all software.

Guessing - operative word here.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254431)

Yes, software patents shouldn't be there. Patents are there to stop people from sitting on their ideas

Patents in general should not be there. Leonardo da Vinci and Archimedes did not "sit on their ideas, and they did not have patents to protect them.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254647)

Patents in general should not be there. Leonardo da Vinci and Archimedes did not "sit on their ideas, and they did not have patents to protect them.

Leonardo da Vinci - 1452-1519. Birthplace: Florence.

Patents: 1421. Birthplace: Florence. [wikipedia.org]

Patents in a modern sense: 1474. Birthplace: Venice.

And if you're going to hang your hat on the Archimedes point, the Greeks had exclusivity rights to profits for anyone who discovered new refinements in luxury in 500 BC, 223 years before Archimedes was born.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254447)

Why do you, and the Cato Institute, hate Capitalism?

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (3, Insightful)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254503)

Fine for many types of inventions, including medical drugs
It is NOT fine for software, but certainly it is NOT fine for medical drugs. Can anybody else enhance failing Tamiflu now when Roche holds all the key patents? Thousands might or have to die because Roche is blocking others from the drug developement, it might not be so, but certainly possible. Similar in software, I have to pay $600 for Adobe CS4 as nobody can't produce similar tools because Adobe have their 'patent portfolio' there.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (2, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255633)

The idea is that Roche developed Tamiflu, and 20 years from now anyone can make Tamiflu. At worst, society is losing a 20 society-disease-years over the matter (that's a fun unit, innit?). Afterward, society gets to benefit from a new flu drug (infinite society-disease-years, or something like that - and probably with a bigger unit of Society to boot).

Consider the alternative, where there is no such patent available. Does Tamiflu, or an enhancement, get created at all in this scenario? Sure! Of course! .... eventually. But academic / government-sponsored research surely cannot hope to replace the entire research output of the pharmaceutical industry! (Even if it is trendy these days to demonize them as a bunch of leeches on society incapable of generating anything but drug advertising, they actually do pay some very smart, highly educated people high-five/six-figure salaries to do research.)

This is why, as a young person, I like 20-year patents on drugs and pray that they will remain around during my lifetime, so that there will be more drugs (and medical procedures etc) - both brand new and 20 years old - available to me when I'm old and need them most. The alternative has a very real chance to negatively impact my future quality of life... and that of my children, at such time that I have any.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255693)

That's making some assumptions which aren't necessarily valid. The reason why one needs to have a patent in the current model is because one has to have patents to defend against other individuals who hold patents and pay off the cost of development.

A system where a single entity paid for the cost of R&D and testing on the basis of results, rather than for the patent rights itself isn't necessarily going to have less innovation. It would just have to either be paid for by the federal government or by all the medical providers.

There may be other possibilities, but to paint it as absolutely necessary rather overstates the necessity.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (2, Informative)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254599)

Exactly. Show me somebody who's implemented a software algorithm from its description in a patent document and I'll show you a pig that can carry a family of six aloft across the Atlantic.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254921)

Patent attorney here. Yes, software patents shouldn't be there. Patents are there to stop people from sitting on their ideas. Stopping people from sitting on their ideas helps society, because it give society more knowledge.

I'm not sure if you're an attorney if you don't understand the basics of why patents exist. Patents cost time and money and unless the inventor gets rewarded fairly, he won't expend effort. Only the trolls sit on their ideas. And just because there are some patent trolls, does not mean every inventor is a patent troll. Patents are expensive to obtain and maintain, and most people who have one use it protect a product from competitors.

However, for software there is no need for this mechanism.

Wrong, inventions within in a successful software product will be copied within a few days without this protection.

There is no shortage of innovation because of lack of progress.

Innovation doesn't happen by itself, people have to spend time and money on it. And patents ensure they get paid for their efforts.

If one person doesn't think of it, another one will.

Are you sure? Another person might not think up the same thing. That's why patents exist in the first place. I don't think you're an attorney at all if you can't understand that.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255307)

Innovation doesn't happen by itself, people have to spend time and money on it. And patents ensure they get paid for their efforts.

Except of course, that you routinely see things like the burst of innovation in steam engines that happened immediately after Watt's patents expired (quotes from here [ucla.edu] ):

During the period of Wattâ(TM)s patents the U.K. added about 750 horsepower of steam engines per year. In the thirty years following Wattâ(TM)s patents, additional horsepower was added at a rate of more than 4,000 per year. Moreover, the fuel efficiency of steam engines changed little during the period of Wattâ(TM)s patent; while between 1810 and 1835 it is estimated to have increased by a factor of five.

Many new improvements to the steam engine, such as those of William Bull, Richard Trevithick, and Arthur Woolf, became available by 1804: although developed earlier these innovations were kept idle until the Boulton and Watt patent expired. None of these innovators wished to incur the same fate as Jonathan Hornblower.

The impact of the expiration of his patents on Wattâ(TM)s empire may come as a surprise. As might be expected, when the patents expired âoemany establishments for making steam-engines of Mr. Watt's principle were then commenced.â However, Wattâ(TM)s competitors âoeprincipally aimed at...cheapness rather than excellence.â As a result, we find that far from being driven out of business âoeBoulton and Watt for many years afterwards kept up their price and had increased orders.â

In most histories, James Watt is a heroic inventor, responsible for the beginning of the industrial revolution. The facts suggest an alternative interpretation. Watt is one of many clever inventors working to improve steam power in the second half of the eighteenth century. After getting one step ahead of the pack, he remained ahead not by superior innovation, but by superior exploitation of the legal system.

Re:Yes, patent system not meant for software paten (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255711)

That's not true, software patents shouldn't be granted unless the individuals applying for them live up to the normal standards, which they don't. They don't disclose the actual mechanics. In a similar vein, business patents shouldn't be granted because they represent an incentive in and of themselves and are more useful for stymieing competition than actual progress.

We are not special. (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254933)

Patents are there to stop people from sitting on their ideas. ... However, for software there is no need for this mechanism. There is no shortage of innovation because of lack of progress. If one person doesn't think of it, another one will.

This is not in any way unique to software.

Fine for many types of inventions, including medical drugs, but not for software (or business methods).

My understanding is that the main argument in favor of medical patents is that the cost of FDA approval is so insanely high compared to the production cost once things are approved. Which is remarkably similar to software, where development is expensive but distribution costs a few cents per copy for bandwidth or a dollar or two for a CD in a cardboard box.

How funny (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254295)

You compare Google to MS. You HAVE TO BE KIDDING. They are not even in the same league. MS is trying real hard to acquire as many patents as possible, even BS ones. That is the sign of a company with nothing left, EXCEPT for GD lawyers. OTH, Google is not trying to pull that. THey are still doing great work.

Copyright argument is not convincing (4, Interesting)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254305)

This particular argument from the article is oft-repeated but weak:

  "Software developers already enjoy strong copyright protections for their work, rendering patent protection largely redundant."

The exact same argument could be made for several classes of patent, such as chemical process patents, that people seem to generally consider legitimate patents in pretty much every country that has patents. If I am to believe that this is a compelling argument against software patents, then it is also a compelling argument against some other patentable areas. (Most arguments against software patents have this feature.)

On the other hand, a much more compelling argument can be made against "business method" patents (a subset of the suitcase called "software" patents) because they do not strictly define a machine. The reason algorithm patents (also part of the "software" patent suitcase) have long been acceptable just about everywhere is that they are strict abstractions of novel circuits (patentable material in virtually every country). As a general observation, most proponents of software patents are thinking of algorithm patents while most opponents of software patents are thinking of business method patents. The ambiguity of the term "software patent" muddies the context and makes intelligent discussions more difficult. It would help if everyone was more precise in their selection of terms.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254413)

What is the greater tragedy?

      Blizzard and Microsoft re-invent their gaming tech.

            or

      Blizzard and MS are at the mercy of Electronic Arts because EA managed to patent something that each could re-create in isolation?

Patents are meant to prevent wasteful re-invention or avoid the extreme case when re-invention is not likely.

The problem with patents today is that patents are being granted for trivial and obvious things that could be easily re-invented by a few undergraduate students.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254589)

The problem with patents today is that patents are being granted for trivial and obvious things that could be easily re-invented by a few undergraduate students.

Exactly, instead of throwing the baby with the bathwater, there should be a mechanism to disallow these trivial patents -- the patent writer must write in plain English what the innovative part about the patent is, instead of the hard-to-understand patent lingo used today.

And there should be some categorization so that if your invention is related to databases, or GUIs, that should be easily found by some programmer or inventor working in that area, avoid patent infringement. Eg: patent X is in category GUI -> dialog boxes.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (2, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254467)

The reason algorithm patents (also part of the "software" patent suitcase) have long been acceptable just about everywhere

Well, no. The real software patents have only been acceptable in the US since State Street (Diamond vs. Diehr was about curing rubber, except that the rubber curing was software-controlled; i.e., the patent claimed a process for curing rubber, the fact that it was computer-controlled was just an aside and not central to the patentability). State Street was in 1998.

Both in the US and in Europe, there is still a lot of controversy about software patents till today (this paper only confirms that). India didn't go exactly all the way either during its last patent reform. Except among patent attorneys (although amongst them you also have excetions), I'm not sure where this general acceptance would be.

is that they are strict abstractions of novel circuits (patentable material in virtually every country).

Biochemical processes are also patentable material in virtually any country, but that does not mean that anything you can do with your brain automatically is a patentable process. Mechanical devices are patentable material in (virtually?) any country, but that does not mean that the abstractions of what you do with a piano (music) automatically is a patentable process.

The whole point is that these generic circuits indeed don't do anything but perform some abstract algorithm. Adding the generic circuit shouldn't suddenly make the novel algorithm patentable, not any more than a "piano + sheet music" becomes a "new, patentable piano" because the sheet music is just an abstraction of a mechanical process. But I guess I shouldn't give the RIAA new ideas...

As a general observation, most proponents of software patents are thinking of algorithm patents while most opponents of software patents are thinking of business method patents.

I think you observed that wrongly. Most opponents I know are opposed to claims on stuff that is normally not patentable, but suddenly does become patentable by adding "performed by a computer". Compare to the rubber curing from Diamond vs. Diehr: rubber curing is also patentable subject matter by itself.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255109)

The real software patents have only been acceptable in the US since State Street (Diamond vs. Diehr was about curing rubber, except that the rubber curing was software-controlled; i.e., the patent claimed a process for curing rubber, the fact that it was computer-controlled was just an aside and not central to the patentability). State Street was in 1998.

State Street was a business method patent, not an algorithm patent. While both types of patents are often classified under the rubric of "software patents" they have very different histories. It is only business method patents that were recently allowed in the US. Bilski et al is about business method patents.

True computer algorithm patents have been allowed for many decades just about everywhere. They are (correctly) viewed as strict abstractions of circuit designs, circuit designs being unambiguously patentable subject matter. Business method patents are not an abstraction of a circuit design and therefore have traditionally not been allowed; doing something on a computer does not imply that the process reduces to a particular circuit design. The only kinds of software patents that are vulnerable to a court decision are those that are not equivalent to circuit design.

Things like encryption algorithms are obviously equivalent to specific, novel circuit designs, "one-click shopping" or "selling pet food on the Internet" quite obviously are not.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255249)

They are (correctly) viewed as strict abstractions of circuit designs, circuit designs being unambiguously patentable subject matter.

And as I mentioned in previous post, so are pianos. You can also make a dedicated piano or hand-crancked organ that only plays that piece of music (a "dedicate circuit"). That does not make "this piece of music when played by an organ/piano" any more patentable though. At most, the specially constructed organ/piano could be patentable, but that does not confer any extra rights to the music, even when someone else plays it on another piano.

Business method patents are not an abstraction of a circuit design

They are when implemented using a computer algorithm. There is no inherent difference between, e.g., a computer program that implements one-click shopping and a computer program that compresses data. You can also turn both into dedicated circuit designs, should you want to.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (3, Interesting)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255459)

They are when implemented using a computer algorithm. There is no inherent difference between, e.g., a computer program that implements one-click shopping and a computer program that compresses data. You can also turn both into dedicated circuit designs, should you want to.

This is incorrect. A compression algorithm has a strict definition for all use cases, a set of input bits mapped via specified transformations to a particular set of output bits. This is no different than a chemical process patent, which specifies the inputs and transformations to generate the output; it says nothing about the specific plant implementation or similar transformations that work on different inputs or generate identical outputs.

What are the logical transforms and the input and output bit set pattern for one-click shopping? What is a universal boolean logic for selling pet food on the Internet? The very reason business method patents are being questioned is because no such specification exists or can exist for a useful implementation; any specification strict enough to be reducible to a machine would also be too narrow to have any value. In short, business method patents lack sufficiently strict specification to be directly mapped to a machine. That is a rather important difference.

Business methods patents are considered bad because in order for them to be useful as patents (i.e. not trivially worked around), they also have to be vague enough that no strict machine specification is possible.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255695)

no strict machine specification is possible.

You know full-well that's not how software patents are written. I think you'll agree that Math can't be patented, so instead of authoring software we should all author math and have done with it!

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255745)

They are when implemented using a computer algorithm. There is no inherent difference between, e.g., a computer program that implements one-click shopping and a computer program that compresses data. You can also turn both into dedicated circuit designs, should you want to.

This is incorrect. A compression algorithm has a strict definition for all use cases, a set of input bits mapped via specified transformations to a particular set of output bits. This is no different than a chemical process patent, which specifies the inputs and transformations to generate the output; it says nothing about the specific plant implementation or similar transformations that work on different inputs or generate identical outputs.

A compression algorithm is an abstract mathematical entity, limited only by mathematical truths. A chemical process is a physical process that operates under the limits of the physical world. Neither the nature of both things nor the economics and dynamics of both innovation environments are even remotely comparable.

Again: playing a piece of music on a piano is also a particular input, a set of transformations (by the piano) and a certain output. This is not an argument to declare something patentable.

Patents are economic tools. You should only apply them where strictly necessary, since they introduce waste/overhead in the system (every dollar spent on acquiring patents, litigation, ... cannot be spent on useful stuff). Theoretical thought experiments likening the nature of abstract algorithms to physical transformations are not really relevant (and sound really strange to me as a doctor in computer science).

What are the logical transforms and the input and output bit set pattern for one-click shopping?

The one-click shopping patent basically claims the concept of storing customer data on the server and using (e.g.) a cookie to keep track of the customer, so that when he comes on the website you can immediately look up their data so that they do not have to explicitly log in before they can buy anything (or add things first to a shopping cart).

Of course, this can be implemented in many ways, but so can any software claimed in broader terms than exact source code (including compression algorithms). And even the above succinct description would be enough for any programmer worth their salt to implement one-click shopping. The patent description [uspto.gov] obviously goes into much greater detail.

What is a universal boolean logic for selling pet food on the Internet?

That's akin to asking what the universal chemical process is for "producing hydrogen". A claim phrased like that is a wish list patent, and you can give examples of those in any patent category.

The very reason business method patents are being questioned is because no such specification exists or can exist for a useful implementation; any specification strict enough to be reducible to a machine would also be too narrow to have any value.

I think it is wrong to state that in general no such specifications can exist. That statement also suggests to me that the claims and description are combined, while the claims are a lot broader than the description (which describes a "preferred embodiment" of the invention, rather than the only possible way). So while the claims may not be specification enough by themselves, the description may very well be (once you translate the barely readable legalese to something that's usable by a software designer).

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (5, Insightful)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254479)

Well, I don't agree with patenting algorithms either.

I think when you think of an algorithm, you have in mind something like an image recognizing algorithm that took years to perfect.

But when I as a developer think of an algorithm I think of very basic building blocks, like binary search, quicksort, hashes, RLE compression, Hamming code. If any of those was patented progress would get slowed down for years.

It can get even simpler than that. Something trivial like "if( there_is_data_to_print && there_is_paper && there_is_ink ) print_document()" is an algorithm.

Allowing patents on this means giving somebody the ownership of a piece of math. That something could be illegal to calculate without paying somebody is completely insane IMO.

As a developer I say: I don't want software patents in any shape or form. Not of the "business method" sort. Not of the "algorithm" sort. There should never be such a thing as a line of code that can't be written without paying somebody for a license. Period.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254941)

"Allowing patents on this means giving somebody the ownership of a piece of math."

No, this is only true for a particular patentable algorithm in the same way it is true for *all* patentable subject matter. This is another argument that is not consistently applied (any math argument that applies to a computer algorithm trivially generalizes to all physical machines and material processes).

To use your quicksort example, if someone patents the quicksort algorithm it does not prevent you from sorting data generally. Sure the alternative existing methods might be less efficient (something you could hopefully say about all types of patents), but there are an infinite number of alternative methods to achieve the end result. You are not patenting "sorting", you are patenting one method of doing that transformation. In the same way, you cannot patent a particular chemical, but you *can* patent a process for synthesizing that chemical. There are cases where the patented method is the only known (practical) method for achieving a particular result, but those are precisely the cases patents were intended for.

An argument that does not really follow is like your one above that someone might patent the basic building block algorithms of software. How can an algorithm that does not exist be a "basic building block"? What has everyone been using up until the point where it is invented? The algorithms we consider "basic" are so because they have been around forever and are therefore in the public domain. What were people doing before the existing "basic building block" algorithms were invented? An algorithm that becomes a future "basic building block", those are arguably the algorithms that more than any other deserve patent protection if you are going to bother at all. Pretty much non-obvious, novel, and eminently useful by definition.

There are open algorithm problems in computer science that, if solved, would generate new basic building blocks that don't exist now. This has been true in the chemical process patent field many times as well. But it seems odd to lay claim to them as "basic building blocks" before they exist. If someone invents an anti-gravity device it may become a basic building block of transportation, but does that suddenly make it non-patentable subject matter? I'm just looking for consistent treatment, not any particular outcome. If we exclude all the inventions that are good enough that they become basic building blocks, there is really no point to having patents at all. Arguably the goal of the patent system is to encourage the invention of basic building blocks that do not currently exist.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (2, Insightful)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255177)

I don't have time for a proper reply right now, but I'll say this:

I think that if patents ever worked, they have stopped doing what they were intended to do. So I'm skeptical about the usefulness of having patents at all.

That said, I'm only an expert in my own field, and I'm completely certain that I don't want them there. And note that I'm somebody who could supposedly benefit from their existence.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255275)

"So I'm skeptical about the usefulness of having patents at all."

I find the consistency of this opinion quite reasonable; I have no strong opinion for a specific outcome, but a logically consistent position would seem to be all or nothing (sans business method patents, which are a different kind of beast). My objections to most arguments is the lack of internal, logical consistency -- they look more like self-serving rationalizations and rent-seeking than reasoned policy.

I've worked in a couple different areas of patentable subject matter, and most of them are functionally indistinguishable from computer algorithm patents in terms of what happens. Business method patents are a whole 'nother kind of mess.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255417)

I've worked in a couple different areas of patentable subject matter, and most of them are functionally indistinguishable from computer algorithm patents in terms of what happens. Business method patents are a whole 'nother kind of mess.

What makes them different?

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255573)

Business method patents are different from computer algorithm patents in that the latter always has a strict machine specification and the former does not. The only way to make business methods have a strict machine specification is to severely reduce the scope to the point where the patent would have no real value in the sense that everyone's business method would have a different specification and therefore be their own unique inventions. Can you define the "shopping" in "one-click shopping" in terms of logical bit transformations? Computer algorithms can always be trivially defined in such ways.

Business method patents as they exist today were achieved by effectively eliminating the requirement to have scope that is strictly bounded by the machine specification. Computer algorithm patents have scope that is strictly defined by a machine specification. Business methods have much more ambiguous scope because there is no specific machine required for the patent.

Re:Copyright argument is not convincing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255725)

I have been mulling on an idea about something such as this.

What would be nice is an arrangement somewhere between copyright and patent for software. It would allow a developer to protect their individual source code, but after a set amount of time (much shorter than the eons given out in copyright), would make the code public domain. Basically protecting that specific implementation of the algorithm, not the algorithm itself.

I think this would be in keeping with the original intent of IP law. The inventor would get a chance to profit exclusively from their work, and after a set amount of time (say seven to ten years from the date of release), the source code becomes public domain. The inventor (presumably) would have improved upon their work by this time, and those improvements would still be protected, but the general community would now have the source code as a catalyst for either 'generic' software, or possibly a whole different path of development, both proprietary and open source.

Keep in mind this wouldn't keep two developers from writing applications that do exactly the same thing. This is simply protecting the code; keeping one developer from 'cut and paste'-ing another coder's work. Styling patents would have to be taken into account here, but for something like image recognition, I think this is a possible solution. Imagine what could be done if all the proprietary software from ten years ago was released to the open source community.

Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254383)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.
You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER
Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.
Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.
Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.
Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS - MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE
Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN
They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?
Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".
Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. - WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?
A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.
What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?
They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD
And you were expecting what?

SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?
When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Patent infringer here. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254395)

Anyone who's written a relatively small amount of software has very likely infringed on someones software patent. I happen to know for a fact I'm an infringer since I wrote software that did a simple zip-code distance lookup web program and years later found out someone actually managed to patent this. The application was taken down years ago because the organization I created it for ceased to exist and had extremely shallow pockets so there's no real danger of being sued over it. I don't recall how I found out about the patent, but it certainly wasn't from looking through granted patents.

The point being it's not that difficult to infringe on someones software patent and have absolutely no idea you've done so. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if I learned I've personally written code that infringed on dozens of other software patents. I'd be extremely surprised if the libraries I use every day didn't infringe on at least one software patent.

Re:Patent infringer here. (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254765)

I know for a fact I use a variety of libraries that infringe on at least one software patent.

Re:Patent infringer here. (1)

RobinH (124750) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255713)

The other problem is that (in the US anyway), if they can prove you knew about the patent then that's "willful infringement" and that incurs punitive damages, which is triple the regular amount. Most lawyers would advise developers to avoid learning about software patents just because of this fact.

Anti-patent whining (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254415)

"Imagine the outcry if the courts were to legalize patents on English prose. Suddenly, you could get a "literary patent" on novels employing a particular kind of plot twist..."

Copyright on literary concepts is strong enough to survive conversion from book to film, even when nothing remains of the original dialogue. It's strong enough to cover original sequels. Read Harry Potter and the Unauthorized Sequel. [marquette.edu] The concept of "scenes a faire" [wikipedia.org] covers the concept of literary "prior art" and prevents re-copyrighting the obvious. This is generally considered workable, although it took some litigation in the 1980s before the law settled down as regarding video game "look and feel".

"Small businesses and nonprofit organizations far removed from the traditional software industry have IT departments producing potentially infringing software. The Brookings Institution's Ben Klemens has" documented [cato.org] that this is not a theoretical problem"

Following the "documented" link leads to a set of PowerPoint slides by someone listed as "Senior Statistician, Mood and Affective Disorders, NIMH". (Where does the Cato Institute find these people?) He's grumbling about infringement lawsuits directed against the Green Bay Packers, Caterpillar, Kraft Foods, J. Crew, Linens and Things, McDonalds, Dole Food, and Oprah Winfrey. All occupy dominant positions in their industry. (Technically, the Green Bay Packers are a "small business", with only 189 employees, but the business is valued at $911 million.) [forbes.com] None is a nonprofit.

Re:Anti-patent whining (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254653)

Lots of small businesses get caught in the crossfire. AllMyData.com, a small company, along with several others, is being sued with BestBuy, over as general a thing as network backup ( http://dockets.justia.com/docket/court-txedce/case_no-2:2009cv00249/case_id-118157/ ). Small companies don't get sued directly as often since they aren't as lucrative targets, but they can still suffer when trolls go after the big guys.

Re:Anti-patent whining (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254761)

As for software, I fail to see how software is materially different from other patentable methods. That is not to say I necessarily agree with SW patents, I just don't think it makes sense to create a bright line rule against software patents. Many of the arguments advanced for preventing software patents are equally applicable to other methods.

The great thing about the patent system is that they disclose to the public new inventions to advance knowledge, and they expire. Part of the problem with software patents is that they are a relatively recent development do to a change in the judicial doctrine of patentable subject matter. If the courts would have gotten it right to begin with, allowed software patents from the start, we would now have a richer public domain (of patents and literature based on software patents) by which weed out crappy software patents.

Cato !Free Market (2, Informative)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254471)

The Cato Institute is not free-market, nor is it libertarian. While it generally favors solutions closer to the free-market than absolute socialism, it is still solidly within the mainstream. It has never, to my knowledge, actually supported a free-market solution to anything, but rather socialism-lite, being governmental control over the economy with a velvet glove, as opposed to the iron fist of moderate or pure socialism.

It is nice to see Cato catching up to the real supporters of the free-market, who have been advocating for the abolishment of intellectual property for quite some time now.

Re:Cato !Free Market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254581)

I'm pretty sure Cato was once (and possibly still could be) identified as one of several think tanks that had research projects funded by Microsoft; these projects invariably concluded (surprise!) that Microsoft was a force of good in the PC marketplace, and did not have an abusive monopoly on the OS market.

So the Cato Institute "brand name" means nothing to me, but that doesn't invalidate this particular paper.

Re:Cato !Free Market (1)

BunnyClaws (753889) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254591)

By real supporters of the "free-market" do you mean the folks over at mises.org? I would say that the Cato institute lies within the realm of pragmatic Libertarianism. While they do not take an absolute stand with the An-Cap types over at mises.org they do present realistic free-market solutions within our current system.

Re:Cato !Free Market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29255243)

You free market worshippers (cato, mises, the lot of ya) are ALL a bunch of fucking retarded kooks who need to move out of your parents basements and get out into the real world to see why the market is not a solution to every problem. Like the communists before you, you see everything through the distorting lens of rigid ideology, and like communism before you, you will take down any nation dumb enough to adopt your ideas en masse.

Re:Cato !Free Market (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254793)

Libertarianism is sort of Fascism's doppleganger. Not to compare the two in an ideological sense, but rather just in the way the debate is framed. Libertarianism is precisely whatever the self-identified libertarian you're talking to says it is, much like fascism is whatever the speaker calls despicable.

Neither term is worth arguing over its application to an individual organization.

Re:Cato !Free Market (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255655)

I like Milton Friedman's statement on the matter:

... libertarian is not a self-defining term. There are many varieties of libertarians. There's a zero-government libertarian, an anarchist. There's a limited-government libertarianism. They share a lot in terms of their fundamental values. If you trace them to their ultimate roots, they are different. It doesn't matter in practice, because we both want to work in the same direction.

Abstraction Physics shows Software is not ..... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254487)

... a patentable media but a human right and duty to make use of to advance.

See: Abstraction Physics [abstractionphysics.net]

Re:Abstraction Physics shows Software is not ..... (1)

RobinH (124750) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255785)

That was... trippy... So I take it this is what you get when you take a computer programmer, gave him a hell of a lot of weed, some doritos, a wiki, and lock them in a room for a few days.

Actually, the last line is funny: "Identification of the ten base action constants was done by Timothy Rue in February 1988, while having lunch at Pizza Hut." Wow.

Patent Terms: The problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254565)

The real problem with software patents is that the terms are too long. There is no reason to have 20 year terms on software patents. Patent terms should be adjusted according to the area of invention. It makes no sense that a drug that takes 15 years to bring to market gets the same patent term as a software program that takes 6 months. If the term for software patents was 2-4 years, they would not be nearly as problematic. Similarly, they would not be nearly as valuable, and fewer companies would apply for them.

The problem lies in the reviewers... (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254645)

not in the software patents intrinsically. We've seen over the years here so many patent troll attacks and blatantly "vague" and "generic" patents that cover things so fundamental as things you'd learn about in your undergraduate computer-science curriculum reading well published books; things we call "fundamentals of computer science."

This brings an interesting point: it's not that you CAN patent software methods that's causing the problem, it's that the person(s) responsible for reviewing patent applications are NOT EXPERTS in computer science or software by any stretch. This allows companies to get away with gaining patents for vague, generic, and even systems which are completely and undeniably prior-art (all demonstrated within the past 1-2 months here on slashdot no less!).

You develop a new file format for storing data in a secure and efficient manner for your new application, so you patent it and the software used to manipulate it if it's so innovative to do something with the data and store it in that special manner that makes your system unique -- sure OK. But to patent searching in-order a tree or iterating an array looking for something in a specific manner is not something that should ever be patentable, these techniques and methods are well documented and completely public domain.

Even so, I completely agree with the author, copyrights are more than enough for software. In the above example, a copyright would've completely protected both the algorithm to create and access such a file format AND the file format itself -- intrinsically, and if another company just so happened to have that stroke of genius you had and stored information in a similar (albeit not identical) way, there would be no "infringement." This actually happens VERY often in the software industry, and it's ridiculous to assume that just because you came up with something that you were necessarily the first or that you will even be unique in your solution in the near future.

Re:The problem lies in the reviewers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29255561)

Have you spent much time reading patents? They are typically incomprehensible, crafted in a bitches brew of legalese and techno-jargon, with dozens of minute points designed to cover any loopholes or extensions that competitors might have otherwise come up with.

Not only that, but engineers are often warned not to read patents in their field, because they could be "contaminated" - they might have to admit in court that they had prior knowledge of an existing patent.

Re:The problem lies in the reviewers... (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255775)

I've tried. I do agree, and some are far worse than others. The language used should be direct and precise.. our english teachers required that from us, why can't we do the same to companies wishing to grab a monopoly on their "invention" ? But even so, even if it's talked up into legalese that's difficult to read, someone who is an expert in computer science and has a lot of industry experience will easily recognize prior art and fundamental design concepts, data structures, and algorithms if he/she looks closely.

Does being "contaminated" matter if the patent in question is invalid?

Unlikely (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254967)

Personally, I think it's fairly unlikely that we'll get any useful guidance from the Supreme Court in Bilski as applied to software patents. While some of the case law related to Bilski does apply to software patents, the Supreme Court will probably limit itself to the narrow questions of Bilski (i.e., business method claims that are fairly obviously directed to abstract concepts. Software patents are enough of a gray area, and enough of a matter of public policy rather than established case law, that they will likely defer to Congress on that question (and good luck getting any new patent laws from them).

Tell me I'm not the only one... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#29254977)

... who thought of the Green Hornet when reading the article headline

TuBgirl (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29254987)

I sit in my bedroom (1)

suburbanmediocrity (810207) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255169)

and write infringing software just because I like to stick it to the man.

Software Patent == (Monopoly + Business Land Mine) (1)

occam (20826) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255529)

Software Patents are no more than Business Land Mines in the form of Monopolies. The whole idea of monopolizing an idea is ludicrous. The idea of choosing what's innovative and what's not is absurd. If necessity is the mother of all invention (and it usually is), then one man's "innovation" is another's necessity.

Business-wise, they are nothing more than government granted monopolies, and hidden land mines. They are totally ludicrous from a social perspective because they hurt everyone.

I lied.

They don't hurt *everyone*. Patents feed IP (Intellectual Property) lawyers and subsidize the legal industry. Think of them as a legalized tax to subsidize IP lawyers and law firms (while clogging the courts, impeding software engineers, and increasing software business risk and expense).

Which brings me to a first-hand observation: When software developers fought the patenting of software at the USPTO hearings, one side of the room was lawyers, and the other side was software engineers. One side was in favor of institutionalizing s/w patents, the other against. (Guess which side was which.) Aside from the merit of anyone's arguments, the sides were well represented since the room was crowded on both sides of the aisle (how did people know which side they belonged on!?).

I lied again.

The front table... you know... the one making the final decision... was ALL LAWYERS. So much for balanced representation and due process.

Yup. Foregone conclusion. The all lawyer council hosted the hearings, presented the issues like it was being debated, and then rubberstamped it into existence. We're still suffering, without a fix in sight.

You don't believe me? Just ask Bruce Lehmann. He ran the USPTO, railroaded software patents into existence using his position. Oh, I'm sure he'll lie and tell you he did no such thing, but he did. (Oh, and see WTO and DMCA for follow-ups by same guy. He's not a brainjob by my reckoning, just a puppet.) I believe the legal industry pulled a fast one on Joe Public with software patents, and is still raking in the big bucks while innovation, good business, good government, and consumer product development suffer.

Arguments about the public good to CATO? (0, Flamebait)

Improv (2467) | more than 3 years ago | (#29255615)

To CATO? "I have never seen a more wretched hive of scum and villainy"... these are the people who propose dismantling all that is good in the state in favour of entrenched power interests. The public good, unless all one cares about is a public good that demands no virtue, no sacrifices, is far from their mind.

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