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Is the Tide Turning On Patents?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the slowly-but-surely dept.

Patents 172

Glyn Moody writes "The FSF has funded a new video, 'Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system,' freely available (of course) in Ogg Theora format (what else?). It comes at a time when a lot is happening in the world of patents. Recent work from leading academics has called into question their basis: 'The work in this paper, and that of many others, suggests that this traditionally-struck "devil's bargain" may not be beneficial.' We recently discussed how a judge struck down Myriad Genetics's patents on two genes because they involved a law of Nature, and were thus 'improperly granted.' Meanwhile, the imminent Supreme Court ruling In re Bilski is widely expected to have negative knock-on effects for business method and software patents. Is the tide beginning to turn?"

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first! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877302)

Frist!

Piling on (1)

colin_faber (1083673) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877314)

This topic is extremely interesting, I think that having a video (hopefully go viral) will help the masses better understand the issues here. In my own experience it takes only about five minutes to explain the issue, yet hours to really drill down through both sides of it.

Re:Piling on (2, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877392)

Only if the video involves cats wearing things....or making awkward faces.

Re:Piling on (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877400)

A couple weeks ago, while taking my asian girlfriend shopping at the local mall, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Barack Obama -- the messiah himself -- came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was busy and in any case I was sure the secret service wouldn't even let me shake his hand.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it!

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a liberal democrat and had been on the Obama train since last year. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, but I never imagined I would have the chance. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Barack Obama, the chosen one.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big half nigger cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was that Barack Obama wasn't there to see my loyalty and wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. It's even better than listening to an Obama speech!

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of Barack Obama dropping solid gold out of his sweet, brown asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful democrat.

Captcha: slants ...

Monsanto (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877522)

Most of the patent stuff I read is definitely stifling to innovation, but when it comes to things like Monsanto and their patent on specific varieties of plants and seeds that get into the wild and contaminate other crops, that's not just irritating or unfair, it's downright terrifying.

Re:Piling on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877602)

How can it go viral when it is in a format that 99% of web users don't know exists and don't have a codec for?

Oh so witty. Well 50% wit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877646)

Oh so witty. Well 50% wit. No, this isn't H264. What? Do Macs have 90% market penetration? Or Windows 7 added to Mac OSX 10.5+ makes 90% already?

FLV (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878016)

Anyone who has Flash Player has a decoder for H.264. The most common way to get a Theora decoder is to use a browser other than IE or Safari, but a lot of users still use the pack-in.

Re:Piling on (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878092)

You upload it to youtube, duh.

Eldrad must Live! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877920)

Eldrad must live! [google.ca]
Eldred? Oh!... Never mind.

Re:Piling on (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878330)

It's gonna be awful hard to get it viral if it can't be embedded.

Re:Piling on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31879196)

2 Girls 1 Patent?

When I applied for my patents... (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877332)

My attorney encouraged me to focus not on the software aspects, but how the software interacted with the surrounding system (sensors, hardware, users, etc). It's been suspected for a while now that the vise was going to tighten up against patents on algorithms.

And good, IMHO.

Re:When I applied for my patents... (3, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877872)

as it has been shown before, when it comes to software it's better to innovate than waste time on patents. [techdirt.com] Unfortunately a lot of people think it's a great idea to get something patented and don't even consider that hundreds of other people may have done the same thing before.

I work in an industry where I hear the phrase "I'm applying for a patent on my product" all day long. It doesn't mean shit, and you can get sued for claiming a patent on a product that doesn't get approved. You're applying for a patent for x? guess what, so are the other 25 people for doing the same thing. This goes double or triple for anything involving software in any form.

Re:When I applied for my patents... (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878750)

Yeah, tell me that patents don't matter when *you're* being told by potential investors that, gosh, you're a software company with an innovative product but you only have an app out for *one* patent? What are you thinking?

Regardless of that particular lawyer's minority position, potential investors and even state and federal grant boards look strongly to whether you're taking steps to protect your IP. We have product *and* are patent pending. The product was developed privately before the patent was applied for. Most software companies launch on sweat equity. Early on, cash is for hardware, lawyers, travel, things of that nature.

As for this "use the money to innovate instead" argument? Filing for a US patent costs about $10k, including attorney fees. An entry-level programmer costs you perhaps $65k after benefits -- we're talking entry level. So that's two months worth of salary + benefits. How much innovation do you think an entry level programmer is going to do in two months?

Furthermore, all of the costs aren't upfront. You may only spend $6k or so up front, but more when you need to actually defend your patent. So that gets pushed down the road, which in a startup, is a *very good thing*. So off the bat, it's one month of a starting programmer's salary you're talking about.

This is just the way business works. You either play the game or you get out of the pool. Many people here don't like patents because of their stifling effect on free software, and rightly so. But your anger needs to be directed at those who defend or seek to strengthen our current patent system rather than those who want it to be more reasonable but don't have a voice in the matter.

Here's an issue that most people here probably aren't aware of. The patent system is skewed toward helping the Big Boys. Startups aren't your problem. Startups have less money, yet they have to pay more for patents because they don't have a big team of lawyers lying around. Startups often aren't familiar with all of the risks and intricacies of the patent process and may screw themselves over by talking in detail about what they're doing too soon or things like that. Startups *definitely* can't afford to patent troll, to file a bunch of random patents and see what sticks. Startups may not be able to afford to extend their coverage to new markets or cover their tech as well. So the whole system is biased in favor of big companies.

What would I like to see in patent reform?

* Shorter terms for software patents. The term on a patent of a given type should be proportional to the typical length of the product cycle, such that the term is, let's say, however long it generally takes for the third generation of said product to hit the shelves. So if you say the typical software innovation cycle is 2-3 years, then perhaps 5 years. From time of granting, not of filing.
* Greater leniency for filing errors, but stricter standards for what's innovative
* Faster processing times
* A *higher* filing fee. This will make the percentage-difference in cost between patents from the big boys and startups smaller, as well as helping fund more people to review them faster and better.

And you know... a lot of the business world would probably consider me a radical for this, but I'd like to see there be funding -- perhaps from the patent fees themselves -- for a governmental legal defense organization for nonprofits and individuals. That wouldn't mean that nonprofits and individuals would get a "violate patents risk-free" card. But it'd help stop meritless bullying from companies who know that their targets are too weak to fight back.

Re:When I applied for my patents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878518)

It is going to tighten up (as it should) but it certainly isn't going away. There is a huge industry in putting patents through the system. You think all those lawyers will let someone impact their industry? Let alone the companies filing them.

I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (4, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877346)

I see a lot of parallels between Bilski and Eldred v. Ashcroft [lmgtfy.com] . They are both IP cases where the Court was asked to step in and do Congress's job for it. In Eldred they refused to issue any opinion whatsoever as to what would constitute an unreasonable extension of copyright terms. I see no Constitutional basis for them to hand down any other opinion in Bilski. IMHO the majority will refuse to state anything definitive on the issue, and mumble something about it being Congress's prerogative to interpret the "progress of science and the useful arts" clause in any way they see fit.

At that point lobbyists will descend on Congress with checkbooks in hand, and we'll all end up worse off than we were before the case was ever brought.

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877378)

D'oh, not sure how that clipboarded link got confused with an earlier one. Should have been Eldred v. Ashcroft [wikipedia.org] , for the Wikipedia-challenged.

It's been 1 minute since you last successfully posted a comment
Sigh, and now they won't let me fix it. Morons with a copy of PHP For Dummies...

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877430)

Sigh, and now they won't let me fix it. Morons with a copy of PHP For Dummies...

I think that the name of the book they use is Perl for moron

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (2, Interesting)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877590)

Maybe not! Hard times have changed the public attitude in some strange and unpredictable ways. People feel betrayed by businesses in many ways and for many people revenge is about a wink away. I would think that our politicians may not wish to be seen as business friendly right now.

MPAA news (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878062)

I would think that our politicians may not wish to be seen as business friendly right now.

All five major TV news networks (CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox) are owned by a movie studio in the MPAA. People who believe the TV news (and there are a lot of them) will believe a story that spins any consideration of narrowing copyrights or patents against bedroom authors and inventors.

SC has plenty of ground to stand on (5, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877668)

The US Supreme Court has never upheld a software or business method patent. All they said in Diehr [swpat.org] is that things that are patentable can be managed/controlled by a person or a robot/computer. The CAFC and the USPTO ran with this and approved all kinds of programs for such a robot/computer, but they're not the authority here. The Supreme Court is now taking over again for the first time in 30 years, and all they have to do in order to abolish software patents is to clarify and repeat their previous rulings.

The Supremes have always said that math isn't patentable, it's a fundamental truth that can't be "invented", and they've said that putting instructions, including math onto a computer is an obvious step.

Re:SC has plenty of ground to stand on (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878056)

The Supreme Court is now taking over again for the first time in 30 years, and all they have to do in order to abolish software patents is to clarify and repeat their previous rulings.

Unfortunately, the tendencies of the Supreme Court have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. There also is an easy legal argument: "30 years ago, no-one could envision what computers are doing today, and the founding fathers even less so"

Re:SC has plenty of ground to stand on (1)

mr_death (106532) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878432)

Take two cases -- the RSA algorithm implemented in an FPGA, and the same algorithm implemented in software. Both are (or were, at the time of the invention) innovative and nonobvious. In the hardware version, the algorithm is the selection and interconnections between the hardware components; in the software version, the algorithm is in the code. Tell me why the hardware invention is deserving of patent protection, and the equivalent invention in software is not.

Re:SC has plenty of ground to stand on (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878614)

I'm guessing it's because the hardware version is patenting the physical process of implementing an algorithm, whereas the software version is the algorithm itself?

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (3, Interesting)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877688)

The main difference is that this isn't a constitutional case. The law says that there shouldn't be patents for software or business methods, and the courts have interpreted this in a very strange way. What we are asking the court to do is interpret the law as congress intended it to be interpreted, not over-rule it.

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (2, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877954)

The main difference is that this isn't a constitutional case.

Except for the fact that patents are laid down in the US Constitution, sure. Of course, that shouldn't make it a constitutional issue, should it?

The Supreme Court certainly can and should decide whether or not restrictions placed on patents are constitutional. All laws are based on the constitution, and must not violate it. The SCOTUS's primary purpose is to ensure that this is the case.

Now, the portion of the Constitution that allows for Patents and Copyright is small, and it's the US Patent and Copyright codes that determine how we use it, which are both external to the constitution, so I couldn't tell you how the SCOTUS would go on this. The usually seem to err on the side of caution, so don't be surprised if they maintain the status quo.

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (2, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878180)

Except that neither party in the Bilski case is presenting a constitutional argument.

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (1)

Touvan (868256) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877810)

It seems as though you believe that appeals courts only concern themselves with what is "Constitutional" (and therefor in the actual Constitution) and not with applying all the laws that congress makes. Did I read that incorrectly?

Courts deal with all laws - in addition to previously decided case law - not just the Constitution.

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (1)

HiggsBison (678319) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878172)

Courts deal with all laws - in addition to previously decided case law - not just the Constitution.

The courts seem to be primarily concerned with not contradicting anything else ever decided at their level. So if one party gets away with something, then that's cool for any opportunist for all time. Right? Beuller? Anyone?

Re:I'm not as optimistic about Bilski (1)

Touvan (868256) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878702)

That's the case law part of what I wrote, so yeah I'd agree with that statement. :-)

Prevailing jurisprudence does change over time though, which can be good or bad (textualist jurisprudence being a particular retarded legal theory).

no... (1)

madddddddddd (1710534) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877376)

at least not if someone patents the process of turning the tide on patents.

Tide Will Turn on Turning (1)

OurNewOverloard (984041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877380)

If the supreme court strikes down software patents with their Bilski ruling, a huge amount of money will flood Congress from patent lawyers and large patent holders like IBM and Microsoft and the super scary Intellectual Ventures, hoping to buy legislation that puts software patents right back in again. So yes, the tide is turning. The question is how fast will it turn back again.

Re:Tide Will Turn on Turning (2, Funny)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877416)

So what you're saying is...

If the supreme court strikes down software patents with their Bilski ruling, they shall become more powerful than we can possibly imagine!

Right??

Re:Tide Will Turn on Turning (1)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878512)

The difference here is that the lobbyists on the pro-software patent side would actually be out-bankrolled and out-influenced by those against software patents. The people being blindsided by software patents are people like Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM, RIM, eBay,etc. These people hold software patents largely for defensive purposes. They are not going to want Congress to reinstate a system where patent trolls or patent VCs can extort large sums from them at will.

Combine that with prevailing anti-corruption sentiment and you'll find that Congressmen and women won't want to touch the reinstatement of software patents with a ten foot pole.

Theora or VP8 (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877382)

in Ogg Theora format (what else?)

Google VP8.

Re:Theora or VP8 (2, Informative)

FooBarWidget (556006) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877658)

It's still a rumor that hasn't been confirmed by Google.

Can't be (2, Funny)

Genius In Remission (1791004) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877388)

I have a patent on turning tides

Yes and No. (2, Insightful)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877432)

Yes, but barely, and could easily return to the No side with big money backing it.

That being said, whether it's next week or next year or 20 years from now, software patents will be be pointless. They will be ignored by everyone and their dog because countries like China and Russia completely ignore them and to compete with them, we will do the same thing.

Open source is the future, believe it or not.

Re:Yes and No. (2, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877536)

If open source is the future, and hardware can be made dirt cheap anywhere on the planet, how is anyone going to make any money? Service? Not when there are 7 billion people on the planet. There'll be plenty more work than people available.

Re:Yes and No. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877612)

If technology is at such a state that everyone's needs are covered, why do we need money?

Humanity seriously needs to consider an economy beyond simple money. Especially beyond the labor market. Technological progress is directly opposed to people being able to sell their labor.

Of course, this train has been a long time coming, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to plow us over...

Re:Yes and No. (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877642)

So who gets to do nothing?

Re:Yes and No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877724)

I don't know. Should it really be a question of that? Why can't everyone just do significantly less in tandem? Why shouldn't the workweek be 10 hours long instead of 40?

Of course there is ROBOTS taking your jobs. But thats just all fine and good, we'll all go work in information services.

Oh wait, the Internet has kicked the floor out from under that as well. Information can be distributed across the entire planet for almost no cost. This, of course, doesn't mean that information creation is free. But, it significantly reduces the workforce needed to accomplish the same result, just as robots significantly increase physical production with the same human workforce.

Unless you wish to suggest we should artificially enforce information scarcity, in which case I'm going to call you an evil bastard and fight you every step of the way...

Re:Yes and No. (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877904)

We do, for a while (as a society).

At first it's all good - we have robots doing everything for us and no need for money for basic necessities.

After a while, the dumbing-down begins... After people have gotten used to robots literally wiping their asses for them their entire life, complacency will set in, the only quest will be for more entertainment and the bliss of ignorance, leading eventually to converting the race to mindless, caged animals. Pets of the robots that the people themselves once built.

This will continue until the day comes when some event occurs that is outside the scope of the machine consciousness, leading eventually to the end of this wave of civilization. A few humans will escape their caged lifestyles (Not by choice, but pure survival instinct) and a new cycle will begin, once again starting from primitive caveman life and reaching for the stars until they are reached and lost again. The only good thing [messagebase.net] is that it's been said that each age of man usually surpasses the previous age, reaching a bit higher enlightenment before once again crashing down like storm waves beating on a rocky cliff; eventually the waves win.

Re:Yes and No. (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878004)

One problem with your hypothesis: If the entire race goes into a machine-aided trance of mindless hedonism and nothing breaks by the time the last man goes into his VR chair, then machines must be able to run the world all on their own. There would be no possible event that would destroy the machine civilization that wouldn't have destroyed a human civilization.

Re:Yes and No. (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877970)

Everyone. Haven't you watched star trek?

Re:Yes and No. (1)

dwandy (907337) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878734)

So who gets to do nothing?

Whoever wants to.
Let's face it - - the human race is being dragged into the future by a very small percentage of the people. And despite what the Monopolists/Corporate-Overlords want everyone to believe, to create and/or express ourselves creatively is what is means to be human. People will create, tinker, entertain and generally Do Stuff (tm) without the need for million dollar paychecks.

When we arrive at the point when all our needs are met we won't require that everyone works by definition, and those that really matter can't help but to create; it bubbles out of them.

Re:Yes and No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878152)

Maybe then we will all be equal instead of having the rich rule over us all.

Re:Yes and No. (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878934)

If open source is the future, and hardware can be made dirt cheap anywhere on the planet, how is anyone going to make any money?

I make good money designing custom software for my employer, as do something like 98% of programmers who develop in-house projects.

I don't know. (0, Offtopic)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877504)

Is it?

Re:I don't know. (1)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877534)

The answer to that question likely violates a patent or two.

Very good read (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877548)

http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm

Hopefully this silliness will end.

At the very least, we can get mandatory licensing. I almost understand rewarding funds for research on a particular technology (not quite, much of it is simultaneously discovered) but I absolutely do not understand giving any party a monopoly over how to use that technology. Patents and copyright only stifle creativity and progress.

Is this a good thing? (1, Troll)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877550)

Obviously, software patents should be illegal. And patents get seriously abused, with patents on really trivial things.

Some patents, though, I can agree with. If I invented a new rocket engine, one significantly different from any existing one, I would like to make money off of it.

Realistically, patents should be restricted, not banned. There should really only be a few hundred patents a year, not thousands. Get some educated specialists to work for them, reform the system to only allow truly innovative patents, and keep out bullshit like software and "process" patents.

bilksi due soon; I'm optimistic (2, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877576)

I'm very optimistic about Bilski. Not because I predict a big win, but because I think the worst of the reasonably likely scenarios amounts only to no change. A somewhat win is likely, and that would be great because it would leave the door open for us to make our arguments again in a future case. This is how the SC handled patentable subject matter in the 70s, they did a trilogy of cases: Benson [swpat.org] , Flook [swpat.org] , Diehr [swpat.org] . And that last one isn't as bad as the USPTO and the CAFC would have you think.

Re:bilksi due soon; I'm optimistic (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878766)

I'm very optimistic about Bilski. Not because I predict a big win, but because I think the worst of the reasonably likely scenarios amounts only to no change. A somewhat win is likely, and that would be great because it would leave the door open for us to make our arguments again in a future case.

I wouldn't hold your breath. It's highly likely that Bilski's patent application will be tossed, and quite likely that business methods would be held nonstatutory, but almost certain that software, in some form - performed by a computer, tied to a machine, etc. - will be held statutory.

There are two policy arguments at work... The first is that we don't want to make it possible for people to infringe in their heads - that would make thinking a thoughtcrime. So we don't want it to be possible to patent an abstract business method, a mathematical algorithm, or a diagnostic method that involves "noticing the patient has elevated X; realizing the patent has disease Y." That's what the CAFC was getting at in Bilski when they said it had to be "tied to a specific machine": if the claim requires a computer, then you can't possibly infringe in your head. This is a good thing.

But should we throw out all software patents because in the abstract sense, not tied to a computer, they're mathematical algorithms? That's where we get the other policy argument: the Supreme Court is a political body. Software is worth a lot and represents a huge portion of the GDP. We're just starting to come out of a recession. If the Supreme Court invalidates business method patents, that's fine, because people will still keep using them if they're economically efficient, and 'business methods' are not products that are sold. But if the Supreme invalidates all software patents at a swoop, they just slashed the GDP by a significant amount, and the resulting market crash will make the Great Depression look like a minor blip.

Re:bilksi due soon; I'm optimistic (2, Insightful)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 4 years ago | (#31879072)

But should we throw out all software patents because in the abstract sense, not tied to a computer, they're mathematical algorithms? That's where we get the other policy argument: the Supreme Court is a political body. Software is worth a lot and represents a huge portion of the GDP. We're just starting to come out of a recession. If the Supreme Court invalidates business method patents, that's fine, because people will still keep using them if they're economically efficient, and 'business methods' are not products that are sold. But if the Supreme invalidates all software patents at a swoop, they just slashed the GDP by a significant amount, and the resulting market crash will make the Great Depression look like a minor blip.

How exactly would eliminating software patents have *any* effect on the GDP? Software will *still* be protected, as it always has been, by copyright law.

The US is an exception in allowing software patents in the first place. The rest of the world has gotten along without them just fine.

I hope so! (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877588)

A program is one big damn algorithm.
An algorithm is a mathematical/logical THOUGHT set to words.
You can't patent thought.

Aaaaaaaaargh!

Re:I hope so! (2, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877722)

That is the the root of the issue at hand. From a reductionist standpoint, you could make that argument about anything. An inked cartoon character is just an ordered and structured collection of pigments. This construct can be represented by a polar graph of molecules and their locations. This can be made into an equation, which is just a mathematical construct, which is just an abstract arbitrary construct of mankind, which you cannot patent.

That is the trouble with patents, delineating intellectual property from reductionist components. It can be argued both ways.

Re:I hope so! (1)

Lord of Hyphens (975895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877798)

That is the the root of the issue at hand. From a reductionist standpoint, you could make that argument about anything. An inked cartoon character is just an ordered and structured collection of pigments. This construct can be represented by a polar graph of molecules and their locations. This can be made into an equation, which is just a mathematical construct, which is just an abstract arbitrary construct of mankind, which you cannot patent. That is the trouble with patents, delineating intellectual property from reductionist components. It can be argued both ways.

That's why you trademark and/or copyright the mouse, not patent it.
I can copyright my finished implementation of the equation just fine.

Re:I hope so! (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878524)

I can copyright my original expression of the algorithm and you can copyright your original expression of pigments, but who is either of us to tell the brilliant kid in the basement that he cannot independently create the same algorithm/cartoon!

This is progress? (2, Insightful)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877620)

Cited as evidence of a sea change in patent law: the FSF makes a Youtube video. Some academics wrote some papers.

This puts patent law reform at about the same level of public interest as this video [youtube.com] on pouring shampoo out of a bottle.

I'll wait for in re Bilski, thanks.

Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877624)

freely available (of course) in Ogg Theora format (what else?).

Unfortunately, no one with any influence over government has the technical knowledge to install Ogg Theora.

Firefox, Opera, and Chrome (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878136)

"Nobody in the legislative branch or in the high ranks of the USPTO uses Mozilla Firefox or Opera or Google Chrome." Did I hear you right?

Re:Firefox, Opera, and Chrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878646)

"Nobody in the legislative branch or in the high ranks of the USPTO uses Mozilla Firefox or Opera or Google Chrome." Did I hear you right?

I work at the USPTO. You are not allowed to install any of your own software. That means we are on IE 6. Yes thats right IE6.

For people who have to do a lot of internet searching and not just the [atent database this can be a problem because IE6 crashes a lot and isn't fully supported anymore.

Some people get around this by using a thumbdrive with firefox installed.

Re:Firefox, Opera, and Chrome (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31879092)

I work at the USPTO. You are not allowed to install any of your own software.

I wasn't aware that the USPTO had power to dictate what you run on your computer at home.

No (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877636)

The question is, if you were starting a business that provides a software solution, would you want to be able to protect your solution from the competition?

Patents protect small businesses and innovation from competition, including big companies that will do anything in their power to stomp little companies with disruptive technologies. Open source is great, no doubt about it. But if you invent something, even if it is software, it deserves protection. Patents are part of capitalism, so no, there's no tide turning.

Re:No (0, Troll)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877696)

And which patent trolling law firm do you work for?

Re:No (1, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877808)

Patents protect small businesses and innovation from competition, including big companies that will do anything in their power to stomp little companies with disruptive technologies.

Nonsense. You want to know why? Because lawyers charge $500 an hour, and that includes the time they spend dreaming about the case while asleep. A small business does not have the money to litigate a tricky case against a large incumbent, unless the lawyers decide to take the case pro-bono. And even that's not a given, because even lawyers have to eat at some point, and can't run a pro-bono case forever. In other words: lawyers and customers protect a small business against a larger one. Patents are only marginally tied into that system.

Patents are part of capitalism, so no, there's no tide turning.

Patents are a government-granted monopoly. To be exact, they are actually the complete anti-thesis of capitalism.

Re:No (1)

hedrick (701605) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877814)

The proper protection for software is copyright. Patents aren't needed to protect software. The development work goes into the code, which needs and has protection available via copyright. Patents protect the idea. I have yet to see a software patent that isn't obvious, except for public-key cryptography. And that patent is a major cause of the current Internet security problems. (It was filed during the same time that the basic Internet protocols were being designed. If it hadn't been present, it is highly likely that cryptographic checks would have been built into many of the protocols. While that wouldn't solve all security problems, it would leave us in a lot better shape than we are now.)

Video codecs (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878168)

I have yet to see a software patent that isn't obvious, except for public-key cryptography.

How about video compression? Was the choice to use an in-loop deblock filter obvious when H.264 was being built?

Re:Video codecs (3, Insightful)

devent (1627873) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878546)

Is the formula to calculate the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter obvious? Neither is E=MC2 obvious, but no algorithm can be patented. Why should be an algorithm for video compression be patentable?

Only because you implement it in software and you run it on a general purpose computer, you argue it should be patentable. So you can implement the calculation of PI and E=MC2 in software and run it on a general purpose computer.

Software are mathematical algorithms, nothing more. It's just that you write the software in a so called "language" and you have multiple languages in which you can express the algorithm. But in the end is all goes down to the work of Turing and his Turing machines.

Re:Video codecs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878966)

yes, in fact, the in-loop deblocking filter _was_ obvious for H.264. ... VP3 did it first.

Re:No (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878358)

...except for public-key cryptography.

Read about Chinese remainder theorem [wikipedia.org] , and you will see that even RSA was not some brilliant new idea. It was a software-implementation of something that had been known for over a hundred years. I'm personally still searching for an example of a software patent that actually represents a novel invention.

Re:No (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878020)

No they don't, no they aren't Mr. Shill.

Re:No (1)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878314)

Right. A Small business with one or two or ten patents (at anywhere from 50 grand to 100 grand apiece) is protected in what way from a single patent in the hand of a patent troll? The patent troll has no product to infringe on the patents held by this hypothetical small business.

IBM and Microsoft and HP and Adobe and Amazon and Oracle all have thousands of patents. Each. Does your hypothetical small business have enough fire power to take any of these guys on, should they care to "stomp" you?

In the 1980's we used to complain about the "patent thickets" built up in Japan around any interesting patent filed by a U.S. Company. Little modifications and changes to a patent. Even if you had a patent, you couldn't produce a product in Japan without infringing on one of the patents that cropped up around your own IP.

Under the current system the U.S. is WAY worse than Japan ever was. Not even Microsoft has enough patents to allow Word to ship with an XML Editor!!!!

What hope does your Small Business *really* have.... That's easy. They could get BOUGHT by someone big.

Small == defenseless. Same as in nature, the best defense of the small is to hide, or make peace with something bigger and badder than you.

Re:No (2, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878334)

The question is, if you were starting a business that provides a software solution, would you want to be able to protect your solution from the competition?

How about you ask Microsoft, Oracle, or Adobe that question? Since they all managed to become very successful software companies well before software patents became common, they probably have an answer.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878570)

Software has copyright protection. The software industry flourished and produced plenty of innovation just fine prior to the introduction of software patents. In addition, it seems like business did fine for thousands of years prior to the introduction of business process patents.

Good Idea but Too Nerdy (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877750)

Most people will start to snore or as others have mentioned, switch to videos with cute cats when that fellow first says the word 'matrix', and it doesn't refer to anything with Keanu Reeves. The math is necessary, but they need to find a way to brush quickly over it and only touch on the fact that general formulas are patented when someone assigns specific variable names to them... in a non-nerdy way. And doing this makes it difficult for others to create new programs to do the same thing but differently. We see postings on Slashdot all the time about how Americans are becoming mathematically and technologically (in general) more dumb. Now we try to win them over with a video showing math concepts that most in America can't understand in the first couple minutes. This ensures that most won't watch it longer than the first couple of minutes. I like the idea though.

Law of Nature (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31877758)

because they involved a law of Nature

I support the ruling, but that sounds like a weak justification. Every technological discovery involves the laws of nature, whether it be the force of gravity, the propagation of electricity or radio waves. The entire field of engineering is the field of using the laws of nature to accomplish a purpose.

Re:Law of Nature (1)

RoboRay (735839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878072)

The point of most patents is that they do something with the law of nature. The patents in question are for essentially discovering the law of nature and not letting anyone else do anything with it.

Re:Law of Nature (1)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878520)

Come on, this is a Slashdot summary of a 150+ page dense legal ruling distilled down to one single sentence. Of course it missed the point.

I stopped watching at 00:02 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877824)

Arial Black?

That's non-free software... in an FSF video! That doesn't compute!

Positive vs Negative Rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31877982)

Quiet a topical topic. I've been having a discussion with one of my mates about Intellectual Property. He supports his side with fallacies and assumptions while ignoring the logic against positive rights. There is no sound reason to support IP, well unless you think owning another persons property is reasonable.

You can read a lot about IP from Stephan Kinsella.
http://ip-policy.wikispaces.com/

genetically modified food (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878042)

You know, we'd very likely solve all problems with genetically modified food, monocultures, etc. if we simply declared life unpatentable. We might even see Monsanto rushing to congress with anti-monoculture laws designed to force farmers to buy the ten distinct products they've just developed recently.

Patents make sense when you must building a factory. Patents don't make sense when government grants paid for your R&D and your marginal cost is zero.

the tide changed before and will change again (3, Informative)

NZheretic (23872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878144)

Fed-Soc.org - Patents: Legitimate Rights or Grubstakes that Obstruct Progress? - Winter 2000 [archive.org]

This history shows the patent / free competition balance to be dialectical, not static. In this country, since the turn of the century, the pendulum has cycled twice between the patent right and free competition poles. The last free-competition era occurred between 1930-1950. Perhaps the zenith (or nadir, depending on point of view) was Mercoid Corp. v. Mid-Continent Inv. Co., 320 U.S. 661 (1944) where the Supreme Court held that tying sales of a non-patented product to a patented product constituted an impermissible extension of the patent monopoly and therefore patent misuse. Ironically, Mercoid facts today could support loss of profits damages under Rite-Hite Corp. v. Kelley Co., 56 F.3d 1538 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Partially as a reaction to certain court decisions (including the need to overturn Mercoid), the 1952 Patent Act slowly turned the pendulum back in a pro-patent direction. That movement accelerated full-bore with creation in 1983 of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to hear all appeals from trial court patent infringement decisions.

As I said before [slashdot.org] The 2000-2010 "Intellectual Property" boom is about to go the way of the "Subprime" Mortgage, Dot-Com vapor startup, Junk bond and Dutch Tulip futures. The Patent Troll Business Model is inherently flawed, and just like the aforementioned others, add nothing to a nations REAL economy.

Software patents can help certain industries (3, Insightful)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878190)

I'm a bit troubled by Slashdot's blanket reaction to software patents.

In the line of work I am in (broadly: statistical analytics), almost all innovation comes in the form of creating improved methods that are implemented in software. It takes a large amount of resources to come up with these improved methods (they are generally far from obvious), and they can easily be transferred across the industry. Most companies in my industry would refuse to pay for innovation if they knew people could join, learn every recent innovation in two months, and then leave to the highest competitor bidder, effectively destroying any competitive advantage. Non-compete agreements are legally useless in my state, and NDAs are tenuous and practically hard to enforce. Patents (or stealing IP) are really the primary methods companies in my industry survive.

tldr: software patents can and do vastly encourage innovation in several competitive and useful industries.

Re:Software patents can help certain industries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878668)

Patents (or stealing IP) are really the primary methods companies in my industry survive.

Maybe so but industries come and go. You don't want to legally prop up an industry, especially at the expense of the society as a whole.

I say this as a software developer who wants copyrights [sic] abolished.

Re:Software patents can help certain industries (1)

teknomage1 (854522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878680)

So what you're saying is that without patents your company wouldn't bother to develop new techniques? Wouldn't you be left in the dust by those that did? It seems like the "insider" scenario could easily be mitigated by background checks and the like. It works for the Intelligence community.

Re:Software patents can help certain industries (1)

MMORG (311325) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878914)

No, he's saying that the optimal solution without patents would be to sit around waiting for someone else to dump money into developing new techniques, then trivially scoop them up and use them yourself. No one would be left in the dust. Unfortunately in that kind of situation the company that dumped money into developing new techniques gets absolutely nothing for their money because they can't leave anyone in the dust. The end result is that no one bothers to invest money into developing new techniques because there's no competitive advantage to do so.

The open-source model works well for ancillary tools where the people contributing to them and using them base more proprietory value-add businesses on top of them. Everyone contributes, everyone benefits. It's not clear to me how open-source R&D works when the topic of research *is* your business.

Re:Software patents can help certain industries (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878690)

I think your argument is faulty. You can still COPYRIGHT your ultra-complex original algorithm--just like an author can copyright his story.

Nobody can then COPY it.

But why should you be able to prevent somebody from independently deriving tht same algorithm? They'd have to go through the same expensive creation process that you did. . .

Re:Software patents can help certain industries (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878908)

We aren't a software company, you could implement our patents in 500 lines of code. It's not the implementation that is hard to come up with, it is the idea. I mean a stroke of genius to come up with it and dozens of hours to prove it is worth doing. Once you prove the idea is worth doing, anyone can learn it and implement it in a working day.

These are the kinds of things that are worth protecting, and exactly what patents are made for. But they still fall under the insanely broad category of "software patents".

ideas aren't patentable (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 4 years ago | (#31879020)

In the days before IP patents, ideas were not patentable--only implementations of ideas. You couldn't patent the concept of "a machine to distill alcohol from fermented grain" only the physical implementation of a still. Other people were completely free to build their own design (using the same laws of physics) as long as it wasn't sufficiently like yours.

In the software world, other people should be able to implement the same idea as long as they don't copy your code.

Re:Software patents can help certain industries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31879266)

Can you point us to any specific patents? The intersection between 'stroke of genius' and 'implement in 500 lines' seems like it would be pretty small ...

Change Patent Law (1)

Barrinmw (1791848) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878276)

Change Patent law to not of exludability but of guaranteed royalties equal to like 10% of the cost of the product.

Spam? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878744)

Should have turned 10 years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31878890)

Human knowledge, the amount of what people know about the world (arts, sciences, politics, business, money, ...anything that can be written down, created,...) has been accelerating. At one time Plato knew it all. All there was to know about medicine, all there was to know about physics, all there was to know about about mathematics, astronomy, story telling and literature, navigation, agriculture, politics, religion, mountains, rivers, seafaring, logic, the elements, all that was known about anything, he knew about (the last true polymath). After him, more knowledge was discovered and no one person could know all there was to know about everything. Spin ahead to the 21st century. We have PhD's who know a lot about very little. They keep learning more and more about less and less. They still know a lot....they know as much about the little bit that was known about everything. In the 'information age' where people are required to find the information they need, because they know they don't know it all, its ultra-modern that we have tools like Google to guide us through millions of web pages and trillions of pieces of information, and yet we suffer with general knowledge sites like Wikipedia not because of provenence (although that does give pause), but rather that some of the best information on Wikipedia is 90+ years old, and that's because patents and copyrights have locked more recent human knowledge up out of the reach of most people. We rely on innovation, yet chain recent discoveries away. Absolutely absurd!

It doesnt take two brain cells (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31878920)

it was evident that when you started to allow patent on thoughts and logical constructs, patents would eventually start to infringe upon nature's laws. because, in the vast space of thought, nature's laws are nothing different than any other thought/logical construct.

patents need to be abolished. imagine someone patenting "if a b and b c then a c" in a bundle with other logic constructs. you would say that its a simple basic logical operator and it cant be patented, but once numerous patents like these are issued, you would be surprised how fast it would become the 'established norm', like it happened with many civil and criminal laws throughout history.

stem the tide before it hits the shore. abolish patents.

Here's to hope ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31879032)

Maybe we just need to close the bowling alley, bar and waffle house in the east district of Texas and all patent trials/trolls will go away.

Or at the very least take MacGyver off the TV and all the seniors will leave.

Why our patent system is flawed (1)

MountainLogic (92466) | more than 4 years ago | (#31879052)

The fundamental flaw is that the original bargain is not being upheld. The deal was, you disclose how your thing works and we'll give you a monopoly on it for a while. The first failure is that we no longer require an idea to be "reduced to practice." That is you only have to describe something that could be built and this allows the new class of patent trolls to "front run" technology with vaguely defined ideas. The second failure is that the disclosure no longer allows/requires you to describe it in a way that is useful to another engineer. Have you ever had a discussion with another engineer about a problem that you did not know the solution and have someone step up and say, "I'll bet there is a solution waiting in the patent office. Lets go look through those 17 year old patents to solve this problem." Never happen. So what is the point of patents if they never really provide engineers with technology? The bargain is is just not fulfilled.

Keep algorithms off client systems (1)

imidan (559239) | more than 4 years ago | (#31879168)

It seems like one of the biggest justifications for software patents is this:

Say I develop an algorithm that performs some task better than other existing algorithms. As soon as I ship my software, it can be reverse-engineered by my clever competitors who figure out my algorithm and implement it in their own software, where they can presumably undercut me on price because their reverse-engineering was less expensive than my original development. This makes me unhappy, because I feel like I've wasted my money on a new innovation. So I want to patent my algorithm so that I have a government-granted exclusive right to use it (or license it to others) for a period of time.

We have already identified several problems with this pattern. First, we feel like patents are granted inappropriately by the USPTO: the running gag (which is not all that separated from reality) is that a person can take any ordinary activity or item from real life, append 'on a computer/on the internet' to the end, and patent it. Second, we're only supposed to be able to patent 'non-obvious' things, and the determination of what's obvious in algorithms (as well other areas) is not clear. Third, since computer algorithms are isomorphic with mathematical algorithms (which are arguably not patentable), we think there's justification for software patents to be invalidated.

Now, I don't think it serves the public interest for algorithms to be patented. But here's an idea of how companies can get around this whole mess. And I apologize for the buzzwords, but this is a great opportunity to go for Software as a Service or Cloud Computing. Google, for example, has their pagerank algorithm, the specifics of which they keep secret. And since they don't deploy pagerank to customer sites, there's little opportunity for reverse-engineering. They get to keep their algorithm secret, there's no need for patents, the consumer gets the benefit of using Google's software, and competitors have to develop their algorithms on their own. Everyone wins, right?

I'm not really a big fan of always-on-line software. I don't want my stats analysis system to have to outsource its processing to another machine across the Internet. But if the makers of the software want to keep their algorithms secret, this seems like the only way to do it. And let's ditch software patents, because I think they do more harm than good.

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