×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Why Software Patents Are a Joke — Literally

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the so-funny-i-forgot-to-laugh dept.

Patents 311

eburnette writes "A former Sun/Oracle employee explains how developers created patents in an unofficial contest to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system. James Gosling said, '... we got sued, and lost. The penalty was huge. Nearly put us out of business. We survived, but to help protect us from future suits we went on a patenting binge. Even though we had a basic distaste for patents, the game is what it is, and patents are essential in modern corporations, if only as a defensive measure. There was even an unofficial competition to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system. My entry wasn't nearly the goofiest.' Now Oracle is using patents from the same folks as the basis for its lawsuit against Google."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

311 comments

Innovation has been replaced by litigation (4, Interesting)

mykos (1627575) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272756)

The way patent law works now, nobody can just start up a business and invent shit. They need mountains upon mountains of patents to fight against other companies with mountains of patents. Then they need an army of lawyers to examine their inventions to make sure it doesn't violate any patents. I applaud these guys for making a mockery of the USPTO, although they were beaten to it by the USPTO themselves.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (4, Insightful)

Martian_Kyo (1161137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272856)

Here's the algorithm

1. Patent an 'invention'
2. If you notice someone is using your invention, DON'T SUE
3. Wait for them to actually succeed, and invest time. money and creativity in creating something useful that's loosely based on your half-baked idea that you patented
4. Sue the successful company
5. Profit

or just randomly sue successful start ups until you find one that used your patent

Patents have really lost their purpose.

By the way I've just patented

1 step one
2 ???
3 profit

pattern so from now on I can sue anyone who used a systematic approach to generated profit.

P.S.
Anyone else chuckled after reading the name Charles Nutter?

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272936)

3. Wait for them to actually succeed, and invest time. money and creativity in creating something useful that's loosely similar to your half-baked idea that you patented

"Related" might convey things which didn't really take place...

Laches (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272958)

2. If you notice someone is using your invention, DON'T SUE
3. Wait for them to actually succeed, and invest time

If someone convinces a judge that you did this, then you can't collect damages under the "laches" rule.

Re:Laches (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273446)

Not quite true. You can't collect any damages for infringements that occur between noticing and sending them notification of infringement. You can, however, wait until they're shipping a million units a day and then demand that the court awards an injunction to make them stop shipping, at which point they don't have much option but to give in to your royalty demands.

Re:Laches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273508)

Actually software patents make it nearly impossible to convince a judge that you held back on suing until the product became successful.

(Hypothetically) Lets say Microsoft included in Windows 7 a program that would keep track of how many times you hit the Spacebar button but never advertised it and buried it deep within the System Registry.

If I held a software patent for a program that measured how many times the Spacebar button is pressed, I cannot be held from collecting damages under the laches rule because it is unreasonable to expect patent holders to troll every piece of software in search of patent infringement. The courts cannot reasonably accept the argument, "Anonymous Coward did not find the patent infringement within X number of days within Windows 7's launch, therefore he should not be allowed to collect damages."

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (2, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273032)

Well, apparently, the guy has patented light switches, turning computers on and off, and wiring buildings for power.

I suppose he can sue anyone he wants, eh?

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (1)

suctionman (1855020) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273040)

You should patent that first algorithm, then sue everybody that sues anyone else. Follow your patented algorithm too - so only sue them once they've finished suing whoever they're suing. That should keep them busy while we develop some software.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (2, Informative)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273148)

Anyone else chuckled after reading the name Charles Nutter?

I did, but for a different reason -- he's a core developer of JRuby. I saw him demo some very cool JRuby-on-Android things this summer. If he's crazy, it's the good kind of crazy.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273602)

I disagree on one point only. The first is not "Patent an invention" but "Patent a sci-fi concept that in the future will be realized as a real product/service by someone".

This is simply absurd. You cannot patent a lamp without a working prototype of a lamp, but you can patent an abstract software concept without showing USPTO a single line of code.

Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like OIN (5, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272868)

For years I've been criticizing all those fake solutions to the patent problem, such as "patent pledges" or the Open Invention Network (OIN) [blogspot.com]. Both Google and Oracle are licensees of the OIN. The OIN patent agreement is meant to be a non-aggression pact between its members, with respect to "the Linux System" [blogspot.com].

Given that Android is a Linux distro (and a strategically very important one), it should be fully covered by the OIN as the self-proclaimed protective shield for the Linux ecosystem. Consequently, Oracle should be prohibited by the OIN cross-license agreement to sue its fellow OIN licensee Google. I'm not the only one to have raised that question. I saw Simon Phipps (OSI board member, former chief open source exec at Sun, now at ForgeRock) and Bradley Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center (and formerly FSF) raise the same kind of question on Twitter/identica. Now TheRegister contacted the OIN and wanted a comment on Oracle vs. Google, and the OIN declined to comment [theregister.co.uk].

By the way, Eben Moglen promoted the OIN big time at LinuxCon, just a few days before Oracle announced its lawsuit.

What's certainly not a fake solution (although difficult to achieve) is the proposal to abolish software patents. The EndSoftPatents.org campaign runs the software patent wiki and has a pretty informative Wiki page on Oracle vs. Google. [swpat.org]

Re:Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like O (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272976)

Hm, though Android is currently essentially branched from the Linux, kernel, into its own tree; even with bits of unmaintaned contributions to the mainline deleted...

Yeah, we know it's still Linux for most practical purpose. But such perdiod of (basically) forking could be something to drag legal proceedings on for years, I guess... (in the meantime seeding doubt among manufacturers, etc.)

Re:Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like O (3, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272990)

Just to make this clear, I don't mean to defend everything Google does or did, especially in connection with Android. Most Android-based phones appear to be closed source in practical terms, and the forking you mention plays a role in that.

But the OIN is not about free software or open source values. It claims to protect companies in the open source ecosystem, and Google became a licensee a couple of years ago and now sees that it doesn't get any benefit from its membership.

What IBM does with Websphere/Apache is also forking by the way.

What about "patent promise"? (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273038)

There was some "patent blogger" on first story regarding this absurd decision by Oracle. Guy was actually giving "Mono", yes Mono as example of how things should be done.

Perhaps some companies actually started to think that open source guys are dumb? I mean you come to a story speaking about a big company suing other for patents and you come up with mono advertisement. One really has to have balls to do that on slashdot.

Mono, Miguel de Icaza vindicated (0)

benjymouse (756774) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273588)

Suffice to say that had Google built upon Common Language Infrastructure (CLI), C# and associated core libraries a similar situation would not have been possible. Microsoft has made a legally binding "promise" (legal term estoppel) that they cannot sue for infringement of any patents which covers the specifications. On top of that, Microsoft has open sourced .NET Micro Framework with similar patent grants. Oracle's legal leg here is that Dalvik is not covered by patent grants associated with OpenJDK, because it does not live up to the requirements - e.g. it is not a full Java SE implementation and it has not passed the compliance cert.

So why is it exactly that you think Mono is such a bad example? Seems to me that if you cut away all of the FUD thrown at Mono, Miguel was right all along: The CLI and C# is absolutely open and safe from MS patent litigation.

It is correct that some of the higher level parts of the .NET Framework are *not* covered by a similar patent grant. These are parts such as ASP.NET, WCF, WPF. All of which are either irrelevant or over the top for a small-footprint platform.

Even if you implement these APIs, it is not clear that MS has patents which would disallow that. You cannot patent a public API, you may be able to patent an implementation (a "machine").

Re:Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273030)

Wh(a)((t))?

Re:Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like O (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273276)

The case is nothing to do with Linux, it's to do with Java. The fact that they are running Java on Linux is irrelevant, and doesn't contravene the OIN.

Re:Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like O (4, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273288)

Both Google and Oracle are licensees of the OIN. The OIN patent agreement is meant to be a non-aggression pact between its members, with respect to "the Linux System" [blogspot.com].

Given that Android is a Linux distro ...

I don;t see how Android being a Linux distro is relevant in an "aggression" conducted on Java-related patents. Would you please care to elaborate?
Not saying that I do agree with software patents, not saying that OIN is a good or a bad thing, just saying that Linux != Java != Dalvik, thus the OIN issue have little relevance in my opinion. I mean, some (countries/govs) can agree to a non-proliferation nuclear pact and disagree on a carbon emission trading scheme, right?

Re:Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like O (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273466)

Which makes OIN rather meaningless. Linux is a tiny part of any Free Software system. In terms of binary size, it's easily dwarfed by the C and C++ standard libraries; X.org, various toolkits and so on make up a bigger blob. People have been using 'Linux' as a term to describe this entire system (and shouting down people who say GNU/Linux because 'Linux is the important bit') for so long that it's easy to forget this. If the patent pledge only affects Linux, then it doesn't cover 90% of the code on a typical Linux system.

Re:Oracle vs. Google exposes fake solutions like O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273620)

To abolish software patents, you need to create a real financial incentive for that. We simply need more patent trolls.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (1)

madddddddddd (1710534) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272872)

how exactly were they "making a mockery of the USPTO" when they quite literally conceded that the USPTO itself IS "THE game"

"yes, you have total control over me, and i serve powerless in your mercy... but you suck, and i have no suggestions about how you could be better." real big mockery.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273616)

They mocked it by submitting completely ridiculous patents. And USPTO made even more of a mockery of itself by granting those patents.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (3, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272912)

Your patent is pretty much already done with prior art. The DMX512 with relay outputs and a programmable console such as any of the inteligent consoles with soft patch in them preceeds your patent.

I guess the last lighting installation I did is in violation of your patent simply by using off the shelf components.

A lighting console with softpatch takes care of reassigning switches and addressable dimmer/relay packs takes care of the addressable outlets.

Good luck defending your patent against the DMX512 1990 revised standard.
http://www.usitt.org/standards/DMX512.html [usitt.org]

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273226)

So? Prior art is useless --It still going to take 3+ *years* to get that defense through court along with the court costs. In the mean time you have injunction served against you. Good luck staying in business.

Only the lawyers are winning. Lets take it back.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273154)

Filament for Light Bulb
Lewis Latimer invented the carbon filament in 1881 or 1882? No!
English chemist/physicist Joseph Swan experimented with a carbon-filament incandescent light all the way back in 1860, and by 1878 had developed a better design which he patented in Britain. On the other side of the Atlantic, Thomas Edison developed a successful carbon-filament bulb, receiving a patent for it (#223898) in January 1880, before Lewis Latimer did any work in electric lighting. From 1880 onward, countless patents were issued for innovations in filament design and manufacture (Edison had over 50 of them). Neither of Latimer's two filament-related patents in 1881 and 1882 were among the most important innovations, nor did they make the light bulb last longer, nor is there reason to believe they were adopted outside Hiram Maxim's company where Latimer worked at the time. (He was not hired by Edison's company until 1884, primarily as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigations).
Free Apple iPad [articlesbase.com]

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (5, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273210)

... in America.
This week China became #2 economy in the world. Don't you think America that it is time to worry about keeping up with innovation, USA ? You won't top Chinese labs with lawyer companies.

Re:Innovation has been replaced by litigation (4, Interesting)

Trevelyan (535381) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273496)

TED had an interesting talk [ted.com] about patents and innovation from the perspective of the fashion industry, in comparison to the software industry. The point being that the fashion industry has no patent protection, is full of innovation and makes a bucket load of money.

The reasons why the fashion industry wasn't allowed patents is also interesting, I would say the same arguments could apply to software.

Yep (-1, Troll)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272780)

Government interference at its finest

Re:Yep (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272788)

You mean big companies bribing the system to allow patents on asses.

Re:Yep (4, Funny)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272946)

Why do you hate their right to be successful?

Re:Yep (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273018)

If "successful" means destroying all innovation, progress and freedom to develop - just to be able to kill every starter that is getting a little ground, I think you can really hate that kind of "success".

Re:Yep (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273414)

I love it when people say things like bribing the "system". System doesn't take bribes, people (politicians) take bribes.

Re:Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272934)

Government interference at its finest

By government you surely mean a corrupt system controlled by big corporations.

Re:Yep (3, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273042)

I beg your pardon?

Don't you mean "Large Corporations abusing a system designed to protect inventors and using it to push forward a monopoly?"

Re:Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273260)

I think he means "corruptee works for its corruptors".

Now, the question is: what and when are american people going to do anything about it? Start by sacking the two party system, please.

Re:Yep (0, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273344)

Big government is good! Private companies are evil and only want to destroy, not create. We should all wait for government to tell us what to do, otherwise we might do the wrong thing. Ignorance is strength, dissent is racism, freedom is slavery, the clocks are striking thirteen.

Re:Yep (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273658)

The instigating event that caused the patent mess is not corrupt companies, but the government having the power to grant patents in the first place. Areas where the government is expressly forbidden to regulate, such as religion and (most) free speech, are also free of corrupt businesses attempting to bribe the government. You can't bribe congressmen to do things that they can't do.

Destructive memes at its best (4, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272798)

Whats next? Entire cultures seeing suicide as something cool that should be tried at least once by anyone?

Re:Destructive memes at its best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272842)

No can do, I've patented suicide. I'll sue your corpse.

Suicidal company? (4, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273026)

I started to feel like Oracle's acquisition of Sun will end up like Amiga focusing on CD32, Sinclair spending millions to ship that weird C5, IBM rejecting Win32 API on OS/2. You know tech stories like "Company was doing great, if they didn't make that horrible decision."

I was telling they can't be that stupid to undermine Java or MySQL, things turned out to be very different. Java and J2ME already have some questions and as this patent lawsuit is on, I am sure some companies question their inclusion of java techology in operating system, devices. Did you also figure IBM is still silent about this? If I were Ellison, I would think about it.

Re:Destructive memes at its best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273170)

Whats next? Entire cultures seeing suicide as something cool that should be tried at least once by anyone?

Let me introduce you to the concept of "an hero". It's already a meme.

Re:Destructive memes at its best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273340)

Hey... why not? It gets rid of most of the population since most of them are retarded enough to believe shit like that.
I say we start spreading this meme that if you hold your breath for 20 minutes, overcoming the "BREATH YOU FOOOL!" barrier, you see your whole life flash before your eyes but you DON'T die, that should fix most of societies problems in a year.
All the cool kids are doing it, why aren't you? Forgotten all those past memories from your childhood? Why wouldn't you want to remember those lost memories?

Also, yes, NDEs are technically possible, but not everyone who is near-death experiences them, they usually experience some sort of hell- or heaven-like place.
Some just die and this would probably amount for most of the deaths.

Just tell 4chan to spread it and it is done. The whole world will know about it by years end.

Mind you, once the news got hold of it, the numbers would drop. (note: not stop since some people are still stupid enough to do it even knowing the dangers...)
On a semi-related note though, there was recently a case nearby me and right round the corner from my friends flat in a hotel where 2 people had wired some lethal injection up to a computer to kill them.
Suicideless suicide.
If i ever went that way, i would have to build a huge Rube Goldberg device the size of the entire house, activated by an Arduino just to annoy idiotic elitist commenter's on Hackaday.

This has nothing to do with software patents (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272802)

This is a problem with the patent system, not with software patents themselves. The software industry is more affected because it depends much more on innovation than other industries. Plus, with the speed at which the technology moves, the length of a patent is effectively much longer than in other industries.

Re:This has nothing to do with software patents (5, Insightful)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273058)

The software industry is more affected because it depends much more on innovation than other industries.

In particular, it depends on the incremental innovation, whereas almost all new inventions are typically (and in some cases by logical necessity) are old inventions slightly reconfigured. Patents stop the incremental innovations in its tracks, since an "inventor" of a killer app has all the reasons to sue everyone in sight and none of the reasons to improve on the app. And even if the patent holder does use the monopoly profits to innovate further, it cannot possibly make up for excluding everyone else from the process. Imagine for a moment that a compiler was patented. Only a few biggest players could then afford licenses required to develop commercial software, and free OSes like BSD or GNU/Linux would be illegal. Proponents of software patents must admit that that is the way we should have went: if anything deserves to be called an innovation in software, a compiler certainly does. They also must close their eyes on the fact that the free software community produced and now maintains not one, but two best OSes of today, while competing with an entrenched monopolist. Anyone who believes that software patents are producing any good for the society is either grossly misinformed about the software market or is an enemy of the public (that is, a corporate cock sucker) and a hater of the computer science in general.

Re:This has nothing to do with software patents (1)

Trivial Solutions (1724416) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273342)

I don't like your tone. Lemme introduce you to my little friend...

God says...
medicining subvertings deepness find elsewhere taxes unacquainted
repeating mouthed earnestly billion height moreover titles
strongly task stirring rove professing exhorted owed behalf
wise broughtest formlessness Antony observed discoursing
ftp doer inanimate overspreading parts foolish practised
Fair potter immutable members afterward Jupiter vessel
doctrine orderest Thence melody lest obtain Presently
exercise until approbation repelled proclaiming besprinkling
begannest flock clothing calmly constraint drinking Tell
wronging quicken lied latter falsified concupiscences
hereunto

Re:This has nothing to do with software patents (1, Funny)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273416)

down popularity make didn't Vegas
details equipment movie The writing
raw evaluators wanted even into-it
A floppy resurrected keyboard LoseThos
very but I other I
I've

Re:This has nothing to do with software patents (1)

alexhs (877055) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273640)

Anonymous Coward (Score:4, Interesting)
This is a problem with the patent system, not with software patents themselves.

Boiling frogs, don't you love them ?

We do actually have to rejoice (1)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272818)

that it's Sun's patents that are being used in this litigation. Imagine if the patents were original Oracle submissions?

Most detailed Oracle vs. Google patent analysis (5, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272928)

I wanted to recommend this detailed blog posting (about 8,500 words, plenty of scrolling) on Oracle vs. Google [headius.com].

It discussed many aspects of the dispute and in particular goes into detail on the seven patents Oracle seeks to enforce against Google, and inhowfar they may or may not read on Android.

I posted a correction in the comments there to point out that Oracle changed its stance on software patents years ago, not just after acquiring Sun's patent portfolio.

Re:Most detailed Oracle vs. Google patent analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273358)

Oh, for the lack of mod points... mod up! Specifically for that link to the blog post by Charles Nutter - really helps frame the situation.

His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft... (4, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272824)

...is quoted by TheRegister [theregister.co.uk]:

"It's a sad comment on the morality of large modern software companies that Microsoft, while I don't think they've gotten any better since Sun sued them, probably has the high ground."

He seems to mean this primarily in terms of compliance with the official Java specification but one could also look at it in terms of software patent action against FOSS. I recently wrote about Microsoft's use of patents in connection with open source [blogspot.com] and got bashed for simply telling the truth: so far it's actually other companies who make the truly hostile moves. Far be it from me to defend software patents; I just mean to point out that there are different ways in which they get used, and in light of Oracle vs. Google, I believe more people will agree with me now.

One group of people James Gosling doesn't criticize are all those former Sun execs who strongly supported Oracle's acquisition of Sun because it was financially advantageous for them, only to leave the combined company as soon as possible after the closing of the deal. Many of those told the FOSS community that Sun had patents that could be very dangerous for open source, and Oracle was such a "reasonable" patent holder that it would be much better for them to acquire those patents than to take any risk that maybe Microsoft (which by the way never made a bid for Sun) could get them.

I opposed Oracle's acquisition of Sun. I also had concerns over the Java part but kept quiet about that and focused on MySQL. That's because I cooperated with Monty (the original author and founder of MySQL) and he wanted to be neutral about programming languages. For those who heard the slander that my work in that context aimed to change MySQL's license from the GPL to something else (which some even propagated here on Slashdot), I've meanwhile posted a detailed explanation, including links to several documents I used during my fight against the Oracle/Sun deal, in order to provide conclusive evidence that I argued against -- not for -- a license change. You can find that information in this blog posting (the link leads directly to a passage on MySQL and the GPL). [blogspot.com]

Re:His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft. (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272924)

But what about possible proxy wars of Microsoft? Some funding of SCO, apparently. Or sabotaging ISO standarization via small partners (OK, this one not exactly about patents; but showing modus operandi)

To answer the proxy wars question (4, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272950)

SCO is a copyright case. While copyright litigation can also cause problems, there's a fundamental difference: you don't infringe copyright inadvertently. Theoretically you could, but practically you won't just by coincidence write a significant number of lines of code the same way someone else did. But patents are broad and you can infringe them totally unknowingly. That's why programmers who make independent creations never have to worry about copyright but unfortunately do have to worry about patents.

Concerning standardization, both Oracle and Google (as well as IBM and Red Hat) are member of "OpenForum Europe", a lobby group in the EU that pushes for "open standards". Here's a blog posting [blogspot.com] in which I criticized the hypocrisy of that group last month. If you look at the flawed Java Community Process [blogspot.com], that's also a serious standardization problem.

All large corporations try to use the patent system or standardization processes and standards policy to their advantage...

Re:To answer the proxy wars question (5, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273490)

Theoretically you could, but practically you won't just by coincidence write a significant number of lines of code the same way someone else did.

Apparently you have no idea how many monkeys I have. Unfortunately they keep coming up with Hamlet and not any kind of code.

Re:To answer the proxy wars question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273632)

No, you CANNOT inadvertently infringe copyright. To infringe copyright you must COPY. There is no other way to infringe copyright.

HOWEVER, as a practical matter, trying to explain to a judge how you got byte-for-byte identical code to them would be difficult - certainly difficult enough that you would lose without something much more believable as evidence.

Unless of course they were closed source and there is no way that you could have seen their code: that would be one of the ultimate defenses.

Copyright grants you the right to prevent COPYING - not coincidental likenesses. The only difficulty is proving the coincidence.

Re:His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272956)

He seems to mean this primarily in terms of compliance with the official Java specification but one could also look at it in terms of software patent action against FOSS. I recently wrote about Microsoft's use of patents in connection with open source and got bashed for simply telling the truth: so far it's actually other companies who make the truly hostile moves. Far be it from me to defend software patents; I just mean to point out that there are different ways in which they get used, and in light of Oracle vs. Google, I believe more people will agree with me now.

You totally misinterpreted his comment, and it looks intentional. Gosling is obviously stating that Microsoft is a horrible company, but the rest of the industry has become so much worse recently that Microsoft seems benign in comparison (i.e., it is a sad truth). Microsoft is still the mortal threat to open source that it has always been.

I'm going to come right out and say it, I guess, since I'm posting AC anyway: I suspect you're shilling. This stinks like a PR campaign.

Re:His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft. (0, Troll)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273050)

Yeah, it reeks. It smacks of a script and a teleprompter, or perhaps that mysterious bulge George W. had on his back during that televised debate. A later comment:

SCO is a copyright case. While copyright litigation can also cause problems, there's a fundamental difference: you don't infringe copyright inadvertently. Theoretically you could, but practically you won't just by coincidence write a significant number of lines of code the same way someone else did. But patents are broad and you can infringe them totally unknowingly. That's why programmers who make independent creations never have to worry about copyright but unfortunately do have to worry about patents.

At least other companies have the balls to initiate their own action, rather than chickenshittedly throw money at a proxy because they themselves have stolen code and numerous violations on their hands.

On a related note, I got some pussy around 9pm Pacific time. I opened 'er up like a Christmas present. Wait, what was Florence_Nightengale selling again? Sorry, bro, I already use MySQL.

Re:His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273118)

Oh yes, let's break out the tinfoil hats. Covert Microsoft agents are in our midst! [Gandalf voice] Ward yourselves from their blasphemy!

Deluded fuck.

Re:His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft. (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273146)

AC has a point up there, especially when you consider that Microsoft doesn't sue openly, but instead makes all of its threats quietly (see also Novell's little pact, as well as various little or unpopular distros making similar pacts...) There's also the TomTom case. Microsoft wasn't exactly a Boy Scout whipping around that FAT32 patent like they had.

SCO was a copyright case, but in Microsoft's eyes, IP is IP (Ballmer has a nasty habit of not making distinctions in that particular realm either). Also, while in a similar post you go on and on about how one doesn't "inadvertently" infringe copyright, you missed something. Fact is, SCO posted (IIRC) as their one and only public 'encrypted evidence' snippet... a piece of BSD-licensed code that drifted into SysV's reference codebase even before the whole AT&T vs. Berkeley fights (I know, I know - Early Pleistocene and stuff). BUT - the point stands: anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at the whole BSD vs. SysV legal wars (and more importantly, their outcomes) knows better than to say something like "you don't infringe copyright inadvertently". Sheesh.

But anyway - while they're not as noisy about it (given their record of losing so many of such cases, little wonder why), Microsoft does do more than the usual amount of backroom intimidations and back-alley shakedowns in this whole "intellectual property" circus.

Re:His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273390)

The Tom Tom case is exactly what justifies the Novell case.

MS has a number of patents and - as the Tom Tom case shows - thay could attack Linux if they want (whether they'll win or lose on the long run after counter-attacks is one thing to consider, but the average Linux distro violates many MS patents - the start button or FAT ones for example). MS violates Tom Tom patents too and we can suppose it violates Novell ones.. I guess on networking but who knows really. So MS has an interest in cross-licensing to avoid patent wars.
They propose alliances left and right - to Tom Tom and Novell. Novell agreed. Tom Tom disagreed, MS sued, they found an out-of-court agreement and now they have patents cross-licensed.

The arguments of the average slashdotter are:
1) Linux is such a great piece of engineering
2) You can't write a significant piece of software without violating patents
3) MS saying Linux distros violate its patent is bullshit

The three arguments are somewhat contradictory (unless you pretend MS is stupid and has only useless patents) and given the evidence of the first 2, we can quickly conclude that number 3 is false.

Re:His comment on moral high ground for Microsoft. (5, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273652)

Gosling is obviously stating that Microsoft is a horrible company, but the rest of the industry has become so much worse recently that Microsoft seems benign in comparison (i.e., it is a sad truth).

It's true. I admit I've recently been thinking less bad about Microsoft. I'm not going to be a fan any time soon, but MS seems to have remained rather stationary on the Evil scale (possibly even edging slightly away from the evil end, but that might be an illusion), while everybody else seems to be in a hurry to overtake them and dive off the deep end of the scale.

10 years ago I didn't think it was possible, but in the mean time many companies have proven that it is indeed possible to be far more evil than Microsoft.

235 software patents infringed in the kernel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273156)

235 software patents infringed in the kernel.

Sound familiar?

How about the FAT32 patent?

Or the projects closed down because MS threatened them?

Yes, everyone else does it too, but MS does it and it's not DEFENSIVE.

Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272864)

Thanks for the complete lack of information in both summary and article as to whether any patent involved was filed as a direct result of this joke. (In before 'ALL OF THEM ARE JOKE GOOFY MAXIMUM LOL')

You guys on slashdot are really jokes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272890)

The people here are either geeks without big company experience or just completely uninformed. In big companies people are patenting not for the sake of patenting but just because it means more money at the end of the month and even for the upcoming months ... you get money on disclosure, on EPO/USPTO filing and jackpot is when it is finally granted...
Get over the patent troll kids...

I have over 40 patent submitted and about 25 granted(it takes time ...).

Re:You guys on slashdot are really jokes (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273604)

Ok, there's something I've always wanted to ask an engineer who accepts the patent system: Do you regularly spend time reading new patents issued in every major market area, just to make sure you don't unintentionally infringe on whatever your competitors patented? Don't you need a patent attorney to make sense of the legal scope of the patent text? Or do you simply develop your own technical solutions like the rest of us, and let your bosses worry about the risk of infringement lawsuits?

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST !! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272900)

YOU AIN'T, YOU DIE !!

end
of
story

and
why
opensources
has
always
been
dead

(TM)
(R)
Patent No. deadbeef
(C)

If you are wondering what Gosling patented. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272964)

He tried to patent the light switch and switching lights on.
All of it is pretty silly, but Claim No7 contains some gems:
7. A method for controlling electrical power coupled to a plurality of electrical devices, said method comprising the steps of: ...
- providing a control unit comprising an identification map
- connecting said electrical power from a power source to each of said power outlets;
Which can describe the wiring in the wall.

"Energy Star" (1)

TopSpin (753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272968)

Similarly, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently obtained an Energy Star certification [nytimes.com] for a gasoline powered clock radio, among other things. It's a pencil whipping operation with no credible investigation of manufacturers claims. Worry not! The EPA has since announced [usatoday.com] reforms to this stellar program, so have no doubt that whatever price premium such august recognition demands is worth every certified penny.

Not even as a defensive measure. (2, Interesting)

I'm Not There (1956) (1823304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272970)

Even though we had a basic distaste for patents, the game is what it is, and patents are essential in modern corporations, if only as a defensive measure.

I really appreciate their work at mocking patents law system, but I can't agree with this part. While we can't change patent laws, we can at least avoid having them. We're not forced to patent our ideas just to protect them, because nobody can make sure the very same patents won't be used for suing other developers. I live in Iran and our patent system isn't as silly and as serious as America's, but I'm trying to avoid even this. I've come with an idea for a new Persian soft keyboard for our own commercial product. Everybody says "it's so innovative. How are you going to patent this?" I'm totally avoiding this, even at the risk of our brand new idea being copied by the others. Fortunately my company is supporting this, but alas, our chance for changing behavior of big companies is even less than odds of changing patent laws.

Re:Not even as a defensive measure. (5, Interesting)

Shihar (153932) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273124)

You might not need a patent for your keyboard, but in any complex technology, you do. The Apple Vs HTC is a great example. HTC is building off of the 'no shit' next steps in cell phone technology. What is patented by Apple is stuff that, even if they did "invent" first (which is a dubious claim to even begin with), would have been invented in the very near future by others who were running down the same path. So, Apple sues HTC claiming infringement on a pile of obvious next step technologies that are absurdly broadly defined to begin with. HTCs only defense is to turn around and do the same. So, HTC has some stupid and obvious patents that they then claim Apple is infringing upon. The defensive pattens are not there to protect your technology, they are there to be used against a company trying to sue you.

Patents are like nuclear weapons. Even if you don't want to use the damned things offensively against others, you still want them so that you can threaten to use them on anyone who uses them on you.

Sadly, what this leads to is a stifling of creativity and innovation. The point of a patent is to encourage people to invent. As soon as a patent fails at that, it fails at its purpose. So, in the case of cellphone makers, it isn't like the lack of the ability to patent some overly broad technology would have prevented Apple from using and developing it. It is being used now ONLY to prevent creativity and innovation. It basically means that no one who doesn't already have an arsenal of patents can't jump into the market. The thought of a small time specialized cell phone maker jumping into the market is laughable because you can't enter the market unless you are armed to the teeth with your own defensive patents. Hell, the very reason why HTC is getting attacked by Apple is because they have the smallest patent portfolio.

Re:Not even as a defensive measure. (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273362)

"Patents are like nuclear weapons. Even if you don't want to use the damned things offensively against others, you still want them so that you can threaten to use them on anyone who uses them on you."

Patents are different in Iran, they're only used for peaceful purposes.

Temporary patents (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272972)

Just about anything and everything has been patented. Even minute variations in between. I really wish we could go back to core roots of what held society together. Service and customer support. That's where the importance should be laid at, not tangible goods.

Of course, tangible goods are very important too. Which is why I'm in favor of temporary patents. We don't need to be feeding the lawyers and stifling innovation. Some idea of a patent system is a nice system to have (but not abused). The idea is that you're granted enough time to start up and monopolize, but soon expires. It's a "use it or lose it" certification. Regardless of the outcome, everyone gets a fair shot without fear of litigation.

Vote Pirate and stop this madness (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33272974)

Pirate Party is not only against patents on software, we work actively against it.

Re:Vote Pirate and stop this madness (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273406)

and much like peados do, very anonymously !! ?? Why are paedos such as yourself outting yourselves ??

Asking this question is hard, suing is easy (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33272992)

They don't ask a simple question, a very simple one.

"We have our technology preinstalled to near billion handheld/mobile devices. We have industry giants who submits their own enhancements. Opera Mini (and soon Locago) proved those users will care to install something if it means something to them. So, what was wrong with J2ME and why Google went their own way instead of enhancing J2ME?"

If you can get answer, ask any high level executive in MS what would they feel if some MS technology, like "silverlight lite" was preinstalled to dozens of different brands, thousands of models. Man they would kill for it.

They should sit and pray to Norwegian gods that something like Opera Mini exists or device manufacturers would have no problem removing J2ME from future models.

Inventor's Oath? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273016)

All inventors must sign an oath [uspto.gov] stating that they have disclosed all information known to them to be material to patentability. If you think your patent is invalid from the start, you are under an obligation to disclose whatever prior art you think is relevant. Am I the only one who finds it a little disturbing that luminaries are now admitting to fraud on the patent office?

Re:Inventor's Oath? (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273078)

Am I the only one who finds it a little disturbing that luminaries are now admitting to fraud on the patent office?

Yes. They all do it, it's only a matter of time before they start openly admitting it.

Re:Inventor's Oath? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273092)

Actually, if you sign an oath, I actually consider it quite positive that luminaries are now admitting their crime (a false oath is a crime, right?). That allows them to be prosecuted, and thus set a precedent which might cause future applicants to think twice whether they file a bogus patent (on the downside, maybe the only conclusion they would draw is "don't be so stupid and admit it").

Re:Inventor's Oath? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273196)

Am I the only one who finds it a little disturbing that luminaries are now admitting to fraud on the patent office?

That's how the system is designed: try to get as much trivial junk patented as possible. Everybody wins: corporations get lawsuit fodder, lawyers make loads of money, the patent office makes money and politicians who passed these laws get money from the former.

Working as intended. No fraud.

Re:Inventor's Oath? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273360)

When you engage in Civil Disobedience, you can expect the system to slap you back, hard. That's the entire idea.

Re:Inventor's Oath? (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273594)

They're not admitting fraud. They're admitting submitting patents that are ludicrous according to the standards of common sense, but valid according to the standards of law. They are admitting bending the rules as much as possible without breaking them, and demonstrating exactly how insane the rules actually are. They are not admitting to breaking the rules.

There's the Android fragmentation argument again (5, Interesting)

Kman_xth (529883) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273096)

Android has pretty much played out the way that we feared: there is enough fragmentation among Android handsets to significantly restrict the freedom of software developers.

The notion that Android suffers from a huge fragmentation problem seems to be repeated everywhere, but I really don't understand where this is coming from. I've developed JME and Android applications and the amount of fragmentation on Android is mostly non-existent. Apart from some small number of device-specific bugs (that are fixed with phone updates) that won't affect most Android apps, cross-device development is a breeze. I remember JME development was way more troublesome, where model-specific versions were the rule instead of the exception.

Re:There's the Android fragmentation argument agai (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273576)

Depends, do you have meet QA assurances to customers? I know we've dropped QA assurance for Android devices from our contracts now unless the client asks for specific models with specific OS's. We still offer a QA assurance standard for iOS based applications because it's not costing us $8k a year for hardware like it was with Android for iDevices. Making sure your application runs on android isn't a problem. Guaranteeing it works well across a range of devices is a different ball-game.

Re:There's the Android fragmentation argument agai (1)

Kman_xth (529883) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273618)

Well, that's true for all software that runs on a multitude of hardware.

Wouldn't it be cheaper to lobby against SW Pats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273112)

Wouldn't it be cheaper to lobby against SW Pats? You know, just thinking "out of the box" here, but lobbying to have software patents repealed would be a LOT cheaper. Even if all you had were PR moves about how bad and/or silly they are, the Judge would have known of it and not been so lenient about awarding patent damages, reducing the cost before the SWPatent deal was done.

Gosling's patent (2, Insightful)

BrianOL (1880336) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273160)

It is a really important story. When you read the patent, it becomes obvious that the patent was issued for something that is not any innovation and had been in use for years. Now the author of the patent himself admits that openly. So, what the consequences will be? Not for the battle (Oracle vs. Google) but for the war (humanity vs. patents)? None. The patent system is so deep rooted, so many things depend on it (like the value of so many corporations) that practically nothing can be done. It's frustrating: we all know it's bad, but also know it will stay this way.

Re:Gosling's patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273396)

Until we get a bunch of countries to agree on a better solution that works for our new world of almost 7 billion people with all these globalized* companies. (*DAMN IT IT IS A WORD NOW! ADD!)

There has been many fixes suggested to the current system, like shorter terms, required to be tangible, required to be working, required to be on sale for at least a 6 month period to be finally granted the full patent. (temporary patent is given which gives you priority to the device so nobody just comes in and steals it)
And, of course, a competent group of staff giving out the damn patents, a fix suggested being a peer review by the entire human race, AKA, open-sourced patent system.
Mind you, that could be abused since large numbers of idiots are, well, idiots.

America, for one, badly needs to fix their system since it is stupidly wasting time on throwing money around, gaining nothing, software patents aren't doing a damn thing for anyone since the places they exist are contained to a small minority.
All it is doing is harming their own companies. And when you consider Google and Oracle, huge, global companies that are technically classed as exporters. (which is why FTC let Microsoft off all those years back, despite the fact that MS splitting up OS and Software could have been the best solution for them.. oh well)

"Can you understand me now, good?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273174)

I think part of the patent problem isn't so much what one can patent although that's part of the problem. But how patents are written in such a broad and ambiguous manner that it's easy to see why they're open to such abuse. Change the way they're written to the narrowest and clearest interpretation.

You are allowed to patent dumb inventions! (1)

kegon (766647) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273178)

I'm not saying the patent system isn't broken, but...

  • It's not a software patent
  • Let's see the author/owner try to extract license fees from someone, anyone
  • The patent system is not about holding back stupid ideas. You are allowed to patent both clever and dumb inventions
  • It's not funny and it's not clever

If I understand the story correctly, the company lost a lot of money because of a patent they thought was a bit stupid, decided to get patent protection for all their new projects, this guy and his buddies thought it would be a great idea to waste even more money patenting dumb stuff. Does he still work there ?

If the RISC patent was so obvious, why didn't the company spend money getting it invalidated and then get all their costs back? (rather than wasting it on something they believed to be pointless)

Re:You are allowed to patent dumb inventions! (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273322)

you assume they'd get their costs back.

Once you have a legal department handling lots of patents the marginal cost drops a lot.
Employee moral was probably in the shitter after the company almost got screwed followed by requiring the devs to write hordes of innane patent apps. Of course people are going to act out a little and write some crazy applications.
It is quite funny in a dry way.
The point is that no matter how stupid the op got a valid patent on the light switch. It doesn't matter that it's stupid, someone could still use a patent like that to extort money from small companies without the resources to fight the battle to get it invalidated.

Another Joke Patent. How many others have done so? (5, Interesting)

GrpA (691294) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273206)

About 18 years ago, I did the same.. We had to come up with patents for a product that was the owner's pet project... Well, I had to come up with a patent too, since I had worked on the project, so I wrote up a patent for a steering wheel. It was a complete joke and i used as much obfuscation as I could, describing complex equations defining circular motion such as X^2+y^2=1 and the likes.. It had the other engineers in stitches... We all thought it was hilarious and the boss slipped it into the pile to go to the patent office so they could enjoy the joke as well... Some time later the boss came in stony faced and simply said "The patent for the steering wheel. No one ever jokes about it again. Ever. Period." then walked out. Seems it was the only patent that stood up to scrutiny.... All the rest were rejected... So, the owner of the "Timezone" amusement centers around Australia formally owned the patent on every electronic steering wheel that controls a vehicle... Ever invented. Anywhere. Even if it uses mechanical linkages. Especially if it was in the shape of a circle, but it also counted if was a joystick that could be moved through a "virtual circle"... Not that it didn't stop the engineers rolling around on the floor laughing for a few minutes when I told them all. Yep. another literal joke patent... And to their credit, they all kept a straight face when the "Big" boss came in to congratulate us all.

GrpA

You don't need to file patents to stop the messing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273464)

All you need to do is publish your ideas to the general public. Prior art destroys any patents if it was released before the patent. Even if it doesn't, it will when it goes to court.

Amazon's 1-Click patent (2, Interesting)

bysin (173686) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273474)

"There was even an unofficial competition to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system."

I believe this is how Amazon's 1-Click patent got started.

This problem is now over 200 years old! (5, Interesting)

Confuse Ed (59383) | more than 3 years ago | (#33273522)

I was at the london science museum last week and saw something interesting on the information board regarding one of the steam engines on display. Unfortunately I didn't think to take a photograph / transcribe it, but this blog gives a summary: http://www.currybet.net/cbet_blog/2006/08/engineering-parallels-at-the-s.php [currybet.net]

To quote the blog's transcription of the caption:

In 1769, James Watt had taken out a patent that allowed him to dominate steam-engine design and improvement. As a result, other engineers were prevented by law from developing new, alternative designs."

When the patent expired other engineers were able to innovate again, particularly Richard Trevithick. He experimented with using steam under a much higher pressure, and as a result was able to build smaller and more powerful engines, which enabled him to build the first locomotive railway engine capable of hauling a load.

So even the science museum is suggesting that patent's stiffle innovation, and have been doing so for over 200 years

Not just software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33273636)

Its not only in software patents, but also in other fields.
A city in Austria just got a patent on beeing the center of europe.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...