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Patent Office Admits Truth — Things Are a Disaster

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the but-that-dashboard's-a-good-idea dept.

Patents 278

An anonymous reader writes "For years the US Patent and Trademark Office has published data to show how well it and the patent system were running. Under new leadership, the USPTO has begun to publish a dashboard of information, including a new look at questions like how long does it really take to get a final answer on whether you will receive a patent or not? The pat answer was, on the average, about 3 years. But with the new figures, it's obvious that the real number, when you don't play games with how you define a patent application, is six years. The backlog of patents is almost 730K. And the Commerce Department under the Obama administration wants the average down to 20 months. How does this happen? Only if everyone closes their eyes and pretends. It's time to take drastic action, like ending software patents. As it is, by the time companies get a software patent, there's little value to them because, after six years, the industry has already moved on."

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278 comments

Big Software Corps (2, Insightful)

zrobotics (760688) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544022)

That six year backlog doesn't seem to apply if you have enough money to grease the proper hands so that your patent magically seems to get processed faster.

Re:Big Software Corps (2, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544120)

That six year backlog doesn't seem to apply if you have enough money to grease the proper hands so that your patent magically seems to get processed faster.

I haven't heard any allegations of this before. What leads you to think this problem exists at the USPTO?

Re:Big Software Corps (2, Interesting)

ProfBooty (172603) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544350)

The only applications which will skip forwards are accellerated cases and continuations/divisonals. There has been a big push within the office to have each examiner work on their OLDEST cases to reduce pendency figures, in fact examiner's ratings depend on it.

Re:Big Software Corps (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544970)

Sounds like they'll be hiring a lot of engineers soon, to process that backlog of patents. Time to send your resume, if you don't mind living in the VERY expensive DC area.

Re:Big Software Corps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544664)

On what planet and dimension DO YOU LIVE???

Re:Big Software Corps (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544212)

well, what can i say, professional resumes [cvresumewr...rvices.org] can be so beautiful over here, thanks a lot for sharing

add this (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544220)

a device and method of picking ones nose and flicking it far enough to see the end of a long line up.....ya know like hte patent office

Re:Big Software Corps (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544340)

That seems unlikely. If anything, you'd grease palms to ensure that your application was delayed. While a patent application is pending, you get most of the benefits of a patent, but none of the costs.

Re:Big Software Corps (2, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544658)

While there was a case a few years back where someone was dipping into customer deposit accounts [doc.gov], I've never heard any reports of examiners being on-the-take to process an application in a certain way. If you've heard something different, feel free to enlighten us.

There is something called a "petition to make special" [uspto.gov], which in some cases requires a fee, but this is specifically authorized by regulations.

In fact, there are various mechanisms (performance metrics and docketing, both for examiners and their supervisors) which discourage or prevent working on applications out of turn. Examiners do have some flexibility for managing their dockets, but the general push is to work on the earliest-filed applications first.

Re:Big Software Corps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544894)

That's true with everything.

Re:Big Software Corps (2, Insightful)

Throtex (708974) | more than 3 years ago | (#33545118)

This is sickening. No, not your allegations. The fact that people think like you do is sickening. You know absolutely nothing at all about the patent system, and yet you attribute this mobster mentality to it. You are simply the lowest of the low. I won't even post this anonymously.

There are mechanisms to expedite patent prosecution which are beyond your understanding, because you will never bother to research them. These are given, for example, in cases of advanced age of one of the inventors (the only time I personally, as a patent attorney, have used this mechanism). There is no large scale conspiracy, and applications I've filed for both small outfits and large megacorporations receive equal treatment. I wouldn't even know where to begin to "grease the proper hands" without having the ethics hawks descend on me with great vengeance and furious anger within the hour.

Try, please please try, to understand the machinations of government before you accuse every nook and cranny of it of corruption. The patent system is made up of scientists and engineers, and the attorneys all have these backgrounds as well.

With regard to software specifically, this movement to strip an entire category of inventions of protection lacks nuance. What I find most interesting is that its biggest proponents are people within the software industry itself, but usually not the real innovators. Are you saying software simply can't be inventive? That you can't possibly think of something in software that anyone else couldn't have thought of, even given the exact same problem set? Because boy oh boy, if that's true, we're really overpaying software "engineers" then, aren't we?

The reality is that we do grant too many software patents, but it's not a flaw with granting patents on software per se. The flaw is with a lack of a rigorous model for determining what is and isn't obvious; the difficulty of truly understanding, without hindsight bias, what the level of ordinary skill in the art is. To me, the level of ordinary skill in the art of software engineering is a lot higher than many people give it credit for, and this alone should be sufficient to render a number of claims obvious.

Stop trying to completely break what you don't understand, because despite the problems, there are a number of true innovators in software. And I won't say that they deserve patent protection, because that's not the point. But they should be given patent protection because we need to encourage that level of innovation, and you can tell where this innovation is most needed from those areas where huge gaps exist in FOSS offerings.

If you really want to change things, to truly help fix the system, UNDERSTAND IT. Really understand it. Slashdot won't help with that.

Little value to them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544050)

"As it is, by the time companies get a software patent, there's little value to them because, after six years, the industry has already moved on."

Do you mean little value to society, or little value to the company getting the patent? Because, well, nothing like six extra years for everyone to independently develop the obvious concept you patented...

Re:Little value to them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544646)

Most software patents seem to be used more for when someone has an idea but cant be bothered or cant
figure out how to make it work. They sit back and let someone else do all the work then sue them.

Not true (5, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544052)

by the time companies get a software patent, there's little value to them because, after six years, the industry has already moved on."

The true value of a software patent isn't to protect an invention. It's to have a tool for extorting others. In that sense software patents have a shelf life much longer than six years.

Re:Not true (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544180)

harsh words - but true. Most companies that get software patents eventually make their money on licensing the patent and not necessarily bringing it to market themselves - but in all "fairness" if someone had the idea first then why shouldn't they get some benefit from it ?

Re:Not true (4, Insightful)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544282)

but in all "fairness" if someone had the idea first then why shouldn't they get some benefit from it ?

Seriously, why should they? I've yet to see any sort of justification for why an idea (as opposed to a product or an implementation) should be rewarded.

The closest I've seen ran along the lines of "that's the way the system works now, so that makes it ok", which doesn't really help very much.

Re:Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544318)

If person A had the idea first but person B had the same idea all by himself, it is in no way fair that person A gets any benefit from it. It was B's work, not A's, even if A did the same thing first (and yes, it was duplicate work in this case).

This "first one wins" (i.e. independent reinvention not being an excuse) is one of the many ways in which the patent concept is broken beyond repair.

Re:Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544370)

In all "fairness" if I independently had the idea second, why shouldn't I get the same benefit?

Ideas are a dime a dozen (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544402)

if someone had the idea first then why shouldn't they get some benefit from it ?

Because phrases like

"Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless" - Mary Kay Ash

"Invention is one per cent inspiration and ninety nine per cent perspiration" - Thomas Edison

sound better than "first come first served".

Re:Not true (5, Insightful)

muuh-gnu (894733) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544432)

Again, patents should not _at all_ be awarded for having ideas. Ideas are cheap. Everyone has ideas. Its the concrete implementation of a idea what makes it valuable to other people, because its basically its showing them "HOW TO", so rewarding implementation-producers with patents is a net win for society.

It becomes a net loss, however, when you dont reward them for producing smething of value, but, as you suggest, for merely being the first in producing something everybody else also can easily come up with, but just hasn't. By rewarding people merely for "being first" and not for hard work, you basically encourage an patent run where people put more effort in searching for patenting possibilities than putting in the work inventing great but hard stuff. You encourage canny lawyers instead of tinkerers and engineers. Which then again makes it even harder for the tinkerers and engineers to produce real, tangible stuff, because they have to route around all the obvious, but legally "protected" patent hurdles.

By encouraging patent trolling, i.e. "i patented this shit first, now pay me, mwahaha!", you also make investments in patent trolling more valuable, so more and more people will invest in trolling and less ans less in actually doing the work inventing stuff because of the obvious lesser returns. Its a vicious circle.

Re:Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33545136)

True. It's intellectual capitalism. Like with regular capitalism where the wealth is shifted from those who do to those who own. (Not pwn)

Re:Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544788)

Because ideas do not create value.

Only execution of ideas create value.

But why though? What's the consequences? (3, Insightful)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544830)

but in all "fairness" if someone had the idea first then why shouldn't they get some benefit from it ?

Because it isn't "fair", whatever that should mean? Neither is it supposed to be the reason for the patent system in the first place.

The test for non-obviousness was supposed to make patents innovative beyond mere ideas, ie. full documentation of implementations which otherwise would be lost in trade secrets and obfuscation. However, non-obviousness tests are seldom used for anything else than delay a certain application, until it is reworded enough to be granted. This makes sense to the patent office and state, which earns Big Money from granting a mind-numbing number of patents each year. It also makes sense for huge mega-corporations, because they get defensive and offensive patent portfolios to squash lesser competitors with. It even makes incredible sense for patent-trolls, as they can push/buy up patents from dying companies, and extort money, without risking anything themselves, as they are producing nothing of value themselves, only sue successful businesses through courts out of the remains of dying businesses..

This all works splendidly on the cost of everyone else: inventors who are restricted in arbitrary fashion and customers who are forced to buy inferior products at exessive prices. It makes any business a risky operation, because at any time, you can be sued into oblivion, despite otherwise successes in the marketplace. Thus, the state monopoly-granted patent system works against the free market.

If it was "fair", then if someone has an idea, they shouldn't be sued into oblivion when implementing their idea as a business or "free software", just because someone "thought of it first", which is not even proven beyond any reasonable doubt. If everyone gets the same idea, or if the patent is just a physical process translated into the world of computers and software, then it shouldn't be patentable at all, since it is an obvious invention, a natural evolution of software to scratch an obvious itch.

Of course, only big corporations have the money to build a huge patent portfolio, and then use it as a defense mechanism, or even aggressively attack GPL, BSD, open source and free software. You can bet your sorry ass, Mozilla Firefox, Linux and most complex software out there, already violates hundreds of patents. It's just because of bad PR, the dogs have been kept in leash, but we remember SCO, and it is not far-fetched some dying corporation with real ownership of patents, could go for licenses instead of competing in the marketplace.

Just because nobody has patented it yet, doesn't mean nobody has thought about it. Just because nobody has started doing business around it, doesn't mean there are 20 competitors working on it already. Patents usually just gets in the way and squash the little inventor trying to do business themselves. They then have no recourse but to find a huge corporation sugardaddy to implement their idea at all.

Patents were never supposed to cover ideas themselves, but certain implementations thereof. The problem with software, is that copyright already protects software, so there if you're going to cover something more, you need to rape your constitutional forefathers, as USA, land of the "free", is doing now.

Evolution, will sort itself out though. USA will go bankrupt into its own corruption, greed, war-mongering and neglect of the environment and its own citizens. Somewhere, in the free world, some country will ignore software patents, and through that gain competitive advantage.

Re:Not true (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544496)

Actually the value is in the fact that the patent becomes an asset that can be valued and is transferrable independent of the inventors. Getting investment in a small company with IP, but without some 'anchor' for that IP such as a patent is very difficult.

Not just the PTO's fault (5, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544068)

You know, if people would claim only what they've fucking invented on patent applications, that backlog would be much smaller. Way to go, jerkoffs.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (5, Funny)

CowFu (1897214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544100)

I worked in my university's patent office (we help you file the necessary paperwork to the necessary people, not a real patent office). There were so many people that tried to patent things they did not invent or were just not patentable:

-A rock you put on your BBQ grill, then cook the steaks on your hot rock.
-Converting propane tanks into makeshift bomb shelters but cutting off one side and climbing inside
-A penny jar that had engraved markings on the side to tell you how much money you had (approx) if you only put pennies in it
-A cotton ball wrapped in string that you could light on fire with lighter fluid and 'play' with

And my personal favorite:
-A handshake machine, its just a mannequin arm that moves up and down on a small motor (the drawings made it look REALLY like a handjob machine)

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (1)

KraftDinner (1273626) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544122)

So with these examples, is there any "triage" that happens in the USPTO? Even just to weed out the absolutely ridiculous. I'd imagine there is quite a number of applications submitted every year that fall within the ridiculous category.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (5, Informative)

CowFu (1897214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544206)

Only if they were stopped by someone like me, explaining to the person why they can't submit this patent. The PTO takes every application seriously which is both a wonderful and horrible thing, until it can be proven un-patentable or that it infringes on an earlier patent. This is done through a semi-long process of research that isn't always done correctly (because of the sheer magnitude of searching for similar patents or parts of similar patents).

On a side-note, I want to clarify that all of those items listed did not get formal paper-work submitted to the Patent Office. If they did they I would not be able to talk about them here or I would be in violation of my previous contract. There are a lot of ridiculous ones that went against my advice and filed anyways.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544974)

On a side-note, I want to clarify that all of those items listed did not get formal paper-work submitted to the Patent Office. If they did they I would not be able to talk about them here or I would be in violation of my previous contract. There are a lot of ridiculous ones that went against my advice and filed anyways.

If something is not filed - isn't it then especially dangerous to talk about? Either patent, i.e., turn it into public knowledge, or keep it a trade secret.

If now that poor guy who invented to the stone wants to market it, someone may already have the stone marked covered due to your posting.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (2)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544276)

I doubt that.. recall James Gosling talking about how he and colleagues at Sun had a competition to file the most ridiculous patent applications? He "invented" the light switch, and he says it was pretty dull in comparison to the others.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544522)

Dang, you would think those are all typical patent candidates if you had been hanging around slashdot a while.

Just another case of the muddled mumbo-jumbo that is our legal system utterly incapable of dealing with the progress of technology, just another aspect of the sclerosis that is choking the life out of our country.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544800)

-A handshake machine, its just a mannequin arm that moves up and down on a small motor (the drawings made it look REALLY like a handjob machine)

Did they happen to include a working prototype?

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544842)

-Converting propane tanks into makeshift bomb shelters but cutting off one side and climbing inside

Or the opposite, if you forget to empty it first.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544998)

At least you understand why these are worthless. I work in a really narrow technical field that you need specific training in for a few years to really just start understanding, then some years real life experience to gain a deeper understanding. In my group we have a quota of 10 patent applications PER YEAR. In our group, we have a total of me, and one other guy. Maybe if I was really smart, I could put out 5 good ideas a year, but I am not that smart. Plus we both have a lot of other responsibilities that are more pressing (like actually developing research into products), so most of the time we just bullshit up inventions. This is a Forbes Top 50 company, so its not like a patent mill.
First we have to explain it to our own lawyers, who are hired specifically to deal with our division and have technical degrees. Generally, they don't know what the hell is going on. Then it goes to the patent office, where they don't know what the hell is going on. If they did, they'd surely be working somewhere else for more money. Sorry potential Einsteins...

Admittedly, some of the ideas are OK. But everyone else in the division does what we do. And every other big technical company does what we do. And every patent troll company sends a guy to technical conferences, who comes back, and tries to patent every slightly connected idea to every paper presented there. Seriously, one guy will submit 100s of patents in one day a few months after a conference from these companies which I have to check because they are in the sphere of what we are doing. And the poor patent office guys, its not like they don't do their job. Sometimes patents get submitted with 100s of claims, and you can see they've been ripped down to 1 or 2. At some point its going to come tumbling down, because there isn't going to be a solutions everyone can agree on. The patent office cannot process the ever increasing numbers, and the companies can not really act on patent infringements because they have so god damn many. I think they only keep so many to defend themselves against patent trolls and the like. There are a few high profile cases, but those are really exceptional, most patents are not that obvious (i.e. the patent is applied to some inner workings deep in the product which is hard for a 3rd party to find out)

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33545170)

And my personal favorite: -A handshake machine, its just a mannequin arm that moves up and down on a small motor (the drawings made it look REALLY like a handjob machine)

There must have been prior art, because I could see that one selling (and with no re-sale market). /. alone could fuel enough sales if we all didn't already have LEGO Mindstorms versions of our own. Although if he solved the chafing problem...

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544720)

No determining if someone is being a jerkoff is part of the USPTO's mission.

Though their current admission strikes me similar to a guy coming out as gay to his parents years after his mother started introducing him to nice boys.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (1)

Velex (120469) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544912)

Though their current admission strikes me similar to a guy coming out as gay to his parents years after his mother started introducing him to nice boys.

I'm trying to understand your analogy and failing. Is there something wrong with being gay, and/or can one be made gay?

I think a better analogy would be someone who has a house with a leaky roof. Initially, he figures the dripping water in the kitchen when it rains is just a minor inconvenience and nothing more. Then one day it hits him that it's also causing structural damage.

Re:Not just the PTO's fault (1)

Ccomp5950 (1796614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33545096)

He was saying, finally admitting you are gay while everyone else clearly knew so, to the point that your own mother is trying to get decent dates for you.

you insensiUtive clod! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544108)

writing is on the like I sh0uld be ULTIMATELY, WE

not my experience (4, Informative)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544128)

I have 3 fairly recent patents (one hardware and two software) - none of them took over 3 years - and two of them took multiple rounds with the patent office

Nothing personal, but... (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544194)

I have 3 fairly recent patents (one hardware and two software)

Do you have a reasonable expectation that the software patents will only be used for defensive purposes?

(If not, do you believe that software patents are a good idea?)

Re:Nothing personal, but... (2, Interesting)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544244)

We do actually build products that use the software process we have patented - but there are several other companies that also use techniques that could be considered infringement. I suspect that some day if it was tactically advantageous my company could seek licensing fees - The software patents that I am named on are incredibly well written and there are some big companies that we could take to task -

Re:Nothing personal, but... (5, Insightful)

tenchikaibyaku (1847212) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544306)

I'm just a bit curious here, but have these big companies you are speaking of copied your patented techniques by looking at your product or your patent application, or do you think that they reasonably could have invented them independently?

Re:Nothing personal, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544888)

They probably "invented" it after they saw that his company could do it, ie they saw the market opening and the technology follows "naturally" from seeing someone else do it. But that "market opening" is probably a completely fresh idea that the other companies wouldn't have ever pursued by themselves. In this sense, the fact that ONCE you see the thing done, you can "invent" the same thing doesn't mean that the invention shouldn't be patentable. For example, we're in the nineteenth century and you see someone using a telephone. If you know about electricity, maybe you can "invent" the same thing just using your previous knowledge. But it is "tricky" and just because you end up with the same invention doesn't mean it wasn't genuinely new or patentable.

Re:Nothing personal, but... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544864)

You only think you could take them to task. If you actually tried they would point out the hundreds of _their_ patents that you were violating, by the end you'd likely be happy if they didn't shut you down.

This is how the current patent system fails in the software realm, patents have become a kind of offensive/defensive resource in a twisted RTS.

Re:Nothing personal, but... (1, Insightful)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544266)

I believe that software patents on algorithms are a good idea - I think that a lot of software patents are bogus in that they are generalized and obvious. Like single-click purchasing or whatever it was called - that is just silly. But a patent on a new type of sorting algorithm or image processing algorithm could represent significant time and effort and IR&D dollars and should be protected

Re:Nothing personal, but... (5, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544380)

Excellent, so you're patenting not even software, but mathematics! Can this get even more broken? Of course!

Re:Nothing personal, but... (4, Insightful)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544410)

This is BS. Because if i also put in R&D dollars and my own blood and sweet and come up with the same or similar solution, i can't benefit from my hard work because someone else also thought of it and paid lawyers.

If it was about rewarding hard work, or R&D then independent discovery would be a valid defense. Its not.

Re:Nothing personal, but... (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544660)

Would the creation of a novel sorting algorithm (presumably something significantly faster than a Quicksort) really help in terms of attracting attention to your product, or would it be better to either publish that algorithm with the ACM Journal (giving you guys prestige and helping with recruiting new employees to you're company.... saying "come work for us where we invent cool stuff") or simply keep it as a trade secret (giving you a competitive advantage).

The largest problem I have with software patents is the business of prior art, where algorithms are patented that have already been invented or are trivial constructs that almost any software developer would have created given the circumstance. The "1-click purchase" button is an example of that.

BTW, I find that it isn't just software patents that are overly generalized but nearly all patents. This is also by design. In theory, the proper role of a patent is to record knowledge for future generations that would otherwise be lost. There are several devices and processes that we know about from history that simply weren't recorded in terms of how they were put together... or in the case of a metallurgical process what the steps were for making the items. A Stradivarius Violin [wikipedia.org] is a prime example, and those are even still in use, as is something like a Damascus Steel [wikipedia.org]. The problem with this philosophy is that I fail to see how the information given in a patent application can ever possibly be used in most cases to recreate the process.... even for somebody "skilled in the technology". I've looked at several software patents over the years and for many I would be at a loss in terms of how to recreate the algorithm that is being described. At best the patent description would only cover a class of algorithms like sort algorithms in general, not something specific like a Quicksort or Bubblesort.

Re:Nothing personal, but... (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544700)

I think that a lot of software patents are bogus in that they are generalized and obvious.

I agree that a lot of software patents do seem very obvious! Figuring out what should be patentable and what shouldn't be patentable can be a very difficult question for legislators (and then for the lawyers, patent office, and courts to interpret).

What kind of metric would you suggest that the patent office and courts use to separate the too-generalized and too-obvious patents from those that should be patent-eligible?

Like single-click purchasing or whatever it was called - that is just silly.

Right, that's Amazon/Bezos's "One click" patent.

But a patent on a new type of sorting algorithm or image processing algorithm could represent significant time and effort and IR&D dollars and should be protected

Do you think that software patents produce an environment of greater innovation than an environment without software patents?

I mean, I assume that there's more to your argument than that. We don't just go around granting temporary monopolies to people because we feel like it. The whole idea behind patents is that society cordons-off a little space for a person or company for the purpose of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts.

Personally I'm not really in favor of software patents, and one of the primary reasons is that I'm not sufficiently convinced that the benefits that they provide for society are sufficient to justify the inconvenience of a monopoly (even a time-limited one).

Some people have suggested that software patents should have a shorter lifetime than other patents, say one of 3-4 years. Such proposals aren't perfect, but I do find them interesting as the fact that such ideas are even discussed indicates that people recognize that software patents are really different from, say, hardware patents.

What do you think about the idea of shortening the lifetime of software patents?

Re:Nothing personal, but... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33545166)

3-4 years of protection after 6 years "pending" in the patent office.

I think the supposed benefits are not worth the already visible costs to society.

Companies are just using them as anticompetitive barriers or as a way to parasite off other companies actually doing stuff.

Ideas really are a dime a dozen. I can think of lots of ideas.

Re:not my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33545188)

I have 3 fairly recent patents (one hardware and two software) - none of them took over 3 years - and two of them took multiple rounds with the patent office

So, three contrary data points, not even randomly selected, tells us what? Wait, it's coming to me... "Hey, look at me, I have patents!" But do you realize that this makes you part of the problem in our eyes?

Software patents? (5, Insightful)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544156)

Why is the focus on software patents? Doesn't this show that the patent system in general doesn't scale up and needs fixing?

Re:Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544324)

The only thing the patent system needs to scale up is its ability to reject the huge, vast majority of patent applications, and to do so with prejudice so that they can't be refiled without some punitive penalty, like a fine (in addition to the extra cost).

Or perhaps abuse of the patent system could be penalized like contempt of court. Then perhaps we'd see some progress.

Re:Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544332)

Indeed, however the scalability of the patent system is beside the point that it retards innovation and progress. There is no evidence that it serves its original purpose, and it should be dismantled entirely.

Re:Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544652)

I'm neutral on the subject of banning software patents, but I think they should start by banning business method or merchandising patents, those which entail "we claim the sole right to offer such and such a feature (or more often, combination of features) or presentation idea to customers, for the 20 years after the patent grant". Some of the Intellectual Ventures patents fall into that category. Those never should be patentable, whether it involves software or not. The ban should be retroactive and they should start weeding those out.

Re:Software patents? (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544756)

I'm neutral on the subject of banning software patents, but I think they should start by banning business method or merchandising patents...Those never should be patentable, whether it involves software or not. The ban should be retroactive and they should start weeding those out.

Why are you so vehemently opposed to business-method patents and not to software patents? In both cases one is patenting the concept of an abstract process, whether it's an algorithm executed on a chunk of silicon or it's a process for pushing around people and merchandise.

What, in your mind, is so much worse about the business-method patents?

Re:Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544988)

Why are you so vehemently opposed to business-method patents and not to software patents? In both cases one is patenting the concept of an abstract process, whether it's an algorithm executed on a chunk of silicon or it's a process for pushing around people and merchandise.

What, in your mind, is so much worse about the business-method patents?

Software patents such as the one for public key cryptography follow in the tradition of the engineering patents. That's what I don't object to keeping (as I said, I'm neutral). Notice that they do not prevent a business (or foundation, hobbyist, etc) from making a competitive offering, they simply claim an avenue of implementation which, assuming that the patent examiners have done a good job, may not have been hit on for many years otherwise. Contrast with business methods and merchandising patents, many of which seem to be the output of a bunch of bright people sitting around a conference table jabbering excitedly while hoping that some of their ideas are at least five minutes ahead of what someone else has filed.

Re:Software patents? (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544746)

I have yet to meet a single "garage tinkerer" who made an invention, went through the patent process, and made any money at all much less covered the fees necessary for a decent patent attorney and the filing fees to get the patent in the first place. To me, the whole patent process is simply a major scam that gives false hope to ordinary individuals who are thinking about an invention.

It also is important for anybody to realize that once you patent an idea, that the number of companies who are interested in your idea usually goes down after getting the patent. A typical company is more interested in something that their own employees have invented, as they control the clock in terms of when it gets to the USPTO and they don't typically need to pay a license to their own employee (that is usually covered in the employment contract).

For an established company, for defensive purposes only, I do understand why organizations will file for patents knowing full well that the patent process itself is broken. Microsoft for the longest time avoided patents for a whole bunch of reasons, but is flooding the USPTO now in part to cover their own behinds. That still doesn't explain why a private individual needs to file a patent.

Re:Software patents? (2, Interesting)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544976)

I agree. Patents are of no value to the small-time inventor. They are, however, invaluable to incumbent companies who wish to lock the up-and-comers out of the market, and of course patent trolls.

In other words, patents are a pure deficit for the public who have to pay for the bureaucracy, the unnecessary litigation and the lack of competition that results from this system. The empirical evidence is piling up against patents (like this article says), and unless someone steps up and shows some proof that this system resulted in more innovation, the whole thing will have to be thrown out the window.

And honestly, I don't expect patent supporters have any proof to show, so the question is -- how long will it take for the patent system to be taken down? There is no question that the patent supporters are rich and powerful (that includes Microsoft, btw, who say they just wuv patents), and those people can be very "persuasive"...

We have to narrow "patentable subject matter" (5, Interesting)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544164)

They're under-resourced, but increasing their resources won't solve the social and economic problem caused by the patents they grant on software. A lot of big patent holders are saying that the solution is to increase review standards, but how would that happen? How do you put clear limits on whether something described is sufficiently innovative, or sufficiently useful?

The only simple way to reduce the workload of the patent office is to cut certain fields right out of consideration. Start with software. Making the USPTO more efficient isn't our goal, but it's a happy coincidence that there's a solution to our problem that just so happens to solve a major USPTO problem.

And it's not just the USPTO. The European Patent Office has the same problems.

under-resourced (1, Offtopic)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544190)

I've got a sister in law who works at a patent office in Germany. She tells me they make obscene amounts of money.

If they're "under-resourced" it's because they can't build luxury office buildings fast enough to keep up with industry demand.

Re:under-resourced (3, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544288)

That's in Germany. There are no software patents in Europe, and Germans are (traditionally) much less interested in lawsuits than US citizens and corporations. I'd also expect German patent grants to actually be valid, rather than relying on lengthy court processes to refute patents that never should have been granted due to prior art or attempting to patent laws of nature.

None of these conditions apply in the USA. It is actually to the advantage of some large companies and their lobbying organizations to keep the patent office overwhelmed and confused: they can assemble portolios of defensive patents to protect their interests, and apply those portfolios at whim against smaller, more creative, developers or businesses that haven't already invested in manufacturing or development or sales of an older product line.

Re:We have to narrow "patentable subject matter" (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544338)

The only simple way to reduce the workload of the patent office is to cut certain fields right out of consideration.

The only long term way to reduce the workload and balance the system is for the patent office to actually pay the cost of the patents. With a fixed budget limit on how much the system is allowed to cost the economy, the system would automatically balance itself; grant too many patents and each patent would pay out a pittance to the holder, grant too few and the payout per patent would be large, but limited to very few beneficiaries. The stakeholders themselves would have an interest in getting the balance right.

Without an actual price tag, for as long as the cost of the system is hidden simply as higher costs of products, there is no incentive to actually fix the system. Politicians won't have to defend a huge post in the budget (with significant funds of essentially taxpayer money going to foreign corporations), the patent office has no reason not to increase scope and lower standards (most of their 'customers' have no objection to getting more patents), and the ones paying for it all basically have no say.

A little honesty about how patents are actually financed would go a long way.

Re:We have to narrow "patentable subject matter" (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544488)

How do you put clear limits on whether something described is sufficiently innovative, or sufficiently useful?

For innovation, start by relaxing the standards for prior art. At the very minimum, if a piece of prior art would infringe the patent if it were to have been invented later, the patent should be denied. None if this "if it differs from the prior art in some minor way, the prior art doesn't count".

Re:We have to narrow "patentable subject matter" (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544776)

You're still left with the problem of distinguishing between "minor" and "major" differences from prior art.

Dealing with something physical like a breaking system, you can make a certain quality of comparison. Not at all 100% reliable, but you can see if they look similar and if they have similar results.

Dealing with software, you're bunched. How do you decide if my method for transmitting objects between stateless compiler units is different from your method for exchanging stored values among non-volatile transformation classes? Would a search for prior art on one even find the other patent?

Software patents? (4, Insightful)

LatencyKills (1213908) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544208)

Don't get me wrong, I'm completely against software patents, but I'm way more offended by "business method" patents. And patents on something that someone did a hundred years ago, only now someone adds the line "on a computer" and suddenly that's a new patentable event.

Re:Software patents? (5, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544278)

Don't get me wrong, I'm completely against software patents, but I'm way more offended by "business method" patents. And patents on something that someone did a hundred years ago, only now someone adds the line "on a computer" and suddenly that's a new patentable event.

those and patent on genes. Plah-ease! No one invented anything there - it was just discovered.

Re:Software patents? (2, Interesting)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544426)

You don't really "invent" something either, you merely discover a way to do something.

Re:Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544794)

True, but "discovering a way of doing something" is different than "It has always worked this way in every living creature on earth... we just know how it works now".

It's like me patenting a cat purring. If anyone elses cat purrs after I get the patent, they have to pay me.

Actually...

*runs to patent office*

Re:Software patents? (2, Insightful)

kaoshin (110328) | more than 3 years ago | (#33545030)

An invention is a new composition, device, or process. Discovery is the finding of something that already existed, or finding something by accident. Many inventions are based on discoveries (i.e. microwave cooking). I think the real issue is whether the non-obviousness requirement is applied too loosely to software.

Re:Software patents? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544858)

those and patent on genes. Plah-ease! No one invented anything there - it was just discovered.

Don't you mean designed?

Re:Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544568)

Has anyone patented masturbation on a computer yet? If not, I am THERE.

Either whack software patents or force disclosure (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544294)

If I had my way, software patents would be simply disallowed. If they're not going to be disallowed, then the number needs to be reduced AND they need to start showing some benefit to society. Right now, you can patent things that aren't even close to being implemented, and if you patent something that has been implemented you get to keep the copyright on the code as well.

Software patents should require full disclosure of the source code AND that code should not be eligible for copyright. That should slow down the number of patents filed.

more illness from man's chemicals than nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544304)

it looks that way. now we're being 'volunteered'/scared into being 'treated' (like cattle?). as the glowbull warmongering corepirate nazi illuminati military/industrial(pharmaceutical/gas pain etc...) blight grows, the population will decrease disproportionately, in total opposition to our intended/mandated purpose here.

Time isn't really an issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544326)

'As it is, by the time companies get a software patent, there's little value to them because, after six years, the industry has already moved on."

This is completely wrong. The longer it takes with no one noticing, the more time for people to be infringing and the more money you can extract. The most valuable patents are the ones that are so fundamental that _everybody_ infringes. If you can avoid having prior art invalidate it, you can print money.

No one really cares how long the process takes, the incentives are not set up that way.

Re:Time isn't really an issue (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544814)

Also, for something which is mostly 'new', it takes about 6 years, even in the fast-moving software world, for it to become widely, internationally adopted. I'm sure there are exceptions, but when people start doing something, 5-6 years seems to be the 'uptake' period. At the end of which, you might have hundreds of millions or even billions of people 'infringing' the patent. If patents were granted faster, people might avoid the patents, and you'd never get the level of 'infringment' (I put that in quotes, because lots of patents are rather silly, of course). The very fact that people filing for patent protection can wait SO LONG to disclose and enforce the patents means that the lawsuits hit too late to change course easily.

Apple patent blows my mind (2, Interesting)

rxan (1424721) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544424)

Here's why the patent system is broken.

Apple has a patent application for arranging music information (read: any information) into different shapes. http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2010/09/apple-provides-us-with-a-peek-at-spirals-a-new-itunes-ui-feature.html [patentlyapple.com]. They describe spirals, squares, rectangles, a helix from the side. Even a map of the USA. But why stop there? You might as well just patent information and pictures arranged into any pleasing geometric or recognizable form! Abstract goastee arrangment? Sure! Lady Gaga's face? Why not! Patented granted!

People can take things that are completely abstract and patent the whole net of ideas. Not only are patents too abstract, they usually aren't novel. Like this Apple one. It's sick.

Here's an idea. Cut the patents and rely on copyright after the fact. Or would that require that people actually do work before getting a reward?

Little value? (4, Informative)

Philodoxx (867034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544430)

As it is, by the time companies get a software patent, there's little value to them because, after six years, the industry has already moved on.

As messed up as it is, the current system creates more value for patent trolls. If it takes six years to get my patent approved, that's six years "infringing" technology getting baked into competing products.

"Industry has moved on" (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544490)

To the contrary: After six years, there is a good chance that what you are patenting has become so painfully obvious and commonplace that every software uses it. You just need to file claims against every software company in existence and then rake in the money.

Why are people here so against software patents? (1)

Nailer235 (1822054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544572)

To be against software patents is akin to saying that there's no innovation in the field of software, or that if there is innovation it doesn't need to be protected. Without software patents, there's nothing to stop a big company, or anyone for that matter, from stealing a small developer's idea. Some of them absolutely legitimate and innovative. In hindsight, we now think that the inventions were clear as day, when at the time they really may have been something revolutionary. People here say that software patents need to be abolished. Why? I understand how some people think that too many of these patents were obvious and are now being used as tools of extortion. Fine, have more stringent standards for software patents instead of abolishing them. I personally believe that innovation happens rapidly for emerging fields, and consequently the obviousness requirement needs to be much more hard-pressed.

Re:Why are people here so against software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33544770)

To be against software patents is akin to saying that there's no innovation in the field of software, or that if there is innovation it doesn't need to be protected. Without software patents, there's nothing to stop a big company, or anyone for that matter, from stealing a small developer's idea. Some of them absolutely legitimate and innovative. In hindsight, we now think that the inventions were clear as day, when at the time they really may have been something revolutionary.

Patents are supposed to be source code for the object you are patenting. You patent a new kind of cooling system then you tell how it works, tell what needs to be done to make one, and show most of the plans on how to build one. But software patents are just abstract ramblings of a lawyer that has an engineering degree.

Doh (3, Insightful)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544920)

If something can be made in 1 week by a teenager, on no pay or salary, then it obviously is not worth protecting with hundreds of thousands in court fees to make greedy lawyers rich, at the expense of society at large and more pressing cases.

Software lowers the bar of innovation, so yes, nothing in software is really worth protecting. Software is already protected by copyright, which should provide sufficient protection, without hindering the free market to unfold itself.

There is a reason programmers in the field are called "code monkeys". After 4-5 years, if you haven't moved on or up, you are either a real geek, or just love mind-numbing work. There's usually not much innovation going on, just translation of real world processes into the world of computers. At any time, you can usually be replaced by another guy, don't fool yourself. Same with patents. It is not unusual for many people around the globe to get the same ideas at the same time, because the bar to software is so low..

I see a solution to the employment problem here (2, Interesting)

Red_Chaos1 (95148) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544588)

Seriously. Start hiring, teachers and "readers" alike. Set an appropriate threshold for level of English language proficiency, both written and spoken. Train. Nothing stimulates the economy like jobs, and this could help speed things upa bit and bring down the backlog.

That and knocking it off with the filing/approval of ridiculous patents.

Not just software patents. (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544616)

Jesus christ, this is retarded. Just reject 729,973 of the backlogged patents based on prior art. It's just that simple. They could save a HUGE amount of time by allowing for paperwork (regarding the reasons for rejection) to be issued after the decision is made. Yes, now you've just got a different kind of backlog, but at least it's not keeping the USPTO from issuing decisions on patents.

A better patent process? (1)

Broofa (541944) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544642)

I'm just stunned that the PTO's goal is to get a "first action" notice time down to within 10 months? WTF? Why isn't that goal "24 hours"?

There is clearly something fundamentally broken with the process. And that "something" is all the work required to gain patent status. What is needed is a process that doesn't require all this back-and-forth to get a patent but, rather, defers that work until there is a clear and obvious need for it to be done.

Instead of patenting ideas, why not just "register" them by filing a form that says, "So-and-so claims to have invented this-and-that on such-and-such date." This would reserve the right to pursue legal action against an infringer at some later date, but no further action is required or taken by the PTO. For example ...

- It's up to you to educate yourself on which patent ideas are defensable in a court room.
- PTO charges $100 to register your "idea". The fee is just to avoid massive spamming. You're notified immediately that it's been accepted.
- Once registered, your idea is protected for 14-20 years from the date of filing, just like today.
- If and when you ever choose to enforce your patent through legal means, you pay a "substantial" fee ($1,000? $10K? $100K?) to have the PTO provide a patent "determination". The determination pays for the PTO to evaluate the validity of your idea and provide a summary recommendation to the court as to how to proceed. In effect, the PTO acts as a "professional witness" in legal patent battles, and nothing more.
- Judgement of actual patent validity is made in the courtroom (where it's already made, in practice).

This process ...
- makes the patent system more approachable to your average lay-person.
- eliminates 99% of the workload that's currently burying the PTO
- lets the PTO focus on what they do best - analyzing patent quality - where and when those efforts are genuinly needed
- cuts the PTO action time from years down to essentially zero
- eliminates much of the abuse of patents (patent "registrations" are basically meaningless until you get into a court room).

I'm sure there are plenty of reasons for why we don't operate this way though, right? So what are they?

My $.02 worth.

Re:A better patent process? (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544702)

If the backlog were eliminated, you wouldn't know how many employees to retain, because it would be based entirely on the number of filings you got that day. Having a backlog means that you can keep 6000 examiners on staff and not worry about having to lay them off because you ran out of work for them to do.

Also, the reason we have a patent examination system rather than a patent registration system with examination-upon-litigation is because (a) people would register claims of ridiculous scope and then assert them out-of-court against other people by demanding royalties and threatening to sue, stifling innovation; and (b) patents have value in terms of encouraging venture capital investment, employment, and commercialization, and this value would be eliminated without some up-front checks for validity.

Crowd Sourcing (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544688)

What I never understood is why the patent office doesn't implement some kind of crowd sourcing? I mean patents are public goods so instead of having the patent office review them, why not just stick them on a web-site and ask the public and industry to pick holes in them? And then the patent office only have to examine the ones which are controversial.

Re:Crowd Sourcing (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544996)

I can project various logical failures:

x. Public at-large will be exposed to the details of the patented 'device' and how it works before it's marketed, decreasing a lot of the potential for ambush and other elements of surprise often used in marketing new products on consumers. If people are already familiar with it they tend to have all sorts of second-thoughts before purchasing, whereas if it's "NEW!" people feel aggravated to obtain it, on impulse. Marketers and their client companies would not want it to be public and would continually fight to make it private, again. They would ultimately win because the public at-large isn't paying for the service, the agencies applying for the patents are. Reciprocation, the public wouldn't want to have to pay in order to be part of the process, and if you made people pay for it anyway, it would lessen the effect and make the panel of judges (so to speak) exclusive.

x. Public at-large would use the details to manufacture their own products and never have to buy from the market in the first place. You might say "why doesn't this happen already" but it does, on some level, just on behalf of those who actually carry the technical know-how (and have access to the tools, machines, and materials) to get it done. For instance, a friend of mine is using his own hydrogen source because he bought the platinum needed to do it. Not everybody will be doing that. But this is largely because people aren't exposed to the concepts behind the products. If people are regularly exposed to the concepts at the very point of conception, they're going to be more savvy and more inclined to just make their own. This leads back to the above: it's more marketable if nobody had any idea it was coming until it was ready to market.

x. Part of the above, some people would meet the in-between demand by manufacturing new devices for others who can't do it. This would probably be some kind of breach of patent or whatever, but usually people aren't getting caught. Suddenly they would be, because people would care, because they're part of this big network of eyeballs, and if anything happens when you suddenly empower a bunch of people, a large segment of them, socially inept, semi-retarded, or not, become litle Private Eyeballs and start snitching. So the little machine shop that wants to turn out half a dozen of the new engine or whatever ends up busted if anybody mentions anything about it at all to anyone, which is also inevitable, you go to the bar and you tell a pal or whatever. So all kinds of bad shit will happen, out of the same effect that creates voluntary police at Wikipedia who have no interest in the articles whatsoever but show up and police the fuck out of them anyway.

The whole idea is awesome, but it'll lead to total failure. What I would have to logically argue, then, is that patenting itself, as a process or a function, is a total failure and should be thrown out. It's doing more harm than good to the economy, to the government, to the public, to the Constitution, all of it. Just toss it out, forget about it, find some other more ingenius way that actually involves one's own skills and abilities to capitalise on something. If you can't, you can't, but at least you'll always be able to make the local profit. And look, Edison patented all of Tesla's work as his own, so how gr3at can patenting actually be?

Six years was too slow for Atari too (1)

jewishbaconzombies (1861376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33544812)

I recall a noted incident from Nolan Bushnell after he finally got a patent for Pong - long after everyone had cloned the bejeezus out of it, and the coin-op industry had long moved on to other games in the 70s. After finding out he'd been granted it, he tossed it over his shoulder. Now if you're Adobe, and are pushing Photoshop and Illustrator for 20 and 23 years respectively, then I can sympathize, but for me, software has always been a matter of copyright law - not patent. Given the fact copyrights (thanks to Disney and Senator Bono) have massive shelf-life, I can't fathom why they're clogging up the works with patents (unless there's a damage-award scenario I'm not getting).

The solution is simple. (1, Troll)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33545018)

Reduce military spending by 90% and allocate those resources to the USPTO. We're told over and over that intelectual property is the single most important industry in the world and makes approximately many times as much money as all other industries combined (not to mention that civilization depends on it) so if given the choice between a new stealth bomber and a thousand new patents on business methods it should be obvious that the bomber is not the way to go. If another country wants to invade the USA, the USA can simply threaten to sue their companies for all the patents they violate; that should be a much larger deterrent than superior weaponry or nuclear-payload ICBMs.

Let's look at Iraq. Iraqi insurgents do well with AK-47s and pipe bombs but Iraq has virtually no patents. The US Army keeps losing soldiers over there but the American standard of living is much higher. It's clear that if the USA want to stay ahead the solution is cheaper guns and more patents.

you can't remove software patents because .... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33545060)

... I have a patent application in on a business method of software patent trolling... and that's gonna take like 7 years by the time it goes through.
I paid the fees so they have to process it under the terms that existed when I applied.

And this is why they cannot remove software patents from their scope. Its the only reason. Pre-existing... patents and applications.

From TFS (1)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 3 years ago | (#33545116)

As it is, by the time companies get a software patent, there's little value to them because, after six years, the industry has already moved on.

Yeah, there's some wishful Slashdot nerd thinking if I ever saw it. Look, I despise software patents with the best of them, but the above claim is pretty much refuted by the existence of the backlog, with plenty of "little value" software patents in the mix.

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