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Red Hat Urges USPTO To Deny Most Software Patents

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the stop-giving-it-away dept.

Patents 175

Julie188 writes "The United States Patent and Trademark Office asked for public input on how it should use the Supreme Court's Bilski decision to guide it when granting new patents. Not surprisingly, Red Hat took them up on it. The USPTO should use Bilski and the fact that the machine transformation test is 'important' to Just Say No to most software patents, it advised. Rob Tiller, Red Hat's Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, IP, is hopeful that the patent office will listen and put an end to the crazy software patent situation that has turned patents into weapons that hinder innovation."

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Help us steal from others! (-1, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33744244)

The USPTO isn't going to change their policies to help one small company steal ideas from others.

Re:Help us steal from others! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744262)

Are you calling Red Hat thieves?

Re:Help us steal from others! (-1, Redundant)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33744266)

No. They just want the laws formulated so that they can legally copy ideas from others with impunity.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1, Informative)

someone1234 (830754) | about 4 years ago | (#33744296)

Right, so patent trolls got the idea?

Re:Help us steal from others! (-1, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33744354)

These "patent trolls" you're talking about usually work with and fund inventors to develop inventions with working models in order to patent them.

They use these patents not to create trouble for companies, but rather to provide a licensable product that economizes the development process for companies and maximizes return for the inventors.

"Patent trolls" foster innovation because it seeks out inventors and encourages them to do pure research and development.

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744416)

Might want to ease up on the flavor-aid. Patents are a tool of extortion so people can steal the inventions of others and have no useful purpose in a sane society.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744460)

Yeah, right. The idea of people buying software patents, as opposed to actual software, for the benefit of new marketable technology is absurd on its face. Sure, people will buy patent licenses to reduce legal uncertainty, but software ideas without the software are worthless. There are more useful ideas than people know what to do with in the public literature and in the heads of competent engineers.

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744466)

If the inventions were so useful, patent trolls would spend money on factories that implement the ideas. The truth is they don't really know which inventions are useful. No one does, so no one reads those patents. Any useful stuff in there is independently reinvented, so those "inventors that do pure research and development" don't contribute anything -- implemented ideas would occur at the same pace without them.

Re:Help us steal from others! (5, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#33745340)

Not necessarily, because if they implemented ideas, they would likely infringe on other people's patents.

For example, say you hold 3 patents. If you don't do anything and just wait for someone like IBM to infringe, you can sue them and get $$$.

However if you actually try to make something, you might infringe on one or more patents of the tens of thousands in IBM's patent portfolio. So you might have to cross license, maybe even pay IBM more than IBM pays you.

In which case you might not make as much money per capital invested for the risk you take.

So the patent system actually encourages many people/companies to try to patent a vague loose description of a useful idea and then just sit on it, rather than actually build stuff to help society.

And it also encourages the rest to patent lots of crap in defense against each other (doesn't work against the trolls). Not very good for innovation. And overall it just ends up being an unnecessary tax on society. Useless friction on the wheels of progress etc.

Ideas are easy. Many of us here can come up with lots of ideas. The difficulty is getting them done.

Plagiarism on the other hand is something different. So to me it's fine for you to copy someone, but you should not claim you are the first if you aren't - that would be lying (and if it's lying for gain it's fraud).

To me if you wanted to encourage innovation, you could have Prizes for Innovation. These would be judged in hindsight (hindsight is easier right?). You could have many different categories, and two classes of prizes - one judged by the Public and one by Experts in the Field.

So even if the expert snobs think your invention sucks, if the Public think your invention is good, you still could win a prize.

Yes it's not a billion dollar bonanza but neither are Nobel Prizes, and still many regard those as prestigious.

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Interesting)

eulernet (1132389) | about 4 years ago | (#33746312)

To me if you wanted to encourage innovation, you could have Prizes for Innovation.
Yes it's not a billion dollar bonanza but neither are Nobel Prizes, and still many regard those as prestigious.

In France, we have subventions for innovation by an organization called Anvar.

You have to present your R&D advances, and if it's innovative enough, you'll get money to help you pay your development team (they'll pay you a percentage of your expenses for the R&D salaries).

Of course, all companies are taxed for this organization, but the money is redistributed to the innovative ones.

In my opinion, this is a better way to handle innovation than patents, since you can be paid around 2 years after having started...

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 4 years ago | (#33744634)

"Patent trolls" foster innovation because it seeks out inventors and encourages them to do pure research and development.

Ah, so I shouldn't be scared about the missed calls I have on my answering machine (while asleep after a larval stage [catb.org] ), the patent trolls were trying to encourage me, not threat me with patent-law suits.

Re:Help us steal from others! (3, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 4 years ago | (#33744652)

To give a counter-example:

I just patented "Commenting in an online news aggregation website" - now do research and development on that. You can't in fact. You can't get around it. My code was protected WITHOUT the patent. In fact, allowing ideas to be free and watching people make their own code and their own implementation and twists on it is what increases research and development.

To give a good example of this - there are TONS of sorting algorithmns. If someone had patented "Using a computing device to sort a list" there would only be one.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33746366)

You're confusing two issues. One is patents on software, one is patents that are two broad a scope. Your claim is analogous to saying that patents on drugs are a bad idea because someone could have patented 'using chemicals to prevent the spread of illness' and prevented any advances in medicine for 20 years. The problem would not be with patents on drugs (in this case - there are other problems with them), but with the patent office accepting an overly broad patent.

A more convincing argument would be to ask what would have happened if heap sort, merge sort, and quick sort had all been patented. I doubt anyone would have patented bubble sort, so we'd be able to get away with using that, if we didn't mind everything being painfully slow. On the other hand, since merge sort and quick sort both involve recursive partitioning and subsorting, you'd probably need to license both patents to be able to use quick sort.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 4 years ago | (#33746504)

Patent 5960411

"Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network"

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33746638)

Note the words in the title: 'Method and system for'. If you actually bother to read the patent, then you'll see that this is a fairly specific way of implementing an online shopping cart. There are several ways in which you can implement online shopping without violating this patent. It is not patenting 'selling stuff online,' it is patenting a specific way of selling stuff online. Even if it were, that would not invalidate my point; that granting overly broad patents is a different issue to patenting software.

Re:Help us steal from others! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744360)

Name a single company that hasn't "stolen" an idea from someone else.

Look at the GUI. Originally invented by Xerox. Apple stole it out right and then tried to sue Microsoft and HP for using the idea. When Xerox tried to sue Apple the case was dismissed. Few ideas were as original and trans-formative as the GUI. Companies these days are getting patent protection for ideas that others came up with decades ago or for absolute garbage. I have yet to see a software patent that wasn't overly broad, vague and utterly worthless.

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33744378)

Name a single company that hasn't "stolen" an idea from someone else.

RedHat.

Re:Help us steal from others! (0, Offtopic)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 4 years ago | (#33744602)

So your point is that you're a troll. Gotcha.

PizzaAnalogyGuy was way better.

Re:Help us steal from others! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744806)

RedHat stole the colour red from CocaCola!

Re:Help us steal from others! (5, Interesting)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 4 years ago | (#33744662)

Interestingly enough, the way patents work nowadays amongst large companies is "We won't tell if you don't"

Which means that Xerox won't sue apple because they'll counter-sue on X other patents.

Which also means that pa-and-ma's software development house can't raise its head high enough to avoid getting sued into oblivion.

And this is good for innovation :)

Re:Help us steal from others! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33745012)

It also means that patent troll companies can buy these "patents" and extort money from small or big businesses. Patent trolls don't do competing products and so the "patent as defence" strategy does not work for them. And that is bad for innovation.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 4 years ago | (#33745316)

Does anyone know of any fledgling software companies that were strong-armed into oblivion by software patents?

Re:Help us steal from others! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33745410)

Does anyone know of any fledgling software companies that were strong-armed into oblivion by software patents?

Mine.

I'm afraid to go into business with my great idea thanks to software patents. So I'll just keep it to myself and keep working my 9 to 5.

That's what's so insidious about software patents. They have a chilling effect on the industry.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | about 4 years ago | (#33745468)

Agreed. Running a startup is a huge amount of work, research, software development, marketing, soliciting investors, etc. According to the USPTO the burden is on the company to watch all new patents and contest ones which are blatantly obvious and or invalid as if the small businessperson had time or money to monitor and tangle with legal engines and patent trolls

I have some good ideas that I want to try to take to the next level. I wonder if there is another country more friendly to startups...

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Interesting)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 4 years ago | (#33746162)

Sure, but I was more wondering if there was actually a fledgling business who tried to get off the ground, but was hit with a hard lawsuit. I'm not saying there isn't a problem here (I think there probably is), but I was just hoping for a solid, measurable basis for such fears.

I don't know about you specifically, but it can be kinda scary to give up the 9 to 5 and run a business full time. Fears that look big may turn out to be small or non-existent. That's why I'm curious about actually filed anti-competitive lawsuits.

Re:Help us steal from others! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33745554)

The counter question is how many startup's were never started because the innovation field was littered with patent minefields

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Tim99 (984437) | about 4 years ago | (#33745646)

The Apple/Microsoft and the defensive Apple/Xerox actions were mostly about copyright ("Look and feel") rather than patents, and were resolved based on the ambiguous license contract between Apple and Microsoft. After the Apple/Microsoft case the Xerox case was moot.

Re:Help us steal from others! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33746240)

Actually, Xerox didn't invent the GUI. It was invented by an individual that showcased (loaned) it to Xerox at Parc. Digital Research invented GEM Desktop and Apple hired away the top 2 employees to start working on Apple's gui.. Apple then sued DR because of the Trashcan icon to slow down GEM. Microsoft copied from Apple and, if the movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" is a real portrayal, poor little Steve Jobs whined about Bill Gates stealing the GUI... Wahhhh Hahhhhh...

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33746396)

Look at the GUI. Originally invented by Xerox. Apple stole it out right

Interesting definition of 'stole'. Most people regard 'exchanging for something else of value' as 'buying' or 'bartering'. Or are you forgetting the rather large set of Apple shares that Xerox got in exchange for allowing Apple people to look at ideas from PARC and commercialise them?

Re:Help us steal from others! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744422)

People on Slashdot will be critical of this.

Something tells me that the Patent Office, if told the same thing, will not.

That is... People who aren't already on our side on this issue will not take your post of "What? Are you calling them thieves?" as sufficient argument that they're not. Unfortunate, but true.

Re:Help us steal from others! (5, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 years ago | (#33744276)

The USPTO isn't going to change their policies to help one small company steal ideas from others.

That would be quite a feat, as stealing ideas is just not possible.

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Funny)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | about 4 years ago | (#33744430)

That would be quite a feat, as stealing ideas is just not possible.

It is if I use my patented brain eraser on you!

Re:Help us steal from others! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33747014)

Well that was MY idea, but you stole it. So I guess it's not my idea anymore. thief.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | about 4 years ago | (#33744944)

That would be quite a feat, as stealing ideas is just not possible.

If you have an idea, and someone patents it, then it is effectively taken from you. Does that count?

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | about 4 years ago | (#33745922)

No, becasue effectively =/= actually having it taken - and even then, the only thing patents cover are expressions of an idea [in the form of inventions] - meaning if you have other means of implementing it, it should still be possible to get it out there.

Re:Help us steal from others! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33746094)

Ideas are essentially worthless. Only implementation of ideas create value.

Also, most but a small few high-profile cases of inventions are merely incremental improvements on already circulating knowledge.

It rarely takes a lot of investing to come up with an invention. It does however take investing to implement it. Thus the implementor who built th factory, paid the workers and shipped the item to market is more entitled to a reward than the person who just spent some effort thinking of it.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | about 4 years ago | (#33746356)

That would be quite a feat, as stealing ideas is just not possible.

This is demonstrably false.

When I was a kid my old man invented a tool for fitting high pressure hoses to fittings. A trusted friend was supposed to provide funding for the patent application process.. Instead of partnering with the old man the guy just went down and applied for the patent in his own name and became very wealthy. He stole the idea and patented it, and almost all tools that you see today for press-fitting hoses to fittings are some variation of what my old man invented back in 1962.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 years ago | (#33747106)

But your old man still had his copy of the idea, so it wasn't stolen. I suppose you can argue that credit for the invention was stolen, though, but that's a different issue.

It has been stolen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33747596)

It has been stolen. He cannot use it any more.

There isn't a clearer case of how "Intellectual Property" can be stolen than that. It's even more clearly "stolen" than plagiarism, where at least you're still allowed to use your own work.

But here your ideas are now the property of someone else.

They may let you on it, but this is no different than if it was your land or your car or your house.

If someone claimed ownership of your car and let you drive it if they paid you, would that not be stealing any more?

If not, what would it be?

Re:Help us steal from others! (2, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 4 years ago | (#33744352)

Indeed. It will instead maintain its policy that helps a small company steal an idea many large companies are already using and considered too obvious to protect, and register a patent on it in order to make money from lawsuits.

Re:Help us steal from others! (5, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | about 4 years ago | (#33744456)

It's not "steal ideas", it's "copy ideas". And, as far as I am concerned, it is a Good Thing. I have also been told that patents were invented specifically to promote publishing ideas so that they might be copied. Skimming the article, I didn't see any place where someone is asking the USPTO to "help one small company steal ideas from others". In short, I don't know what you're talking about.

What I do know is that many small companies (as which I don't think Red Hat qualifies, by the way) fear software patents. Not because patents prevent them from "stealing ideas" or even copying ideas, but because, as the article puts it: "there are hundreds of thousands of software patents, with tens of thousand more granted each year. Many are so vague that it's impossible to ensure that a new piece of code doesn't infringe on one of them, somehow. This in turn places a big fat bullseye on the back of all software developers, as infringement lawsuits cost millions to defend, let alone actual damages or injunctions." If that sounds like software patents are a great tool for wealthy companies to discourage, slow down, halt, or even destroy competitors or would-be competitors, you've got the right idea.

Re:Help us steal from others! (4, Insightful)

Aceticon (140883) | about 4 years ago | (#33745204)

To quote from Isaac Newton:

If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Patents on ideas go against the most basic principles that brought the modern age to be.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 4 years ago | (#33745252)

Raw greed tends to do that.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#33745842)

Like capitalism? Fairness?

Patents provide a legal protection for inventors to spread around their ideas. One inventor can say "I'm using system X with method Y to solve problem Z". Another inventor can hear that, and recognize that system X and method Y will work to solve their own problem with some minor but significant changes. Being different from the original patented idea, the new solution can go ahead just fine.

If the second inventor wants to directly copy the original idea, the patent allows the original inventor to license the idea, helping to recover the cost of developing it. The original inventor gets a fair chance to profit from his idea, ideally even starting his own company to manage the invention and innovate further.

That's the goal, at least. Now patents are approved that are too broad, and software patents last far longer than the idea's useful life. The basic existence of patents isn't the problem, though.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#33746230)

Like capitalism? Fairness?

Fairness is a subjective measurement and thus we can exclude it from this conversation entirely.

\

Now patents are approved that are too broad, and software patents last far longer than the idea's useful life. The basic existence of patents isn't the problem, though.

The question is whether patents help more or hurt more. If they hurt more than they help then the basic existence of patents is the problem. We can argue over that all day, though.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#33747350)

Let's argue, then.

I define "fair" as a situation where the person that spends resources has an equal chance to recover those losses as either anyone else with the same idea, or himself with any other idea. In other words, no external non-collective influence should alter the chance of recovering losses.

By that definition, it is fair for a bad idea go to market and fail. It is fair to see a good idea go to market and fail because of incompetent management. It is fair for an inventor to license the idea out to anybody free of charge. It is not fair for a good product to be undermined by a competitor copying the product exactly and just spending more on marketing.

The question is whether patents help more or hurt more.

I believe that patents and the current implementation can and should be considered separately. How does a patent itself hurt? Can you provide an example where merely protecting an idea has damaged the ability for an inventor to recoup their investment? How about an example where a patent has stifled innovation, regardless of the current broken implementation (lifespan of a patent, approval of broad patents)?

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33746590)

Patents provide a legal protection for inventors to spread around their ideas. One inventor can say "I'm using system X with method Y to solve problem Z". Another inventor can hear that, and recognize that system X and method Y will work to solve their own problem with some minor but significant changes. Being different from the original patented idea, the new solution can go ahead just fine.

It sounds like you've never interacted with the patent system. If you do X and Y, and X is patented, then you are violating the patent. If Y is X-and-some-other-magic, then you can patent Y, but someone doing Y must license both patents.

If it comes to court, then you must demonstrate that your method does not overlap with the patented method. While this is taking place, the court may grant an injunction, preventing you from shipping anything until the case is resolved. Even if you win, a small company may make more of a loss from the case than they can possibly recoup.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#33747526)

If you do X and Y, and X is patented, then you are violating the patent. If Y is X-and-some-other-magic, then you can patent Y, but someone doing Y must license both patents.

That's about right. That's why patents include a list of references. Credit where credit's due. How is that bad?

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

openright (968536) | about 4 years ago | (#33746630)

In the US, the constitutional purpose of patents, is to promote the advancement of science and art, not giving a "fair chance to profit".

Most all ideas behind software patents would be developed whether or not there was a way to patent them.
Software patents are primarily used as weapons or threats against other companies.

Or can you give an example of: "Without software patents, xxx would never have been developed".

In reality, software patents give an artificial monopoly on an idea with an inventive duration (time before someone else would think of it) of 0-1 year. They company holding such an idea will naturally invent less, as it can profit and litigate from old ideas for 20 years.

20 year patent and 95 year copyright monopolies interfere with competition/capitalism, as monopolies in general do. But these monopolies are government backed.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 years ago | (#33747212)

Patents are directly in opposition to free market capitalism as they prevent or limit competition. You can argue that they are justified under certain conditions, but that doesn't make them part of capitalism.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#33747682)

Consumers are free to buy any product they want. Companies are not free to copy any idea they want. Patents do not inherently restrict the right to compete. If you want to come up with your own completely different implementation of a concept, go for it. If you can't come up with a different implementation, that's not the patent's fault is it? Maybe the approver for approving a broad patent, but that's been acknowledged as a problem.

Re:Help us steal from others! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33747218)

I here the argument that patents are okay, but just too broad, all the time. I don't buy it. If the patent was narrower, it should be easier to code around. How does that protect the idea/patent if it is too easy to work around? Isn't it better just to have no patent at all, as it simply acts as an obstacle, without original inventor protection? If it is too broad, you cannot code around it, but we have the current problem. Where do you suggest we draw the line? Answer: ask a lawyer, and so we end up back in the same mess.

Re:Help us steal from others! (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#33745654)

I have also been told that patents were invented specifically to promote publishing ideas so that they might be copied.

The idea is to copy them after the inventor has had a chance to recoup the research investment.

With normal physical-device patents, that takes a long time. With software, everything moves faster. Keeping software patents around for decades isn't practical. My personal preference is that software patents be cut back to 5 years or so. It's enough to provide a fighting change for a new company, but not so long as to hinder development.

Beyond that, I agree with what you said.

They will stop all software patents. (5, Funny)

pablo_max (626328) | about 4 years ago | (#33744270)

I'm sure that's what they will do. After all, they have a long history of putting the public ahead of big business and making sensible decisions.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 4 years ago | (#33744364)

Oh, nice delivery!

Re:They will stop all software patents. (2, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 4 years ago | (#33744946)

Not so long as they get paid per patent accepted they won't.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33745420)

Not so long as they get paid per patent accepted they won't.

Then they should be payed per patent processed (either accepted or rejected) instead.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (2, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | about 4 years ago | (#33745544)

Then they should be payed per patent processed (either accepted or rejected) instead.

Which means they'll green light anything and everything they see.

Better to pay them to do their job regardless of the number of patents. You know...like much of the rest of the world.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (1)

jtev (133871) | about 4 years ago | (#33745640)

They could still get payed the same by using a big red "rejected" stamp on every patent too under the scheme of the GP. As in you pay an application fee, then you get either green stamp, or red stamp. It doesn't matter which stamp you get, you don't get your application fee back.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (1)

GooberToo (74388) | about 4 years ago | (#33745780)

Right, but under my scheme they don't have an intensive to stamp one way or another, at an accelerated rate. Having someone actually do the job they are paid to do correctly is typically preferred. And given that they USPO is on record as basically saying, "let the courts sort it out". Given a resistance free path in either direction, they'd likely green stamp rather than red stamp, which is basically where we're at today.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (1)

infalliable (1239578) | about 4 years ago | (#33746508)

Bad idea.

It will result in everything green lighted. A "green" stamp means that the USPTO is effectively done with it. Move on to the next.

A "red" stamp means that the inventor can come back with changes, questions, etc. It doesn't kill it. That process can drag on another year or more. The USPTO also puts together some reason for it being rejected. It is a lot more work and is drawn out.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (2, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | about 4 years ago | (#33745884)

Maybe they should have a big fine for every patent which is later invalidated. Subtracted directly from the salary of the department boss where applicable.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (5, Informative)

Grond (15515) | about 4 years ago | (#33746556)

Not so long as they get paid per patent accepted they won't.

This statement ignores a ton of history and implies corruption where there is none. The Patent Office has historically fought tooth and nail to oppose the expansion of patentable subject matter. It opposed patents on genetically modified organisms all the way to the Supreme Court. Diamond v. Chakrabarty [findlaw.com] , 447 U.S. 303 (1980) (the 'Diamond' in that case was Sidney Diamond, the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks). It repeatedly opposed patents on software all the way to the Supreme Court. Diamond v. Diehr [justia.com] , 450 U.S. 175 (1981); Parker v. Flook [justia.com] , 437 U. S. 584 (1978) (Parker was the acting Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks); Gottschalk v. Benson [findlaw.com] , 409 U.S. 63 (1972) (again, Gottschalk was the acting Commissioner). In Bilski v. Kappos, the Patent Office was fighting against the patentability of business methods, again, all the way to the Supreme Court.

In most of these cases (all except Bilski, in fact) it was actually the Patent Office that appealed to the Supreme Court rather than acquiesce to the lower court's ruling, so the Patent Office has for decades consistently fought quite hard against the expansion of patentable subject matter despite being reliant on application and maintenance fees for its budget.

Re:They will stop all software patents. (1)

sdnoob (917382) | about 4 years ago | (#33746554)

Yeah.. I don't expect any miracles out of the US federal government.

However, it would be really funny if it was some nutjob like Bilski that ended up causing software patents to be invalidated.

Ask the public??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744318)

Huh? Asking the public? We didn't vote for this! We voted for smart people in government and the USPTO to use their own brains and superior knowledge of the facts to do the right thing. Democracy not idiocracy. Let's go through the choices:

Option 1 - ignore it
Option 2 - apply it to all software patents
Option 3 - randomly apply it to some on a vague, arbitrary basis ("Apple App Submission" style)
Option 4 - ????
Option 5 - Profit!!!

Fat Women Rolling Around In Their Own Stench (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744400)

Roseanne Barr inflatable doll remade into a hot air balloon for your enjoyment,

Love,

Mr. X

Re:Fat Women Rolling Around In Their Own Stench (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744520)

Make it life-sized and it already has to be registered with the FAA as a blimp.

Why I don't like software patents (5, Insightful)

pesc (147035) | about 4 years ago | (#33744418)

I am a software author. Software patents interferes with my right to publish texts that i write myself.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744508)

If you read a bunch of patents and then write code that uses the ideas you found in them, then yes, I think something should interfere with you even if you wrote the code yourself.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744528)

My dear mister A. Idiot.

The justice system doesn't give a crap whether he read the patents or not, just that his code is similar enough.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (1)

rollingcalf (605357) | about 4 years ago | (#33745606)

"The justice system doesn't give a crap whether he read the patents or not, just that his code is similar enough."

The system doesn't even care about the similarity of the code; merely having similar observable behavior is enough to get in trouble for software patent infringement, even if the underlying code is very different.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (1)

berwiki (989827) | about 4 years ago | (#33745950)

Please don't take this as anything but a strategic business move.
If it was in Red Hat's interest to ignore patents, they absolutely would.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (4, Interesting)

pesc (147035) | about 4 years ago | (#33744574)

So why should authors of software have different rules than authors of (for example) film plots?

Why shouldn't we allow patents of film plots including (for example) a teleportation device as found in Star Trek?

Re:Why I don't like software patents (3, Insightful)

lennier1 (264730) | about 4 years ago | (#33744626)

Why shouldn't we allow patents of film plots including (for example) a teleportation device as found in Star Trek?

Because the movie industry is too busy running its extortion racket to follow up on things like this?

Re:Why I don't like software patents (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 years ago | (#33747298)

Shh! George Lucas will hear you

Re:Why I don't like software patents (2, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 4 years ago | (#33744644)

The problem with this is that if I decide to patent "Online Purchasing of Movies", then I will effectivly shut off all other people and get a monopoly on it.

Patents lock down ideas. In software this makes no sense, because there are so many ideas which are the effective 'next step', so its all a race to see who can get it first - no matter how abstract it is.

Patents make sense for certain things. If I design a program to sort a list in the most effective way to date, then I don't believe anyone should use it without my permission - however if I patent "Sorting a list", then that suffocates competition.

In conclusion, the actual instance of software is already protected enough by laws, we don't need patents to block entire segments of the market by patenting the "Idea".

Re:Why I don't like software patents (4, Interesting)

walshy007 (906710) | about 4 years ago | (#33744884)

Patents lock down ideas.

This is the problem, the patent system does not lock down ideas, it locks down implementations of ideas, or at least is meant to. The problem is that with software they are patenting the ideas themselves.

If I design a program to sort a list in the most effective way to date, then I don't believe anyone should use it without my permission

Your individual program of course not, that would be limited by copyright. But the method you used to sort?? By patenting it you would essentially be patenting the mathematics behind your algorithm, which is obviously a stupid idea from the get-go and there are reasons math is not allowed to be patented.

In conclusion, the actual instance of software is already protected enough by laws, we don't need patents to block entire segments of the market by patenting the "Idea".

Close, but I think what you mean to say is, specific implementations of algorithms in source/binary are already protected by copyright. People should be unable to patent different mathematical ways of doing the same thing, as well as the general idea.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (1)

BetterSense (1398915) | about 4 years ago | (#33745382)

There was a computer scientist who started a society to patent mathematical proofs and methods, as a way to highlight the absurdity of software patents. He was a big proponent of full, formal program verification and released a bunch of newsletters which were always hand-written. I can't remember his name for the life of me, thus I'm having no luck googling him.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33745864)

There was a computer scientist who started a society to patent mathematical proofs and methods, as a way to highlight the absurdity of software patents. He was a big proponent of full, formal program verification and released a bunch of newsletters which were always hand-written. I can't remember his name for the life of me, thus I'm having no luck googling him.

Edsger Dijkstra.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | about 4 years ago | (#33745854)

Patents lock down ideas.

This is the problem, the patent system does not lock down ideas, it locks down implementations of ideas, or at least is meant to. The problem is that with software they are patenting the ideas themselves.

Software patents are threefold: they patent a process, a system, and a computer program product. If you design a new method for surface treating you obviously would want to protect the advantage that such method provides, and the fact that a method would be carried away by a computer is irrelevant. If you design a system, there is a reason it is how it is, and it has costed something to you to find out why that system is the correct one, so I understand if you want to protect it. The fact that this system is implemented in some way inside a computer is, again, irrelevant. You could argue about patenting a product, because there are other juridic instruments to protect a product.

If I design a program to sort a list in the most effective way to date, then I don't believe anyone should use it without my permission

Your individual program of course not, that would be limited by copyright. But the method you used to sort?? By patenting it you would essentially be patenting the mathematics behind your algorithm, which is obviously a stupid idea from the get-go and there are reasons math is not allowed to be patented.

You don't patent mathematics, in the same way that a mechanical drawing doesn't patent drawing. Let's say you figure out the mathematic substrate of an algorithm: you patent that algorithm (aka process or method), not the mathematics involved. Remember, it's the method, system, or product what you are patenting.

Finally, an opinion: let software patents exist, but they should end after 5 years. That way, everybody wins: patents become too short-lived to be used as a weapon or deterrent, so a lot won't be applied. It allows the company behind the patent to safely profit from those methods, systems and products. Finally, other rivals are, at most, 5 years behind you, promoting competition.

Re:Why I don't like software patents (2, Interesting)

walshy007 (906710) | about 4 years ago | (#33746476)

You seem to be treating this as if a computer is an extension to a machine. While the hardware of a computer is a machine it is in the software that the wanted functionality resides. Computers essentially only do math, extremely fast math but math.

You don't patent mathematics, in the same way that a mechanical drawing doesn't patent drawing. Let's say you figure out the mathematic substrate of an algorithm: you patent that algorithm (aka process or method), not the mathematics involved. Remember, it's the method, system, or product what you are patenting.

Your argument seems to be that pure mathematics without applied use is not patentable, but apply mathematical formula and methods to a problem and it suddenly is? ludicrous. You would in essence be sectioning off certain parts of math applied to certain topics to specific people.

Any form of useful mathematics takes an input and produces and output, and could be considered a 'process' as such that transforms something. That being said, it is entirely abstract unless you argue about the computer modifying electrons, and is irrelevent to actual physical inventions

Only the program product deserves protection, and it is already protected by copyright, so what useful purpose do software patents serve except limiting what uses people can use math and abstract ideas for?

Re:Why I don't like software patents (1)

pesc (147035) | about 4 years ago | (#33745692)

The problem with this is that if I decide to patent "Online Purchasing of Movies", then I will effectivly shut off all other people and get a monopoly on it

Well, a patent IS a monopoly granted by the state to individuals or corporations.

Patents == monopolies. Let that sink in.

I am a proponent of free markets where anyone can compete. I think monopolies should be abolished. Monopolies or guilds should not exist in a free market economy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guild [wikipedia.org]

Re:Why I don't like software patents (1)

Grond (15515) | about 4 years ago | (#33747176)

I am a software author. Software patents interferes with my right to publish texts that i write myself.

Could you give an example? Have you been sued for patent infringement? Threatened? Did you decide not to market a program after discovering that it was covered by a software patent? Did you contact the patent owner to see if a free or inexpensive license was available?

I need software patents to survive! (1, Funny)

winnitude (1352731) | about 4 years ago | (#33744488)

I make millions from suing college students who copy my "Hello World" code!

as a holder of patents on random shit (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744500)

as a holder of patents on random shit that shouldn't be patentable all I can say is that the USPTO cleans up the mess they have created.

At least they ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33744544)

Will be interesting to see if they act on the advice. There are some seriously large companies that share the same view now.

patents' real innovation (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 4 years ago | (#33744920)

Patents only brought us one real innovation: litigation innovation.

Seo India (-1, Offtopic)

marystephen (1881152) | about 4 years ago | (#33745100)

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With all due respect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33745450)

The proper venue for changing patent laws is congress.

The Supreme Court clearly could have decided Bilski narrowly or or broadly (as Red Hat and others would have liked). They clearly chose to decide the case more narrowly, and while this may give the patent office greater motivation to "push the law", it also motivates them not to do what Red Hat is asking.

The patent office is unlikely to make drastic changes absent clear direction from congress, or the Supreme Court.

Let's be a little honest, the patent office is filled with a bunch of "very smart individuals"!

Re:With all due respect... (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 4 years ago | (#33746326)

Congress is unlikely to cut off the corporate gravy train of lobbying dollars, and SCOTUS is too backlogged as it is to take care of anything that comes across its plate.

Red Hat, the owner of many software patents? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#33745702)

Or some other, less hypocritical company?

Before anyone shrieks "DEFENESTRATIVE PORPOISES OWNLY!!!!!11!!!", please remind me: who now owns all of SUN's patent portfolio?

What's it to be, Red Hat? Are you going to (not) put your patents where your mouth is?

Re:Red Hat, the owner of many software patents? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33745918)

Done. http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/index.php

Re:Red Hat, the owner of many software patents? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 years ago | (#33747378)

They have a patent pool that protects the core of the GNU/Linux environment, and a presumably irreversible promise to not bring suits against FOSS under at least a certain group of licenses.

Not just Software Patents... (1)

flajann (658201) | about 4 years ago | (#33745898)

Not just software patents should be denied, but lifeform patents as well. In fact, I would love to see all lifeform patents invalidated, as this would take the wind out of the sails of Monsanto.

New Government (1)

Yfrwlf (998822) | about 4 years ago | (#33746248)

Wake me up when U.S. citizens are ready to take back their country from the corporations.

Re:New Government (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33746652)

Wake me up when U.S. citizens are ready to take back their country from the corporations.

Oh, we are -- everyone I know bitches about how the corrupt government is in corporate pockets. We just don't know how to do it without armed revolution. Nobody wants a war on their own land unless there are already a lot of casualties.

A lot of people I know are simply ignoring government, regulations, and laws entirely unless forced to comply at the end of a gun barrel. Illinois has passed a "no smoking" law that outlaws cigarettes in bars (stupid; 9 out of 10 drinkers smoke) and half the bars in town simply ignore it and have ash trays on the bar. Marijuana and even crack is smoked and sold with impunity. Rather than calling the cops people are taking vigilante revenge against people who steal from them.

It's getting ugly. If the legislators keep it up, there WILL be armed revolution.

Re:New Government (1)

fnj (64210) | about 4 years ago | (#33747302)

OK, you will have a long, LONG snooze. Hope you have put on a good layer of fat.

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