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Ridiculous Software Patents: a Developer's Nemesis

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the there-are-no-new-ideas dept.

Patents 173

StormDriver writes "Have you ever thought about patenting a pop up note, an online poll, a leaderboard in an online game, or a system where you open apps by clicking icons? I have some bad news for you – it's impossible. Not because the claim is stupid, it's just that all of those things are already patented. And it's all fun and factoids, until one day you find yourself in the role of a software start-up."

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So don't worry about it (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652982)

Ask a lawyer if you should pay a lawyer to do something for you, and what do you think the answer will be?

Be smart, just get on with it. Axiomatically, you'll only become a target for a lawsuit when you're already successful. You can pay a lawyer then, if you like.

Or alternatively, pay an accountant. Set the company up so all the liabilities are here and all the assets are there. Ignore patent trolls, ignore any court judgements, and if and when anyone with a badge does ever come to collect, point them at the Pile-O'-Debt and tell them to knock themselves out.

This isn't theoretical - I've already been though a few employers who were set up in exactly that way. One of them simply 'phoenixed' the liable part of the business overnight: rename it, put it into administration, start a new business with the old business' name, and "re-hire" all the employees. Only the company number changed. Apparently perfectly legal stuff, at least in the UK.

Re:So don't worry about it (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653104)

Thanks. Not wanting to be an ungrateful ass or anything, but it would have helped if you had stated the following information pertained to the UK first. Laws differ from nation to nation. As an American, legal matters are taken with a grain of salt from a public forum. But generally useless outside the referenced country.

Re:So don't worry about it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653214)

it happens all the time with american stories/commentators. you get used to learning things that aren't readily applicable.

Re:So don't worry about it (2, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654760)

Slashdot is an American site. Sure there are a large number of foreign visitors, but the site itself and the bulk of the readers are American. It only makes sense to assume we're talking about America unless a qualifier is given. If I went to the BBC's site and started posting in a discussion where location mattered I would immediately preface my statements with the fact that I'm talking about America, because though there are visitors from all over, the BBC is a British site with primarily British readers.

Like it or not, there will almost always be a "default" locale that is assumed when you're on a site.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

mo^ (150717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653240)

Yeah, saving the need to read 3 small paragraphs would have been a major help.

Wouldnt wanna read any info pertaining to something outside of ym own country, them dam foreigners got messed up laws.

Re:So don't worry about it (3, Informative)

rainmouse (1784278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653284)

Thanks. Not wanting to be an ungrateful ass or anything, but it would have helped if you had stated the following information pertained to the UK first. .

It's very typically the other way around. TFA for example assumes you are in the USA without ever even mentioning it and therefore ignores things such as the European Patent Convention which "excludes 'programs for computers' from patentability (Art. 52(2)) to the extent that a patent application relates to a computer program"

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patent [wikipedia.org]

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653368)

It's very typically the other way around. TFA for example assumes you are in the USA without ever even mentioning it

Slashdot and its parent company Geeknet are based in the United States, and thus you can make certain assumptions about its articles.

Re:So don't worry about it (2)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653504)

I tend to make the assumption that if it's about some silly law(-suit), patent or other silly legalese problem, then the poster resides in the US of A. else { Europe }. Occasionally I get a false positive, but then nothing of value was lost at that.

Re:So don't worry about it (2)

EMN13 (11493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653794)

Sounds like an efficient business practice! Have you patented it yet?

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

SuperSlug (799739) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654452)

I tend to make the assumption that if it's about some silly law(-suit), patent or other silly legalese problem, then the poster resides in the US of A. else { Europe }. Occasionally I get a false positive, but then nothing of value was lost at that.

Hey don't forget about Canada we are not with the USofAs crazy patent system. Canada doesn't allow software patents either. I'm not sure why more American software companies haven't closed up shop in the US and moved to more friendly patent free climes...

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654832)

It's cold in Canada. Hell it's cold in the upper part of the US that borders you, but past that it starts getting mightly cold to put up with, which is likely why 80% of the Canadian population lives with 150km/93miles of the US border.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654502)

www.slashdot.org are located on the WORLD WIDE web and thus you can make certain assumptions about its articles.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654638)

www.slashdot.org are located on the WORLD WIDE web and thus you can make certain assumptions about its articles.

Being on the "WORLD WIDE web" just means that it has a web page. There's a reason we emphasize "web" instead of of "world wide."

Even looking at the domain name (side note: domain names predate the world-wide web), you can make some assumptions. For example. the words "slash" and "dot" are in English, so you can safely assume "slashdot.org" is written in the English language.

Beyond that, you can't make any other assumptions without first reading the site, and if you've read this site for any length of time, you'll have noticed that it's written in primarily a United States citizen's viewpoint.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654830)

http://slashdot.org/faq [slashdot.org]
"
Slashdot seems to be very U.S.-centric. Do you have any plans to be more international in your scope?

Slashdot is U.S.-centric. We readily admit this, and really don't see it as a problem. Slashdot is run by Americans, after all, and the vast majority of our readership is in the U.S. We're certainly not opposed to doing more international stories, but we don't have any formal plans for making that happen. All we can really tell you is that if you're outside the U.S. and you have news, submit it, and if it looks interesting, we'll post it.

It is worth noting that there is a Japanese Slashdot run by VA Japan. While we helped them a little in their early days, they essentially run their own content without any real involvement from us... none of us can read Kanji! There are currently no plans to do other language or nation specific Slashdot sites.
"

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

jitterman (987991) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653846)

Yep, I'm gonna "me too" your other repliers - I'm an American, and I know that I don't state that up front, ever (except, ironically, in this post). I think we'll live if other nations' citizens make a "my country-centric" statement from time to time too.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654338)

I'm in Canada and it's like too many spoons when all you need is a knife. Eh.

Re:So don't worry about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654512)

I'm in Canada and it's like too many spoons when all you need is a knife. Eh.

Ironic, isn't it? Eh.

Re:So don't worry about it (3, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653898)

This also works in the US. I have done this to guard against the threat of lawsuits with small companies (but never had to use it). Large companies do this all of the time. It's called "strategic bankruptcy". Its a convenient way to privatize profits and socialize the losses. Our banker friends did this with all of the toxic loans they created.

If you go and actually try to research software patents your head will explode so best to follow Linus's advice:

I do not look up any patents on _principle_, because (a) it's a horrible waste of time and (b) I don't want to know. The fact is, technical people are better off not looking at patents. If you don't know what they cover and where they are, you won't be knowingly infringing on them. If somebody sues you, you change the algorithm or you just hire a hit-man to whack the stupid git.

Re:So don't worry about it (4, Insightful)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653176)

Already succesful and fully profitable are 2 completely seperate things. It isn't unheard of for a software package to pick up enough of a following to draw the guns before making enough to simply pay off the authors past due mortgage payments, and even profitable dosn't mean a lawyer is going to do you much good. Lets say somehow microsoft had a patent for something blatently obvious that was used in a game that say made 100k in a year, after expenses cost of living etc, this start up has 25k left to pay a lawyer to deffend himself, from microsofts 2.5 million they decided would be worth investing into eliminating a threat before it was big enough to fight back.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

Kirth (183) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653426)

Actually, he doesn't need a lawyer, he needs a new government.

But yes, I would otherwise (apart from working to get a government which will abolish patents) ignore the whole "patents"-issue altogether and only worry when you're actually sued.

Re:So don't worry about it (3, Informative)

yeshuawatso (1774190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653656)

This won't work in America due to piercing of the corporate vail. Moving your assets to a holder won't protect them, and moving debt to subsidiaries won't work either, as you're committing fraud. This is the EXACT same thing Author Anderson helped Enron with. Enron moved their debt and losses to special purpose entities (SPE) to boost the parent companies earnings and balance sheets. As a result of such shenanigans, corporations got stuck with complying with the million dollar a year law called Sarbanes-Oxley. Granted most of the law applies to publicly traded companies, but if you're running games like this you're already publicly traded, or looking at an IPO, either way, you're going to run into SO pretty quick.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653712)

Well... Is better simply ignore all the stupid/nonsense patents, all of then. And if one lawyer try to enforce any of then, send back to the lawyer contractor the head of the lawyer.... Only the head.

Re:So don't worry about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653716)

No, you are wrong. You won't get legally threatened when you are successful, you will get legally threatened when you start becoming a threat. They will strangle you before you have grown enough.

Got bitten by lawyers :(

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

deadhammer (576762) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653800)

Be smart, just get on with it. Axiomatically, you'll only become a target for a lawsuit when you're already successful. You can pay a lawyer then, if you like.

Or alternatively, pay an accountant. Set the company up so all the liabilities are here and all the assets are there. Ignore patent trolls, ignore any court judgements, and if and when anyone with a badge does ever come to collect, point them at the Pile-O'-Debt and tell them to knock themselves out.

These are needless kludges. Stuff like this shouldn't be necessary. All these measures are patches for working around a broken system. Is some kid right out of college expected to put development of his Awesome New Idea on hold until he can contract a patent attorney, an accountant and a legal aide so he can implement the most trivial and obvious of software patterns? Kiss the Mark Zuckerbergs and Sergey Brins of the world goodbye, they'll go off and innovate in areas *not* encumbered by such useless nonsense.

Re:So don't worry about it (2)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654334)

Stuff like this shouldn't be necessary. All these measures are patches for working around a broken system.

That system is called western civilization. It shouldn't be necessary to do any work at all but have all of life's pleasures delivered for simply living but that's not reality either. Deal with it.

Is some kid right out of college expected to put development of his Awesome New Idea on hold until he can contract a patent attorney, an accountant and a legal aide so he can implement the most trivial and obvious of software patterns?

That advice has little to do with software patents honestly and is just good advice when setting up a business of any sort. Talk to an attorney and/or talk to an accountant. Do that a few times till you find one who isn't a lying worthless shit. Then do your own research. Then talk to them again.

Life is full of complications so, as I said before, learn to deal with it.

Kiss the Mark Zuckerbergs and Sergey Brins of the world goodbye, they'll go off and innovate in areas *not* encumbered by such useless nonsense.

Zuckerberg is getting sued last I checked for some hilariously bad contract he made early on.

Sergey Brin was a student at Stanford, they in fact paid to have everything he did patented. Actually, everything he did was owned by them but that's the usual PhD student arrangement. Works out quite well assuming your school isn't a bunch of bastards. Probably paid for good accountants and attorneys as well to ensure good return on their investment.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653924)

Or just live in Europe (no, UK isn't really there) and forget about software patents : they are illegal there and despite the EUPO giving them anyway for a fee, they have never been tested in court.
Most of them are defensive patents for companies that wish to sell software in US or Japan.

Re:So don't worry about it (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654038)

Or alternatively, pay an accountant. Set the company up so all the liabilities are here and all the assets are there. Ignore patent trolls, ignore any court judgements, and if and when anyone with a badge does ever come to collect, point them at the Pile-O'-Debt and tell them to knock themselves out.

This isn't theoretical - I've already been though a few employers who were set up in exactly that way. One of them simply 'phoenixed' the liable part of the business overnight: rename it, put it into administration, start a new business with the old business' name, and "re-hire" all the employees. Only the company number changed. Apparently perfectly legal stuff, at least in the UK.

How do you get credit as a company with all liabilities and no assets?

Re:So don't worry about it (2)

ghjm (8918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654738)

The company with the assets has a side business of extending credit to the company with the liabilities, at an extremely high interest rate.

Re:So don't worry about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654842)

The company with all assets and no liabilities does the borrowing, then re-lends to the liability container corporation.

Re:So don't worry about it (3, Insightful)

jbolden (176878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654620)

That's not so easy in the USA. US law has the notion of "shell corporation" and you can pierce the corporate veil to go after judgements. In fact setting up things this way allows the court to go after the owner's personal assets.

The end is nigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652994)

One day we won't be able to do anything, patent trolls will scour the net and keep innovation at bay.

Re:The end is nigh (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653646)

Nuh uh! I just filed a patent on a method for stifling innovation by strategically filing patents with no intention to develop!

Re:The end is nigh (2)

gsslay (807818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654084)

Nuh uh! I filed a patent on methods of filing patents. You'll be hearing from my lawyers.

Re:The end is nigh (1)

margeman2k3 (1933034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654380)

pfft, you'll be hearing from IBM's lawyers first. They're trying to get patent for that patent you filed (link [slashdot.org] )

This is right. (4, Insightful)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653026)

I date back to Z80 Assembly as the preferred programming method. I had developed some very interesting and unique things. I never thought of patenting them, and I shared them on bulletin boards and in print with joy.

Now, with my many years of experience, because big business has laid lawyer minefields with software patents, I don't even think of publishing my own programs. When I do work, it's as a contract consultant to a giant company (who also has me tied up in 2" of contracts that I can never work for anyone else)

I'm thinking my next venture will be a hot dog stand. A good hat dog is as illusive as it is tasty.

Software patents serve no one but giant companies, and only to stifle innovation. Exactly the opposite of their stated purpose.

Re:This is right. (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653316)

A good hat dog is as illusive as it is tasty.

Yes, yes it is. And hard to find.

Re:This is right. (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653444)

It isn't that hard, once you train them to stay on your head without squirming around and using their claws to stay on. I find the smaller breeds work best but then I do not live in a cold climate.

Re:This is right. (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654894)

That's what declawing and sewing the feet together is for. You may want to hire a new haberdasher.

Re:This is right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654940)

Agreed. I had tried a Siberian Husky once, but only ended up in a neck brace.

Re:This is right. (4, Interesting)

pieterh (196118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653734)

"Software patents serve no one but giant companies, and only to stifle innovation. Exactly the opposite of their stated purpose."

However, that was always their purpose. It's always been the largest firms (particularly IBM pre-2000 and Microsoft post-2000) that expanded patent law into software, and that bought the most patents. Small firms have never mixed innovation with patenting, it's contradictory. You can either hold patents and sue others, or you can make products and avoid patents. Trying both means you are sued systematically unless you are in a field with practically no patents, e.g. a technical patent on a fashion item like a shoe.

Patents are inherently anti-competitive, this is well known in the patent industry, where people who actually make products and innovate are considered as a kind of food source for higher level patenting predators.

In software, the food source seems endless, which is why no-one's worried. But in other industries, it's already tipped so far that basic research is throttled in the US, EU, and Japan, and other countries are easily taking a lead.

All patents are bad, they all allow one entity to control the use of an idea in the market, they all act to restrict competition and they are all inherently anti-free market. There are no good patents.

Re:This is right. (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653776)

Sorry, Apple just patented hot dog stands. You'll have to go through them.

Re:This is right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654036)

Best hotdogs ever: http://www.zweigles.com/ [zweigles.com] The official hot dog of western NY.

Re:This is right. (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654292)

Now, with my many years of experience, because big business has laid lawyer minefields with software patents, I don't even think of publishing my own programs.

Isn't that the opposite of what you should do? I would think you should publish everything to make sure there is a public record of the prior art, to make it harder for these asshats to get and keep bad patents.

Re:This is right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654744)

You publish it to establish precedence, but when you do so, there is always some risk precedence has already been established. In the latter case, someone can sue you if you decide to use what you publish. That's what he's talking about.

patenting is easy, defending it is hard (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653056)

anyone can patent almost anything these days for a few thousand $$$. it's suing people who you think ripped off your patent is hard. takes lots of money and years of time

just ask i4i, kodak, apple, oracle, google, MS and others. you need to pay lawyers almost 24/7 and have employees always available for discovery motions and depositions

Re:patenting is easy, defending it is hard (2)

Barrinmw (1791848) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653168)

Oh, but it easy to threaten a small startup with a suit because they violated your patent, they don't have the money to defend themselves in court.

Re:patenting is easy, defending it is hard (2)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653452)

It's the business equivalent of the RIAA's copyright lawsuits. Find 1,000 small businesses. Send them letters claiming that they are violating a patent that you hold the rights to. Demand $X payment or you will sue. Many businesses will get scared and pay up. The ones that don't you can either sue (in a different district than they are in so as to make it prohibitively expensive for them to defend themselves) or you can ignore. Use the money towards Threat Round 2 (and towards a new car for yourself).

Devil's advocate... (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653062)

I agree the patent system is broken, and in the computer world it needs to have significantly shorter terms. But it's worth noting that many concepts (and the methods for implementing them), which seem "obvious" today due to their ubiquity, may not have been so 10 or 20 years ago.

Hell, many cultures never discovered the wheel, or would have developed much later if they hadn't been introduced to it by their neighbors.

Re:Devil's advocate... (2)

theRiallatar (584902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653114)

I'm pretty sure there's a Civ4 analogy in here somewhere.

Re:Devil's advocate... (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653138)

may not have been so 10 or 20 years ago.

We've had the internet for over a decade now, and yet "ON TEH INTARWEBS!!1!" is still supposedly a novel and non-obvious way to do things.

Re:Devil's advocate... (3, Funny)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653676)

may not have been so 10 or 20 years ago.

We've had the internet for over a decade now, and yet "ON TEH INTARWEBS!!1!" is still supposedly a novel and non-obvious way to do things.

It's like the old adage about how to read fortunes from fortune cookies. Except instead of the usual, you substitute "on the web" to get your patent.

Re:Devil's advocate... (2)

dataminator (1447053) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654130)

Do you actually have an example where the differenciating aspect with regard to prior art is "on the internet"?

I doubt that you will even find many examples that mention the internet in the independent claim, as that would be far too limiting. Only very inexperienced (and dumb for not getting help) applicants would possibly write a patent like that.

Re:Devil's advocate... (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654272)

Patents are supposed to cover implementations, not ideas. If I patented, say, a glue that worked in space, or at the bottom of the ocean, it wouldn't be "obvious" just because it's glue.

While the patent system is abused and some of the things "patented" are vague ideas that would apply to almost any implementation, there's no reason why a patent can't cover something which already exists in another environment.

Re:Devil's advocate... (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654654)

We've had the internet for almost 40 years now. And how to do things on the internet isn't always obvious.

Re:Devil's advocate... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653374)

Hell, many cultures never discovered the wheel, or would have developed much later if they hadn't been introduced to it by their neighbors.

Group one's distant descendents should be paying group two's distant descendents for the patent rights to put wheels on their new space shuttle.

Re:Devil's advocate... (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653914)

Group one's distant descendents should be paying group two's distant descendents for the patent rights to put wheels on their new space shuttle.

Duh! That's why we're protecting ourselves by switching back to capsules that parachute down instead of land on wheels.

Re:Devil's advocate... (4, Interesting)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654092)

Fortunately, patent terms haven't ballooned the way copyright terms have. Patents now cover up to 20 years from the first filing date (which can be many years before the patent is ultimately issued). In most industries that's pretty reasonable, but in software 10-20 years can be an eternity.

It seems like the best approach would be to change the patent term to whatever the length of a "generation" is for a particular industry, consulting experts in a given field to determine what that epoch may be. In automobiles, it might be twenty years. In software development, it might be two.

Brain's advocate... (1)

jjohn_h (674302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654596)

>>> Hell, many cultures never discovered the wheel, or would have developed much later if they hadn't been introduced to it by their neighbors.>>>

Oh my, so the wheel was not discovered simultaneously everywhere? And people were learning from each other?
You are credited with an analytical breakthrough.

got to start somewhere (1)

WonderingAround (2007742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653072)

It's a hurdle for everyone who is interested in starting a personal business but guys like Larry Page at Google or even Richard Branson didn't get where they are by thinking inside the box, find out what's already been done and look for a gap in the market.

Bad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653090)

I honestly think that this will be one of the things that brought USA down. You keep transfering all your money to a couple of law firms instead of investing it in making stuff. Sad...

An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (2)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653102)

Not a european developer's nemesis. Because, software patents are not recognized there, due to higher level of common sense and less greedy control over society.

this picture painted in your summary and the articles, is the picture of what american capitalism did to software. a feodal minefield in which you either work for a bully stronger than you, or dont work at all.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653164)

Nor exactly. With politicians in Europe being just as corrupt and/or gullible as in the US the possible introduction of software patents is always a constant threat as well. It's just a matter of when enough of the right hands have been greased.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (3, Insightful)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653208)

Yeah, well, if you want to do any business in the US (which is a helluva market to just ignore), then yes it's even a European developer's nemesis.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653384)

No thank you. I don't want to do business in your stupid fucking country.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653576)

Spoken like a true business man....

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

garyok (218493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653962)

You're trying to make it sound like sarcasm but you're spot on. If the ROI's too low because of legal barriers to entry, then why bother? Especially when there's a richer market a 7-hour flight away. Localisation and translation (because all those pesky Euros will insist on not speaking English) are small burdens to take on if it means that your innovative new application doesn't have a 99% chance of being a millstone round your neck instead of your ticket to Ferraris and EUR2000/night hookers. Offshoring doesn't just mean to India and China, you know.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653400)

fact: the GDP in US is a quarter of the whole planet... there's three quarters of untapped customers if you forget about US for a second... and when you count potential end users using Internet, the market outside the USA is ever greater than you can imagine... learn something every day, uh?

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653518)

fact: the GDP in US is a quarter of the whole planet...

You scoff at that like it's a negligible number. Last I checked, a quarter of the entire planet's GDP is a helluva lot. You also neglect to realize that a big ass chunk of the 3/4 of the rest of the world is China, who barely recognizes copyright law and thus piracy is ramptant. So yea...good luck staying in business when you turn your back to one of the largest legitimate markets in the world and most users of your software are just simply pirating it.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654470)

Talk about two devils:
One market will blatantly steal your product and disperse it within their borders at a discount or free.
The other will sue you because someone thought of doing it, had no intention of actually doing it, but managed to get a patent to make sure they'd profit when someone did.

Sadly, one of those is lost revenue in that you make fewer sales. The other is lost revenue in what you have to pay in a settlement. At least in China you don't have to worry about losing assets that you had before entry.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653522)

Yeah, well, if you want to do any business in the US (which is a helluva market to just ignore), then yes it's even a European developer's nemesis.

Considering the insanely litigious nature of many of the people/companies in the USA these days, and the way the courts tend to work, it has come to the point that many companies are starting to find it really is better to ignore the USA market, because you simply cannot come out on top anymore.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653362)

Not a european developer's nemesis. Because, software patents are not recognized there, due to higher level of common sense and less greedy control over society.

Also, Europeans tend to be humble and not pretentious at all.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654416)

I see that you have not encountered the French.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653520)

Could you explain to me why virtually all of the largest and most innovative software firms are based in the US? Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, RedHat, Apple, Intuit, Mozilla, Gnu, Id, Valve, Google, Facebook, CA Technologies. Outside of the US, I've only heard of two really large software companies: SAP and Accenture.

I don't doubt that patents stifle innovation but, I do find it interesting that in the US where software patenting is in full force, we seem to have the most thriving software market anywhere.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653876)

I do find it interesting that in the US where software patenting is in full force, we seem to have the most thriving software market anywhere.

I would argue that that was due to being inside the biggest single market in the world during their respective growth periods, especially with regard to the technology market. i.e. right time right place.

Regardless of the state of patents, those companies could not have moved into being such large multinationals as easily if their home markets were smaller because they would not have been able to have such a large income base to use as a war chest when moving into new markets.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654232)

Good question. Where would we be if someone had sued Gates and Allen's asses off for porting BASIC to the Altair without permission? Or if Xerox had sued Wozniak and Jobs for copying their GUI concepts?

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654784)

Could you explain to me why virtually all of the largest and most innovative software firms are based in the US?

Good universities, concentration of peers in Silicon Valley, etc. It was that way before there were software patents in the US. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Intuit, Id and CA Technologies were all already major players by the 1980s. The remaining companies' success can hardly be attributed to software patents -- I mean RedHat, seriously? The RedHat that files court briefs against software patents pretty much any time the issue comes up?

Moreover, the existence of software patents in the US has absolutely nothing to do with the location of software developers. Software patents affect the market where software is distributed, not where it is developed. There is nothing preventing software developed in other countries from being patented in the US.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653662)

Not a european developer's nemesis. Because, software patents are not recognized there, due to higher level of common sense and less greedy control over society.

this picture painted in your summary and the articles, is the picture of what american capitalism did to software. a feodal minefield in which you either work for a bully stronger than you, or dont work at all.

In a truly free market the government does not impose restrictions on who can produce or copy the innovation of another. That's the role of a command economy.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

cpghost (719344) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654150)

Not a European developer's nemesis...yet!

There, fixed that for you.

Re:An AMERICAN developer's nemesis, you mean. (1)

brit74 (831798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654260)

Not a european developer's nemesis. Because, software patents are not recognized there, due to higher level of common sense and less greedy control over society. "

Wasn't gif under a patent in europe until 2004?

"The US LZW patent expired on June 20, 2003.[21] The counterpart patents in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy expired on June 18, 2004, the Japanese counterpart patents expired on June 20, 2004 and the counterpart Canadian patent expired on July 7, 2004."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphics_Interchange_Format#Unisys_and_LZW_patent_enforcement [wikipedia.org]

Confusing (1)

tom229 (1640685) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653288)

I've never understood how things became so abstracted with software patents. I suppose it's because in the real world mother nature does most of the foundational work for us, whereas in the software world everything has to be done from scratch.

Since we all seem to agree that you cant patent wood, or fire, or dirt wouldn't it be logical to extend this to the software realm? No more patenting drivers, utility libraries, or user interfaces since these can be seen as materials. You may only patent the unique functionality of the software you made by using those materials. And like all patents, it has an expiry date.

It surprises me no one looks at it this way.

Re:Confusing (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653380)

Since we all seem to agree that you cant patent wood, or fire, or dirt

At least in the United States, one can patent a novel composition of matter, such as a new type of wood or dirty.

And like all patents, it has an expiry date.

So do copyrights, in theory. But like copyrights, patents on methods of information processing last long enough to be counterproductive at "promot[ing] the progress of science and useful arts", as the US Constitution puts it.

Re:Confusing (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653422)

I have a simpler idea. You can't patent software. You can only patent a physical object. The problem with software patents is that if it looks the same (or even similar) it is very hard to prove that it is functionally different. For example, if I patent a machine that uses a saw to cut widgets out of a sheet of metal, that patent does not apply to your machine that cuts widgets out of a sheet of metal using a laser (ok, if all you did was put a cutting laser where I had a saw it might, but in all probability you would use a different feed mechanism if you were using a laser vs a saw).

Re:Confusing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653758)

>I have a simpler idea. You can't patent software. You can only patent a physical object.

The European Patent Office tried that (illegally) for some time, doesn't work as well as you'd like.
They granted patents on "a computer executing algorithm xyz" (since patents on "software" were and are not allowed in the EU) and raked in the fees.
After all, algorithm xyz is not patented or patentable. Just algorithm xyz executed on a _computer_ is (exact definition of "computer" nowhere to be found, so might as well be that your head matches the definition).

Isn't politics grand?

Re:Confusing (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654382)

The problem with software patents is that if it looks the same (or even similar) it is very hard to prove that it is functionally different.

It isn't trivial, but it's not as difficult as you're making it out to be. Usually all you need is the source code and a few people with computer science degrees.

Link to file:/// (1)

cpscotti (1032676) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653420)

TFA has a really badly broken link!
Check the link for "any form of Linux kernel".. it points to "file:///C:/Users/kpiskorski/Documents/Notka%20o%20patentach/Pwn2Own%20finished:%20Mac%20hasked%20in%205%20seconds"
WTF?! Pwn2Own.. Mac Hacked??! WTF!?

Programming is like composing. (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653484)

Programming is like composing music: you learn from the examples of others and you build upon it to improve the industry.

Imagine if someone had patented the 4-chord progression used by most pop songs [youtube.com] .

Maybe that's a bad example. How about the standard blues form?

Re:Programming is like composing. (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653792)

"Just imagine a world, where Elvis couldn’t play due to Rock and Roll patent held by a guy called, Jackie Brenston."

So what this guy is saying, patents on music would be a good thing.

Re:Programming is like composting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654120)

My mind went to a weird place, but it made sense, when I read the title a smidge wrong.

Don't care about patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653748)

Start-ups shouldn't care about patents. You will only get sued if you actually start earning money with your start-up ... then you can pay the lawyers or the royalties.

Shocking! (1)

human-cyborg (450395) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653770)

Some people are abusing software patents, and the PTO isn't doing anything to stop it? This is the first time I've heard about this and I'm shocked!

How many people know about this? This is an outrage!

Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children!

Silly patent example (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35653844)

This is more a rant than anything else. Read at your own risk.

I recently ran across a startup called Monvee [monvee.com] , they developed an application to "help people discover what is getting in the way of their spiritual growth and then craft a plan to address it". Whatever, not my cup of tea, until I saw the "Patent Pending" at the bottom of the website. Really, you're patenting a way to grow spiritually? A search of the USTPO database found their application, Method and system for virtual mentoring [uspto.gov] . From TFPA:

The present disclosure is directed generally to a method of and system for virtual mentoring including in one embodiment, an internet based software and computer implemented system to assess, analyze, and provide individualized recommendations to a user to identify a specific attribute or skill to improve and recommend particularized actions and resources that are designed to help the user improve the identified skill.

Not only are there a number [mentoringcomplete.com] of [chronus.com] systems [mentoringtalent.com] that [imentor.org] do [civicore.com] this [mentorscout.com] , but any patent attorney in their right mind would have found all this simply by searching for "corporate mentoring software". Oh and maybe try a search for "cognitive behavioral therapy software", psychologists have been doing the same thing for years.

Just not under the name of God.

Re:Silly patent example (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654046)

This is just an example of a patent to 'do X using the Internet'. Where X is not an innovation and probably prior art.

Its like the invention of the pickup truck. Or more like the idea of a pickup truck being placed into the public domain (much like the Internet was, patent free). The first farmer who said, "Gee. I can haul my corn to the market in this instead of a horse drawn wagon" would be on shakey ground trying to patent it. Particularly if the pickup truck's creator had envisioned a vehicle for hauling anything anywhere. But the farmers who follow on trying to patent hauling apples, pomegranates, hay, or whatever have no claim to novelty by any stretch of the imagination.

Come on, Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35653902)

As long as this debate's been around, Slashdot still hasn't figured out that people like StormDriver have no idea what they're talking about?

None of those patents likely cover the broad concepts StormDriver says they do. What does he base his conclusion on, their titles? A more accurate, but still woefully incomplete analysis would read: Ever thought about patenting (or implementing) the idea of:

1. A computer-implemented method for interpreting data received from a mouse to minimize the need for clicking the mouse when using a graphical user interface which includes a plurality of window types, the plurality of window types includes a subset of windows designed to be activated only by a double click, the method comprising the steps of: receiving a single click; determining if the single click occurred on the subset window type; sending a double click signal, if the window is the subset window type, to activate the window.

Well be careful, because depending on what all those words mean, you might not be able to. I'm sorry, but how does all that equate to "a system where you open apps by clicking icons"?

Look at patent claims, not titles.

Re:Come on, Slashdot (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654878)

You think that claim you posted is any better? The claim covers converting a single click into a double click when clicking on an icon.

Re:Come on, Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654982)

None of those patents likely cover the broad concepts StormDriver says they do.

I see you're posting AC so that nobody would hit you up for the $sixfigures to counter a patent lawsuit that claims they cover those broad concepts. In the end, people would have to turn over their source code to prove that if your program activates a window with a single click, that said window wasn't designed to be activated by a double click and that you're not "sending a double click signal" to activate the window.

And then there's the Doctrine of Equivalents, so once you've shown him your software doesn't work the same way the patent holder can counter with "well, it does the same thing!"

You can say "the patent isn't that broad" all you want, it's the patent holder that decides who to sue or not sue.

I'm posting AC because I'm VP for a startup currently embroiled in a patent argument (not yet a lawsuit) and the situation has progressed exactly as I laid out above (including the patent holder stating that they'd go to court and try for a Doctrine of Equivalents win). Since we don't have $100k or so on hand to blow on broken windows, we will almost certainly end up taking a license at x% of everything we make for the next 6 years. If we're lucky, the blood in the water won't attract any more sharks, it'd only take 4-5 trolls each hoping for 5% to ensure that we will never be profitable.

My dire prediction (2)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654116)

I hope I'm wrong but I find it entirely credible that in the not so near but also not too distant future writing programs -- be it for yourself, for OSS, or for small commerce -- will become an unlawful underground activity. All software and information will be controlled by a small group of huge stock enterprises, the sole survivors of the first international patent and copyright war. Unless they work for one of those giants, programmers will have to meet conspiratively in old cellars, private apartments, and unknown bars but often these meetings, which are only announced by mouth to mouth propaganda, will be interrupted and dispersed by violent police raids, often resulting in people getting killed, arrested, or being sued for statutory damages of 75 trillion dollar.

Hopefully, if this is going to happen it will be a bit like Half Life 2 (except, perhaps, for the aliens).

Re:My dire prediction (1)

human-cyborg (450395) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654410)

Hopefully, if this is going to happen it will be a bit like Half Life 2 (except, perhaps, for the aliens).

I'm thinking more Blade Runner meets The Matrix. Except that they'll likely not trade software on Mini Discs. (Or maybe they will, who knows; I still watch movies on Laser Discs (and occasionally Videodiscs.))

All software patents need to be nullified... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654396)

Software patents are the largest obstacle to innovation in the world. The Government exempts itself from all patents - it can infringe all it wants since the laws do not apply to them. I want the same protection, so M$ or $ony can't come after me with their cadre of bottom-feeding lawyers trying to suck every penny out of me. This is why America is a dead-end for innovation and any type of leadership in the world today. Too many lawyers and other parasites looking to suck money from any innovative idea.

There are patents for things that are impossible, but if someone ever comes up with a way to actually teleport, you'll have to pay someone that patented the idea. What a crock!!!

This is how we do it in the USA (as per SBA) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35654614)

1) Incorporate (protects your personal assets).
2) Form an "S" Corporation (so you can pay yourself, you know CEO type pay).
3) Do what ever you want because the company can crash and burn, but hey you got your money :)

A nice spin on this (aka ENRON), don't actually pay employees, give them stock options out the wahzoo.
Then give yourself another bonus for saving the company money, wink wink nudge nudge.

Don't you just love capitalism.

Yeah, right (1)

Meneth (872868) | more than 3 years ago | (#35654930)

That's why most of us just ignore them.
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