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Ask Slashdot: Reducing Software Patent Life-Spans?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the getting-rid-of-seems-the-obvious-answer dept.

Patents 274

seattle_coder writes "Many have advocated for the elimination of software patents. The arguments generally are that software patents are handed out too easily, and that they're too difficult and expensive to fight. Some say that patents just plain don't make sense for software, which is such a dynamic technology. Given that the standard patent lifetime is 20 years, and software changes so rapidly, is the life-span the problem for software patents? Would reducing the software patent lifetime to 5 years or even less be the thing to do?"

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This doesn't solve the problem (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394862)

No, because the process to get a patent can easily stretch five years. Also that doesn't solve some of the other fundamental problems with software patents, such as software being math.

Let's go back to square 1 (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395450)

People who advocate the idea of Patenting will say that without the protection of Patents people do not have the incentive to innovate.

I can see some validity of that argument on things like machinery or even on fancy gadgets.

In this world where copycats are abound if there is no legal protection then anyone can copycat anything anybody else come up with.

But in software I don't see it.

I mean, the software we are using - the apps - are made up of COMPILED source codes.

All those so-called "innovations" on the software sides are mostly on the source-code side - although there are Patents that apply to the "GUI" thingy - but all in all, the source-code Patents do not make sense.

I mean, there are ways to protect prying eyes from source code thefts. There are encryption scheme that can disable anyone trying to disassemble an application.

It's not like a machine where people can open up a machine and see the inner working parts.

An app, on the other hand, if someone were to copycat that app they have to re-write that app from scratch.

But this is only my 2 cents.

Thank you for reading.

Re:This doesn't solve the problem (2)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395836)

Would reducing the software patent lifetime to 5 years or even less be the thing to do?

I think that would solve the problem, say, in the same way that we could stop obesity by poisoning all refined sugars with arsenic.

Better to just abolish them altogether then.

I've filed two (fairly insignificant) software patents for my employer. Of course this is one way they fund their research and can afford having smart people (and some others like me) sitting around and coming up with fancy stuff. The process isn't inherently bad (imho). The problem both with patents in general but with software patents in particular is that it's so difficult to distinguish between good and bad patents. One thing I think is really bad is that it is so easy to patent the obvious solution to a problem that just hasn't been considered until now because (e.g.) some necessary technology hasn't been around. But how can we make a rule to disallow patenting of the obvious? 10 years from now anything could seem "obvious". Another "bad" thing is too general patents. But a flip side of that coin is that if your patent isn't general enough, someone might fine a tiny little thing to change and thereby circumvent it with hardly any effort at all.

So all in all I would probably be for abolishing software patents or at least making them far more restrictive until it becomes clearer how they can be well used. But this isn't because they are inherently bad, but because we haven't figured out how to define good boundaries yet. Within specific fields I think it might well be possible to have useful software patents.

Better to eliminate them altogether (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394864)

We shouldn't be able to patent software for the same reason we can't patent mathematics. Copyright protection is sufficient and suitable for software.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395282)

Except when companies like Eharmony get to patent mathematics. Really, a software patent is a mathematics patent, with concrete and potentially meaningful names assigned to the variables. Software is mathematics (CL, Lambda calculus, mu-recursive functions, etc.) dressed up to look prettier and be more human-readable (and perhaps machine readable too). A patent on software, without a specific underlying machine (e.g. like the original software patent from which this entire mess is descended), is a patent on mathematics. A patent on software coupled with a specific underlying machine is about as far as patents should be allowed to go, and only because of the modern reality of industrial processes and control equipment.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395554)

They didn't patent math. They patented a process for reducing the search set of a large database using a method involving a certain sort of fuzzy pattern matching. The fact that they can model that in math is irrelevant, except that it's the necessary to use that math to describe how it works in a patent application, though it's by no means sufficient to use only math to describe the entire invention.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395682)

"A patent on software coupled with a specific underlying machine is about as far as patents should be allowed to go, and only because of the modern reality of industrial processes and control equipment."

That argument was shot down over 100 years ago, in court cases regarding to player piano rolls that controlled machines... the pianos.

The courts ruled (quite properly) that the "software" -- the rolls that controlled the pianos -- were simply expressions of written music, and therefore the appropriate law for protecting them was copyright law, not patent law. They reasoned that a written work is a written work, no matter what physical form it may take, and regardless of whether it controlled a machine... a piece of punched paper telling a machine what to play did not fundamentally differ from a printed piece of paper telling a human musician what to play. It was exactly the same music, only the physical form had changed.

Recent years have brought nothing new to the table. There is no real difference between a piece of software (which is ultimately written by human beings) telling a computer what to do, than an English translation of the software telling a bunch of people with pencils and paper what to do. The only real difference is speed... nothing fundamental has changed at all.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395440)

I have a possibly naive question. When a company starts investing in hardcore R&D in computer science, they do it with some level of confidence that by the end of the research, they will get some patent-able results that they can use freely, and at the same time prevent other companies from outright copying them without the need for the huge initial investment.

Basically, in such a situation, you get copy-cat trolls instead of patent trolls. How would you propose to solve this problem, if patents are eliminated all together?

I am all for making patents hard to achieve and lowering their life-spans, but IMO removing them completely will hurt research more than help it.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395476)

prevent other companies from outright copying them without the need for the huge initial investment....ls. How would you propose to solve this problem, if patents are eliminated all together?

Because copyright still exists, so they can't "outright copy" your code. They have to reimplement it. And that's what uses the great amount of manhours needed to create working applications.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395990)

Copying your code does not apply for closed source applications anyway, my question has has more to do with the working algorithms that you put money and man-hours into. These are rarely used directly in your final application. Without patents, there is little incentive to put money into research, why not just wait for someone else to build and test a working prototype of an algorithm, and then implement it for your own application. You would be saving a lot of money this way. In case, you manage to produce a shinier product with the same algorithm, you are going to make more money.

I am currently wary of a patent for an algorithm filed by a huge corporation just recently. It is certainly hampering progress in my application and it is a screwed up system on the whole, but I can understand why they would want to protect it. Everyone would just look at it, and go like "Oh this works, let me implement it".

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396060)

You would be saving a lot of money this way. In case, you manage to produce a shinier product with the same algorithm, you are going to make more money.

Tough for the inventor, good for the market.

It takes a lot of work to make a "shinier product". You can keep polishing your product and building market share and reputation and stay ahead. In any case, if a big company wants to copy your idea, they'll just do it and you have to try to prove they used your patented method. Can take a decade and cost millions.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

the biologist (1659443) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395496)

that would be what copyright is for.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395526)

You can't patent math, but you can patent a process that applies it.

In other words, if you come up with a theorem, you can't prevent me from coming up with a new theorem that uses or requires your theorem.

But you can patent any new process for converting matter or data into other matter or data that depends on the truth of that theorem. If my theorem includes your theorem (rather than just requiring it to be true to prove mine is true), then I would owe you royalties because any process derived from my theorem would have to include processes derived from your theorem.

The trick is to determine all the processes dependent on your theorem and claiming them before prior art undercuts you.

E.g., you can't patent 1+1=2, but you sure could patent the abacus, and everything that works like an abacus, if you'd been there.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395856)

I have no problem with software patents so long as they want to divulge full source code as part of the patent, so that we don't have to redo their discovery when the patent expires. It's seems a little odd that they can get a patent, and then not release the source code in order to make the patent useful. There is no reason that the same piece of source code should get patent, copyright, and trade secret protections.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395862)

No, it's not. De-compiling to source then re-compiling using a different compiler will result in different (machine) code, the copyright won't match. The only way to protect software is with short term patents, and that patent needs to include both source code and the algorithm- or sufficient info to allow it to be implemented. Some people suggest software isn't deserving of protection, but if you just spent 5 years full time building a mission critical embedded RTOS for a commodity router you'd want to be paid for it.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396160)

IANAL, but it seems to me that the case of decompiling a binary to source and then recompiling, copyright infringement would probably be trivially easy to prove.

Consider movies. Copyright infringement of a plot is devilishly hard to prove. But if a chain can be demonstrated where a producer starts with a script and alters it bit by bit into a different product, the author of the original script has a good chance at successfully suing the producer. (Such happened to Steve Spielberg IIRC.) Your decompile -> recompile scenario would exactly fit this sort of situation.

But a clean room reverse engineering project would not infringe copyright. It might, however, infringe a patent.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395876)

We shouldn't be able to patent software for the same reason we can't patent mathematics. Copyright protection is sufficient and suitable for software.

That's oversimplifying. A piece of software can be seen as a component of a physical machine - which it in fact is whenever it would be used in practice (electrons arranged so-and-so in transistors etc.). There is no clear boundary between software and hardware because pretty much any interesting piece of hardware you look at today has some amount of software built in to it.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395996)

Yes there is. If you can knock on it, it's hardware, and can be patented. If you can't, it's software, and you can copyright it. Why is this hard?

"It can be seen" = we'll try to twist this until the fact becomes hidden. "It can be seen" != "is true".

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396134)

Yes there is. If you can knock on it, it's hardware, and can be patented. If you can't, it's software, and you can copyright it. Why is this hard?

"It can be seen" = we'll try to twist this until the fact becomes hidden. "It can be seen" != "is true".

Because I can formulated my bubble-sort patent like so: "A machine, that you can knock on, that represents integers as [10 pages to explain] and sorts them by doing [10 more pages to explain]". As soon as you program your computer to do bubble sort it becomes exactly the machine I just described, and you are infringing on my patent.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395882)

Patents are granted for ideas. You can have an idea for building a machine or an idea for building a program. Those ideas can be patented. If you implement the idea in software, that particular implementation is copyrightable. Patents and copyrights apply to different things, You're playing a semantic game by calling a program software and also an algorithm software, and trying to claim copyrights and patents apply to both.

Re:Better to eliminate them altogether (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396168)

We shouldn't be able to patent software for the same reason we can't patent mathematics. Copyright protection is sufficient and suitable for software.

I am tempted to think that software is more than math, it is math and logic applied to a particular problem in the real world --- where the sucess or failure of your solution isn't defined by mathematical or logical rules.

But by how much it will cost to mplement. How quickly it can be brought to market. The pupose will it serve.

These aren't the kind of questions that define a man as a mathematician --- but they most certainly are the questions that define a man as an inventor.

Copyright gives an writer a potent weapon against derivative works, against the "reverse engineering." of his stories. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck... No one is obliged open up the hood to look inside.

The internal mechanisms described in a patent matter.

To do an old thing - or a new thing - in a clearly original and productive way is what a patent is all about.

a word of advice... (4, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394870)

the one that's holding all the cards isn't going to ask for a new hand. the broken patent system serves the interests of large corporations, and they'll fight tooth and nail against any changes that is against their interest. in summary - dream on.

Re:a word of advice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394962)

the one that's holding all the cards isn't going to ask for a new hand. the broken patent system serves the interests of large corporations, and they'll fight tooth and nail against any changes that is against their interest. in summary - dream on.

Tell that to Microsoft [technology...tor.com.au]

Re:a word of advice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395172)

Why is it okay for 'the little guy' to abuse the patent system but it's a problem when it's Microsoft? Furthermore, isn't Microsoft getting nailed by our patent system as well?

Re:a word of advice... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395318)

We'll just have to sink a few yachts...

I've got a better idea. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394886)

Drag the Jew rat lawyers through the streets and make them pay for their crimes against software.

You may think that's impractical, but it's alot more likely to happen then any real reform of software patents.

Since it's legal to bribe politicians in America, and corporations who hold lots of patents also have lots of money.. well.. let's just say they bribed our politicians to fuck us over, and we've been in a downward spiral ever since.

Re:I've got a better idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394928)

Since it's legal for special interests to bribe politicians in America, and corporations who hold lots of patents also have lots of money.. well.. let's just say they bribed our politicians to fuck us over, and we've been in a downward spiral ever since.

There, FTFY.

Re:I've got a better idea. (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394956)

Jew rat lawyers? Come on, AC - the Jews may own a few of these patents and copyrights, but it's been a free-for-all all along. If you MUST dump on the Jews, go ahead - but save some dumping for white, black, brown, English, French, American, etc etc ad nauseum. I believe in equal opportunity!

it would be cool (-1, Offtopic)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394888)

to see all MS Windows versions from WinXP and older all source code released as GPL-3

Re:it would be cool (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394954)

to see all MS Windows versions from WinXP and older all source code released as GPL-3

I don't see how changing the patent term would have any effect on this whatsoever. Even if the copyright term was shrunk and they fell out of copyright, they'd go into the public domain rather than GPL.

Re:it would be cool (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394982)

IMHO - WinXP is not quite there yet. I give 15 years for copyright protection. We can all argue the fine points of this thing, but at least we're talking the same language. Patent holders, on the other hand, speak some kind of gibberish.

Re:it would be cool (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395226)

That sounds better, but you're missing the big picture. No source code.

When I buy a book, I can extend the work quite easily after it is in the public domain. I read the book, come up with my own ideas, and write a new one.

When I buy Windows XP, I can...disassemble the code and look at it. Have fun trying to extend it or fix any bugs. And that's assuming a shorter copyright term. The copyright on MS-DOS 1.0 expires in 2102. At that point we'll be able to copy the binary here and there, assuming any binaries can be found. The source will probably have been long gone and no hardware that it supports will likely be around either.

What a nice deal for Microsoft! They get a government monopoly on the exploitation of their works and all they have to do is give you an opaque version of the work that won't be useful for anyone when the copyright term finally expires.

We need at least source in escrow with the Library of Congress. When the copyright term runs out, the source is published. I'd rather require source publishing for any copyright, but I don't think that's going to fly.

Re:it would be cool (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395350)

Oh, I agree. I didn't miss the GPL-3 at all. You are perfectly correct. Source in escrow sounds great to me! I merely established what I thought was a reasonable time period for protection of copyrighted works, which differed from your own by a fraction. ;>)

Re:it would be cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395370)

Most source code is pretty much guaranteed to not build tomorrow, you'd have to capture every single dependency all the way down including libraries and even hardware. Today we have gate A20 - tomorrow, maybe not. Painting software as a just a *.c file is disingenuous.

Maybe we can escrow 50% of the operation of the system if we're lucky but I don't think you'll persuade nVidia to turn over their GPU designs, nor will you persuade Creative Labs to turn over their DSP and interface designs.

Re:it would be cool (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395748)

Almost no software depends on actual specific hardware, they depend on general well documented interfaces. People don't write games for Nvidia cards, they write games for DirectX.

Sure, we'd still have to implement compatibility layers, but imagine how extraordinarily easier it would be to write Wine if we had both the source of the programs and of Windows.

Re:it would be cool (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395846)

Being unable to compile the code as-is would be a tiny setback, compared to the potential knowledge gained from studying and modernizing it.

Prime example: look at any ID Software source code release (Doom, Quake). These games have been ported, upgraded, remade a hundred times over. Did this hurt the company ? Or did it create a huge following of dedicated gamers and modders and source hackers, some of which have gone on to create games of their own, or even work for ID producing great content.

And so what if Intel finally grows a pair and ditches the legacy A20 ? If we're too lazy to fix the code, we'll emulate the stupid old thing. And Creative Labs is fantastically irrelevant, has been for over a decade. They've tried to cheat death with that EAX garbage, but really there is nothing mysterious anymore about outputting sound from a computer. The only secret in that code is the number of bugs their Singapore-based dev team manages to conjure up on a daily basis.

I'm not saying everything should be forcibly open-sourced, but I do firmly believe these companies would do just as well if they concentrated on making their product better than the competition's, rather than relying on secrecy to protect their bottom line.

"Handed Out To Easily?" (0)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394898)

Who the hell is Easily, and why should he be getting all those patents?

Re:"Handed Out To Easily?" (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394948)

Easily is an entity, not a he, and that entity is not you, nor me.

Re:"Handed Out To Easily?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394966)

Who the hell is Easily, and why should he be getting all those patents?

My thoughts exactly. The summary is fairly poorly worded in general.

Re:"Handed Out To Easily?" (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395070)

Who the hell is Easily, and why should he be getting all those patents?

Why do you think its a he?

Re:"Handed Out To Easily?" (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395794)

Despite what the gender neutral language movement thinks, in current English, the masculine pronoun is used when gender is known to exist but not established.
Use "they" if you must, and if it doesn't introduce ambiguity of plurality, but don't expect that everyone does so.

8 years from filing date or 5 from product launch? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394902)

Would reducing the software patent lifetime to 5 years or even less be the thing to do?

Sometimes the patent has to be filed during development, not when the product is being released. So that proposed five year time frame could include a couple of years of development. Perhaps five is too short, or perhaps that five years begins with product release. Maybe eight years from filing or five years from product launch, whichever occurs first?

Re:8 years from filing date or 5 from product laun (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395156)

The individual product still gets copyright protection forever so the loss of patent only means that they can't exclude *everyone* from competing with their own products using their own code written from scratch.

Patents are a terrible fit for software and should never have been applied to it in the first place. Copyright provides plenty of protection.

NO PATENTS (1, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394908)

No patents for software, period. Copyright protection is the only proper protection for software. I cannot compromise on that position. And, yes, copyright protections should be limited for software, as well. There is really almost nothing in the world today more than 15 years old which NEEDS protecting! It's so obsolete that no one wants to use it. It should be publicly available, and in the public domain, for student's use, more than anything.

Re:NO PATENTS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395636)

Shortening software patents does not prevent you from continuing to lobby for their complete elimination, and may eventually result in evidence for skeptics and empiricists that you are advocating change in the correct direction. Stop making perfect the enemy of better.

Re:NO PATENTS (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395704)

I agree 100%. That's what the courts ruled in the past, and only recently has that changed. And just look at what a mess those changes have made.

First comment! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394912)

Unfortunately first comment was patented so I had to make it a third comment instead

You're framing it wrong (2)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394918)

is the life-span the problem for software patents?

No, the problem is that software is an algorithm and shouldn't be subject to patent law anyways. It's like trying to patent a mathematical formula.

Re:You're framing it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395490)

There's another reason it's misframed: patents exist ostensibly to "promote the useful arts". Software needs no such promotion mechanism, and the patent regime as it stands actually hinders the useful arts. If legislators want to promote useful invention, software patents should be abolished.

Re:You're framing it wrong (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395562)

Software isn't an algorithm. It's a device for controlling a computer.

Re:You're framing it wrong (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395782)

By that logic, a cooking recipe is a device for controlling a human.

OMG, mind control is here!

Forget Patents, what about copyrights?! (2)

telchine (719345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394930)

I dunno about patents so much. I think used properly they are useful. Unfortunately they are more often used to stifle innovation than they are to encourage it like they were intended to do!

My main worry is copyright. I think copyright law needs dramatic alteration! To me a Rudyard Kipling work that has been out-of-copyright for some time and bastardized by Disney to create "The Jungle Book" is more worthy of protection that a 20 year old computer game like "Tai-Chi Tortoise"

The first has a great deal of artistic merit, and will be recided in its original form for hundreds of years. The second will be in copyright for many years, despite the fact it has slipped from memory already!

There should be some distinction between a work that has potential monetary worth 75 years after its creation, and something that has no worth 5 years after creation.

Re:Forget Patents, what about copyrights?! (1)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395448)

There should be some distinction between a work that has potential monetary worth 75 years after its creation, and something that has no worth 5 years after creation.

Not only no, but Hell No!

If you create *any* sort of differentiation, then it will be exploited so that the big corporations' work gets the max protection, and stuff by little guys gets the minimum, regardless of any artistic merit or monetary value. It won't start out that way, of course, but over time corporations *will* find a way to corrupt the system for their benefit.

Copyright would be just fine if the term was limited to something sane. After all, it exists for the sole purpose of encouraging the creation of new works. Rudyard Kipling won't be releasing any new works (unless he comes back as a zombie, that is), so there is no reason whatsoever to have any protection on his original works.

The sole determinant for whether a work should be in copyright is whether it will benefit the original creator for it to remain in copyright. Not a corporation that bought the rights. Not the creator's children (or grandchildren, or great-great-great-grandchildren). Just the original creator.

Re:Forget Patents, what about copyrights?! (2)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396072)

The sole determinant for whether a work should be in copyright is whether it will benefit the original creator for it to remain in copyright.

Not only no, but Hell No!

The issue is whether it will benefit the public for it to remain in copyright. Copyright exists for the sole purpose of serving the public interest, by promoting the progress of science. It does this in two ways: First, by encouraging the creation and publication of the greatest number of works which otherwise would not have been created and published; Second, by limiting the scope and duration of copyright as much as possible.

It doesn't really matter what authors want, except insofar as we're essentially trying to 'bribe' them with the offer of a copyright, and it needs to be the least bribe possible that still gets them to do what we want, viz. create and publish works. Of course, at some point there is an issue of diminishing returns: It might be impossible to get a particularly recalcitrant author to dash off a few lines without promising him the moon. In that case, much as we might like having that work available, the price is too high, and we'll just have to pass. So long as the public gets the most bang for its buck, as it were, who cares whether authors like the deal. It's not as though they have a lot of alternatives.

Copyright would be just fine if the term was limited to something sane.

No, it would take more than that. In fact, I'd say that the number one reform we need is to stop automatically granting copyrights; we need to require registrations and impose some strict formalities. A system of short overall terms comprised of even shorter initial and renewal terms would probably be number two, and a broad exception for non-commercial infringement by natural persons would probably be number three.

Re:Forget Patents, what about copyrights?! (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396164)

Wish I could mod you up. So many people just don't realize what the reason for copyright is any more. It was never intended to generate monetary wealth. It was intended to generate cultural wealth by providing monetary incentive.

Re:Forget Patents, what about copyrights?! (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396176)

I'd say that the number one reform we need is to stop automatically granting copyrights; we need to require registrations and impose some strict formalities. A system of short overall terms comprised of even shorter initial and renewal terms would probably be number two, and a broad exception for non-commercial infringement by natural persons would probably be number three.

That's precisely what needs to be done. I'd mod you up if I could.

Re:Forget Patents, what about copyrights?! (4, Interesting)

robbak (775424) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396012)

There should be some distinction between a work that has potential monetary worth 75 years after its creation, and something that has no worth 5 years after creation.

I have a different opinion. Any work that still has relevance 20 years after it's release has become an important piece of cultural property that _desperately_ needs to be in the public domain, and the property of all.

Re:Forget Patents, what about copyrights?! (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396068)

I strongly disagree with you. Framing the copyright issue only from an economic stand-point is what got us in this mess, and to be sure that's not what the creators of copyright intended. To understand how wrong your definition is, consider this: should published artistic works that will always have monetary value (such as Homer, Shakespeare and Kipling) always remain in copyright because there will always be people who'd spend money to acquire them? Or, should those works eventually enter the "commons" where no single person has economic control over them, they are integrated into our culture and everyone can access and derive from them? Also, who decides which art is better to hand out custom copyright terms?

Copyright is a time and scope-limited monopoly on copying, it's not a license to print money. All works deserve the same amount of monopoly, if any, regardless of their quality, because all creators deserve an equal opportunity to control and profit from their work. How much each creator profits in the limited time they hold the monopoly is up to them and depends heavily on the quality of their art. Really, who would make more money from his art in a 10-year copyright term, Kipling or "Tai-Chi Tortoise"?

Moreover, why should Kipling be worthy of protection TODAY for something he published over 110 years ago? The monopoly of copyright was only intended as an incentive to publish works that will soon fall into the commons, and surely, he isn't going to publish any more books. His work is in the commons as it should be; it has become everyone's culture, just like the works of countless other storytellers throughout history, and everyone should be able to read it and even change it without restriction.

Is there any reason Disney should not have "bastardised" his work? Perhaps Disney's version doesn't agree with your personal tastes, but why shouldn't that version of the stories exist? Does Disney's version not have artistic value of its own? Would you prefer if that version had not been made? How many people would agree with you? Did Kipling lose anything when Disney adapted his work as a cartoon?

software patents in my pants (1)

slashpot (11017) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394932)

I have software patents in my pants.

Not a great solution (5, Interesting)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394936)

Yes, the lifespan of patents is a big problem.

But in software, things change so rapidly that patent protection for even five years is an eternity: by then, it is game over.

The fundamental problem with software patents is that companies patent simple ideas. The Amazon one-click purchase patent is a prime example. These kinds of ideas should be considered "obvious" by the USPTO, but unfortunately these kinds of things are routinely patented. The result is that there is a minefield of patents around every simple idea, every basic thing that one can do in software. Anyone who wants to create a startup company around a software product is at great risk, and instead of investing their time and energy into product development they now have to invest it in legal research. That is not a very good state of affairs for an industry that thrives on innovation.

If patents are to be allowed to exist for software, the bar for what is not obvious should be much, much, much higher than it currently seems to be.

Re:Not a great solution (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395250)

The Amazon one-click purchase patent is a prime example.

I see what you did there.

Re:Not a great solution (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395912)

The fundamental problem with software patents is that companies patent simple ideas. The Amazon one-click purchase patent is a prime example. These kinds of ideas should be considered "obvious".

That's correct. Also, there's the fact that old software concepts can be re-patented simply by applying them to a new business area: so, the first person to patent shoe-tying in the context of an e-commerce application gets a monopoly on the idea for twenty years.

I would note that this doesn't seem to occur in the field of /mechanical/ inventions, where the patent office appears to have its head screwed on straight. For example, a few years ago my father tried to patent a simple device designed to unclog garbage disposals. The patent examiner came back with prior art from the late 1800s --- a device with a very similar schematic but a radically different purpose. It was designed to unspool barbed wire for fences. I think the sensitivity level was a little high on that one, but at least there was somebody awake at the switch.

There are good patents, that's the tricky thing. Still, there are a variety of things Congress could do to ameliorate the problem, even without tackling it head on. For one, it could provide more funding to the USPTO examiners. For another it could provide a more cost-effective path to getting patents into re-exam. Even better would be to change the standard for finding a patent invalid. It would be a huge help even if these ideas were limited to patents filed during the 1990s, when the .com boom was in full swing and the USPTO had reduced its examiner qualifications to "does not (routinely) eat human brains".

Bad idea (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394940)

Would reducing the software patent lifetime to 5 years or even less be the thing to do?

No. Don't accept a compromise, it'll only look like you're trying to change the deal if you get it and then try to go further. If you oppose software patents, then oppose them.

Better analysts perhaps? (2)

pixline (2028580) | more than 3 years ago | (#36394944)

Just stop granting random patents because the people who decide on 'em can't understand what's written in a paper.
Let real tech people judge and - eventually - grant a *limited* patent, but stop giving away things because people can't read a proposal..

All tech related patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36394992)

All high-tech related patents should be 18 months from when the product first hits market. And if you don't hit market in a certain amount of time, you forsake the patent. Period. That's enough time to bring something to make a pile of money off early adopters and reward innovation while not stifling progress.

The problems (4, Interesting)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395008)

Making them 3 years would solve many many problems.

But, the TRIPS agreement says patents have to last 20 years.

However, the TRIPS agreement doesn't say that software has to be patentable. So countries could declare that software isn't patentable, and then create some new legal thingy called "petents", and say that petents last 3 years and that software innovations can be petented.

This would be hard work because some countries (USA for example) push the idea that TRIPS requires software patents.

http://en.swpat.org/wiki/TRIPS [swpat.org]

Really, shortening the duration would be as much work, and there's always the risk that the monopolists will find some other nasty clause to stick in to make 3-year petents really harmful.

Let's just go for abolition. It will take time, but it's the only practical solution.

http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Why_abolish_software_patents [swpat.org]

Mod parent up - knows what they are talking about (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395558)

Mod this up. We don't have the flexibility to alter our domestic law in this manner any more. But, as parent suggests, we could implement some kind of utility model system, aka "petty patents" that are shorter. Whether we can do it and grant them within a reasonable time is a different question...

Re:Mod parent up - knows what they are talking abo (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395992)

We don't have the flexibility to alter our domestic law in this manner any more.

Sure we do. We can withdraw from TRIPS, Berne, etc. at any time. No one is forcing us to remain in these agreements. We just need the political power to get the country doing what is in the best interests of its people, rather than a privileged few.

No, the problem is: software patents are stupid (4, Interesting)

jopet (538074) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395012)

Anyone who has ever programmed just a little knows that programmers invent algorithms every day and reuse somebody else's algorithm every minute. It is just a greed-fuelled idiocy to patent random bits of what programmers invent as part of their work. It is like patenting a mathematical proof or a law of physics.
Then there is another matter: when are two algorithms identical? When the code is exactly the same, including the naming of variables? No matter the variable naming? When they generate the same machine code on some machine? When they compute the same results (but this is undecidable formally)?

Software patents are a stupidity to make lawyers richer and to make the life of developers more miserable.

They'll just patent it again (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395040)

I doubt that reducing the patent duration will help. Once the patent expires, they'll just patent it again, since it's clear that the patent office isn't applying a high bar for prior art.

That's what I've been saying! (1, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395084)

Make software patents shorter-term - six months to three years should be about right.

Now, obviously, companies are going to start filing their software under non-software patents. But it's far easier to argue "this patent was misfiled, it should be a software patent (and thus expired two years ago)" than it is to argue "this patent is completely invalid and should never have been allowed". Remember, the people deciding these cases are bureaucrats - misfiled forms are something they can handle; the system being wrong is something they can't.

While we're at it, cut copyright in general to ten years, with a single ten-year extension if it has been in constant commercial production. That brings them in line with patents, and provides an incentive for companies to actually use their copyrights (instead of sticking them in a vault like Disney). A twenty-year copyright would put all kinds of things into the public domain: season 2 of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", Final Fantasy IV, Terminator 2, Metallica's Black Album, and the novel "The Sum of All Fears" - and that's just things that would enter the public domain this year.

Patents are on Inventions, not ideas (2)

dwandy (907337) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395112)

There's numerous reasons why patents on software are invalid. The most difficult to understand for a non-technical person might be that it can be reduced to math, which is already not patentable; so be allowing patents on software you are allowing patents on math. And demonstrating this in court for any scenario could be somewhat difficult.
But the simpler answer (from the start) should have been that you are not supposed to be able to patent an idea; you must patent an invention (implementation). In software it's either source code (covered by copyright) or it's an idea (not patentable).
The simple question from the patent examiner or judge for a software patent is a request to see the implementation. Since there's no implementation in "a way to navigate the web using a touch interface" it should get tossed. On the other hand, the specific implementation could (I suppose) be patented, but since the implementation is already covered by copyright, why bother with the (inferior) patent...?

Patents (0)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395116)

The original idea behind a patent was to protect someone's "mechanical" innovation and to allow the inventor to bring it to market and profit from it without competition from corporations that would have the money to steal it and mass market it faster. IMHO, the patent was never designed to protect the large corporation but the small time inventor to allow him or her to build a business and potentially make money at it. Software is basically almost obsolete from the time it goes out of beta and is brought to the market. Software patents really came about in force as software development companies became concerned that the threat posed by open source was no longer going away by fear, uncertainty, and doubt campaigns. The software patent system was designed, again in my humble opinion, to stifle open source.

The original point of a patent.. (2)

sstamps (39313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395150)

..is NOT to reward someone who invested nothing other than a few neuronal sparks coming up with an idea, but to reward someone who risked a significant investment in time, money, and materials to be able to recoup that investment plus make a profit in exchange for sharing the fruits of that investment with everyone.

The VAST majority of software and business-method related patents are nothing that someone competent with ordinary skill in the field could not come up with as a common-sense solution to a specific problem, WITHOUT said investment OR risk.

That said, the problem is that bringing the original intent of patents back into the system is not in the best interests of those who decide who gets elected (it isn't the voters, natch) and, thus, will not happen without a revolution of some kind which circumvents their control.

Even civil disobedience won't get us very far because, ultimately, most people could care less that they are controlled like sheep, and believe that their masters are the "good guys" and can "do no wrong". As a result, get used to it until the system explodes and has to be replaced by something else, hopefully better, but such is not guaranteed. It is the time-honored tradition of the human race since time immemorial to let the decay of civilization outrun our ability to contain or mitigate it, to ultimately consume and destroy us.

I just wish it would hurry the hell up so we can start anew.

Re:The original point of a patent.. (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 3 years ago | (#36396148)

to reward someone who risked a significant investment in time, money, and materials to be able to recoup that investment plus make a profit in exchange for sharing the fruits of that investment with everyone.

Not quite. The point of a patent is to encourage inventors to invent, disclose the workings of, and bring to market, the most useful, novel, nonobvious inventions which otherwise would not have been invented, disclosed, or brought to market, all for the least cost to the public by limiting the scope and duration of a monopoly.

Whether the inventor actually risked anything, or whether the reward is adequate to recoup investment is really irrelevant. We just want the most inventions for the least cost to the public; the fortunes of inventors are irrelevant, save for their effect as an incentive.

And so, software patents are a bad idea. Not because of a lack of risk -- I don't care whether an inventor can come up with something amazing in their sleep, or if it takes years of toiling in a lab -- but because the software industry is so dynamic at the moment that all of this stuff is going to be invented and brought to market anyway, and having been revealed, the information that needs disclosure will usually be pretty obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art. Simply, there's just no need for software patents; they are probably holding the industry back and causing the state of the art to stagnate, which is the exact opposite of what patents should ever do.

(Disclosure can also be handled by imposing a strict deposit requirement on software copyrights; no copyrights unless copies of the binaries and source (if any) are provided, along with any other information that is deemed useful so that others can make lawful use of the software, e.g. source code, notes about compilers, etc.)

Maybe someday the software industry will slow down, and it will then be appropriate to set up software patents so as to provide a little extra incentive for invention. But right now there is a surplus of natural incentive for invention, and there's simply no point in our offering any more, particularly when the cost to the public of doing so is probably greater than the benefit received.

New angles (2)

Dragon_Hilord (941293) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395174)

Instead of looking at this with that same crappy "algorithms and software are math" (apologies, but it hasn't worked before, and it certainly won't now (unless we maaaaybe reduce EVERYTHING to 100% pure mathematics)) view, let's start looking for new ways of explaining it to the masses - they don't get it. The fault is not entirely their own cause of their ignorance, we haven't properly educated them. What do you do when people don't get the idea in political situations?

Protest.
Civil Disobedience.
Lobbying.

I'm pretty sure if 1000+ hackers showed up on the doorstep of the whitehouse equipped with laptops running as much patent-violating software as they could possibly muster - that'd be a pretty good start. The only question is who has the gull to show up? Who has the balls to write that code? So far, the one thing the hacker community (and other code-centred groups yes) seems to lack is some kind of motivating factor. Perhaps, and this is just a thought, the right to code what we please?

I'm almost tempted to organize something of these lines myself, problem is I can already smell the -1 rating this is going to earn for "stating the obvious" or "trolling". Can't say I didn't try.

The issue isn't patent length... (4, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395182)

The real issue is that patenting has moved from protecting the method of solving a problem into solving a particular problem.

For instance, I cannot patent mowing a lawn. I can patent a lawn mowing machine, even one that exactly copies the pattern created by another lawn mower that also runs on gas and uses a rotary blade to do it. As long as my lawn mowing machine is different enough to merit the patent, I think it's fair so someone doesn't come along and copy my machine.

Now people are patenting ideas. So when Amazon patents "one click shopping" and I write open source software with different libraries to complete the same task, they claim patent infringement, which is nonsense. They should be able to patent a particular method, which is really just their code, not an end result. Even then it's redundant, as it's already protected by copyright.

Large corporations do not want patent law sane, because it's their multi-million dollar playground, and they can crush innovation and startups by simply filing a few law suits. The first nation with decent infrastructure to fix their system or abandon it will lead the way into the 21st century.

tl;dr: The ability to patent end results instead of particular methods is why the current patent system is a failure.

As low as possible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395186)

If the whole point of patents is to foster innovation to benefit society, then they should ideally be means tested to give people as short a monopoly as possible whilst still allowing them to return a profit with respect to their investment in R&D.

Non sequitur? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395288)

If software is unlikely to be relevant after 20 years, then what is the danger of a 20 year patent?

Re:Non sequitur? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395552)

Because software is massively dependent on building on prior work. If you can only build off 20-year old methods, you have to continually re-invent the wheel; the development cycle of software is many, many times faster than the development cycle for physical objects.

Then you find out that some other company has a 19-year-old overly-broad patent that covers all concievable implementations of anything wheel-like, and they kill your startup.

WHEEE INNOVATION AT WORK

Re:Non sequitur? (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395632)

It's not the current software's value that is the problem but the use of patents to block new developments even in unrelated area's not even thought about by the patent holder.

Software patents are an intellectual tar pit. Luckily there are large area's of the world where software patents are invalid so innovation can continue sadly american software engineers are now bogged down in a legal quagmire which in the long term will contribute to making america a backwater instead of a leader in technology.

Standards need IP assurance (2)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395316)

(speaking for myself), I feel that the biggest problem is when a collection of intellectual property is bundled into a standard (such as H.264), but despite the valiant efforts of standards development organizations to require their participants to document their participant's intellectual property in a standard, you can't really ensure that "submarine patents" by non-participants are not accidently infringed upon, and frankly even the SDOs don't have any real police power over participants that either on purpose or accidently don't disclose IP.

I feel that some organization (perhaps ANSI, or just the PTO) should be responsible for designating the most valuable standards (such as "national standards") for "mandatory IP declaration". This would start a process where within a set time (1-2 years), all intellectual property owners would have to "put up or shut up", i.e. declare that their intellectual property is covered by the national standard. If they don't declare during the limited time period, they forfeit their right to sue for infringement on implementation of the national standard.

Real businesses do not generally have a problem licensing known intellectual property protected by patent. It is the unknown that is the bigger risk, and makes adoptions of new standards slower (I've personally seen this at a previous position).

5 years just to patent (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395392)

You do realize it takes at least 5 years just to get something patented?
So by the time your thing is patented, and you've paid up to $100,000 to do so worldwide, it's not worth anything anymore?

Nice.

Re:5 years just to patent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395532)

Yes. Better to just eliminate them for software. And business methods, and genetic stuff as well while we're at it.

Just think, with the reduction in volume it will not take nearly as long nor cost nearly as much to get a patent for real inventions. Everybody wins.

Re:5 years just to patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395578)

/woosh to you my good sir, I think you understood but didn't understand the point of a 5 year patent.

Re:5 years just to patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36396078)

If it takes you 5 years to get something patented, HIRE DIFFERENT PATENT ATTORNEYS.

It only takes 5 years to get something patented if you are doing something seriously wrong. Large corporations get patents fast-tracked in months. Small businesses can get them done in under a year. I've seen both processes.

Treating the symptoms (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395398)

It would likely be a big improvement, but it doesn't mean that it fixes the problem. Also, doing so would almost certainly involve clearly legitimizing software patents.

CPUs & platforms are patentable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395432)

software is just settings for the CPU. No patents.

All legitimate patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395452)

All legitimate patents should be 10 years or monetary recuperation, whichever comes first.

Software patents (they don't fall into the category of legitimate) shouldn't exist.(neither should patents on processes, chemical compounds (i.e drugs), etc.)

Patents should not be issued for incremental improvements (which is what most mechanical patents are these days).

All patents applications should be required to include a tangible, functional example of the patent.

Only individuals should be allowed to own patents(with multiple authors it would be right of survivor-ship). Not corporations. Not educational institutions.

Patents should not be allowed to be sold or traded, licensing is fine.(everyone listed on the patent should have licensing rights, they could all sign an exclusivity agreement)

Patent authors dieing results in the patent's immediate expiration.

I say there arent ENOUGH software patents (2)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395462)

People need to start patenting dumb software ideas; not just the great ones.

How many $obnoxious_sound or $picOfTheDay apps do we really need? Some dumb schmuck needs to claim those ideas and put a limit on entrants to that cesspool.

Software patents is an oxymoron. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395530)

> Some say that patents just plain don't make sense for software, which is such a dynamic technology.

No, software patents don't make any sense whatsoever.

Patent, definition: apparent, visible (to the public).

Originally, a license was issued for some inventor to stimulate the disclosure of an invention. S/he could risk opening it, because the government protected the invention against cheap, unlicensed copies. So, the whole idea is to make things clear, visible, apparent, known to all -- to foster the free communication of ideas, while granting the inventor a way to explore the invention.

Now, couple a software application and a nail: one can patent the nail, but not the ideas (i.e., methods, data, knowledge, algorithms etc.).

These corporate monkeybrains, unable to innovate, want to grant the possession of ideas (as if it were a viable concept) and forbid the whole of mankind to enter their walled garden.

I say to hell with such an absurdity -- this is so moronic, it is wrong on many levels: philosophical, cultural, humanistic, ethical... perhaps it's even wrong from a religious POV. Alas, when we see the whole picture, it probably is wrong from an economical POV, too.

To sum it up, IP as a concept is as crappy as it can be.

To patent or not to patent (2)

woboyle (1044168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395538)

Generally, I am against software patents, however I do believe that there are some software innovations that should be patentable. My feeling is that they should be held to much higher standards of innovation, non-obviousness, and utility than current software patents are. I say this as the holder of a software patent related to adaptive systems that allows compiled applications to alter the structure and behavior of application classes at run time without writing code or recompiling the application source code. I honestly believe that the innovations I invented (and are in use by most semiconductor and similar high-tech manufacturing enterprises to enable them to tailor off-the-shelf manufacturing software to their particular enterprise without writing and integrating new code) meet the same standards required of physical devices and such. That said, most of the software patents I have read about, or studied in detail, are totally bogus and should have been laughed out of the Patent and Trademark Office. Period of time for software patents? 10 years max in my opinion. 20 years is absurd. As stated elsewhere in these comments, software innovations occur too rapidly to lock up some concept for that much time.

Revisit concept of Patents (1)

gd1234 (1117333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395550)

My suggestion is to make Patents variable.

Patents should be judged on 2 things:

- the amount of effort that went into developing the invention
- the degree of innovation

Based on those 2 items, you would:

- Have variable durations - 1 to 20 years.
- Have variable licensing levels, set the appropriate fees. $10 to $ 1 billion

So, a trivial invention created in a morning would be awarded 12 months and a low fee.
A major ground breaking cancer treatment that took years to develop would be awarded 20 years and large licensing fees.

This creates fairness between effort and reward.

What if there was a quota? (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395674)

While I do feel that most software patents are absured, there are occasionally some really good innovations and implementations. What if the US put a cap on the number of software patents allowed per year. Say 50. The USPTO takes all of the software patent applications for the year, ranks them according to most ingenious and the top 50 get their five year patents.

patent or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395688)

Give an option:
Copyright as a package - or Patent a piece or action

But NOT both. Pick ONE

Public Repository of Prior Art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395690)

I am not an expert in patent law, nor am I a lawyer, but wouldn't it be possible to build a community website dedicated to the posting of patentable software ideas in a well described and categorized fashion in an attempt to always have prior art? It seems to me that with all this crap we should already have a website like this describing a mechanism for automatically syncing email on a watch or time-keeping device, etc., etc. so that anytime a company tried to go after somebody with patents there are clear examples of prior-art for any obvious software algorithms.

A compromise (1)

Moe Taxes (304424) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395708)

A compromise is where you get some of what by giving up 100% of your principles.

Software is just not patentable. It can be part of a patentable invention, but by itself it is math, just one of the possible permutations of a computers bits.

The only real solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395786)

I fear that it's come to the point where the only real solution is reducing software patent troll life spans.

And that's a joke, of course.

Really.

Australian Patent Office (1)

Bandraginus (901166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36395894)

The Australian Patent Office - IP Australia (disclosure: I work there) back in 2001 introduced another form of IP called an "Innovation Patent" [ipaustralia.gov.au] to address this need. An Innovation Patent differs from a normal patent in the following ways:

  • * Innovation Patents are not examined. They are simply rubber stamped and put on file. Thus they are granted usually within a month.
  • * Innovation Patents last 8 years vs 20 for a standard patent.
  • * You only need to pay to have an Innovation Patent examined when you need to stop others from copying your invention.

Sounds pretty much what you're after?

If software patents were applied to tools ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36395904)

Instead of having a hammer, we'd be slamming in wooden spikes with rocks and living in tents.

Or we'd be paying $300 dollars for a hammer just like the government.

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