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Software Patent Reform Happening Now

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the advancing-the-useful-arts-and-sausages dept.

Patents 130

Jim Hall writes "Many of us in IT recognize that software patents are a bad idea — you can patent just about anything if you put "on a computer" at the end of it. But now we can finally do something about it. Congress is considering the America Invents Act — your Representatives are very interested in hearing from you. Also, the USPTO is inviting public comments to change the system (you need to file by June 29, 2011.) I've written a blog post about software patents with more, starting with a primer of copyright and patents."

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reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36481516)

For the better or worse ???

Re:reform (1)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481578)

For the better or worse ???

Well, that depends on whether we take action on this, or let it sit. As I've written here before [slashdot.org] , How will a Senator or Representative know what are the important topics their constituents need addressed? They pay attention to it when you direct their attention, but first you need to get their attention. And the way to get their attention right now is through writing letters, calling, and visiting them.

Right now, your congresscritter is paying attention to patent reform - albeit without software patents. Make sure they hear from you to do the right thing with software patents.

Invest some time and money in fixing this. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481702)

1. Find who your Senators / Representatives are.

2. Buy some decent letter writing materials. A physical letter carries a LOT more impact than an email.

3. Write the letters without profanity or insults. Include your contact information.

4. Send the letters to your Senators / Representatives.

5. Get your friends to write similar letters. The more letters they get, the more they will focus on this issue.

6. If an important vote is coming up, place a follow-up call to remind them how important this issue is.

The people most INVOLVED with the political process are the people who shape the political process. Corporations can pay people to devote time to influencing such decisions.

Re:Invest some time and money in fixing this. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482198)

7. A cash donation of > $1000000 will help get their attention.

Re:Invest some time and money in fixing this. (3, Interesting)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482722)

and this is why Americans don't vote and don't care about our government because we feel we have absolutely no power. They say everything we want to hear to get us to vote for them but as soon as they're in office they take bribes from corporations and do whatever the corporations say to do.

This isn't true all the time but it's true enough that voters feel disenchanted with voting.

Re:Invest some time and money in fixing this. (4, Insightful)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482334)

7. Find out what members or staffers deal with this issue.
8. Send them letters, too.

Trust me on these last two. If a member doesn't have much authority over a relatively obscure issue, their office probably won't have any knowledge on the issue and won't be swayed as much by constituent mail, as there's no intellectual context into which they could slot it. Lobbyists will meet with staffers first, members much later. If you educate or intrigue the staffer, it'll get processed properly by them and percolate upwards. And that follow-up is essential. Good luck, junior lobbyists!

Re:Invest some time and money in fixing this. (1)

Uhyve (2143088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482622)

Even on Slashdot, you'd be surprised how few people will actually take any action. Back when the UK three strike laws were in planning in the UK, I emailed my local MP expressing my concerns and got a personal response addressing all of those concerns from my MP and Jacqui Smith (the then Home Secretary) in a pretty letter from the Houses of Parliament, I don't see an MP doing that for 100s or even 10s of people...

Unfortunately, they then turned around and did the exact opposite of everything they said a year or so later.

Re:Invest some time and money in fixing this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482730)

Is this an election year? Wondering why they're parading this BS reform. We all know they're not going to reform anything, not as long as companies are making billions with the current system.

Re:reform (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481846)

Well unless you plan on spending millions, it is the corporations who will continue to have the biggest voice and the biggest bribes.

Re:reform (1)

statusbar (314703) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482030)

I wonder what Google would lobby for?

Re:reform (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482332)

Google owns everybody. They provide the data to the agencies. Google are far too valuable to be co-opted. They simply cooperate with the overreaching intelligence agencies that are not allowed to spy on their own citizens but can do so via proxies. Better hope that you weren't an attention whore prior to 2003. Otherwise, they own you and all of your idiosyncrasies.

Tremble in fear, attention whores.

Re:reform (2)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482294)

A corporation has the millions, yes, but members of Congress really do listen to constituents. Here's the thing, though, about letter-writing: depend on the member, they may not realize what's being sent to them if it's a one-off. When I worked on the Hill, I answered an email to my Senator that was about DIRECT [wikipedia.org] . I thought it was a fantastic idea, but I also knew that NASA had examined the issue, that my boss didn't deal with space issues, and, after some research, hadn't said anything on the subject. Therefore, I sent an email thanking the constituent for his input, reiterated that "I" trusted NASA to make the right decisions on this matter, and encouraging him to write again.

This is in contrast to an email-writing campaign on some changes being made to the financial taxation system (this was when I worked for a Member of Parliament there). I got about 100 emails and it was coupled with some personal interactions. At that point, it caught the ear of my boss and he started paying attention. In summary, you don't need millions; you just need cohorts and a good sales strategy.

Re:reform (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482374)

I can't see much that is better. The present system is being gamed. The new system will also be gamed. All it takes is one really good lawyer to figure the angles, use them once, then all the corporations will follow suit. Sad fact is, our legal system favors him with the deepest pockets, and this changes nothing.

Outlaw software patents, and be done with this farce.

Re:attention (0)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482930)

Forgive the bitterness below.

"Write letters, call, visit". Really?! You tried hard to write a good story so it's like that Dr. Who episode that double-pulls what the other guy thinks for a combined result of Bad.

It's all Intellectual Property. (Cashew gallery, please hold the comments.) Why are patents so thunderously different from Copyright when we're just starting to see the crossovers such as "WantToPatent Methods" stuff being rendered as Art/Math/Other.

Let's work with your comment above. "How will a Senator or Representative know what are the important topics their constituents need addressed?" You mean by tweeting it with a pair of pantyhose attached? One tweet (plus maybe dupes) *ended a congressman's career*. What constituents demanded that? Yet to get their attention to vote the way we hope, we have to go LITERALLY Get On Their Lawn? (Visit). I'll leave it my betters in the Philosophy & Science departments to state what brand of bias that is. (I'm taking your story absolutely face up - this is just what appears to be the chilling results of the national mood.) So if I make non-commercial copies of songs I get to have a nice visit from $10,000 of SWAT but to get patent reform we have to write - call - visit? Why not just post a killer meme song on YouTube? (Hang on tight, this is gonna scare a couple of you.) Has anyone asked Steve Ballmer if he has released the rights to "Developer"? MS wanted this reform too right? Get Steve Ballmer to sign on with his signature meme and it's a lock!!

re: "Do the right thing". (4, Informative)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482972)

But is it the right thing?
Slightly at odds to my remarks about Microsoft in a sibling post, let's try this Microsoft example from Wikipedia.

Any comments?

--- From Wikipedia
Impact of the changes

Opponents of H.R. 1249 assert that the impact of the changes to the current law will be to effectively neuter the U.S. patent system. Patents owned by startup companies, research institutions, and independent inventors ("startups") will be unenforceable against large corporations. Avistar Communications Corporation's encounter with Microsoft illustrates how this plays out. In 2007 Avistar was a startup developing desktop videoconferencing and online collaboration tools. Avistar had 29 U.S. patents, a number of pending U.S. patent applications, and numerous foreign patents and applications. Avistar approached Microsoft to negotiate a license to Avistar's patented technology. Microsoft wanted a license on terms Avistar would not agree to, and decided to use post-grant opposition in the PTO to litigate Avistar into submission. After six months of licensing negotiations, Microsoft, in February and March 2008, requested reexamination of each of Avistar's 29 U.S. patents.[66] Defending a single patent in a reexamination proceeding "routinely costs a patent owner hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees."[67] To pay the legal expenses associated with the reexaminations, Avistar, in April 2008, announced that it would cut its work force by about 25 percent.[68] This was not enough. With legal costs piling up, Avistar was forced to sell substantially all of its U.S. patents and patent applications, and related foreign patents and patent applications to Intellectual Ventures ("IV"). IV, originally called the Patent Defense Fund, was founded in 2000 by two-ex Microsoft employees. The idea was that IV would provide a way for Microsoft and other large technology companies to protect themselves against patented inventions. "Initially, each company ... was asked to pony up $50 million. The plan was that IV would then go out and buy patents that were knocking dangerously around the marketplace, and investors would get a license to the entire portfolioâ"effectively immunizing them from the danger of intellectual property litigation." [69]. IV has raised over $5 billion.[70] Avistar sold its patent portolio to IV in January 2010, taking a grant-back license so it could continue to sell its patented products.[71]

Avistarâ(TM)s encounter with Microsoft reduced the price of Avistar stock 61%,[72] and Avistar no longer owned the intellectual property it spent years developing. Microsoft imposed unbearable costs on Avistar using the reexamination procedure available under current law, i.e. without the benefit of the even costlier post-grant opposition procedures created by H.R. 1249.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_Invents_Act [wikipedia.org]

Riiiight (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36481600)

This is the same legislature that has basically extended copyrights indefinitely, I'm sure this will end well

Re:Riiiight (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36481682)

The sad fact is that extending copyrights basically hurts nobody with money. Ensuring Micky Mouse is perpetually in copyright only harms the public domain and the insults the various founding principles of America.

Patents on the other hand, do harm people with money, and worse, patent trolls ensure that everyone is at huge risk. Thus change will happen.

It is depressing that, as a highly trained engineer, my patents have less monetary value to society than the latest Justin Bieber garbage. If society had to pay the same toll to 'patent artists' as it has to pay to 'creative artists' then you'd have to stick a nickle in your computer every minute just to keep using it.

IMHO - the best thing would be to say lifetime of patents == lifetime of copyrights - battle royal begin! At least there would a well financed opposing view point to the idea that copyright should be forever.

How to rationalize the shorter patent term (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481964)

IMHO - the best thing would be to say lifetime of patents == lifetime of copyrights

Apologists might rationalize the shorter patent term thus: Unlike patents, copyrights in theory have an independent creation defense. Proving an allegation of copyright infringement involves proving that the alleged infringer had at some time had access to a copy or performance of the plaintiff's work. This theoretical defense does break down, however, in the case of musical works played over radio and over loudspeaker systems in grocery stores, where someone can effectively force access to a work on someone else.

Re:Riiiight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36481980)

You should be able to copyright code, but not patent it or any algorithm. Copyright would be like writing your own book. Sure, you can have copycats who parody your work but it won't be the same meaning it will be more or less efficient code. This should promote better code the first time around thus "innovation" is stimulated. Patents only holds technology back by decades, and I'm guessing that if it weren't for software patents, we might be 50 years into the future. Hardware would be lagging behind but we'd have great software and security.

Can't be worse (4, Insightful)

FoolishBluntman (880780) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481610)

So write your congress critter now and tell them to scrap software patents!

Re:Can't be worse (4, Insightful)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481658)

Yes. As cheesy as it sounds, your voice does matter.

Seriously, call their office, write them a letter (handwritten carries the most impact, but typed will do), or visit them in their office. Ask your Representative and/or Senator to push for "software" patent reform. Have some examples of "software" patents handy, and feel free to make a suggestion for how to fix the system. I think the citizen review [blogspot.com] method is a workable option. I've been discussing this topic with Sen. Franken's office for a while now, so if you don't have a particular suggestion to offer, ask your Senator to see what Sen. Franken is up to. I'm not kidding, they do listen to comments like that.

Re:Can't be worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36484078)

Now if only you could convince the defeatist whiners on slashdot to actually actively do something rather than vent frustration over something they do nothing to fix or prevent, That would be an achievement getting anyone here let alone any Americans to do these days.

Anyone who thinks thats just pointless American bashing take a look at the current state of affairs, either work towards a solution (like a shockingly few here do) or shut up about the problems that you did nothing to fight.

Re:Can't be worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36481790)

I'm afraid it's not so simple. There are now many companies that have massively invested in patents, either to sue other companies or protect themselves against other patent lawsuits. They certainly don't want to see all this investment lost, although it would be net benefit for everybody involved, including them.

Getting your congressmen to view this point of view instead of the lobbyists that will try the best to protect the patents of the companies they work for is the hardest part.

Re:Can't be worse (3, Interesting)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481894)

I'm afraid it's not so simple. There are now many companies that have massively invested in patents, either to sue other companies or protect themselves against other patent lawsuits. They certainly don't want to see all this investment lost, although it would be net benefit for everybody involved, including them. Getting your congressmen to view this point of view instead of the lobbyists that will try the best to protect the patents of the companies they work for is the hardest part.

When I spoke with my Senator's office, and (later) with my Representative's office, they both talked about business and how business doesn't want software patent reform. They get this impression by talking to lobbyists, who are presenting one side of the store. But point out that this is costing businesses a lot of money in patent defense, [toptechnews.com] and that some companies have come out asking for software patent reform, and the politicians do listen. When even a company like Google has to announce they are buying a patent portfolio just to use it in defense ...

Re:Can't be worse (1)

Wolfbone (668810) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483706)

It's a sad situationÂ: most larger companies' positions on software patents and IP in general are captured by their in-house IP professionals anyway, but both large and small companies (and individuals) generally don't have knowledge and insight sufficient to see through the prevalent patent system economic quackery and mythology - even though it's really as transparently bogus as any quack medicine pseudoscience. It's ironic - but also rather satisfying to my nationalistic instincts ;-) - that here in the UK it's our IPO and some of our most senior IP judges who've espoused a relatively rational and well-informed position on the matter of patent eligibility for software inventions.

 http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1036/957 [firstmonday.org]

Re:Can't be worse (2)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482620)

How about get them to write a better bill

The thing is utterly horrible. Issuance of support of this bill will in fact, not help the software patent situation at all. [techdirt.com] I hope people realize that. We need software patents to go away and guess what? This bill isn't it. It's a doublespeak bill.

So yes, please send to your congresscritters, who will ignore your pleas, water down the bill more, and make the only substantial thing it does be enable first to file which will fuck over people who don't file patents before inventions are created. Which, by the way, is incredibly helpful for anticompetitive patenting (hello medical patents where they patent all the equivalents and generics). Good job america.

Re:Can't be worse (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36484154)

Oh it can be made worse : there was a plan to replace the "first to invent" rule by the "first to file for a patent". I'm not even making this up. I don't know how this could be considered a good idea.

Should vs Will (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481642)

No matter what should be done with software patents. What will be done is ensure the profits of the biggest lobbyist there, and that won't be abolish them, at best will make harder to non-lobbyist to fill them.

Re:Should vs Will (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36481688)

Defeatism is definitely the best route to positive change, well played!

Re:Should vs Will (4, Informative)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481764)

I don't believe this is really the case.

It's true that politicians don't understand technology very well. They come from varied backgrounds, but rarely does that include IT. So they need people to explain technology topics in terms they can quickly understand. Otherwise, they'll listen to the people who are in their face most often - and that's usually the big lobbyists.

Do some research on software patents before you talk to your Senator or Representative. I often bring up the progress bar patent [blogspot.com] (which expired just a few months ago.) Start with "You know when your computer boots up, or you're loading a web page on your browser? Notice that progress bar at the bottom of the screen? That's patented, and technically someone would have had to pay a license for that."

Never fails to stun them into realizing that's stupid.

I honestly believe that if enough people go to their Representatives RIGHT NOW and talk to them about software patent reform, they'll listen.

Re:Should vs Will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482458)

Can't expect the US Patent Office to go to the Moon to find prior art.....

http://www.curtisinstruments.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cProducts.DownloadPDF&file=50038_Coulometer_RevB.pdf

I believe I also remember a progress bar in CDC machines running the SCOPE Operating system.

They had a procedure whereby they would "roll in" one program while "rolling out" another.

They didn't have paging, Only base-bounds registers. The "roll-in" disk read end-point had to stay behind the "roll-out" disk write-point.

You see: I remember things!

I could never make a good patent examiner....

Re:Should vs Will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482840)

A company I know of is being sued for using Google maps in conjunction with a list of store locations and a zip code lookup. The trolls have a patent of some sort they feel is compelling enough to base a lawsuit on it. It will be settled of course as the legal costs are not worth it. Still it is a good example of the bs environment we live in.

Re:Should vs Will (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36483010)

I've been writing, calling, massaging and damn near fondling my reps for 10 years, what's that gotten me but the Patriot Act, a diminished bill of rights, a "liberal" president who doesn't have the balls to be anything other than a centrist conservative and a country so far down a path towards destruction that it would take a revolution to fix. Just what is talking to another jerk who only cares about his next election cycle going to do? I'm sorry but I've been following this game too long to think that anyone in politics aside from Dennis Kuchinich has a damned shred of honesty left in him and look what they did to make sure that he lost his seat.

Personally... (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481646)

It is not software patents itself that is a bad idea, it is that math (or anything else) is patentable just because it is executed on a computer that is a bad idea, which do cover many software patents.

Re:Personally... (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482170)

No, software patents themselves are a bad idea.

A software patent is a form of thought censorship: it means that there are certain ideas you're not allowed to think up and write down and exploit, even though it's entirely your idea and you came up with it on your own, just because someone you've never met has paid the government for it some time earlier. Worse, you don't even know you had a thoughtcrime until years later when you get sued for infringement.

Re:Personally... (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482244)

That would be an argument for an independent invention defense.

Re:Personally... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482370)

Yes. An independent invention defense would be a good first step. The history of science is full of independent (re)discoveries of important ideas, and could be used as strong supporting evidence.

Re:Personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482392)

There is no independent invention defense. Maybe in the law (IANAL), but so far, as a layperson following patent lawsuits, I have never seen that argument in a successful defense. And even if it was successful, how much money do you have to defend it in court? I agree with the GP. The concept of software patents is bad. The implementation is actually quite good as it censors ideas quite well.

Re:Personally... (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482956)

The idea of a patent law is that people don't sit on their ideas and keep them secret. An independent inventor defense would be an incentive for a person NOT to learn what is already out there. Society benefits more if he DOES learn about other ideas. Both to incorporate in his own product to make it even more attractive (from which society benefits by getting better products) and give him new ideas.

A couple of posts higher, I explain why a patent system is a good idea and software patents are a bad idea . Solving it with an independent invention defense would be a bad idea (apart from the legal hassle and costs and possibility for fraud.)

Bert

Re:Personally... (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482944)

The patent system is a trade-off. You don't want people to sit on their ideas. If half of the creative, thinking people don't want people to leech off their ideas without compensation, society loses a big part of the forward momentum.

For software, the situation is different:
- Developers don't sit on their ideas.
- Ideas get stale quickly
- Programs use a multitude of (networking, interface, manipulation of objects etc. etc.), so there's tons of opportunity to infringe (not so with a mechanical invention. If someone develops a special material, I can buy that to create another product. With software a developer doesn't buy code. Most of the time the outside code he uses is APIs (which were meant to be used like that; and even then he doesn't see the code). For a mechanical invention, you get a description how to build it. For software, you get a description of the wish.
- If software gets out in the open, you can see what it does, but it is still not easy to copy (I'm not talking file duplication here) because programs are hard to write; it takes time and to get the bugs out much more time. A developer with a new idea always has a head start when it introduces a program with that idea. And it will get the publicity (software reviews abound.

Back to what a patent law is about. There is already plenty of drive not to sit on ideas. Consequently, there is no need to apply the patent law to software. And finally:
- It is very hard to do a proper prior art search for a software idea.
- The software idea may not be published as such, but still very public in a patent law sense. If a program is sold, the idea is in there, the code can be checked. But (virtually) no one does.
- Software is a product of many (deep) thoughts. It there's a multitude of possibilities to infringe many patents, with poor possibilities to check for that (the infringement could be in just about anything, whereas a mechanical product may have just one or two distinguishing aspects), innovation is better served if nobody can infringe.
- If one company sells knives I like but not forks I like, and another company does the opposite. A consumer can buy knives from one and forks from the other. With software, you can't. It would not have been good if one company had a patent for 20 years for manipulating fonts, another for spell-checking, and yet another for having pictures in a document. It would take 20 years before a user would be allowed to prepare a nice document. Not in the interest of society. If a company invents a new material, he's happy to sell you the new material to make a product with it. With software, you can only buy the program developed by them.

A patent system is a good idea. But it really shouldn't extend to software.

Bert

Der (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481648)

...you can patent just about anything if you put "on a computer" at the end of it.

That is by design. If that wasn't a separate patent, then Ikea could hold patents that affect HP devices.

I'm not saying software patents are good, I'm strictly saying that the 'put computer at the end of it' rationale actually has some basis in reason.

Re:Der (2)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481698)

I'm not saying software patents are good, I'm strictly saying that the 'put computer at the end of it' rationale actually has some basis in reason.

Okay, that's fair. But look at the examples I give, and tell me that doesn't seem like an abuse of the system. Honestly, assembling a flight plan on a computer [blogspot.com] is an example of going too far.

Re:Der (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481930)

What you linked to is a 2001 patent for creating a flight planning system using the client system to generate the flight plan from data served on the internet and from radio signals the device is receiving. There are a lot of specifics in this patent that'd be easy to bypass. Assuming this didn't have any real prior art, I don't see what's not patentable from it. Seriously, all you'd need to do to avoid this patent is to use a custom app instead of a web browser.

There's a reason patents are TLDR.

RunwayFinder and FlighPrep (2)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481994)

Yes, patents are often written to be overly broad. Sometimes that's a hedge against a later change in technology, so the patent still is applicable in some way. Other times, it's just to get the patent accepted - if it sounds hard, it must be "new", right?

Richard Stallman wrote a great article about that once, about how they intentionally write these software patent applications to be obscure. I don't see it on my blog, [blogspot.com] so it must be queued for next week (I post one item a day.) Check back next week.

But on the flight planning patent - RunwayFinder was a free web site run by a guy out of his home. But FlightPrep sued, claiming infringement on their patent. A big company against one guy ... not surprised he shut down, rather than lose his home in an expensive lawsuit.

Re:Der (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483610)

There is tremendous abuse of software patents, just as there is of traditional patents.

Let's turn the question around... Why should your innovative and novel idea be patentable when designed in a purely mechanical system, but NOT when it is upgraded to do most of the work in software?

Should it be okay that the rom drive in your dvd player has a dozen patents on it, but the video and audio codecs have to be given away for free? If so, say goodbye to open audio and video formats like h.264 and he-aac+, because they'll be the last of their kind. The next round will be 100% proprietary and obfuscated, ala Cinepak and good old RealPlayer. And don't mention Theora or Web M, as both were developed closed source, patented, and only opened when there was no money to be made... It won't happen again.

Re:Der (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482302)

I think you're missing the point. The thing that is being patented is prior art or not novel. Computers and the Internet are also 'prior art' and their use for storing data, processing data by the application of algorithms, and transmitting data is in the public domain for the all encompassing set of things called data and/or algorithms. Simply taking a single existing (albeit inefficient) process or a particular type of data and putting it on a computer (even if doing so makes it practical) is not patentable.

One example (mentioned elsewhere) is the preparation of flight plans from a server, transmitted over the Internet and wireless links. All of these functions have long standing equivalents in the manual paper, filing cabinet, copy machine and US Mail delivery world. They have been preparing flight plans "by hand" for years. So the use of "computers" and the "Internet" isn't novel. It may speed things up, but I certainly can't patent delivering vegetables to the market by building a faster truck.

Re:Der (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482406)

I would agree with you if integrating a computer into a solution was straightforward or even simple, but it's not. Try building the equivalent of a paper filing cabinet and copy machine out of assembly language, make sure to cover all of the use cases that would apply in that context. To fix your metaphor, it'd be like building a refrigerated truck while everybody else is using wheelbarrows.

Re:Der (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482812)

It is straightforward. And pretty simple. First of all, nobody in their right mind would undertake such a task in assembly language. There are powerful SDKs, libraries and run time environments that make such a task childs play. I give you VB and its suite of tools together with all the barely competent programmers that still manage to foist 'usable' apps onto the user community as evidence.

The problem (producing flight plans) is well defined and the client-server/Internet solution follows the prior art in the manual process approach. In fact, it follows that prior art by requirement, as producing newfangled flight plan formats would definitely be frowned upon by the FAA.

Nothing new to see here. Move along now.

Re:Der (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482854)

The point wasn't that SDK's aren't available, the point was that just attaching a computer to a problem is not simple or straight forward. Think about how the files and folders paradigm was built in the first place. It's not like you just bolt a computer on to something and it magically works, utilizing that processing power takes design, research, and development.

Now, with that in mind, go read the patent.

More wrongs by government (1)

threeseas (2245516) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481696)

Software is just not a patent-able matter http://abstractionphysics.net/pmwiki/index.php [abstractionphysics.net]

Re:More wrongs by government (1)

threeseas (2245516) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481720)

And when you don't want to patent something you developed.... how do you keep someone else from prevent you from your own work with this shit about dumping inventor rights over first to file... Anyone want to go into the patent troll business?

Re:More wrongs by government (1)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481780)

And when you don't want to patent something you developed.... how do you keep someone else from prevent you from your own work with this shit about dumping inventor rights over first to file... Anyone want to go into the patent troll business?

(emphasis mine)

And at least in my case, when I spoke to my Representative's office, they "got it" that "first to file" was a bad idea, and would lead to big problems later. I got the impression that "first to file" was (partly) the reason the America Invents Act has been held up for a vote. The Reps are actually arguing over that.

What first-to-file means (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481986)

how do you keep someone else from prevent you from your own work

Defensive publication. Google it if you want..

with this shit about dumping inventor rights over first to file

As I understand it, a switch from first-to-invent to first-to-file only affects conflicts of patent vs. patent, not patent vs. published prior art. An invention that is not novel would still be not patentable, and an invention described in a publication in the prior art would still be not novel.

oh they'll listen (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481772)

They'll happily take your opinion but then do what the guy with the most money wants them to do.

Re:oh they'll listen (1)

Kuruk (631552) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482098)

Correct.

Re:oh they'll listen (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483584)

In this case, I don't think so. They will likely ignore us if we ask for software patents to be completely abolished, however, there's big money on both sides of this one. Consequently, we can probably get things that are more beneficial for the part on the side of reducing the impact of software patents.

USPTO'S RFC mischaracterized (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481788)

The RFC by the USPTO is limited in scope to restructuring the re-exam process for increased efficiency, quality, and throughput. Comments on this process will need to be framed by the current statute and case law built on the statute, because the USPTO cannot change the statute by itself. Instead, this is talking about changing internal procedure as well as possibly changing the regulations (37 CFR).

Re:USPTO'S RFC mischaracterized (5, Informative)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481824)

The RFC by the USPTO is limited in scope to restructuring the re-exam process for increased efficiency, quality, and throughput. Comments on this process will need to be framed by the current statute and case law built on the statute, because the USPTO cannot change the statute by itself. Instead, this is talking about changing internal procedure as well as possibly changing the regulations (37 CFR).

Correct, and as pointed out in TFA:

The USPTO seems open to considering this issue, and it is inviting public comments on a proposed rule to streamline patent reexamination proceedings (although you would need to file by June 29, 2011). See Docket No. PTO-P-2011-0018. As you probably know, the patent reexamination process allows a third party or an inventor to have a patent reexamined by a patent examiner to verify that the subject matter it claims is patentable. During patent reexaminations, trial proceedings may be put on hold if a judge agrees to wait for the outcome of the reexamination.

Streamlining patent reexamination proceedings could help in software patent litigation by offering a quicker and more cost effective option for invalidating software patents awarded for obvious methods. Reexaminations have been increasing steadily in recent years, and claims in almost 75% of reexaminations have been either amended or canceled - whereas in courtrooms the majority of claims are decided in favor of the plaintiff patent holders.

(emphasis mine) (TFA is mine too, actually)

Maybe I should have made it clearer that I'm advocating two separate actions here:

  1. Contact your Representative and/or Senator about the America Invents Act, and talk to them about adding software patent reform.
  2. Respond to the USPTO's RFC to recommend streamlining the reexamination process. This isn't the ideal solution, but if the AIA can't get amended to include real software patent reform, then a procedural change with the USPTO can at least mitigate the damage.

Re:USPTO'S RFC mischaracterized (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482346)

Part of the problem, though, is that you really have to understand how re-exams work in order to provide substantive suggestions on how to streamline them. If you speak in generalities and try to grind an axe over software patents, I suspect your comments will find their way to the round file.

constitutional amendment (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483430)

I'll write to my Rep. He's a Republican, so I'll put it in terms I think will resonate. Patents are government interference! Get the government out of my business!

But I want to go much further than a mere bill. I want to remove the "exclusive" part of both patents and copyrights. No more monopolies. To do that would, I believe, require a constitutional amendment. I'd like to change to a permissive system, in which anyone can use anyone else's work without explicit permission, payment, or anything else burdensome. As matters stand, the default is "no". If you can't contact the rights holder, and negotiate an acceptable agreement with them, then you have to do something else. They don't have to be reasonable. They don't have to deal. Or you do it anyway and risk a lawsuit. In practice, so many things are patented that you are stepping on many toes whenever you do anything at all. Totally impractical to determine whether you are violating thousands of patents, let alone track down hundreds of rights holders. Your only real choices are to risk the lawsuits, or do nothing.

Let's change that default to "yes". Make it so inventors want their inventions used. If someone else uses an idea you patented, you can apply for money from various funds set aside for this purpose. In short, the replacement system would be an updated, modernized form of patronage.

I've been hacking up a draft for the "Freedom of Knowledge" Amendment, as I've been calling it. Not at all satisfied with it, yet. I think such a proposal, if it went anywhere, would really light a fire under the owner class in our society.

Re:USPTO'S RFC mischaracterized (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483588)

I recommend the following process:

Is it a patent over software? If so, throw patent in trash can then goto next patent.

Just imagine how much time that would save.

An apparatus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36481806)

for filling patents.

Fixes nothing! (2)

utkonos (2104836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481836)

This law will make things worse. Also, this will make it seem like a problem has been addressed, so getting the problem looked at again will take another 30 years.

Rrrrriiiight.... (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481854)

>Your Representatives are very interested in hearing from you.

No... no they're not.

They are interested in how much money they can get from their campaign "donors" to vote one way or the other.

--
BMO

Re:Rrrrriiiight.... (4, Interesting)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481954)

No... no they're not. They are interested in how much money they can get from their campaign "donors" to vote one way or the other.

I call BS on that one. Have you actually talked to your Congressperson? They do want to hear from you.

Maybe I'm lucky. I live in Minnesota, so I have Senator Al Franken: privacy [slashdot.org] , net neutrality [slashdot.org] . I actually met him a few times, which is what got me interested in doing something about software patent reform. Al made a great comment to me: "It's your job (constituent) to tell me what's important, and my job (Senator) to go do something about that in Washington - but first you need to let me know what's important."

And true to form, when I contacted his office, they listened to me. At my first contact, I spoke with the office's state director. Then I got to meet the constituent affairs person. That led to a conversation with the office's lead counsel on patent issues, and who works with Al on the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. [senate.gov] Everyone was very helpful, and very engaged with what I had to say. His office is the one that pointed out the USPTO RFC to me - I had missed it. (USPTO web site is hard to navigate.)

Don't be defeatist with your "They are interested in how much money they can get from donors" attitude, and do something about it. On Slashdot, we've been bitching about software patent reform for years (and I have a low UID). Finally, now we have a window of opportunity. Don't lose it!

Re:Rrrrriiiight.... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482308)

This is true. I work for a Rep in the US House. And I've been talking to lots of people about this bill. Not too many constituents, though, which is too bad. Lots of business people from our state though. We do want to hear. Especially on bills like this, which are very technical. I'm having trouble offering a recommendation since this is a flawed bill with some good, some bad, and much missing.

But I'll tell you this, too: It's pretty much too late to change this bill on most issues. That was a done deal by leadership and committees over the past 6 months. Rank and filers don't get much of a say on the major issues unless they're on that committee. Big changes (like software patents) will blow it up. There is a small chance the House will have a chance to substantively amend on the floor, which could get interesting. So this advice if you call:

0. Call the House. The Senate voted (something like 95-4) to pass this bill. Now's the time to influence the House process. You can go back to the Senate if there's a conference.
1. As for the "LA (Legislative Assistant)" handling patent issues. Talk to them if you can. If you can't, leave a message and ask for a call back. Many LA's will work 12-16 hour days and are still way behind. So the odds are they won't be there. But most will call you back.
2. Don't focus overly on software patents. You can say that they're bad. You can say vote against them in an amendment if you get the chance. But ...
3. For the most part we'll want to know what you think of this bill. Will things be better or worse if we pass it? Yes, I know it's flawed, but ... how should the Rep vote given that reality?
4. If you want to go deep, look at amendments next week and offer opinions on those if there's something impt.

Yeah... (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482998)

No matter what rep you work for, their office - through the auspices of a series of elected officials - is known to have completely and utterly broken their solemn oaths; known to have violated the constitution repeatedly and deeply; and you... you suggest we trust the current rep in that office, that we spend our time providing suggestions to them.

You're hilarious, you are.

But I'll tell you what. When the reps you work for rewrite the laws to respect the commerce clause for what it actually was meant to accomplish; when they reverse the ex post facto laws they've put into the legal system; when they stop trampling the bill of rights; maybe it'll be worth contacting them without bribe in hand.

Not that anyone sensible is holding their breath for any of that, mind you.

Re:Rrrrriiiight.... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483600)

Indeed, the thing is that no matter how much money a politician can get for voting one way or another, it doesn't do them a damned bit of good if it results in 2/3 of the voters voting for somebody else at the next opportunity.

Re:Rrrrriiiight.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482020)

I want to contribute campaign contributions via a website to allow me to own my own politicians. It works for big business, but we plebs are so disorganized we just give money without a clear action plan and ROI.

Primer on Patents (1)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481902)

If you're going to write a primer on patents, at least try to make it sound like you know what you're talking about. Getting basic facts wrong about for example term length makes you look silly.

Re:Primer on Patents (1)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482016)

If you have a correction, please leave it in the comments. [blogspot.com]

Re:Primer on Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482646)

Your blog posts discuss the abstracts of patents, which are only useful for general understanding, and ignore the claims, which (along with their construction) are what governs what is actually patented. Where is your analysis of the claims? You also seem to interchangeably use "idea" and "invention" when discussing what is patented. This is improper.

"Represent"atives (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482004)

your Representatives are very interested in hearing from you

Is there anyone out there who still believes this?

Re:"Represent"atives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482254)

Absolutely - only an idiot would think otherwise.

Do you not comprehend the campaign value of pictures taken of you and your Congressturd as you speak at him?

Organizations against (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482018)

I'm VERY interested in hearing why the American Medical Association and IEEE are against the bill. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

Re:Organizations against (2)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482068)

I'm VERY interested in hearing why the American Medical Association and IEEE are against the bill. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

The "First to File" is a major issue for a lot of folks. I believe this is true for IEEE - not sure about AMA, but I'd hazard a "yes" on that too.

Don't get overexited (5, Insightful)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482062)

This is a fourth rebranding of the proposed Patent Reform Act. Deckchairs get rearranged but there is little substance to all this and none of the driving forces have computer users in mind.

Some procedures get changed to make X more efficient and to improve quality sometimes for Y.

None of this solves the software patents problem in the USA. The software patents problem *isn't* caused by some bad apple applications slipping through the procedures. The problem is that software has to conform to standards (interfaces and data formats), and these are being covered by thickets of patents.

If there's 900 patents on something (i.e. mpeg), then weeding out the worst 10% changes nothing.

We need abolition, and we need Congress's support in this. The current Supreme Court has shown itself to be reluctant regarding substantial changes to law, and even if we won there, if we have no support in Congress then our victory would be wiped out by a legislative change.

Yes, do work on this proposal. Work to get software clearly excluded - you have to keep trying if you want to have a chance. But don't get overexcited. This is unlikely to be a big turning point - that is, of course, unless you get active and make it happen.

http://en.swpat.org/wiki/The_Patent_Reform_Act_(USA) [swpat.org]
http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Harm_to_standards_and_compatibility [swpat.org]
http://en.swpat.org/wiki/MPEG_LA [swpat.org]

Re:Don't get overexited (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482532)

The current Supreme Court has shown itself to be reluctant regarding substantial changes to law

That's because the Supreme Court isn't designed to make changes to law. That's the legislative branch's job, not the judicial.

Re:Don't get overexited (2)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36484152)

AC says:

> the Supreme Court isn't designed to make changes to law.

The Supreme Court has an obligation to make a ruling. If the law is incomplete or unclear (as is the case for software patents), their decision has the same effect as what a legislature can do.

Re:Don't get overexited (1)

Luminous Coward (445673) | more than 3 years ago | (#36484100)

None of this solves the software patents problem in the USA. The software patents problem isn't caused by some bad apple applications slipping through the procedures. The problem is that software has to conform to standards (interfaces and data formats), and these are being covered by thickets of patents.

I think everyone concerned about this sad state of affairs should read Xiph's comments [xiph.org] to the FTC Patent Standards Workshop. Their submission focuses on how software patents affect Standards Setting Organizations.

Complete BULL SHIT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482110)

It doesn't matter if it is done in Software or in Hardware. If it is completely novel, it's patentable. End of discussion. Just because you stupid, lazy and free loading open source advocates lack the brain power to understand that, doesn't make software patents illegal. All free software does is rip off someone else's ideas. You people wine "I should be able to rip off someone else's work." TUFF SHIT! If you didn't think of it first and patent it, than you can go FUCK yourself. Try coming up with an original idea you free loading drains on society. Innovation doesn't mean copying what someone else thought of first.

Re:Complete BULL SHIT (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482390)

Why should you be able to patent it for thinking of it? With hardware, you need to implement it, and if someone can figure out a better implementation they can patent that. With software, you can't, and that pretty much stops innovation in places that have software patents.

Re:Complete BULL SHIT (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482566)

Please don't feed the troll.

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one of the most biased Wikipedia articles ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482268)

Seriously, this would be like if you looked up an article on the New York Yankees and got to read paragraph after paragraph on "top Yankee choke jobs over the years, and why they still suck". Trying to perpetuate the myth of the lone inventor struggling to make payroll while fending off multinational corporations and their big law firms. Of course the reality is the reverse; only deep pocketed corporations can afford to pay off the patent trolls and still make money selling tech products.

For anyone who thinks Wikipedia is a complete replacement for the likes of Encyclopedia Brittanica, here is an example of why it can't always be trusted.

IV Supports, I Deny (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482270)

From reading the Wikipedia article, it is pretty obvious the Intellectual Ventures(Read: Patent Troll Incorporated), is leading the opposition to this bill. If patent trolls like IV oppose the America Invents Act, then that seems like a pretty decent heuristic to determine that the AIA is a good idea.

Re:IV Supports, I Deny (1)

ArcadeNut (85398) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482570)

Unless they are using reverse psychology on you!

Ok I sent my letter (2)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482558)

Now send yours. Click the "inviting public comments" link above and email the patent office. There is an address in the link.

It's one thing to sit and bitch about the state of things. You have an opportunity to fix it, right now.

So do so. Be heard!

From the other side (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482628)

Another way to look at it is that within the next 17 years nearly everything will be public domain.

Re:From the other side (3)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482776)

Another way to look at it is that within the next 17 years nearly everything will be public domain.

No, it won't. Because someone else will get another patent covering basically the same area with different language. If you cry "prior art" they'll point out some trivial difference and have the patent upheld. If you actually build the prior art, they'll claim your device is equivalent to theirs and thus covered by the patent... and likely win.

Re:From the other side (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482996)

No they won't win. Gilette defense is the best to have if you're accused of infringement.

If they do use that defense, they're basically admitting it isn't inventive because the difference is trivial.

Bert
Patent attorney

Re:From the other side (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483276)

If they use a trivial difference to repatent, then you can use a trivial difference to evade the patent.

Why is it that... (1)

Patent Lover (779809) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482652)

software patents are bad, yet copyright for music in perpetuity, handed down to heirs or held by companies, is good?

banks want patent reforms (1)

arnott (789715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482698)

Banks Turn to Schumer on Patents [nytimes.com]

After years of fighting Mr. Ballard at the federal Patent Office, in court and across a negotiating table, the banks went to see one of their best friends in Congress, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who inserted into a patent overhaul bill a provision that appears largely aimed at helping banks rid themselves of the Ballard problem. The Senate passed the bill easily in March.

Banks do not like “business method” patents.

problem with contacting representative (1)

dwreid (966865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483210)

My problem is that my US Representative is Joe Walsh. A bigger idiot, corporate lick-spittle and traitor to the American citizen never existed. Writing to him is a huge waste of time. (I know I've tried.) Calling him is worse. You're lucky if you ever get past voicemail. (I never have.) Joe doesn't want to hear from the "little people". The only way to get his attention is to have "Corp." after your name and a check in your hand.

Food for thought (1)

spectro (80839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483296)

Patent licenses are one of the main forms of passive income enjoyed by rich people along with copyrights and real state.

Software patents should not exist. These so called inventions should be protected by copyright instead but this is going to be very hard to change since the same rich people earning passive income from them is the people that pays lobbyists or happen to be the lawyers and judges that hear these cases.

Patent reform to the point of eliminating software patents can be done but it would require a massive effort similar to the Civil Rights movement.

No First To Patent concept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36483522)

As long as MS's (and other companies) idea of first to patent doesn't come to pass. What that means is that you can invent something, but don't patent it, and I come along 2 years later and create the same thing and patent it, then I get the patent and you get screwed. Only previously patented inventions would fall under prior art.

Also there should be a staggering of patent lengths based on the industry. As an example, Software patents should only get a couple of years, mechanical patents the current, and pharma patents longer because it can take up to 15 years or longer for a pharma product to even come to market so the effective patent protection is far shorter.

Truly Uninformed Comments (0, Troll)

MikeD215 (1051584) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483544)

I cannot believe the number of truly uninformed comments in this post.

There are those who believe all software patents should be invalidated because they are merely ideas. One of the commentators at Ipwatchdog gives a great refutation of this assertion: "...you clearly do not understand computers and software if you believe they are abstract ideas. The arguments against software patents have a fundamental flaw. As any electrical engineer knows and software developer should know, solutions to problems implemented in software can also be realized in hardware, i.e., electronic circuits. The main reason for choosing a software solution is the ease in implementing changes, the main reason for choosing a hardware solution is speed of processing. Therefore, a time critical solution is more likely to be implemented in hardware. While a solution that requires the ability to add features easily will be implemented in software. Software is just a method of converting a general purpose electronic circuit (computer) into a application specific electronic circuit. As a result, to be intellectually consistent those people against software patents also have to be against patents for electronic circuits."

If you have a great idea for an information technology system and this system is novel and useful you should be able to patent it.

The problem of junk patents can be solved by better processes at the USPTO. Getting rid of all software patents because there are junk patents is literally, "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

You can be certain that any type of "reform" that comes out of the current corrupt system in Washington will favor large corporations, because they are the ones who can most effectively bribe our politicians.
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