Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Federal Patents Judge Thinks Software Patents Are Good

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the everything's-a-nail dept.

Patents 171

New submitter Drishmung writes "Retired Judge Paul Michel, who served on the Federal Circuit 1988-2010 — the court that opened the floodgates for software patents with a series of permissive decisions during the 1990s — thinks software patents are good. Yes, the patent system is flawed, but that means it should be fixed. Ars Technica have a thoughtful interview with him. Ars' take: 'If you care most about promoting innovation, offering carve-outs from the patent system to certain industries and technologies looks like a pragmatic solution to a serious problem. If you're emotionally invested in the success of patent law as such, then allowing certain industries to opt out looks like an admission of failure and a horrible hack.'"

cancel ×

171 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

In other news (4, Insightful)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39992961)

Drug enforcement agents think the war on drugs is a really good thing.

Exactly (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993039)

I think, given the number of lawyers involved and the kind of income they can make from corporates, that for "emotionally invested" read "benefiting financially". There are a few judges who, once they have a permanent appointment, suddenly start telling litigants to grow up and keep the courts out of it, but the majority are looking over their shoulders at their former colleagues and their children.

Re:Exactly (3, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993299)

It's probably much more emotional than financial. The small percentage of lawyers who are really successful are unlikely to give up very lucrative practice to become judges. But every judge has the experience of being a lawyer before he's a judge, and will tend to bias decisions in such a way as to protect the prerogatives of the legal profession above all others. (There's even a whole book [amazon.com] about this, though I've not read it.)

Re:Exactly (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993635)

While I think that there are many lawyers profiting from software patents, I'm not sure that any corporation (except law firms, which are usually not corporations, usually limited liability partnerships) would claim to be "benefiting financially" from the current state of software patents. Perhaps a couple patent troll "corporations", but nobody who is seriously involved in the development of software products can claim that software patents are a good thing. At the end of the day, all the legal services they have to pay for to defend and file their patents are just a really big cost center. It stifles innovation, and it stifles change to have all these patents floating around. I'm not really against software patents in principle, but in practice, they just don't work. It doesn't seem that there is enough expertise in the patent office to ensure that bad ones don't slip through (although the same could probably be said for most patentable things, since all the really simple stuff has been patented, and the only stuff left to patent is quite obtuse stuff, which, although it may already be in use in standard industry, I doubt many patent clerks would be able to determine if something was truly novel, without spending a lifetime in the field). Some major changes would have to be made to the patent system for software patents to work at all. Probably better to just drop them all together until we find a model for patenting software that actually makes sense.

Lawyers not corporates (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994083)

You appear to have responded to my post without reading it. I suggested that it is the lawyers who benefit financially, and I didn't suggest anywhere that "law firms" are incorporated.

Re:Exactly (4, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39996573)

nobody who is seriously involved in the development of software products can claim that software patents are a good thing

Would you consider Steve Jobs "seriously involved in the development of software products?" When he announced the original iPhone, he noted "and boy have we patented it." [youtube.com] It's right there in the presentation as a bullet point, alongside "works like magic" and "no stylus." Later he pointed out that "We filed for over 200 patents for all the inventions in iPhone and we intend to protect them." [youtube.com]

Judge Misses the Boat (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39995287)

IANAL but I am a programmer. Judge Paul Michel fails to notice that he is not a software developer, and lacks perspective on the software industry as a whole. Here are four reasons to reject software patents:

Modern computers are general purpose machines - hence BASIC (Beginners ALL-PURPOSE Symbolic Instructional code). All programs are therefore written within the specifications of the hardware designer. This makes ALL software predictable by those versed in programming and not patentable in the first place.

Since all software runs on hardware that only understands the values of 0 and 1, it is all reducible to math. Anyone who has taken a digital logic class can attest to this. What you see on the screen is a representation of that math. Dump the contents of the RAM in binary if you want to prove it to yourself. Math is discovered, and therefore not patentable.

Software patents typically contain no code. The "Inventor" fails to disclose their invention, which should justify the patent being thrown out for lack of documentation. The patent holders, which are increasingly attorneys, are typically unable to actually implement their own patents. This practice discourages innovation.

Software patents typically make no sense to programmers. If a programmer can not understand the patent, then it does not describe a program. On that basis it should be thrown out.

We programmers are sick of being harassed by patent attorneys. They are leeches on our business, and have served to stifle innovation in the industry. It is time to fight back. We should earn triple damages if we successfully defend a suit based on bogus patent claims. For instance, Google should be paid $3 billion by Oracle ($1 billion *3) if they win their case. That would put the trolls back under their bridges.

http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_curtis_how_i_beat_a_patent_troll.html

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/when-patents-attack

Re:In other news (-1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993051)

Drug enforcement agents think the war on drugs is a really good thing.

And Muslims think the war against freedom is a really good thing [mypetjawa.mu.nu] .

Re:In other news (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993403)

At least one Muslim thinks the war against freedom is a really good thing [mypetjawa.mu.nu] .

FTFY

No one gives a shit about your reply. This is a thread about software patents you fucking retard. Take your bigotry elsewhere.

Re:In other news (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993083)

Slashdot headline: "Federal Patents Judge Thinks Software Patents Are Good"
Ars headline: "Top judge: ditching software patents a "bad solution"

If you bother to read the article, he says that simply throwing out the patent system is not a good idea. He also says that software patents are rife with garbage which needs cleaned out, and that the entire system from top to bottom needs to be overhauled.

But I guess it's easier to post a knee-jerk response and get a +5 Insightful than it is to read the article.

Re:In other news (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993133)

Whereas actually reading the article got you +1... what has Slashdot become :(

Re:In other news (1, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993145)

But I guess it's easier to post a knee-jerk response and get a +5 Insightful than it is to read the article.

No, easiest is to post an ad hominem as Anonymous Coward.

If the submission title and text is in error, don't blame the person who made a comment based on it. Blame the submitter and slashdot editor who let the tripe pass.

Re:In other news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993285)

If the submission title and text is in error, don't blame the person who made a comment based on it. Blame the submitter and slashdot editor who let the tripe pass.

Absolutely, we all should base our opinions on headlines and headlines alone and never investigate further!

No, easiest is to post an ad hominem as Anonymous Coward.

Asolutely! It's an annoyance to create a throw away email account to create a pseudonym on Slashdot to post and make it appear that one isn't anonymous - because the owners of said website like to be able to say that they have millions of registered users in order to sell advertisements to people who then pay to display those ads so that they will just be blocked by most of us who have some sort of ad blocker. You did use a throw away email account, didn't you?

Also, not all of us are as skilled as you in making an implicit ad hominem - as you put it - and it's best to be an AC so that we don't get a reputation of being a dick.

Re:In other news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993315)

Ummm... Isn't your little dig at people posting as AC something of an ad hominem itself?
Surely the content of the post is what matters, not what name (or lack of one) is attached to the post?

(I am not the grandfather AC)

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993563)

Blah blah blah. Let's not forget who implied that George Lucas is a good director.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993321)

Not really. He also said that opting out for software is not a good idea (for patent lawyers, at least, he's right) and that suggestion of overhaul fro top to bottom is the typical 'this is the right thing to do in theory' suggestion that is both impossible to do in practice[*] and a standard 'think of the children' way of shutting the other party up. He's basically saying 'leave things as they are, the only acceptable solution is not practically possible'.

* if only for the obvious question of 'what happens to the system while all the people in it from the lowest examiner up are busy reforming it instead of working as usual?'

Re:In other news (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993519)

I guess slashdot moderators and patent law both reward bad behavior then.

When you're in a world of greedy humans all looking out for "number one", incentive means everything.

Re:In other news (3, Interesting)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993817)

OK, let me paint another target on myself for all the knee-jerkers to reflexively pelt with garbage.

As a creator, I am not totally against the idea of patentable software concepts - provided that the concept in question is actually unique and not just a "done-this-forever" + "On the Internet" type of patent. It has to actually be a new and novel concept.

However, even in cases like that, the traditional patent terms are not a good idea. As a user and a designer of other people's ideas, 17 years is whole geological ages where effectively no one else can build on an idea if the patent-holder won't license on affordable terms. I'd go for a maximum software patent lifespan of 5 years, non-renewable. If you can't retire wealthy off that, your idea probably wasn't worth patenting and in any event it's time you got off your lazy royalty-collecting butt and thought up some new ideas.

Or at least that used to be my opinion back when technology wasn't quite so accelerated, our definition of affordable licensing wasn't what we can buy on a Wal-Mart salary, open-source wasn't a factor, and the major players weren't all using patent portfolios as blunt objects to assault people with. Maybe I should just grab a torch and pitchfork and do some knee-jerking myself.

"Rife with garbage" (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994103)

And who is going to overhaul the system and eliminate the garbage? I don't know about the USA, but in this country whenever a "system" needs "overhauling", all of a sudden the Government seems to employ a lot of lawyers on long contracts. Whereas reverting to a state in which neither algorithms nor their implementation in software could be patented would have the reverse effect.

Re:In other news (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994249)

He also says that it's a "bad idea" to dump certain types of patents. This is despite the fact that such patents are clearly harmful and are themselves "recent inventions".

I read the article too.

I think the judge is an idiot.

When production blows up in your face, one of the first things you consider doing is rolling back recent changes.

Clearly this authority figure is too invested in the system and can't bare to see the scope of his power diminished. He's like any other beaurocrat.

Re:In other news (3, Insightful)

jmactacular (1755734) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995415)

Well, he doesn't have power any longer, he's retired.

It sounds like he isn't familiar with, or just doesn't care about, how bad it has become. His view must be limited to his world of the courtroom, instead of everyone else out in the real world being extorted and/or shut down, stifling innovation before it even makes it into the courtroom.

But mostly, it sounds like he's trying to save face for a flawed system, because he's so invested in it, rather than being interested in solving the problem. Perhaps even deluding himself into thinking his legacy, his life, had meaning, for all the years of what he did on the bench were good, instead of really just perpetuating the problem.

Re:In other news (2, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994427)

1. Read Slashdot headline
2. Become outraged
3. Furiously read comments
4. See Insightful post and realize summary is inflammatory
5. Tag story with "badsummary"
6. Move on.

I need some more people to do #5 with me. Then the process will become:
1. Read Slashdot headline
2. See "badsummary" tag
3. Move on.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39995817)

I'll just join you in #6. Job done.

Re:Bugs are good (5, Interesting)

xonicx (1009245) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993085)

Bugs are good!
-- software engineer paid for maintenance

Re:Bugs are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39994161)

Usability is unimportant!

    - Systems Administrator / Integrator

Re:In other news (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994191)

Kinda misses his point. It seems to be, "It's bad policy to just exempt certain industries from the patent system. If the system is broken then fix it; exempting industries is a band-aid at best." If that's true, then the only consistent solutions are "no patents at all" or "no industry exemptions, but reform the system so that it's functional again."

Alternately, you might give some reasoning for why software patents are "special" and deserve exemption where other industries don't.

Re:In other news (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994287)

You make it sound like we've always had software patents.

This isn't about "software being special". This is about new forms of patent being created essentially out of thin air and contrary to previously adjudicated precedents.

Patents exist to serve a public policy objective. If they are harmful, then they need to go. The system does not have an inherent justification. It has no right to exist. You don't have a natural right to a patent.

The "null hypothesis" here is that NO patents deserve to exist. Any class of patents needs to justify itself or be abolished.

Software patents are a recent invention. It is THAT change to the status quo that needs to be justified.

Re:In other news (4, Interesting)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995551)

That's pretty dangerous ground you're operating on.

I think if you value a society based on the rule of law where every person/industry... is treated equally by law, the existence of patents in other industries should carry over to the software industry. You'd have to prove somehow that software is radically different than the rest of the industries.

The same goes for the other ways in which government operations (safety, quality, national security...). They all extend naturally to new industries.

As to justify itself... well... that's pretty easy to do. Pretty much any law can be justified. It's just a matter of who gets to judge the justification.

For example, I happen to think the startup culture is actually bad for long term scientific progress. It prevents science from being seen as a long term career, so who is going to invest in such a field? I think the period we're in right now is we're 'burning' through the last generation of people brought up in the more traditional company environment. It's one of the reasons most grad students in the sciences in the US are not US citizens. I don't believe it is because US citizens are not smart enough... it is that they rightfully see the field as not one worth such a long term investment. For the talent you have, you might as well be a doctor, nurse, teacher, finance person...

Now that's just my view and not the point of this post... I'm sure people have different views. I'd venture to say most would disagree with me... but what it shows is the amount of discretion in terms of justification. And the more discretion you have, the lower the rule of law is.

Given my experience in industry... there is little that differs from software. People who claim software patents are radically different... are generally people who just haven't seen chemical or hardware patents. They're just as obvious... as anything you'd complain about in the software realm. The only difference I'd say is that the companies involved in those other industries are used to the whole patent and licensing system. Partly because they are always used to charging for their products (they have to... they're made up of physical parts)... so the licensing is easily built into the cost. They're also more mature fields so there's less activity going on.

Emotionally invested (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39992965)

"If you're emotionally invested in the success of patent law as such" - that's the problem. You should never be emotionally invested in a cedrtain law. You may be emotionally invested in a goal and thus support a law which you think helps with that goal (and revise that support if it turns out that the law doesn't help with that goal). However as soon as you are emotionally invested with the law as such, you are not any more objective about it.

Re:Emotionally invested (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993081)

I'm not sure anyone affected negatively by software patents could not have an emotional response to this issue.

'If you care most about promoting innovation, offering carve-outs from the patent system to certain industries and technologies looks like a pragmatic solution to a serious problem.'

These special considerations for industries - such as software patents - may be viewed as a solution for the problems with the patent system but they are not a pragmatic solution to the real problems caused by software patents. If you want a select few to innovate, such as those who are rich enough to defend their software patents, then you've got your wish. If you want everyone in the software industry to innovate then software patents are a bad idea.

Patents are a make work project for lawyers (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995521)

There is no evidence that patents actually encourage innovation and with the current situation of patent war in technology, it looks like patents do a lot more harm than good.

Emotionally invested in what exactly? (3, Insightful)

Alranor (472986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39992983)

If you care most about promoting innovation, offering carve-outs from the patent system to certain industries and technologies looks like a pragmatic solution to a serious problem. If you're emotionally invested in the success of patent law as such, then allowing certain industries to opt out looks like an admission of failure and a horrible hack.'"

Isn't that the actual, official, reason for having patent laws and protections in the first place?

Surely being 'emotionally invested in the success of patent law' would require you to want it to achieve what it was meant to achieve?

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (5, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993093)

Surely being 'emotionally invested in the success of patent law' would require you to want it to achieve what it was meant to achieve?

Michel's argument is a familiar and persuasive one - if there are problems with the patent system, then those problems should be fixed, rather than exempting entire industries from its scope. Some might claim that it is an argument based on ideology rather than pragmatism, but that does not make it invalid. Why should electrical engineers be vulnerable to patent trolls, whilst software engineers aren't? Why should a program expressed in VHDL and uploaded to an FPGA be worthy of patent protection, whilst the same algorithm implemented in C and running on a CPU isn't? Why should engineers in every industry have to worry about patents, but software engineers be excused? There is the argument that software is just an expression of mathematical functions, which as an abstract concept is unpatentable. But isn't a CPU design also an expression of mathematical functions, that just happen to implement logic gates and other circuits?

The pragmatic difference is that the barrier to entry for software programming is much, much lower. When a person can violate your patents with nothing more than a PC and a compiler, then there are potentially tens of thousands of people who will end up doing so. But the actual result is no different to that of other industries - the PC is to software what Star Trek 3D replicators would be to hardware - if we actually had 3D replicator technology, then people working in every industry would be living under the threat of patent trolls, and many of them would be calling for their industry to be exempted. So, why should software be treated as a special case?

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (4, Insightful)

geoskd (321194) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993129)

Why should a program expressed in VHDL and uploaded to an FPGA be worthy of patent protection, whilst the same algorithm implemented in C and running on a CPU isn't? Why should engineers in every industry have to worry about patents, but software engineers be excused?

The right answer is: neither engineer needs patent protection to make viable, marketable products, and thus neither should have it.

-=Geoskd

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (3, Insightful)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993353)

Why should a program expressed in VHDL and uploaded to an FPGA be worthy of patent protection, whilst the same algorithm implemented in C and running on a CPU isn't? Why should engineers in every industry have to worry about patents, but software engineers be excused?

The right answer is: neither engineer needs patent protection to make viable, marketable products, and thus neither should have it.

Ok, the patent system is broken. Let's fix that by abolishing the patent system! That will allow us to move on to the more onerous problem of fixing the problem of business monopolies by abolishing trade! And come to think of it police officers sometimes abuse their power, let's fix that by disbanding the police force! Or... perhaps, we should just fix what's wrong with these things? The engineer may not need patents to make viable marketable products but they sure help you to recoup the investment in time and money you made while developing and perfecting your invention. I agree with most of what the anti patent people are saying, the patent system is broken, but shooting the dog in not necessarily the best way to stop it from barking.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993791)

The Patent system was put in place to protect innovators, it does not do this, abolishing it would leave trademarks and copyright, trade secrets, fraud etc to protect businesses ...

The only people who are worried about losing patents are those who's business model is founded on them, these are mostly very large companies who could change if they were motivated to ....

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994341)

The patent system is not meant to "protect innovators".

This is a bad bit of pro-corporate rhetoric that sends everyone down a philosophical dead end. Patents exist to encourage disclosure of useful inventions so that everyone can use them.

If something can be easily replicated by 10 companies in parallel, then the value of disclosing that information is miniscule. The harm caused by not allowing 9 out of 10 companies to independently move forward gravely outweighs the value of allowing the 10th company to claim ownership on something.

The basic idea of what the patent system should be and how individual patents should be treated is wrong. If judges are perpetrating those fundementally wrongful ideas then perhaps the whole system needs to be scrapped.

Sometimes, the patient can't be saved.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39994821)

If something can be easily replicated by 10 companies in parallel, then the value of disclosing that information is miniscule. The harm caused by not allowing 9 out of 10 companies to independently move forward gravely outweighs the value of allowing the 10th company to claim ownership on something.

So if company 10 spent $100 million developing this invention, why is it wrong for them to charge companies 1-9 a license for using their invention? Why should companies 1-9 get access to this invention free of charge? If companies 1-9 are unwilling to pay for a license they can always come up with their own solution that doesn't violate company 10s patent. There is no free lunch... ever...

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (0)

spitzak (4019) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995193)

If it took $100 million to develop the idea, then there are complicated bits that cannot be duplicated easily. The purpose of the patent is to force them to reveal these details. Without patents they can obscure it (ie closed source or other black boxes) and rely on trade secret law for legal enforcement of their ability to profit from their invention.

If they spent $100 million on something that can be duplicated by somebody for free by just observing it, then they are idiots and deserve to go out of business.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

Simply Curious (1002051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995235)

I develop my wheel in North America. You then develop your wheel in Europe. Later on, there is communication between us. I claim that you have violated my patent, and indeed, you have. If something is obvious enough to be developed in parallel, why are we giving a monopoly to the one that happens to be first?

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39995625)

I develop my wheel in North America. You then develop your wheel in Europe. Later on, there is communication between us. I claim that you have violated my patent, and indeed, you have. If something is obvious enough to be developed in parallel, why are we giving a monopoly to the one that happens to be first?

Way to go, take one eccentric special case and claim that is a reason to scrap the entire patent system. Most inventions are not so obvious they are invented by two or more people simultaneously. Also many world changing inventions that take huge amounts of money and effort to develop are not necessarily mindbogglingly complicated. If you invented the wheel first then you get the prize, first come first served. I have heard this "that is so obvious" argument a hundred times before. Yes I know that people are taking out software patents on obvious stuff and patent trolls are abusing the system to extort businesses. That, however, does not change the fact that some simple inventions are not necessarily trivial or inexpensive to develop and there are a lot of people who use patents for their intended purpose. My CS professor said it best when some students pointed out that a helluvalot of algorithms are pretty simple affairs of anything from 10 to 100 lines: "Every algorithm is obvious after somebody spent several years of his life researching and developing it". And there is always somebody who claims that because your algorithm is so obvious with 20/20 hindsight it's also colossally unfair for you to patent it. If algorithms really are so obvious these people should stop whining about patents being unfair and develop a better algorithm.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39995943)

Actually there has been a lot of research into this, in reality almost every patent in America has many, yes, not just one or two, identical patents filed in parallel by other people. So not one eccentric special case.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

mitzampt (2002856) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995419)

But it doesn't stop at $100 million in revenue. Not even 10 times that much. And some innovators can't afford to pay so you rob potential from development. It's only fair to get your money off your investment, but please stop at some point and get another cow to milk.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993365)

Why should a program expressed in VHDL and uploaded to an FPGA be worthy of patent protection, whilst the same algorithm implemented in C and running on a CPU isn't? Why should engineers in every industry have to worry about patents, but software engineers be excused?

The right answer is: neither engineer needs patent protection to make viable, marketable products, and thus neither should have it.

-=Geoskd

Tell that to the guy who invented intermittent wiper blades.

Or do you really feel any private organization would spend any money on R&D when all that would do is enable competitors to steal the results of their investment?

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (2)

renoX (11677) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993399)

> Tell that to the guy who invented intermittent wiper blades.

If the cost to have a sane industry is to reduce the number of such 'small' (for lack of a better word) inventions, maybe the cost is not so high?

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993785)

Well, history says that they will. There is plenty of innovation at all levels without any patent protection at all, so we have to question whether patents are even necessary for the goal of promoting innovation. A great example is the software business itself. There was loads of innovation before patent protection was extended. Some might even argue that there was far less innovation after patents were extended to software.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993259)

So, why should software be treated as a special case?

Your own comment contains the answer: The pragmatic difference is that the barrier to entry for software programming is much, much lower.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993313)

"Why should electrical engineers be vulnerable to patent trolls, whilst software engineers aren't? Why should a program expressed in VHDL and uploaded to an FPGA be worthy of patent protection, whilst the same algorithm implemented in C and running on a CPU isn't?"

Why should a program running in the DNA of one's own body be exempt from patents too, even if life has been using the programs for eons?

For the answer to the question, consider the original justification for having patents AT ALL. They're supposed to encourage innovation and provide a net benefit to society by the government providing a temporary monopoly. If patents aren't doing that for a particular field, then ditch them or at least radically change them so that they are beneficial to someone other than patent trolls waiting for some other innovator to invent the same "non-obvious" thing as they did. For an example of a "radical fix" for software patents, consider drastically reducing the duration of the monopoly. Say, 5 or 10 years max.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

DarenN (411219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995513)

Repeat after me, and say this 10 times.

Patents were not created to encourage innovation.
They were created to DISCOURAGE trade secrets, thus making the invention available to all in return for a temporary monopoly. A trade, if you will.

It was a great idea at the time. It's a less good idea now but it probably still has some value, particularly if the terms were shorter

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993597)

... then people working in every industry would be living under the threat of patent trolls...

Sorry, but everyone is already living under the threat of patent trolls whether they realize it or not. From lost opportunities to increased cost of goods to reliance on marginal products because better ones won't be made. The problem is already here.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993849)

It's quite simple. Software IS math... not like math, not based on math, it IS math

Long explanation

http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=20091110152507492

Math is not patentable, algorithms are not patentable. The problem is the courts simply don't understand software or computation theory.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

StormReaver (59959) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995533)

Michel's argument is a familiar and persuasive one...

It is a familiar one, but entirely unpersuasive. It fact, it not only borders on the absurd, it dives head first into ridiculousness territory. The relationship between patents and mathematics is unsalvageable, as the two are wholly incompatible.

Why should a program expressed in VHDL and uploaded to an FPGA be worthy of patent protection, whilst the same algorithm implemented in C and running on a CPU isn't?

Neither one should be patentable. The FPGA is a human creation, and should be patentable (under certain circumstances). The mathematics performed on the FPGA are products of nature, and therefore should not be patentable.

Ever.

The CPU is a human creation, and should be patentable (under certain circumstances). The mathematics performed on the CPU are products of nature, and therefore should not be patentable.

Ever.

It amazes me that this simple, blindingly obvious, distinction evades so many people.

Re:Emotionally invested in what exactly? (1)

lordmage (124376) | more than 2 years ago | (#39996477)

The pragmatic difference is that the barrier to entry for software programming is much, much lower. When a person can violate your patents with nothing more than a PC and a compiler, then there are potentially tens of thousands of people who will end up doing so. But the actual result is no different to that of other industries - the PC is to software what Star Trek 3D replicators would be to hardware - if we actually had 3D replicator technology, then people working in every industry would be living under the threat of patent trolls, and many of them would be calling for their industry to be exempted. So, why should software be treated as a special case?

Ummm.,,. The difference is that with such ease people can also come up and implement the same idea without having others show it to you. Imagine a world where a bridge concept is patentable. Meaning: Cavemen walking around sees a river, pushes a tree over and walks to the other side... thats a patent violation. Instead of patenting How he was able to get the tree in position, how he was able to stabilize the tree, etc... the whole concept is patentable. Software ideas can be relatively implemented much faster than other ideas and can be generated with 500 different methods to do the same thing. Patents like: Touch a screen to make an item move.. come on, thats a bridge concept. How about HOW you make the item move? or read the finger, etc.

I would argue that the reason Software Patents is a bad idea directly is because COPYWRITE already covers the details. Ideas happening. Patenting the Human Genome? give me a break.

If they actually used "promoting innovation" test (1)

voss (52565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993413)

Rather than the "who did what" test while just assuming it promotes innovation then software patents might actually be viable. However promoting innovation is a higher threshhold then just "non-obvious". Also promoting innovation in software should mandate a shorter patent length. Anyone understand why DVDs are under patent until 2016??? A 20 year patent should pass the "holy cow!" test. A software algorithm for controlled fusion reactions. On the other hand If a reasonbly comptent programmer can replicate the invention independently without seeing the patent or the code, then that should fail a "promoting innovation" test.

Let's just all stick our heads in the sand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39992995)

Well, yes, it seems like an admission of failure because it IS an admission of failure. Refusing to admit it isn't going to make it go away...

Central planners love central planning. (3, Insightful)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993047)

Is this a suprise to anyone? Central planners always have an excuse for their failures and always insist they just need some reforms and tweaks to get it right. They insist the problem isn't that central planning cannot work it is just some little switch or dial needs adjusting. The fact is Central planning can never work. Free people following having the liberty to do what they want with their time and property will always work better. It won't always be successful but that is the point. The failures will simply run out of their own money. The central planners get to take everyone's money to keep funding their failures.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993135)

What you're saying is that overplanning will never work. Central planning can and will work, provided that central planning only designates targets, and leaves the method to the market to work out. That's more or less what happens in China right now, albeit with a stricter national control over the market itself too, and look at how they're doing: greatest economic growth of the globe for the nth year running, and they're in despair over the fact that the growth dropped to 8% last year, while every other economy struggles to achieve growth in the first place.

I'm not saying that communism is good, far from that, but a measure of central planning of the economy, or rather, industries and production, is necessary. Otherwise the entire system will fall apart in flames.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993219)

You sir, are an idiot. What is happening in China is because of central planning, you say? Not so. What is happening in China is due to 1) the west taking advantage of cheap labor rates (nearly slave labor) because of government policies which encourage exporting jobs (tax and tariff policies) and discourage capital investment in USA by over-regulation (see EPA, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc.). The China bubble is a product of European and especially USA political short sightedness which has caused the world economy to react in a way which has hurt the world in real and lasting ways.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (3, Interesting)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993495)

What is happening in China is because of central planning, you say?

No, not exactly. Let me clarify what I mean.

Yes, what is happening now is mainly due to "the west taking advantage of cheap labor rates", as you put it. However, in order to get here, to be an attractive place for investment, China needed to beef up its infrastructure and production capability. Otherwise, western companies would have looked elsewhere to invest, where they didn't need to pay for laying down the infrastructure needed to support their fabbers (let's talk mainly electronics for now), such as massive power grids and road networks. These were built because the Chinese government said so, and their word is law. If they hadn't, there would have been a vicious circle: investors pass over the area because there's no infrastructure and building it up would be too costly, while no infrastructure is built because there's no need in the first place, since no investors want to invest.
Heavy industry was built up for a similar reason, although that started back in the Soviet era, in order to supply the rest of the Soviet bloc with the building material they needed. Now it was 're-purposed' to lower the initial investment cost by supplying nearly-free building materials to build factories, foreign or domestic.
Let me draw a parallel: IPv6. No/few routers support it, because there's no demand for it, and there's no demand for it, because ISP-s don't offer it. Why don't they offer it? Because there are no routers with built-in support, since there's no demand for it. Vicious circle of no demand-no support.

So yes, in a way, you are right, what is happening now is due to the west. But the root of the situation does lie in the effects of central planning, going way, way back.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (0)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993265)

What you're saying is that overplanning will never work. Central planning can and will work, provided that central planning only designates targets, and leaves the method to the market to work out

And you have just demonstrated the primary logical fallacy that Central planners always exhibit and that the prior poster was specifically addressing.

Any system of central planning is inevitably doomed to fail simply due to the nature of central planning. That is to say; It never remains merely a framework within which the people can exercise the free market, but always becomes a self-perpetuating system of ever increasing restrictions and attempts to control the free market, until it becomes so overwhelming that it collapses the economy and/or starts a political and/or military revolution.

The reason for this is simple; Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so the the Free Market nature of mankind abhors a control. The Free Market naturally routes around restrictions, regulations and controls to do what it wants. This causes the central planners to attempt more regulations and controls, which immediately prompts more routing around by the Free Market, and on and on and on until the control system is a massive, onerous monstrosity that is crushing the people it is supposed to serve under its weight and destroying the economy of the country that has implemented it.

Central planning cannot and will not ever work. It's like trying to keep a pocket of vacuum floating unrestrained in the middle of an atmosphere. Impossible to do, yet some people keep insisting that they can do it.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993369)

And you, sir, are just demonstrating someone not thinking. You're effectively saying that any armed force doesn't work, because it's centrally planned. Me thinks you need to read about Mission-type tactics [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Central planners love central planning. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39995445)

Congrats, you've proved his point. Mission tactics is an abandonment of central planning, because the planners recognized that initiative on the pointy end of the stick is necessary.

To quote your wiki: "The subordinate leaders then implement the order independently."

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995719)

The end goal is still defined centrally.

To be honest, there's a rather large difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy is defined centrally, in broad terms and vague goals; tactics is defined on-the-spot, or near the spot, so to speak, and in defined steps and clear-cut objectives. Tactics is the practice to the theory of strategy.
Those who keep saying central planning will never work think of centrally planned tactics, where the general tells the gunner in the field how to move and fire; while those who say it will work think of central planning as strategy, where the general tells the colonel to meet up with him, who tells the lieutenant to secure the path, who tells the sergeant to take the hill, who shouts "Cover fire!" to his corporal, who the looks down his sights, picks his targets, and lets the lead fly. In the end, what happened defined centrally, but how the whole thing played out was not.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994347)

Your argument is circular and assumes its on conclusion. You may be right that central planning cannot ever work, but by making what amounts to a religious argument (that mankind is inherently free market, something that at least the hunter gatherer level is obviously false).

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995589)

What you're talking about is the sort of central planning a totalitarian state implements, one that attempts to control all aspects of the economy and society. What I'm talking about is exactly the sort of mission-type planning the AC mentioned: central planning designates a goal, such as x% of GDP in the service sector, and the market works out the way to get there on its own, just like how squad leaders work out the way to the mission target on their own.
The end result is still centrally planned, the road there isn't.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993325)

Patent law is not central planning but quite the opposite: it's how we allow innovators in a free market to profit from their innovation. Invent something, bring it to market and profit from it without competition for a legally specified period of time. And the beauty of it is that eventually the design goes off patent and everyone benefits from it's production in a free, competitive market. Take away patents and copyrights and nobody has incentive to innovate. Bigger, more established manufacturers simply steal your product design and undercut your price.

Patent law has nothing to do with central planning or china's economic success, it's rather the opposite - they deliberately flout international patent and copyright as their industries churn out knock offs in a move designed to destroy industry anywhere but china. Central planning has worked in china primarily because of their unique advantage - a nearly endless supply of extremely cheap and well educated labor. Now that costs have begun to rise for them, their "miracle growth" engine is slowing. Once they get to a point where they actually have to compete with more mature and efficient economies they'll run into a wall. The other thing underpinning their "growth" is a collective willingness among government officials to put all other considerations secondary to economic expansion. Basically, they've made their economy the world's biggest bubble at expense of environmental and labor conditions. Beijing's air quality is so bad they had to shut down local industry for weeks before the Olympic games and workers at places like foxconn throw themselves off the building with such regularity that they had to install nets to catch them all.

The only way central planning can help isn't by setting targets, it's by tweaking the rules so a free market can more easily meet them. You can legally oblige carmakers to produce X many electric cars per year but there is no guarantee that anyone will buy them (hellooooo chevy volt). The smartest thing any government can do is to try to preserve a competitive free market.

In order for the market to remain competitive and dynamic instead of moribund and dominated by a few big players, you MUST allow innovators an advantage and that means patents.

Re:Central planners love central planning. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994403)

> Patent law is not central planning but quite the opposite: it's how we allow innovators in a free market to profit from their innovation.

Patent has nothing to do with that.

What patents allow for is to claim ownership of something and then prevent anyone else from doing anything else vaguely similar.

In their current form, it allows companies to stake claims on the current state of the art and suppress competitors. In it's current form, the patent system doesn't really encourage the disclosure of useful trade secrets. The nature of the system actively discourages anyone from using patent filings as source of knowledge.

Patents only encourage disclosure. In the current system, that disclosure usually has absolutely no value. This isn't just restricted to software. Software is just what we know. So we can recognize BS in a patent when we see it.

Priar Art (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993089)

99% of these so-called patents have existed as algorithms in CS text books for over 30 years.

Prior art, case closed.

Why are these elderly incompetents allowed to make decisions on things they know nothing about?

Re:Priar Art (0)

geoskd (321194) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993157)

Why are these elderly incompetents allowed to make decisions on things they know nothing about?

Because we keep on buying into the democratic system that gives them power. Its only marginally better than anarchy, in-so-far-as anarchy will usually degrade into some form of crappy government anyway. People feel this overwhelming need to have their neighbors controlled (at gunpoint inf necessary). Democracy is no different.

-=Geoskd

Re:Priar Art (1)

FreedomOfThought (2544248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993257)

If the USA continues converting countries to Democracy, perhaps at some point in the future the entire world will be run by elected morons and eventually everything will just crumble. This must be the "Paradise" and "Promised Land" that some religions seem to hint at. The way I see it, Democracy is just another form of religion, really... You can run your country the way you want to, as long as it is not against our governmental beliefs.

After such time, there will surely be effort put into a new/modernized way of government (or none at all?) and then, and ONLY then, will patent reform become truly possible.

Or we could convince the technologically not-so-savvy to vote for the officials who are ruining certain systems and ideals. Once again, after paradise I suppose.

Re:Priar Art (1)

FreedomOfThought (2544248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993279)

Of course I have been known to say moronic things and overlook typos... Grain of salt anyone?

Software Patents have a couple of problems (4, Insightful)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993099)

Software patents have two main problems.
The biggest problem is, generally they aren't novel enough. Too many can be conceived by a general practioner of the art. And claiming XYZ can now be done on the internet, or on an IPad, or on 'fancy new device' doesn't make it novel enough.
The other problem is ideas can't be patented. Yet that seems to be what most patents are. They won't show the code, so how do you know if you are infringing on the patent? There are multiple ways to solve a problem. Just because I got to the same end point doesn't mean I infringed on the patent.

Re:Software Patents have a couple of problems (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993169)

The other problem is ideas can't be patented.

Hmm, I've always thought that this was exactly the point of patents. So once you have them in laws, ideas can, in fact, be patented.

Re:Software Patents have a couple of problems (4, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993263)

The other problem is ideas can't be patented.

Hmm, I've always thought that this was exactly the point of patents. So once you have them in laws, ideas can, in fact, be patented.

no, point of patents was to get protection on a specific way to implement a technical solution, for example to create an internal combustion engine you'd use valves and a cylinder and some way to deliver fuel/air mixture into it, have it attached to a set of wheels in specific way that's doable. you wouldn't grant and uphold a patent on something as "4 wheels and a motor" which is on some level a mere idea, but not a technical solution at all.

a quick fix would be that in order to get the patent you would need to submit a device and it's plans, including the software that makes it tick, to the patent office. that way you couldn't patent a perpetual motion machine without building one and showing how it works - which would be the point. that would protect your porridge boiler from 1:1 chinese copies but not from a ceramic pot. you also shouldn't be able to patent a chemical substance(which seems also to be a recurring thing for people to try), but you could patent the most viable technical solution for making said substance..

and supreme court definitely isn't the solution, no amount of hard work from them is going to fix it really when it's broken at the other end, the cases shouldn't even hit them - they're not supposed to be the guys who figure out what the law should be really.

Re:Software Patents have a couple of problems (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994275)

"....that way you couldn't patent a perpetual motion machine without building one and showing how it works"

You can't do that now anyways.

Consistency is not an argument (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993107)

It's a balance between damage and benefit and the balance is firmly in the 'damage' side currently. Throwing more industries into that mess does not a fix make.

The benefit was to award exclusives in areas where invention cost was high and time to market long. Thus it enables the invention. This is not true of software, where you don't need to build a factory to make the product you just invented, and thus time from invention to market is too small.

The damage is 1) complex systems can be blocked by individual patents on individual tiny parts, e.g. blocking tablet sales in Germany. 2) none inventors can steal the profits from the inventors using wrongly issued patents, we've seen an awful lot of those. 3) Some markets are dominated by trade secrets making wrongly issued patents the norm rather than the exception. Software being an example of that. 4) If an invention requires extensive investment, it is easier for people to land mine around it.

He really has to live in the real world here. You can't pretend the conditions for one thing are the same as another just because it lets you use one set or rules to govern both. Water is not steam, and you can't use a bucket to carry steam just because you happen to like buckets. But you can get awfully burned trying to carry steam in a bucket.

think of all the ways that we could make laws neat (0)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993121)

Think of all the ways that we could make laws neat. To paraphrase the judge "We know that the statutory rape law is sometimes misused and that's a shame. But I think that broad polemical exclusion of all cases where the couple are married is not the way to go".

or "we know that the breaking and entry law is sometimes misused, and that's a shame. But I think that broad polemical exclusion of emergency services in response to an urgent situation is not the way to go.

Sometimes you need exemption to a law.

Re:think of all the ways that we could make laws n (1, Interesting)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993541)

Think of all the ways that we could make laws neat. To paraphrase the judge "We know that the statutory rape law is sometimes misused and that's a shame. But I think that broad polemical exclusion of all cases where the couple are married is not the way to go".

Sometimes you need exemption to a law.

It's funny you say that... Marriage was an exemption to rape for years, and years, resulting in a lot of raped, abused wives. Sometimes, your exemption has unforeseen and horrible consequences.

In this case, saying "software is exempt from patent law" would result in large companies copying projects from small inventors and never paying them back. And they wouldn't be doing this to each other, either, because all of those big companies' software would go closed source, black-box implementations. Trade secrets for everyone... everyone without an espionage budget, that is.

IBM and patents (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993185)

Lets take a look, machine translation is done by companies like Google and Word-lens. They are the ones inventing and making products. However if you look at the patents, this is typical:

2009: "U.S. Patent # 7,610,187 - Lingual translation of syndicated content feeds ", a typical IBM patent.

Now the patent isn't enabling the invention here, IBM has just done the typical thing, looked at what people are doing and patented around it. This isn't to create things of value because IBM don't make translation software, they make patents. It's about using the weakness of the patent system to make money from companies that *are* inventing things. It adds an overhead to those companies, an extra cost in their R&D budget.

Re:IBM and patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993271)

I am not completely decided on the software patent thing. But if we are to allow software patents I see a place for research firms. IBM could fit into that. They would have to be doing real research into novel ideas though and not just patenting obvious vague things. This could save companies money because they can develop something without doing *all* the research. Try can focus and innovate in a specific area and license the work of others for the stuff that already has been done.

Content feed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993721)

"But if we are to allow software patents I see a place for research firms."

Did they invent translation software on syndicated content feed, or did they simply patent *use* of translation software on a syndicated feed?

To me this is a classic patent minefield trick. Make faux research, patent around an area that others are pioneering and then take they profits. It's possible because the patent office doesn't do a proper 'inventive step' test.

So you get research whose sole purpose is to create the patent, not the item being researched and the value created is actually zero sum value taken from others.

IMHO, the whole problem here is the patent office, and a combination of their unwillingness to do the inventive test, coupled to the difficulty of doing that test in fields protected by trade secrets.

hammer (1)

tapspace (2368622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993197)

tapspace's take: when you're a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Fixing things without hacking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993205)

If he(the judge) knew it was broken before allowing software patents, then why on earth did he allow them to be patentable? This is causing big issues for some people and now we are also seeing that patents are used as weapons instead of fostering innovation. He should not have subjected more industries to a broken system (and ultimately put them at a disadvantage) but instead, first should have fixed the patent system before more things could be piled onto it. Especially if he knew it was broken beforehand.

So much for being a "facts and figures man" (5, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993237)

We pressed him on this. Michel conceded the problem was less that it was too anecdotal and more that he disagreed with the book's premise—that high litigation costs were a sign the patent system wasn't working.

If the cost of enforcing the patent equals or exceeds the recoverable benefit, you have just conceded the fact that the benefit no longer carries more than marginal economic value to the alleged beneficiary. The best that could be said here is that it distracts a competitor. The worst (and probably closer to reality) case scenario is that the pursuit of marginally valuable patents creates a perverse incentive that distracts a company from more useful economic activities.

It's really hard to take seriously someone who says they're all about facts and figures, but then jettisons economics because the economic aspects of his preferred system are abysmal. There will come a day, at the rate we are going, where the rule of law will be formally dead in the US similar to how it is in Russia because the legal profession (and judges and prosecutors in particular) have made the cost of participation so high from various factors ranging from failing to sanction frivolous lawsuits and criminal charges, to allowing blatant corruption. As it currently stands, it's on life support.

good for who? (1)

hufter (542690) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993289)

It's not really the judge's job to say if a law is good or bad. He's job is to know the law and judge according to it.
If he is a "patent judge", the more patents, the more arguments about patents and the more work for him, and he can make more money. So software patents age good - for him.

Software patents should probably not be scrapped (3, Interesting)

sproketboy (608031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993349)

But their duration should be shortened to 2 years to account for time to manufacture. The patent system was developed for physical devices which historically could take years to manufacture. Software is out the door in 6 months.

Why I don't like software patents (1)

pesc (147035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993393)

In one sentence:

I am a software author and I want to have the same right to publish texts I write as other authors have.

If you don't agree, why should novels, film scripts, musical genres, comic characters, etc, be exempt from patenting?

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

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993543)

Because they already have copyright protection.

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

_8553454222834292266 (2576047) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993753)

So does source code.

Failure and horrible hack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39993521)

allowing certain industries to opt out looks like an admission of failure and a horrible hack

Sounds like an appropriate enough summary of the patent system.

Opt Out? It's illegal to grant patents on math! (3, Interesting)

Kirth (183) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993591)

I don't see anything to justify "software patents" in the first place, and actually, patent law forbids it. Everyones.

Just because some idiot lawyers redefined "software" as not being "math", because they couldn't grasp the math isn't enough reason to not ditch illegally granted patents.

There is nothing to "opt out"; the situation with these illegally granted patent just needs to be resolved.

Re:Opt Out? It's illegal to grant patents on math! (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39996697)

Software patents are not patents on math because they are tied to machines, networks, sensor input, and other physical artifacts. No amount of thinking about matrix transformations will cause three dimensional graphics to appear on a computer screen. No amount of thinking about the Page Rank algorithm will cause internet search results to appear. A patent on an algorithm or a data structure is in no way a patent on the underlying math.

Just because some idiot lawyers redefined "software" as not being "math", because they couldn't grasp the math isn't enough reason to not ditch illegally granted patents.

I'm a lawyer, and I also have both bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science. I get the math [wikipedia.org] just fine. The problem is a lot of engineers who don't understand the law.

Scary lack of software knowledge (2)

seanzig (834642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39993647)

For a judge who served on the court that "opened the floodgates for software patents," this guy knows remarkably little about software. He (self-admitting) doesn't even know anything about the software industry or its current disregard for patents. How can we take any of his comments seriously? The interviewers did ask some thoughtful questions, but I wish the interviewers would have mentioned that the current approach in the industry uses terms like Mutually Assured Destruction.

"If software is less dependent on patents, fine then. Let software use patents less as they choose," Michel said.

"Yeah, if countries didn't like the negative impacts of nuclear bombs, they shouldn't have produced so many during and after World War II." The problem is it only takes one Nazi Germany to scare a country into producing such a thing before the other, and one Stalinist Soviet Union to scare them into continuing to produce them. That's the problem with the software patents - everyone has to arm themselves against everyone else who isn't looking out for the good of the software industry. History may judge nuclear weapons as a great human mistake, and I suspect software patents also. Besides, software patents were NOT allowed to be patented before the Federal Circuit. It's not like that situation is without precedent.

Patents vs freedom of speech (1)

jago25_98 (566531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994033)

To keep it simple when you're discussing this:

Software patents and freedom of speech. What's the difference? Never has this been made clearer than around software.

Why software is different (3, Informative)

mattr (78516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39994089)

The software industry is indeed different.

There is a reason why people say an Internet technology year is like 7 years in another industry.

If patents are intended to protect inventors while commercializing their inventions, then current patent policy is a grevious failure and harm to inventors, and must be scrapped or greatly reformed.

Following are some key points:

- Huge number of obvious patents

- Large companies forced to buy tens of billions of dollars in patents as insurance against mutually assured destruction. This warfare means a single inexperienced jury can greatly impact trillion dollar multinational business strategies and a great segment of the global population, while making further invention exponentially risky.

- Smaller companies are unable to defend themselves in this warfare. They are periodically destroyed by large companies wielding patent weapons.

- U.S. inventors are put at a disadvantage by patents / legislation due to the immediate nature of software / Internet / speed of development overseas

- Mathematical nature of software languages and code

- Cooperative nature of software repositories, libraries, class hierarchies and APIs

- Revolution of the software industry, as a simultaneously cottage industry and international in nature

- The nature of software and the Internet means code can be transparently executed on servers in other jurisdictions.

- Legislation is both hidebound, slow and naive while having a permanent and disproportionately large impact on the software industry. A quickly reacting and quickly editable legal board is probably necessary if laws on software are to continue realistically.

As other industries become more and more dependent on software, they too will become more endangered by software patents, and by Internet-style information technology based disruptions. As it currently stands, individuals are at a severe
disadvantage in patent wars and on a global stage due to the USPTO's spamming of software patents with a total lack of responsibility for the massive losses in time and money required to justly determine the patents' validity after the development of critical infrastructure using them.

The usual anti-patent mistakes (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995727)

I'm seeing the usual anti-patent rants here, and many of the usual mistakes. Some corrections:

  • Software patents are new. The first true software patent was for SyncSort, in 1971. This was the first large-data sorting algorithm to beat O(N log N), and was a huge win for data processing at the time.
  • The Internet is different because it moves on "Internet time". The Internet is old. The ARPANET was running in 1969, and the Internet, compatible with present packet formats, has been running since about 1980. The World Wide Web is more than 20 years old now, longer than the life of a patent. Something similar happened in the electrical industry from 1885, and in radio from 1910. There were many basic patents, and they're all expired now.
  • Software is "math" or a "mental process". Software is a process performed by a machine. Patent law covers processes performed by a machine. Purely mathematical computations have run into patent problems, but few programs are based on a simple mathematical formula.

Re:The usual anti-patent mistakes (0)

Arker (91948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39996219)

All programs are math. If it isnt math you cannot run it on a COMPUTER. Back to school, shill.

Re:The usual anti-patent mistakes (2)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39996813)

All programs are math. If it isnt math you cannot run it on a COMPUTER.

No, programs use math. Math, in the abstract, is not useful. No amount of thinking about math will ever cause something to happen in the physical world. I can ponder the Page Rank algorithm all day long but that won't cause internet search results to spontaneously appear on my computer. Software patents cover using math to achieve a useful result. They satisfy the utility requirement of patent law in a way that math in the abstract does not and cannot.

Software engineers use math to achieve useful results in the same way that engineers in other fields use math to achieve useful results. There is no meaningful distinction between a novel algorithm leading to a more efficient program and, for example, a novel wing design (created using physics simulations based on math) leading to a more efficient airplane. They are both embodiments of mathematical ideas that have useful applications in the physical world.

Judge is Patently Wrong. (2)

3seas (184403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39995861)

There are some thing universally accepted as not being patent-able: Natural Law, Physical Phenomenon, Abstract Ideas and from these we also get Mathematical Algorithms. These are the components of Software. There are natural laws and physical phenomena that apply to the creation and use of abstractions, and in this case the abstraction is often perceived in terms of mathematical algorithms. http://abstractionphysics.net/pmwiki/index.php [abstractionphysics.net]

 

A serious challenge (2)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39996971)

In order to ban software patents, one must first define software patents. I challenge anyone in favor of banning software patents to come up with a definition of the term that is neither under- nor overinclusive, can be easily and unambiguously applied, and cannot easily be gamed. Here are some example technologies to think about as you develop your definition:

1. A machine that cures rubber by heating and cooling it, controlled by hand.
2. A machine that cures rubber by heating and cooling it, controlled by a computer program using a new, nonobvious, and useful application of a mathematical equation.
3. A new and nonobvious kind of rubber curing machine that uses such a complex curing process that only a computer could control it, resulting in a significantly superior product.
4. A computer program for controlling the rubber curing process using a new, nonobvious, and useful algorithm that could only be carried out by a computer, resulting in a significantly superior product.
5. A computer program for modeling the rubber curing process using new, nonobvious, and useful applications of mathematical equations.

If you want to ban software patents, where do you draw the line?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>