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Making the Case Against Software Patents?

Cliff posted about 12 years ago | from the seeking-ammunition-for-the-debate dept.

Patents 346

heretic108 asks: "I'm an open-source developer in a small western nation, which is slowly starting to take interest in Open Source, but whose (still MS-dominated) government is currently considering adopting a software patents regime similar to USA. This nation boasts a smart and feisty IT community, who have been terribly under-represented in government. I have a meeting in a week with a prominent member of the legislature (who has IT portfolio interests), during which I will have the opportunity to put the case against software patents. I'm asking for help in assembling information for use in the anti-patents case. Thank you dearly for any and all help you are able to provide here."

"I'm looking for references that cover the following subjects:

  • Triviality of some patents
  • Patents as anti-competitive instrument
  • Patents' discriminatory nature - difficulty faced by smaller developers with patent enforcement
  • Costs of patent searches, and their impact on the creative flow of software development
  • Clear evidence that a software patents regime is squeezing small and independent players out of the industry and creating an oligopoly for the largest players
  • Clear evidence that under the software patents regime, the entire 'space' or public commons of programming concepts is being subsumed into private ownership
  • Clear evidence and examples of patent law being abused and having a net anti-innovation effect
  • Anything else you have bookmarked, or can google upon, which can help build the most solid case.
The most desirable materials will be those written and/or compiled by the most respected academic, business, technical and legal minds. I'd like the front page of the folder to sport a series of punchy quotes.

(Also, if anyone can find the source of the quote attributed to Bill Gates arguing that the modern patents regime, if it existed decades ago, would have slowed the industry to a standstill).

Also very desirable will be testimonials from senior staff of small to medium R&D and body-shop houses, truthfully showing the negative effects patents have had on their ability to compete.

And, very importantly, any brief testimonials from indepenedant developers who have not intentionally stolen intellectual property, but have actually been squashed under patent laws."

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FP (-1, Offtopic)

ckokotay (206080) | about 12 years ago | (#4195765)


Re:FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195790)

the goatse [] troll is the best. FP is cool too, though.

Re:FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195872) [] is cool too.

Re:FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195806)

"FP" as in "Fuck Patents"?

Making the case against islam (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195769)

It's been a year now, and have the islamics spoken out against the WTC atrocity? Of course not. Every muslim on this planet LAUGHED when they saw what happened.

They must be destroyed. They have NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to live in the developed areas of the world. Let them writhe around in their own filth for the next few decades, before they come begging for Western aid.

Let them die.

Re:Making the case against islam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195807)

Whoa there. Leave they're chicks alone. I just know a few of 'em would like a taste of some good ol' American sausage, if you catch my draft.

Re:Making the case against islam (0)

jmrjmrjmr (605518) | about 12 years ago | (#4195847)

stupid fucker. go live on in your tiny naive world.

Re:Making the case against islam (1)

jkirby (97838) | about 12 years ago | (#4195902)

OK, let also do the same for stupid slashdot posters.

Re:Making the case against islam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195983)

OK, let also do the same for stupid slashdot posters.

So long. We'll all miss you.

Oooh ooh ooh (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195771)

Please take my time for me to do your job, I don't want it.

Eh eh eh. Seeing as how we are unfamiliar with sarcasm, I will close the message at this point.

i'll take a guess.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195772)

are you from Finland?

Re:i'll take a guess.... (1)

PD (9577) | about 12 years ago | (#4195878)

I'm guessing he's from the Netherlands. Small Western nation, check. Nickname - heretic108, check - Holland is full of heretics. Feisty IT community, definitely check. There you go.

Re:i'll take a guess.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195892)

Australia? []

Re:i'll take a guess.... (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | about 12 years ago | (#4195911)

Except that the Netherlands get their patent law from the EU, I believe. I think he might be from Slovenia. Or even Serbia (which would explain his reluctance to share the name of his country.)

Material against software patents? Easy... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195775)

Slashdot topic 155 []

duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195776)

everyone knows the way to get legislation passed (or not passed in your case) is by providing sexual favors for the legislature. make your moves wisely son!

Whatever you do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195777)

Take a shower before the meeting.

Donald Knuth's argument against patents (5, Informative)

dunham (35989) | about 12 years ago | (#4195778)

A copy of Donald Knuth's argument against software patents can be found on the LPF's web site [] . He is a very well respected computer scientist and programmer and makes a good argument.


Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196022)

Bill Gates said it first. (2, Insightful)

sllort (442574) | about 12 years ago | (#4195781)

"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today." -- Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1991


Re:Bill Gates said it first. (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | about 12 years ago | (#4195801)

That's a good quote. What's the source?

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195834)

the source was Bill Gates


Re:Bill Gates said it first. (2)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | about 12 years ago | (#4195849)

Do a google search on the quote. Lessig quoted billg on that one.

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196016)

You mean crack instead of hack, I hope


Subject Line Troll (581198) | about 12 years ago | (#4196052)

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195863)

source []

not a source []

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (4, Informative)

soundbyt (515293) | about 12 years ago | (#4195868)

Found sever google references to it citing 'Bill Gates, 1991 memo'. FWIF Here's a link to what is supposed to be the actual memo. [] (


Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196046)

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195935)

It's great until he starts advocating why he thinks that the company needs to have more software patents. This quote is good, until you see where he takes it.

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (1)

Shaftoe (144997) | about 12 years ago | (#4195841)

That is the exact quote. Just copy/paste it into google and you'll get several references to it.

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195893)

Since Bill Gate$ said that, does that mean that software patents are good now?

Re:Bill Gates said it first. (0, Troll)

TheWickedKingJeremy (578077) | about 12 years ago | (#4195906)

I guess Bill G is not the anti-christ today... Someone should call him up and tell him to login to Slashdot - He would wet himself.

Less secretive please... (2)

sdo1 (213835) | about 12 years ago | (#4195784)

Being -slightly- less secretive about the country you're talking about might help people analyze and answer the question at hand...


Re:Less secretive please... (2)

Samrobb (12731) | about 12 years ago | (#4195899)

In this comment [] , he mentions:

I worked for the Australian subsidiary of Wang Labs...

Nothing seems to indicate he's moved elsewhere. Still working in Australia, heretic?

Re:Less secretive please... (1)

cyborch (524661) | about 12 years ago | (#4195974)

Even though this poster seems less that trustworthy based on the information at hand, the question is still a valid one and we do need to do something to try to make sure software patents never come to europe.

Re:Less secretive please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195995)

All About the Story Poster (heretic108)

in this comment [] he blames 9/11 on America.
he is an Alternative Health Therapist [] ...who likes Mandrake []
and says that As An Australian [] , he's concerned about telling which country he's from.

Re:Less secretive please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195944)

western nation with a legislature... hrmmmmm thats a tough one. idiot

Troll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195788)

Who wants to bet that this clown is a troll.

Wait a minute! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195792)

I smell a nark. He's a microsoft lawyer trying to figure what he's up against! NARK! NARK!

A very simple proposal (2, Interesting)

Lenolium (110977) | about 12 years ago | (#4195793)

It's simple, really, all you need to do is explain that most software patents are on shakey ground, as soon as someone bothers to write an implementation of the patent in Haskell (which is nothing more than Lamda calculus), it has then been implemented as a mathmatical algorythm and is no longer a valid patent. Having companies rely on such a shakey ground could mean disaster for the economy if someone were to rock the boat just a little to hard.
Secondly, software patents go beyond the original idea of patents, in that if you designed something different enough, it would get it's own patent, but in the software world you must build your program in almost the same way in order to maintain compatibility. Otherwise, the company that patented the thing in question could have a stranglehold on the computer world for twenty years.

Great. (1)

budalite (454527) | about 12 years ago | (#4195798)

You will, of course, be willing to work for free, too. Somehow, this sounds j-u-s-t a little too good to be true. Small western country w/o patent law? Western of what? Japan?

Re:Great. (5, Informative)

Salsaman (141471) | about 12 years ago | (#4195947)

Well, you do realise in most countries outside of the US, patents can't be granted on software ?

Don't confuse patents with copyright - programs can and are copyrighted automatically by the author(s). However, in most countries you can't patent a software method. So for example, the one-click patent wouldn't stand outside of the US.

However, certain large corporations are lobbying the EU to introduce software patents. And guess who would be the only ones to benefit from this ? Yes, that's right, those same large corporations.

For more information. check out []

commies (1)

zoftie (195518) | about 12 years ago | (#4195808)

Just say:
I don't want money, I don't want money.
Repeat ad infinitum.

Re:commies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195880)

I'm sorry "Just Say: ; Repeat ; is patented.

Re:commies (1)

cyborch (524661) | about 12 years ago | (#4195962)

Au contraire (sp?)

Software patents are so anti-competetive that you should repeat that mantra if you do like software patents. Software patents, like patents on matematical algorithms hinder competition and the forces of the free market. Software patents are against the economic principles that we are so proud of in the west...

Just to translate.. (1)

stratjakt (596332) | about 12 years ago | (#4195809)

The guys looking for anything that makes big business and patent law look bad and opressive. Espescially anything that makes Bill Gates look like the anti-christ.

If you have any evidence to support the notion of software patents, or know of any real world situations where they are called for, then keep it to yourself.

This story is for anti-patent trol^H^H^Hpeople only. Otherwise this guy would be directed to GOOGLE.COM to do his own damn research.

btw, what 'small country' is he talking about?

Re:Just to translate.. (0, Flamebait)

narftrek (549077) | about 12 years ago | (#4195913)

Good. Looks like I'm not the only one who doesn't buy this guys load of crap. Could he be a little more vauge. What is he afraid that his communist regime will come to his house and kill him or something? Sounds more like a college student needs his thesis written for him.

Re:Just to translate.. (2)

Salsaman (141471) | about 12 years ago | (#4195971)

If you have any evidence to support the notion of software patents

Please give me an example of where a software patent benefits anyone except a large corporation. I have never heard of such a case.

Re:Just to translate.. (0, Flamebait)

stratjakt (596332) | about 12 years ago | (#4196055)

well, the point of my post was that this is a go-nowhere "news" article which, as the other responder noted, is likely some college kid wanting his thesis written for him. At best its just a clever troll.

I'm only calling 'em as I see 'em. Not all trolls are as obvious as "so and so is a gay". Karma shmarma, I'll lip off to anyone talking out of the wrong orifice.

Now then, that said..

You can answer your own question by going to the patent office site and seeing whos applying for and being granted patents.

Unless your definition of "large corporation" includes everything bigger than the lemonade stand you ran when you were 6, you'd see your statement is more a knee-jerk reaction than it is an argument based in fact.

Re:Just to translate.. (1)

geekster (87252) | about 12 years ago | (#4196036)

... big business and patent law look bad and opressive.

Well duh...

Tux2 is hurt by patents (4, Informative)

Cyclops (1852) | about 12 years ago | (#4195810)

Status of Tux2? []

And for you US citizens (2, Informative)

binaryfeed (225333) | about 12 years ago | (#4195814)

Sign the petition to get rid of software patents: .html [] And for anyone who wants info on why software patents are bad: -enough.html []

Re:And for you US citizens (5, Insightful)

selan (234261) | about 12 years ago | (#4195972)

Ya know, if you want to change laws, signing petitions addressed to "The United States Government" is not the way to do it. The US is a representative democracy. Write letters to your congress people, talk to them about your issues, and, for crying out loud, primary elections are Tues. Sept. 10. Vote, people, VOTE!

One tip in case presentation... (4, Insightful)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | about 12 years ago | (#4195820)

Before you dive into google and read the thousands of pages listed on this subject, try to think up some arguments for yourself.

Once you've formulated some arguments, then use google/google groups to look for confirmation - writings of other people who have formulated the same argument.

This will give you confidence when making your case because you will really understand what you are saying.

If you just recite somebody else's argument without understanding the proof you won't come across as very convincing.

True Murricans! (4, Funny)

carrier lost (222597) | about 12 years ago | (#4195821)

Good Lord! Don't help this person!

It's bad enough our country is destroying its technology sector with special-interest legislation, patents and the DMCA - don't make things worse by helping some other nation get a leg up by avoiding this morass if idiocy!

Show some patriotism!


Satire Impaired? Please don't mod

Re:True Murricans! (1)

jkirby (97838) | about 12 years ago | (#4195888)

Patriotism, racism... What is the difference. It is just another way to define differences between people so we do not feel bad when the screw and abuse them.

Screw software patents. Software should be like a book; you copywrite a book, you do not patent it.

Re:True knee-jerk reactionary! (1)

TillmanJ (223874) | about 12 years ago | (#4195977)

Patriotism, racism... What is the difference. It is just another way to define differences between people so we do not feel bad when the screw and abuse them.

Patriotism: n. Love of and devotion to one's country.

Nationalism: n. the conviction that the culture and interests of your nation are superior to those of any other nation

Just like a knee-jerk anti-American wank to not even know the terms he is using.

Patents lock things up (2, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | about 12 years ago | (#4195823)

They lock up issues like "compatibility" and "interoperability."

Suppose there are aspects of a communication protocol (say, SMB) are patented by a company. All the reverse-engineering and data collected packet-sniffing in the world are useless when the technology is patented. Compatible software written totally from scratch still falls [victim] under the hypothetical patents.

It is, of course, very anticompetitive.

No 1 reason against software patents (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195828)

Proprietary code should be protected by a copyright, not a patent.

You can copyright a work that is a product of intellectual endevour, but you can't patent the words used in writing it, nor can you patent sentence structure and the language used, or the media used to store and distribute. And that is what software patents try to do, restrict the very language use and tools we use to contruct our bodies of work. It is so easy to accidentally discover a method used to solve a problem strickly in a clean room setting that could infringe on some patent.

Copyright is the way to protect software, not patents.

Dave Winer Hate s Patents (5, Informative)

webword (82711) | about 12 years ago | (#4195831)

Dave has written a ton of stuff...some of it might be useful.

A day without programming? []

Patents and the W3C []

Killer Patents []

Amazon's XML Interface []

Patents, lawsuits plague the Net [] (Dave is quoted.)

Notes on competing []

can we play guess the country? (3)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 12 years ago | (#4195832)

i understand if you post a question to slashdot and it's sensitivity leads you to keep your company's identity a secret... but your country? i don't understand the secrecy here...

ireland? portugal? bulgaria? jamaica? suriname? senegal? burkina faso? togo? can someone throw us a bone here?! ;-P

Re:can we play guess the country? (2, Interesting)

undeg chwech (589211) | about 12 years ago | (#4195905)

Australia? []

Guess the country? Most likely Australia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196028)
http://slashdot. org/ 519

Mod the parent up, even if he is unable to clearly state that based on the previous comments of heritic108 Australia seems very likely to be the country in question.

fuck it,
mod me up,
you know you wanted it spelled out clearly
that'll learn him to be clearer next time :P

Re:can we play guess the country? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195920)

I think I know where they are: SeaLand! []

Hot pictures of proto-fascist pussy... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195833)

click for pics []

Somewhere to start (2, Informative)

Fluid Donkey (97587) | about 12 years ago | (#4195836)

This site [] at MIT gives a good overview. Even though it has a more american slant I think the arguments are pretty universal.

I don't think you should argue this point (4, Insightful)

vsack (558342) | about 12 years ago | (#4195837)

Patents as anti-competitive instrument

The whole idea of patents, AFAIK, is to grant a temporary monopoly for the patent holder, and thereby giving them a greater chance at a return for their invested R&D. This isn't a flaw of the system at all. Now how certain patents (software, etc.) are approved is another story.


Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196037)

Read (3, Informative)

vluther (5638) | about 12 years ago | (#4195843)

Read the July issue of Forbes magazine, which talks about patents and how they can help, but how they are being used to not help the economy.
Link 0. This is the entire issue

Link 1 []

Link 2 []

Microsoft favors software patents ... (2, Funny)

burgburgburg (574866) | about 12 years ago | (#4195852)

so they can protect the intellectual property of their programs and the security of the installations in which they are being used, like the Death Star XP. The Emperor Bill has determined that an open-source advocate, Linus Organa, has reverse-engineered the operational schematics of the Death Star XP, and is, at this moment, preparing to take those plans to the Rebel Alliance. Emperor Bill has dispatched Darth Ballmer to intercept.

Re:Microsoft favors software patents ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195939)

..what a sin that the younger Jedy Warrior Linus "Luke" Torvalds lost his adnroid for a buggy usb connection with his x-wing ;-)

Re:Microsoft favors software patents ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195940)

Linus in a white dress with that ear-muff hairdo *shudder* "Help me Transmeta, you're my only hope." He then hands off the plans to a 15" tall R2 unit [] who then hands Linus the beer he got for him.

Re:Microsoft favors software patents ... (2)

gosand (234100) | about 12 years ago | (#4195982)

Emperor Bill has dispatched Darth Ballmer to intercept.

Don't you mean Jar Jar Ballmer [] .

Damn, this video gets funnier and funnier every time I watch it.

LFP essay (2)

stevenj (9583) | about 12 years ago | (#4195896)

The essay on the main League for Programming Freedom [] page is one of the more cogent ones that I've seen, although being written in 1991 it doesn't have as many case studies as it could now. (It makes the important point that it's not enough to simply eliminate software patents with the most obvious prior art, as some have argued. [] )

The basic problem, I think, is that there is no shortage of ideas for computer software...there is mostly a shortage of good implementations of old ideas, and locking down the ideas so that only one entity has a monopoly on implementing them doesn't help matters.

Put another way, when most patent infringement cases seem to involve independent invention, the patent system is not doing its job [] . (2)

Salsaman (141471) | about 12 years ago | (#4195901)

If you are in Europe, you could contact [] . They run an extensive campaign against software patents.

Obviousness (1)

gregor-e (136142) | about 12 years ago | (#4195916)

If they're hell-bent on patents, please persuade them to come up with some sort of "obviousness test" to rule out patents for things like XORing a cursor to make it apparent over any background.

Perhaps this could take the form of internships for a dozen senior undergrad CS students - put them in a room, tell them the problem that the candidate patent solves, and give them one hour to describe as many solutions as they can come up with. If they can't come up with a solution (or at least not the same solution) then it merits a patent.

Wrong Way To Go About It (1)

theblackdeer (453464) | about 12 years ago | (#4195921)

I'm not a big fan of software patents, but the first thing that struck my mind is that you're going about this the wrong way. you've made up your mind, and now you're asking for arguments to support your position. it's all backwards, baby, jus' backwards.

you should think about the reasons, both for and against whatever issue at hand, before making up your mind.

Re:Wrong Way To Go About It (1)

Ace905 (163071) | about 12 years ago | (#4196029)

It's called being the devils advocate ; but thank you for your worldly wisdom. It's good to know there's some grocery baggers out there with a solid phylosophy on problem solving.

Re:Wrong Way To Go About It (1)

Isle (95215) | about 12 years ago | (#4196030)

He is not looking for arguments.. Look at the question he has got those. What he is looking for are articles or documentation that backs his points to make a stronger impact

Copyright is the better choice (4, Insightful)

Ace905 (163071) | about 12 years ago | (#4195928)

The concept of a Patent was never intended to relate to computer software ; a Copyright is a much more accurate and viable protection option for individual companies rights.

With Software Patent, you are protecting an actual system of execution or problem solving. The problem is that the essential knowledge any computer programmer has is not protected (and could not be), and with software in particular there is no *system* that is not a very simple extention of commonly understood concepts. In short, computing overall is simple when you analyze software modularly.

Take for example the attempts to patent, 'click-throughs' or 'downloading software after authenticating'. Attempts have actually been made to patent these concepts, and they are not *bad* examples - in both cases the wording of the patent request was executed in such a way as to gain control over something that was seemingly legitimate because it was a simple extension of 'click-through' or 'downloading'. In both cases the patent *would have* given control over these actual acts. This is not simple wording, it is the nature of software.

My own company develops software, we have a representative for patent and copyright, and we are more than happy to utilize his services as a Copyright agent to protect our rights. We copyright the documents that explain our business, our systems, and which we feel portray us best. Over all the end result is protected business, not a protected product. It is in the representation of a product and a business that competitors gain their foothold ; that should be the real focus here.

Quote From an Expert (2)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 12 years ago | (#4195938)

If glitz has any value, how about a quote from an extremely successful software entrepreneur:

"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today." - Bill Gates

Re:Quote From an Expert (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 12 years ago | (#4195959)

OK, OK, I know now, redundant, mentioned in the original post, blah blah blah. My sincerest apologies - I just thought it was so apropos that I posted before I read.

Patents on Algorithms (1)

Fascist Christ (586624) | about 12 years ago | (#4195948)

One thing that holds true in programming in any language is that there is more than one way to do the same thing. I don't agree with patenting the purpose of the algorithm, but rather the algorithm itself.

For starters, there should be a "standard" method before another could be patented.

For example, I may develop an algorithm that does the same thing as the "standard/free" algorithm, except mine does it more efficiently. Then I should be able to patent my version for a short period of time.

If no standard exists, I may make to versions of the same algorithm: the "free" version in the public domain and the "patented" version that I may capitalize on. There may be more than one free version, so maybe "standard" isn't the correct term to use.

The length of time for any patent should be realtive to the advancement in the field. Five years should be more than sufficient for IT patents.

Finally, and most importantly, the exact coding of a patented algorithm MUST be documented in the patent and be publicly viewable. On the day that the patent expires, no later than five years from the origional date of the patent, it will immediately become "free" (in the public domain) without any action necisary by the patent holder or by the government.

This plan would assure that there is always a free version of all patented algorithms, thereby not stunting the advancement of the industry. For example, imagine not being able to use images because someone holds the patent on images used in software.

Identify (1)

Glanz (306204) | about 12 years ago | (#4195953)

First, you must say where you are from ...(excuse the poor English), then you will have many responses. If you are in China, just say so. If this is truly a "western" nation, why the secrecy?

Read Oracle's Patent Policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195961)

"Oracle filed its first patent application in November 1991, not because it felt that its software was suddenly worthy of patent protection; it filed that application because of concerns that other inventors, afforded patent protection by a flawed patent system, might find themselves in a position to seriously weaken the Company's competitive edge by alleging patent infringement." acle.html []

A small western nation ... (1)

munch117 (214551) | about 12 years ago | (#4195969)

... which prefers to remain anonymous.


For software patents (2)

gouldtj (21635) | about 12 years ago | (#4195984)

I guess I just don't understand why you wouldn't want any way for people to protect their intellectual property. Unfortunately this isn't what patents are doing today, they are just too trival - but don't confuse the implementation with the idea.

Remember that the reasons that patents were invented is basically to help society. It is a contract, basically saying that if you will tell everyone your idea, we'll give you exclusive rights to it for a limited time. Yes, this does stop other people from using this idea, but in the long run, everyone can use it! Don't look at the short sided arguement that "I can't use it today", but the reality is that you get it in the future.

It is the responsibility of governments (although, I'll be the first to argue they don't do a good job alot of the time) to look at the long term effects of what is going to happen. Government, by it's very nature, can't act fast enough to deal with little, everyday issues. Most of the polocies that they implement don't take effect for 10 years, much less be effective before then!

Sorry, I know this has been rehashed here again and again. But I ask you to look at the longer term issue of people giving thier ideas to the public - this is the open source ethos, but with a little bit of protection to feed your family built in.

Re:For software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196066)

"Not using it today" is all that matters in the software industry. Tomorrow it will not be used anymore. The software industry advances faster than any other industry around. Companys like microsoft will always be ahead because they higher the brightest people or buy the patents. By the time you're allowed to use it, it's not useful anymore. Should companys get a leg up if they came up with the idea.. yes. The question is, how much of a leg up. It should be very very short. And companys like microsoft, should not get one at all. They are to big to play by the rules.

Abuse of patents in general (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4195986)

You could extend your argument a bit to point out that patents can be (and have been) abused for a very long time, and not just in the software arena. If you do this carefully you can diversify your argument without diluting its impact.

A good recent example is the story [] in the MIT Technology Review [] magazine about the history of Glenn Curtiss and his role in the development of aviation. In the article, the writer describes the bitter patent battle between Curtiss and the Wright Brothers -- and makes very clear that the Wrights attempted to abuse the patent system to advance their own interests instead of advancing Progress in the Useful Arts. This was in the first decade of the 1900s! Curtiss, on the other hand, made a point of always making his ideas (though not necessarily their specific implementations), including those on which he held patents, available to everyone as a matter of principle. The article strongly suggests that aviation in general would have been significantly hindered if the Wrights had ultimately prevailed (they didn't).

The excerpt on the web site doesn't contain the passages to which I alluded, so you will either have to purchase a reprint or find someone who has a copy. But it's definitely worth a look in advance of your meeting.


A request in return (3, Interesting)

jaaron (551839) | about 12 years ago | (#4196004)

Can I simply make a request that if you are able to gather this information together in an organized format, could you please put it online for the rest of us? If so, maybe there can be a slashback getting the URL back to everyone. Thanks.

Invite Stallman to your meeting (0)

ACNeal (595975) | about 12 years ago | (#4196007)

Richard Stallman is known for his wit and intellect [] . I am sure he would be a great addition to your meeting with the government.

Or you could just have them peruse /. for a week. It would become clear to them why patents suck. They really hinder innovation. I couldn't possibly build a better car if a car had never been built, but having to acknowledge that someone built one first hampers my ability to innovate a new, better design.

The simple answer is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196008)

Do your own fucking research. There seems to be this increasing trend where people decide, "Hey! I'm going to argue against ! I'll get Slashdot users to make my arguments for me!" If you want to present ideas, present credible researched ideas and information. "Well, sir, GoatBoy211 on Slashdot said that patents are bad because they make it illegal to steal!"

Is it black and white? (1)

jlowery (47102) | about 12 years ago | (#4196019)

Software patents aren't necessarily bad as a concept. It's the implementation that sucks.

First of all, software is a nascient industry, and patent terms should reflect that. Patents should expire in less time for software.

Second, you need people who know the industry to make determinations on what is patentable. Prior art should be given priority, so to speak. A high bar should be set for determining what is obvious.

But there are some really novel and useful ideas that come up now and then, and some of them required significant investment. If the USPTO did a better job of separating the wheat from the chaff, I think we as professionals could stand to benefit from a properly implemented patent regime.

But I ain't holding my breath...

JPEG as example (3, Insightful)

tjansen (2845) | about 12 years ago | (#4196021)

I think the easiest example why patents are bad is the recent JPEG patent: JPEG is, without any doubt, the most widespread compression format for images. Every expert should know it. But just last month, after over 10 years of existence, some company came up with a patent that has valid claims against JPEG. How can any company build a product without violating somebody else's patent when nobody noticed JPEG's patent violation for 10 years, not even the 'inventor' of the patent?

The main problem is that the concept of patent seems to assume that it is impossible that two people have the same idea. If somebody uses a patented technique, he must have 'stolen' it. But that's not the way it is in reality, because people 'reinvent' things without knowing the existing patents all the time. Often you just need to think about a problem set and get the same, patented idea. And this is exactly the thing that should be changed of a patent: when you use something that is patented, and you have never seen the patent's content before, you should not have to pay royalties or damages unless the patent holder can prove that you 'copied' his invention and not reinvented it yourself.

Not so black and white; Not just software issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196024)

1. Current debate exists over the low quality of all currently issuing patents, not just software patents A better patent system []

2. Theoretically speaking, the patent system was set up in this country in order to induce the expenditure of resources in order to achieve the innovation that would then allow our country's economy to evolve into one that could compete on a global basis.

This fostering of innovation applies to software innovation as well.

Difficult innovations that could be solved via software that would not attempted without the lure of patent protection DO EXIST.

The patent system is appropriate in order to foster innovation in these areas.

3. The problem lies in devising a system in which the software innovations as described in #2 above are rewarded patent protection and the majority of trivial software innovations are not. One interesting proposal suggests a reduction in the protection afforded most software patents []

Why have patents when.. (1)

ADRA (37398) | about 12 years ago | (#4196049)

Why bother implementing Nazi-like patents when other, large economy countries have it, for which to expoit?

1. If you don't have a patent presence, you become less restrictive in which technologies are implemented. For the government, they don't have to worry about huge royalty licensing fees for products developed in house, no?

2. You won't scare off business, because they will just patent their processes in the big countries anyways.

3. A "weak" country without a decent economy will just suffer more from restrictive patenting. Businesses will be locked out, or pay deeply for innovative technologies that were simply patented to block competition. AKA strategic innovation ;-)

4. None of this matters. Either your country has envy over more prosperous countries, and want "in on the action", or else they are getting bullied by those countries to conform to "their" system of law.

No offense to most Americans here, but your government is brutally arrogent when it comes to foreign policy. It seems that you want the backlash that insues to keep your place over the rest of the world.

Out of curiousity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4196051)

Which communist nation is this?

The country is Australia (5, Informative)

sam_handelman (519767) | about 12 years ago | (#4196054)

Quoth the poster (heretic108):
I worked for the Australian subsidiary of Wang Labs, at the time when Wang was the #2 computer company in Australia.

You go to the user page ( in this case) and read a few articles at random - you can usually find out where someone is from.

Given that you're speaking with an Aussie legislator, I recommend a national sovereignty / defense argument. You should point out that likely rivals in the region of the continent of Oceana - I speak in particular of India - have huge, established software industries that could prove a threat to Australia if Australia doesn't maintain software autonomy. It's okay to be vague, but use some everyday words as if they had some specific technical meaning in terms of "information warfare over the next century."

That ought to persuade the nuevo-Thatcherites in your xenophobic government.

Gates' Quotation (1)

Roger_Wilco (138600) | about 12 years ago | (#4196061)

Can be found in the memo here [] .
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