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EU Moves Toward Software Patents

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the imperial-march-playing dept.

The Courts 322

edooper writes "Apparently the patent discussion in Europe has taken a turn for the worse. According to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure: 'This Wednesday, the Irish Presidency managed to secure a qualified majority for a counter-proposal to the software patents directive, with only a few countries - including Belgium and Germany - showing resistance. This proposal discards all limiting amendments from the European Parliament and reinstates the laxist provisions from the Commission, adding direct patentability of data structures and process descriptions as icing on the cake. In a remarkable sign of unity in times of imminent elections, members of the European Parliament from all political groups are condemning this blatant disrespect for democracy in Europe.' Read more: swpat.ffii.org."

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EU MOVES TOWARDS EXTENDING ANUSES! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090628)

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Fact: *BSD is dying (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090899)

There is one thing we have to remember: *BSD is dying. Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sold another troubled OS. Now BSDI too is out of business, and its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS hobbyists, dabblers, and dilettantes. *BSD continues to decay, and nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time; for all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

How would this work? (4, Insightful)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090635)

How can any company possibly function, let alone open source when almost everything will be patented after this? The EU does not seem to know much about the decisions it makes...

Re:How would this work? (1)

chachob (746500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090640)

ever heard of innovation?

Re:How would this work? (2, Insightful)

computational super (740265) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091141)

Better be, 'cause competition won't be an option anymore.

Re:How would this work? (5, Insightful)

Dogbert2006 (747217) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090669)

If the data structure/algorithm is sufficiently complex, and no-one would have thought of it in the first place, then it may be worthy of a patent [of decent amount of time, non-renewable]. (as mentionned in prev. slashdot posts on similar topics). However, if the patents are for simple structures, or things like 'int i' [an exageration, but you get the point], then we're doomed...

Re:How would this work? (1)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090684)

Exactly, the real question is how far they will go, I am afraid they will go too far.

Re:How would this work? (1)

Orgazmus (761208) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090772)

They allways do, dont they?

Re:How would this work? (2)

INeededALogin (771371) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090679)

Don't be Braindead and assume that this is bad.

The EU has to make a decision on this. It just allowed in 10 more countries, and is defining the new standards of Economics and protection for all of Europe. The EU has to do this, or else the possibilities of Free Trade between Europe will be in Jeopardy.

Also, keep in mind that the countires let in on May 1st, are a lot of old Iron curtain countries in. All these countries are multi party Democracy now, but I am sure free Enterprise, Technology, and Patents may be very different in these countries.

Re:How would this work? (1)

Roydd McWilson (730636) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090861)

What's with the Arbitrary capitalization and "Free Trade between Europe" -- shouldn't that Be "free trade within Europe?"

Re:How would this work? (-1, Flamebait)

mumblestheclown (569987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090683)

Yes, everybody are idiots except for the geniuses on slashdot and the 4 or so people who showed up at the most recent "anti software patent 'protest rally'.

The thing is, when it comes down to it, most of you would agree that software patents are fine; you just have issues with some of the various implementations of them in particularly egregious and/or marginal cases just like patents for other things are fine. If instead of juvenile rants against all IPR in general like we see continuously here, we'd instead see intelligent proposals being written to help guide lawmakers on exactly how fair software patent guidelines should look like, this community would have much more credibility.

Re:How would this work? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090894)

Of course they don't. It takes a specialized knowledge to understand how braindead the patent structure the EU wants is. Not everybody has that.

The really important point to carry away from all of this is how people inside the EU who know just how bad this is and have told everybody so are being ignored. It's a sign of things to come. People in the EU don't have rights anymore. When it comes to little piddly shit, maybe the serfs will be allowed to have their way, but for the major decisions, the people of the EU are nothing more than servants of the EU aristocracy.

Ethics of Intellectual Property (-1, Troll)

Sarojin (446404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090645)

I've written an essay on this topic for my activist group. Here's a link [peoplesprimary.com] . The short of it is that IP isn't just and a disasterous sociological construct.

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090656)

This is kid's stuff. Go back to Politics 101.

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090676)

I'm sorry but I've patented that sentence structure, please deposit $699.00

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (1, Insightful)

mumblestheclown (569987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090715)

have you done a milisecond of research before blathering on in your "activist" glory to see what happened in times past when activists got the upper hand and abolished IPR?

basically, from revolutionary france on up, IPR was reinstated within months as it became obvious that IPR was and is necessary. Sure, it's not perfect, especially often in implementation, but not having any IPR is pretty much as dumb as saying that there shouldnt be any municipal water supplies.

Actually, I'm quite happy to see that you were (correcty) modded down as a troll. There's always a danger on slashdot of your kind of claptrap being modded as insightful.

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (3, Interesting)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090795)

You are aware that when IP was implemented that the publishing industry went nuts at the thought of the authors retaining any rights at all to their work. I can't find any explaination as to what REALLY happened when there were no IP laws. All I saw was wild generalizations about "chaos" and "mayhem". For who? Was there rioting in the streets? Did all the farmers go on strike and cause widespread starvation? All you damn IP people want to keep the gravy train running, and I say, Get paid for your performance. I told another guy that if you want IP, then I want royalties for every mile you drive your car after I fix it. Then I can sit back and "collect the rent" just like you. If you wany IP treated like real property, then you should pay property tax like you do on real property.

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091002)

It's quite simple--publishers made less money, authors/writers made less money, pirates made more money. And before anyone goes off on a rant about how pirates is a misleading term, this is a very established etymology, that is not at all recent.

If you're interested in the matter, the modern era of copyrights basically was entered around the 1880's. Specifically, the first work was Gilbert and Sullivan's _The Pirates of Penzance_. Before that point the US and England had no copyright agreement, so G&S operettas (and others) would appear on the NY streets within days of opening in London, by people who merely copied Gilbert's dialogues and Sullivan's composing.

But I guess in your world view that's not a problem--"collecting rent" and what not doesn't sound good? I just hope, for your sake, that you never get a world without IP--and then ever feel like creating anything.

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091098)

I just hope, for your sake, that you never get a world without IP--and then ever feel like creating anything.

Your creations are worthless. Most people's creations are worthless. The few worthwhile creations are so beneficial if they are shared that it makes no sense to restrict their distribution. Can you honestly say that just because you found a way to put notes together that other people like, you deserve something? THEY are the ones who process the notes they hear and enjoy them. You don't own their likes or dislikes. Can you prevent them from humming the music to themselves later? Remove it from their head when they are unworthy of your creation because they haven't paid you enough? Why prevent them from sharing it digitally? Discovering something does not make it your own, either. There are mathematical and natural truths (or reasonable facsimilies thereof), and they can only be discovered, not "invented" or "innovated". You don't want to invent things just because you can't get rich off of them? Fine with us, there are hundreds and thousands of people more intellegent and creative than you, who do release their discoveries freely. Now, how should you make a living then? Just like anyone else, do something physical and practically relevent to the world. I sure wouldn't pay you to think, I can think fine for myself.

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (3, Interesting)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091130)

Maybe because authors didn't have their own press like they do now. The whole issue never came up before Gutenburg. And after that, it became an issue of who had the right to print to protect gov't and the publishing industry (more like the writer's guild at the time) The U.S. didn't care much about enforcing IP until it had acquired a significant amount of its own. The pirates and "criminals" of yesterday's societies are what gave us today's freedoms. And today's pirates will do the same for future societies. It appears that if you want freedom, you need the "criminals" to make the law unenforcable. When I create something, I get paid then and there, as it should be. Then I forget about it and move on. By the way, the first copyright law came about in 1710. It's not all that diiferent from today's law (except for the time scales involved). Right now, copyright is being used to protect the publishing middle man more than anyone else. This is necessary to insure that creators will be dependant on them (requiring that they sign over their rights, etc,) forever if possible.

Re: Ethics of (IP)? knowledge advancement. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090813)

Technically IPR is a very bad term for this. it makes it sound like you could really own a idea. As if it were something you could lose. Which is nonsense ofcourse, just because a piece of knowledge spreads doesn't mean someone else has lost this part of knowledge.

Basically copyrights and patents are only there to try and improve development speed, and obviously as it's now starting to show in software with patents, if it slows it down. It really has no buisness being there.

So once we drop the idea of property off the sentance and think about it logically, Is it smart to not try and encourage the advancement of knowledge? Well indeed obviously not, but it's not some natural right, it's just to help things move along, and certaintly must never be overused.

Quickshot

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (1)

Log from Blammo (777614) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090849)

If handled correctly, copyrights and patents foster creativity and innovation in the market. If handled incorrectly, they have the opposite effect. Government patent offices do not, in my opinion, handle I.P. correctly.

BTW, there shouldn't be any municipal water supplies. Drinking water companies need not be run by the city, when a for-profit company could do the job. Likewise, patents need not be exclusively administered by one corruptable government office.

Re:Ethics of Intellectual Property (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090940)

BTW, there shouldn't be any municipal water supplies. Drinking water companies need not be run by the city, when a for-profit company could do the job.

At what cost? We've seen what happens when electric utilities got privatized. Our good friend Dennis Kucinich can inform you what happened (in ohio at least). There's nothing wrong with people using their collective power (through gov't if necessay) to operate and control these things. If they stay on the ball, they can assure that everything will run smoothly. If they privatize, they lose that control. Cable TV is a good example. The corruptability of a gov't office soley depends on how far the voters let it go. So far, they have been asleep at the wheel on this one.

DO NOT FOLLOW LINK! (1, Offtopic)

spaceman harris (646958) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090804)

Worse than goatse.cx

When should it be acceptable to ban an account? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091023)

http://slashdot.org/~Sarojin
At the very least, his last 3 posts have all been disguised as links to this 'website'. I seriously don't know what the fuck is wrong with these peoples' brain chemistry, to think this is funny. I mean you have to have one fucked up personality disorder to go around doing shit like this...
Please, sir, seek professional help, before you hurt yourself.

Well that about does it.... (1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090657)

Well that about does it for freedom in europe - The EU isn't even a proper representation of the people, and yet it seems that europeans have sold their rights away to it without looking at the consequences. This is one of the reasons why the world is going down hill, people sell their rights away to leader without even thinking. (Bush, EU, UN, Etc)

Cut the xenophobic crap... (5, Insightful)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091013)

Yeah, well before you start you xenophobic EU-bashing, remember that if it wasn't for the USPTO's stance of letting people patent everything and the kitchen sink then the EU legislators wouldn't have taken such a step.

In the real world, where companies and countries have to compete against one another in business, not recognising software patents in the EU whilst they are being handed out like hot cakes in the US is the quickest way to destroy software development within the EU. I don't like it - in fact, I hate it - but those are the reasons behind it.

So, before you start EU-bashing, on software patents and rights in general (perhaps you should check out the EU Human Rights Act as well) perhaps you should learn to appreciate that it's only following the rather poor precedent set by the US.

Re:Cut the xenophobic crap... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091129)

I'm from peru, you moron.

Re:Well that about does it.... (1)

SmackCrackandPot (641205) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091153)

The Irish government know exactly what they are doing. In the last few years, they have had a major investment program in all forms of technological R&D. A while back they got reprimanded from the European for having low interest rates/high level of government debt in order to achieve this goal. Their attitude would seem now to be "So? What are you going to do about it?".

Why? (5, Insightful)

timealterer (772638) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090660)

I may be just dim-witted, but it seems like governments are having too difficult a time understanding just how counter-productive this could/would be. I mean, sure, it sounds like it would improve your economy at first glance to discourage free software, but if Europe is running on free software and America's pockets are being drained by commercial software, whose economy benefits in the long run?

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

The_Mystic_For_Real (766020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090700)

It seems to me the problem is that descisions are being made by people who may not fully understand the issue. It could be compared to Congress settling a debate as to whose astrophysics theory should be considered correct.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

timealterer (772638) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090729)

Exactly. What's the solution to this though? The more advanced technology becomes, the more it becomes an intrinsic part of our daily lives. The more this happens, the less 65 year old politicians will understand about daily life.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090858)

The more this happens, the less 65 year old politicians will understand about daily life.

Don't vote them then. Good luck convincing your neighbors though. Until the average voter understands these issues, nobody's going to look for tech savvy piliticos to nominate and elect into office. There's a lot of work ahead.

Re:Why? (1)

caseydk (203763) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090983)


How many people voted for their EU representatives?

How many people voted for their UN representatives?

These are *NOT* democratic organizations. As noted above...

Why do we want to put them in charge of things?

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

LeftOfCentre (539344) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091029)

Newsflash #1: every European citizen can vote for representatives in the European Parliament every five years -- next month will be an opportunity to do so.

Newsflash #2: It is the Council of Ministers that is pushing this decision through. Guess what that is? The EU member governments elected by the people on national level.

Look, I don't mean to come down too hard and I agree we have a problem here, but I just wish people who posted had some knowledge of the area instead of just guessing wildly.

Maybe it can be argued that the EU is not democratic. But that is more of a reflection on "representative democracy" as a concept, than the EU in particular.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

caseydk (203763) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091108)


Thanks for helping in my point.

So here you have one organization (EU) where its members *ARE* elected by the people and are therefore held accountable... and they don't seem to want to be representative and/or democratic.

Therefore, what makes anyone think that another organization (UN) where its members *ARE NOT* elected (aka accountable) by the people will be democratic?

Therefore, neither the EU or the UN should be in charge of anything where we actually want things to be representative of the people.

I hope the software patent issue dies in the EU, just as I hope the UN fails in its grab for control over ICANN.

Re:Why? (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090969)

You assume that all Europe uses free software and all america uses commercial software, and that free software ALWAYS provides a cost advantage over commercial software.

I would be interested to see a comparative study of private and public sector IT spending, and adoption of OSS vs commercial software in NA and in Europe.

Re:Why? (1)

110010001000 (697113) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091091)

I don't know where you are getting your ideas, but the majority of free software is produced and consumed in the United States.

I'll probably get modded down for this but... (2, Insightful)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090663)

Software patents are not all bad. Now I know there is a LOT of abuse in the US right now, and the patent system needs to be reformed. However, I think that without patents, there would be much less of an incentive for commercial R&D.
Example: I am a coder for a steel mill that has figured out an algorithm that reduces the amount of energy used in the reduction of steel(which takes more energy than melting the steel). Now, after the steel company spends money on R&D to implement this, I defect to a rival steel company and implement the algorithm for them. Now the first steel company not only has lost it's competitive advantage, but they are actually further behind because they spent the money on R&D that the other mill did not.
Software patents can prevent this from happening. But like I stated at the start of the post, the current system in the US is broken, patents are too vague and there is not enough emphasis on prior art. It would be a shame if this were to happen in Europe. Hopefully, the EU and the US can learn from past mistakes and create a system that rewards innovation while not stifiling competetion.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090687)

old news guy. this was the point in inventing patents at all but it has nothing to do with software patents. so stfu

is this software, or a patentable invention? (1)

publiusREX (700268) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090718)

An interesting example, but I think most such inovations should be inventions, not patents. You have built a better machine; patent it.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (1)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090738)

This is why trade secret legislation exists.

Patents should only be given when I can drop the product on my foot.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (1)

Donny Smith (567043) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090777)

>Patents should only be given when I can drop the product on my foot.

The reason being ....?
In any case, that's a ridiculous assumption.

Firstly, division based on whether the object is tangible or not is arbitrary. (How about allowing patents only if they're invented by married people?).

Secondly, many innovations can be implemented in either software or hardware (is ASIC chip hardware or software?). Just think of a NAS appliances - you can patent a NAS appliance, or you can patent a line of code that does opportunistic locking. Ban on software patents would just create more environmentally damaging waste and increase energy/oil consumption.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (4, Insightful)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091176)

Physical inventions require physical resources, thus practical costs.

Discovering an formula, which is what all algorithms boil down to, requires mental resources. How do you put a price on thought?

Thought has never been as overvalued as it is right now. If people don't come back to understanding real costs, things will get paid worse.

A programmer shuold not be paid more than a paramedic. Saving a life should be worth more. This is just one example where the system is askew. I maintain it is because of an overvaluing of thought and an undervaluing of action/physical.

Being smart is not everything. Acting, doing is.

The ultimate manifestation of this is the lawsuit company, what Baystar wants SCO to become. No practical output, just patents based on some kind of mental labour that has been overvalued.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090753)

This is what software patents are intended for, however this is in general not what they are used for. Most patents in software are either defensive or offensive. Meaning basically that everyone is getting screwed over but a few offensive patent users and the patent office. As for more R&D well, more like the opposite sadly, reality can suck like that.

Quickshot

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (1)

curious.corn (167387) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090755)

"La strada per l'inferno è lastricata di buone intenzioni" - the road to hell is paved with good intentions. "Il demonio si nasconde nei dettagli" - The devil takes hide in the details. caveat emptor...

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (4, Informative)

sugar and acid (88555) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090771)

No this is not a software patent, you have improved the process of making steel but the process in the way you have implemented it requires the use of a computer to control it. The physical process of making steel is different and patent that. I mean by this is not a software issue, the patent for this should cover the same process being implemented for everything from something like a analogue electromechanical system to someone doing this level of control manually.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (2, Insightful)

ZuperDee (161571) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090798)

I would summarize what you said this way: The patent system DOES have some use. Yes, there is massive abuse of it today, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I happen to think you raise a very good point here. After all, patents are in essence a tool, just as hammers are. We all know it would be a stupid idea to outlaw hammers simply because they can be misused for the purpose of breaking and entering people's homes by smashing windows. After all, hammers have MANY other uses.

However, the crucial question boils down to this: do the number of beneficial uses outweigh the number of abuses possible? In the case of software patents, I'm not so sure the benefits outweigh the abuses.

I also think in the case of your steel mill example is one that might better be served by trade-secret than by a patent.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091041)

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater? In patent matters, the baby DROWNED years ago. THROW IT OUT already!

Ridiculous. (4, Interesting)

Featureless (599963) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090818)

I'm supposed to write software in a world where software can be patented?

Then every piece of code anyone writes is a ticking patent time-bomb.

So lets pretend we can have a patent office thoroughly staffed with geniuses gifted with eidetic memories and a sublime sense of of what is original and patent-worthy.

I'm supposed to read the entire patent database (hundreds of thousands of records)? And then once I finish that I only have to keep current with new grants (let alone new applications) - that's probably only dozens or hundreds a day...

Yeah, right. But then if someone comes along and wants a ransom for their patent on dereferencing pointers on Tuesdays or whatever seemed original and innovative 18 months ago, I'll either have to pay up or spend a few million to take on the fight in civil court...

I'm sorry - software patents are ridiculous. Your steel mill will invest in R&D to lower its energy costs, or it won't. But software patents don't create an incentive to do anything other than run for the hills. It's legitimizing barratry - the only winners are the lawyers, for the steel mill, the companies the steel mill sues, and for the other companies that will sue the steel mill for violating their patents, and so on and so forth, forever and ever...

Software patents are thought of by their proponents as a weapon against free software, and a cudgel against less wealthy competitors. And if they accrue enough legitimacy, within our lifetimes the software engineering discipline will be so clogged with them that practically no one can write software except in secret, no matter well you think the patent office can run. It's sadly ironic, really, that you think they spur any kind of innovation, when all they do is insure that no two good ideas are ever likely to be used together without a legal negotiation first...

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (1)

Lucius Septimius Sev (766060) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090872)

The reason why there is not enough emphasis on prior art here in the states is because it is not done via the patent office. If prior art exists then the patent is invalid end of story. This is done via the court system not the patent office.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (2, Interesting)

LeftOfCentre (539344) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090924)

"Hopefully, the EU and the US can learn from past mistakes and create a system that rewards innovation while not stifiling competetion."

Don't count on it. [ffii.org]

patently bad? (1)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091027)

Software patents are not all bad.

They're no worse than patents in general...

...with the continued proviso that you can't patent anything that's "obvious to one skilled in the art", which is supposed to obviate the most common scare-examples.

But, remember that main role of patents isn't "just deserts" for the inventor. Rather, they're society's incentive lure to galvanize its potential inventors. And in software, where the cost of experimentation and development is relatively low, the incentive needn't be as large as for other fields. Accordingly, cutting software patents from 20 years to say, 8, ought to be a huge win.

Re:I'll probably get modded down for this but... (4, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091052)

No, that's not about patents at all. The things stopping you from running straight to the competitor and selling them all your ideas are contracts and trade secret laws, not patents.

Patents are not there to give the inventor a monopoly on what they invent. If that were the case, patents wouldn't bother with expiry dates. The original principle of patents was to give small inventors an opportunity to sell their invention - that is, if someone comes up with a brilliant new widget a large company could get his invention to market much quicker than the inventor can. The inventor can't hide their invention away - they have to go out and advertise it to venture capitalists and potential backers so that they can raise funds to bring it to market. A patent was there to let the inventor publish their invention and have a monopoly on it long enough to get to market and become established.

That's certainly not the way patents work these days - especially with the various extensions, and other cunning techniques (constantly revising a patent to keep it in the works for as long as possible) used to extend the length of patents. Furthermore, with business method and software patents you can now patent general broad ideas and algorithms of how to do things. Once things get that broad there are problems.

In the current world of patents R&D is discouraged, not encouraged. Why should a smaller steel mill put in any research into anything? Odds are the larger steel mill with the larger amount of cash to throw into R&D and patents will manage to patent (through broad patents) pretty much anything you might happen to invent. All they have to do is keep a vague eye on your R&D department then crash research and patent anything you're workign on. To spend 4 years on research only to find the larger mill has just patented something sufficently close to your idea to block it - well, that's a waste of money. You're better off not bothering and just licensing whatever new stuff the bigger mill comes up with.

The real question you should be asking is "Why should a steel mill invest in R&D?". The answer is, because they can make better products more efficiently if they do. That should be reason and incentive enough.

Jedidiah.

I'm a USian... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090670)

...you insensitive clod.

Re:I'm a USian... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090884)

Oh you must be an EUian fag.

another USA (2, Interesting)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090673)

software patents in EU is going to turn into a disaster. this is going to turn into another USPTO, where they are backed up by more than you can imagine, and they accept any old crap that gets submitted!

Re:another USA (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090704)

On the plus side, the Europeans on Slashdot won't be able to brag about not having software patents anymore.

Re:another USA (1)

Flower (31351) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090770)

The good news is it will be American companies who will hold the majority of the patents. A situation currently in place with currently filed but atm unenforceable patents. So a good protion of those licensing fees will come back to the States. It must feel good knowing the EU has sold out to American Big Business.

Ok then... (2, Funny)

claudiac (777370) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090675)

My ancestors invented letters, and the point! God must have some patents too ;)

Software patents give me a bad rash (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090694)

I don't mind software patents (4, Interesting)

cybrthng (22291) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090695)

I just hate it when they're approved for dual purpose. A software patent shouldn't cover basic ideas of commerce or advancements in technology as a whole.

Like google slipping in contextual advertising patents - by a "software" patent - thus working towards being the defacto monopoly because the software patent basically patents the idea of the advertising method thus stemming competition and not protecting any specific technology or research or ideas.

Data structures (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090699)

If data structures are patentable does this make it possible to prevent interoperability?

Apparently Microsoft has realized that copyright is not nearly as powerful as patents for clobbering open source. This sounds disasterous.

Patents on Software...uhoh (2, Insightful)

linguae (763922) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090703)

This doesn't look good for OSS software. If just about everything were patented, there would be no way that future developers of software could implement certain features. Imagine if Microsoft patents the toolbar. Or if Adobe patents the photo editing tool. If this whole software patenting initiative is implemented and spread in other places, I think that it might be a major obstacle in Open Source Software that be very hard to get past. This would also impede innovation (not of the Microsoft kind) and would possibly force us into using proprietary standards forever.

Re:Patents on Software...uhoh (1)

mumblestheclown (569987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090726)

Umm, by its very definition, a patent is TEMPORARY.

After something's patent period expires, it IS in the public domain, period. The unisys corporation's LZW algorithm is now its gift to the world.

Re:Patents on Software...uhoh (2, Insightful)

Dogbert2006 (747217) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090741)

Yes, temporary is what they should be.

Permanent is what they shall be if certain entities with lots of money can influence certain law-making entities.

Re:Patents on Software...uhoh (2, Interesting)

Dogbert2006 (747217) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090731)

A good thing no-one can patent the alphabet, the wheel, or other simplisitic structures. That is because there is a lot of previous art. Your concern is valid, however since there is already some software that wasn't patented, patents will most likely lock open source out of newer technologies -- and open source developers will be able to do the same [given they can afford the patents]. So we'll be stuck with older technologies, and whatever we invent -- could be worse. (not to say it couldn't be better)

Re:Patents on Software...uhoh (1)

Drantin (569921) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091169)

but what if someone wants to patent a virtual wheel?

Re:Patents on Software...uhoh (1)

servoled (174239) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090824)

Why doesn't some OSS foundation start patenting some of the things that are created during the writing of it's software then? Then they would be able to more easily defend themselves if anyone ever tried something fishy.

We are better than you silly Yanks! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090706)

My European friends all seem to have this attitude that they are all better than me because I am an American. They are not arrogant but just have this slight attitude of superiority. However, I tell them this is one time that I wish they would take the high road and truly be better than me.

Europe, here is a message. Don't go down this slippery road! It is nothing but trouble. Look at how us Yanks have screwed this one up.

It saved Apple! (1)

timealterer (772638) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090716)

Thanks to software patents, Apple's ideas were saved from being blatantly ripped off - this is how they were able to retain market dominance. Oh, wait. Well, even though their patents were broken, at least their rights were defended in court, and the offender learned never to do it again. Oh, wait.

Re:It saved Apple! (2, Insightful)

servoled (174239) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090807)

I was unaware that Apple even patented any of the stuff that was stolen from them. I'd like to see these patents if you wouldn't mind providing the numbers. Thanks in advance.

Re:It saved Apple! (1)

timealterer (772638) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090843)

Ha, actually you're right, it was copyright law the sued under. Mind you, in either case, the suit took so long I don't think it would have made a difference. The industry moves so fast that by the time one of those lawsuits completes, the point is often somewhat moot.

Re:It saved Apple! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091092)

Oh, you mean the stuff that Jobs stole from Xerox PARC. Yeah, I thought so.

Breaking news (4, Funny)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090719)

Politicans fuck over the electorate. Film at 11.

Web Protests (3, Insightful)

RoadkillBunny (662203) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090723)

I seen many websites go on strike in the past (ex: Gnome, AMSN...). But these sites are only visited by the few linux users there are (few compared to windows users). These protests would make a bigger impact if they were done by sites that many people use, like google.

...it's OK....we can still blame MS (5, Insightful)

j3ll0 (777603) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090724)

According to the background information:

"The Irish Presidency explains on its website that it is sponsored by Microsoft. Ireland is "the largest software-exporting country in Europe", thanks to a fiscal policy which makes it a tax haven for large US companies: it has a tax rate on patent revenues of 0%."

So it would appear that US corporations are subverting international processes for their own benefit. This is exactly the same as the Australia-US situation, where compliance with draconian US IP laws HAVE BEEN MADE A CONDITION of the US entering into a Free Trade Agreement.

I'm struggling to cope with this though: the Irish stuff up IP laws in EU - but they make Guinness...Don't make me choose!!!!!....

Re:...it's OK....we can still blame MS (1)

mandolin (7248) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091068)

The Irish Presidency explains on its website that it is sponsored by Microsoft

It's my understanding that Microsoft used to not take an interest (relatively speaking) in governmental affairs. They had a fairly low number of lobbyists in Washington etc.

... oh here we go, an actual link [com.com] .

They sure learned fast, didn't they.

Regarding EU Patents (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090725)

Peoplesprimary [peoplesprimary.com] have recently published a fantastic in-depth report on the processes involved in EU patents, a highly recommended read for anyone interested in this article.

What oo Software Patents Have to Do... (0, Redundant)

reallocate (142797) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090735)

...with democracy?

Democracy means you get to vote for your leaders. Don't like these guys? Vote for someone else. If you lose, don't rant about the failure of democracy. Rant about the failure of your powers of persuasion.

Re:What oo Software Patents Have to Do... (4, Informative)

leonscape (692944) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090784)

This was already voted down for the people we elected. This is unelected people saying it doesn't matter, what the elected said where changing it back.

The Irish Polticians have a cozy setup with MS.

Re:What oo Software Patents Have to Do... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090791)

For your information - the "disrespect for democracy" comment refers to the fact that the European Parliament voted against this legislation, but it is being brought in anyway. It's not saying that software patents are inherently anti-democratic.

Re:What oo Software Patents Have to Do... (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090975)

Is the European Parliament sovereign in these matters?

From an American point of view, the European Parliament always sounds like another version of the Articles of Confederation, 200 hundred years later. The Articles didn't work because they were written by people who thought it was more important to be, say, a Virginian than an American. The European Parliament always sounds to me as if it was constructed by people who wanted to be called European, but didn't want to give up being French, or German, or whatever.

Re:What oo Software Patents Have to Do... (1)

LeftOfCentre (539344) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091078)

In some policy areas, the European Parliament has full veto power over legislation. In other areas (such as the EU's foreign policy) it is utterly powerless. But its role has increased over the years -- originally its members were not elected by the people, and its powers were significantly more limited than today.

Despite flaws, the EU system works fairly well in practice. The European Parliament is only one part of the entire machinery.

No but really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090737)

If I have an app that has "tabs", and I coded it, so I have the copyright for it, and software patents are legalised, and "tabs" get patented, they cannot do anything with me because I was first, nope?

The people in power are morons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090756)

I think one thing is universal, the people who persue power are usually either simply evil, stupid, or corrupted.

These E.U. big-wigs are the same people who are imposing draconian laws that effectively ban accessability to vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements. Want to take a 1000mb viamin C tablet when you're sick? Illegal! Want to take boron to help with your low-calcium diet? Illegal! And so on. Wouldn't want to stop the drug companies from making money would you.

This is the same same sorry age old mix of stupidity and corruption in the face of big lobby groups. In computing it is the corporate faces we know, in other areas they have their own equals. Once you become an expert in a field, you realise how corrupt it is. What few people realise is that almost every field of human economics and politics is just as corrupt. And this is why we're destroying ourselves.

Re:Same morons had their phones tapped. (1)

stock (129999) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091094)

Well i fear that there is some truth in the above statement. My confidence in the Brussels politics has lowered to below -273.15 oC.

IMHO the total insanity in Brussels started, when it was reported that U.S. Secret Intelligence have been routinely tapping phone lines on the complete telecommunication network which is part of the EU building infrastructure in Brussels.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2003-03-19-eu-p hone-taps_x.htm [usatoday.com]

Robert

Patent Schmatent (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090761)

Abolish all patent laws. Problem solved.

It's like adding extra insentive for people to invent stuff. Sorry but if patent laws were scrapped tommorrow would all new kewl ideas and inventions stop?

HELL NO

So what? Worst that could happen is that multiple companys produce the exact same product by stealing the inventors ideas. ... sounds like a nice free market today. And if the inventor has his head screwed on he could get a nice head start.

When judgement day / armegeddon happens noones gonna give a flying fuck about patents it will be every man for himself and still theres gonna be sum fuckers trying to sell you oxygen so you can live!

Look who sponsors the irish precidency (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090776)

Very recently two new sponsors for the irish precidency appeared, as can be see on their sponsors web page [eu2004.ie] . These are Microsoft [microsoft.com] and Dell [dell.com] . Is this just a coincidence?

EU (1)

arfuni (775132) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090779)

Keep in mind that when the EU's largest economy and most populated country objects to something they're bound to get their opinions out. The opposition countries (Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Slovak) have over a hundred million citizens. I'm sure there's a couple of loud geeks and lawyers in there somewhere.

structures 'ay? (1)

A_GREER (761429) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090782)

I will take the patent for the loop, the srray, the linked list. those are taken? OK, I will take anything that M$ HASN'T claimed yet.

Question... (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090820)

If I use a method/algorithm, that a company patented, in a programming project at school will I infringe on their patent?

not happy? Then SIGN THE PETITION! (5, Informative)

acidvoid (603114) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090838)

Read how you can help here...

http://swpat.ffii.org/group/todo/index.en.html [ffii.org]

Sign a petition here...

http://petition.eurolinux.org/index_html?LANG=en [eurolinux.org]

When I signed the number of signatures was 322888, A MILLION ARE NEEDED!!!!

Best Regards,

#322889

What will be patented? (4, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090855)

Will all the old patents from the past 50 years in the US suddenly be patented?

Will us European programmers suddenly need a license to implement quicksort and all of those other software patents that expired so long ago?

If so, the European software industry is fucked. Truly and royally fucked. It will kill it totally. There won't be one. Implementing software patents allowing this would be 100% counter-productive.

Now if the law is only for new applications, not for ones already existing ... then just maybe. If the patent is truly deserving.

Why don't I believe that this will be the case. It'll just be a whole load of obvious patents for software and methods that have been done a thousand times before, albeit in a slightly different context - which somehow makes the new patent valid!

This is just another law to get a load of lawyers a load of money for submitting patents, whilst fucking over everybody else.

Fucking sickening.

Data Structures? I patent the vector! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9090895)

I hereby declare myself the originator of the data structure known as the vector, x bar. x can represent any quantity that has direction. It is composed of two or more numbers, real, integer or imaginary, arranged in an array. The members of the array represent the strength of the quantity in a prearranged direction.

A typical example of a vector quantity is three dimensional velocity,

V = vi + vj + vk

Where vi,j,k represent change in position with respect to time in the i,j and k directions. It can be represented by a matrix of three real numbers of any number of bits as a representation.

All numerical simulations will benefit from my new invention, the vector. How else could anyone resolve and balance forces, areas, the flow of heat, particles and fluids without vectors? I am the new king of numerical calculation and all owe me tribute.

NOT. I hope anyone reading this understands that a patent on a data structure is absurd. Data structures are neither inventions or unique. They are necessary constructs, dictated by the nature of the problem being solved. They are all implicit in the construct of data types themselves. To claim that a data structure is an invention worthy of patent makes about as much sense as claiming two bricks stacked together is an invention.

Good or bad (2, Interesting)

javatips (66293) | more than 10 years ago | (#9090944)

Trully innovative software patent (innovative algorithm) are not necessarly bad. The problem with the situation in the US is that obvious stuff is being patented (and not just software).
The worst thing about software patent right now is that they are granted for way to long. With growth and rate of evolution in software techniques, 3-5 years until patent expiration would be a lot better that 17 years. If a company is not able to cash in in that time frame, then that means that it's innovation is not really innovative.

Bolkestein left Brussels today... (2, Interesting)

stock (129999) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091010)

Interesting enough today the old dutch politician Bolkestein returned back to dutch national politics. He has spent several years in brussels and suddenly has aborted his job there. Now why would he return so swiftly all of a sudden? maybe this eludes what happened :

http://swpat.ffii.org/news/04/cons0507/
"A leaked document from Bolkestein's DG Internal Market suggests that DG Information Society no longer objects to program claims. This concession by Liikanen is needed in order to rush the Council working group proposal through the ministers' session as an "A item", i.e. a consensus point which does not need any discussion by the ministers."

Robert

Patent reform progress in US? (2, Interesting)

Micah (278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091025)

Just wondering if those familiar with patent reform lobbying in the US could give a summary of what is happening. I'm not necessarily talking about the elimination of software patents, though that would be nice, but at least of reforming the system to only allow truly deserving patents through, and then for less time than is currently given.
  • Are there any organizations specifically dedicated to this fight? (EFF?)
  • Are any Congressmen known to be sympathetic?
  • ...etc...?

Thanks

Get your paperwork ready (2, Funny)

cheeseguy (149092) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091106)

adding direct patentability of data structures and process descriptions as icing on the cake

Well then I better hurry up and get my paper work together for
struct tree
{
int value;
tree * Lchild;
tree * Rchild;
};
typedef tree * TreePtr;

It is not MS vs. Linux, it is Patents vs. Linux (4, Insightful)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091132)

It is clear the many propriatery software companies cannot compete with open source software (not on a mass market scale), so the only way for them to maintain any hope of lead is to patent their applications.

They will not *sue* end users, they will go after developers. Patents ensure that Windows will remain the defecto OS for at least out lifetimes. In computer terms, an eternity.

Personally, I would at least hope they would allow math patents. Afterall, most software patents are just ideas stolen from the math world. Too bad "law" makers are too stupid to realize this.

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