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Talking Software Patents with a Politician?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the communication-with-a-different-species dept.

Software 75

agent dero asks: "I'm currently trying to land an hour or two of my local representative to the House of Representatives so I can talk about software patents, amongst other things. I'm looking for the best way to describe the pitfalls of Software Patents to somebody who hasn't the slightest clue what Open Source is, let alone how software patents will hurt it. How can a computer geek relate the evil in patenting algorithms to a non-computer geek to where it will have an effective impact?"

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I've got a question (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12807933)

Since when is ask slashdot a place to ask how to do your job?

Ask Slashdot: Putting new paper in a LaserJet?

If you have to ask, you're unqualified for your job.

Re:I've got a question (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808162)

Something I learn every day: people have no dignity. If someone assigned me a task for which I was unqualified I would refuse to do that task as I could not do it well. Most other people will fumble through it and hope that they don't get caught out as they feel they should be qualified to do it. Fixing computers is the perfect example for me. People think that because I'm a programmer I should be able to change the ram or harddrive or whatever in my computer. Ya know, it's all computer stuff.

Re:I've got a question (1)

swimin (828756) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809022)

I got the impression that the original poster is doing this on his own time, not part of his job.


P.S. Changing Ram or putting in a new harddisk is mostly a fear issue, not a knowledge issue.

Re:I've got a question (1)

Frodo Crockett (861942) | more than 9 years ago | (#12810141)

You're a programmer and you can't do a little simple part-swapping? You wouldn't happen to be a Java programmer, would you? ;)

Re:I've got a question (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811058)

not every java programmer is clueless. I program primarily in Java as of late, and I built all of my (non-mac) computers. (Well, OK, I got a mobo with the CPU and RAM installed and tested on my last machine, but only because it was only an extra $9 and it included testing, which saved the hassle of getting bad RAM and having to send it back, which seems to happen to me a lot, always had bad luck with RAM for some reason).

How to make politicians understand you: (1)

Monkeman (827301) | more than 9 years ago | (#12807942)

Clonk him (it) over the head, drag him behind a dumpster and put a remotely detonated bomb in his ear. Make sure he can't get it out in five minutes with a q-tip. Release him, make sure he knows nothing of what happened, then threaten in an email to detonate the bomb if he doesn't do what you want.

Money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12807944)

That's all the politicians pay attention to anyhow. All the talking in the world ain't gonna do a lick of good.

Re:Money (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808044)

Normally I'd like to stand up to you and say "not everyone is so coldhearted to be just money grubbing...", but then I remember who my rep is (he'll remain nameless), and say "aaaah forget it...",. Hopefully (as described in a post on this thread by myself) a good argument will mean as much as any wallet.

Re:Money (2, Informative)

Tonnerre (891997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811557)

Actually, the wallets are on your side. The majority of small and medium-sized enterprises is against software patents, and even the few that subscribed to the http://www.ffii.org/ [ffii.org] campaign already have more annual turnover than Microsoft, who is very vocal about software patents.
Also, the big companies are arguing mainly that the small ones want software patents (which the small ones deny, of course).
So it's also about saving a large part of the european economy.

Tonnerre

Re:Money (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12808957)

Money. That's all the politicians pay attention to anyhow.

Actually, no, even the worst of them also pay attention to staying in office; you can't collect the gravy if you're not on the gravy train. And personally, I think some of them still have some principles and try to actually serve their consituents and/or the national interest, when they're not raising money for the next election.

Which means that one approach is to convince your local Congress critter that there are votes on your side of the issue. One person alone isn't going to make that happen, but one person can start the ball rolling by beginning a dialogue on an issue. From there, if you're a member of a LUG or some other tech group with Open Source ties, find a way to get the Congressman to a meeting; most of them are always looking for new effective ways to connect to voters.

Another approach is to get involved a campaign, on a volunteer basis. More and more campaigns can use "high tech" resources - a web site, mailing list, monitors on the content of the oppositions web site, etc. etc. once involved, you can explain how much of the tools are based on Open Source or otherewise non-encumbered technology...

The basics... (4, Insightful)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 9 years ago | (#12807961)

Congrats you managed (or will manage) to get some face time with a big guy in govt. Just remember the following points:

1) The guy is a busy man with lots in his mind, keep it brief and to the point at all times, in fact if you have an hour of time, present for 30 minutes and give the rest for him to either ask questions or politely take leave as he needs, prepare to present to not just your rep, but maybe his staff and other reps that might choose to join in (it's possible).

2) Impassioned emotional pleas are no good here, construct a good well founded argument and you will do awesome. Do your homework throughly before going in. Also if you happen to know a lawyer that's willing to help you, ask him to help draft your statements before going in (better still ask if he can join you in presenting to the rep).

3) Prepare oral arguments (the old fashioned Powerpoints or whatever your favorite pesentation software is will do here), as well as a brief (no more than 5 page) written argument to leave with him.

Having little knowledge in particular about open source software patents in particular other than what's on Slashdot, I'll leave the rest to you to reasearch and form up.

Try this and you might just be amazed at your reponse. I look forward to seeing your arguments drafted into a floor bill at the House :-)

Please no powerpoint (1)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808043)

3) Prepare oral arguments (the old fashioned Powerpoints or whatever your favorite pesentation software is will do here), as well as a brief (no more than 5 page) written argument to leave with him.

I've got a better idea. Why don't you just sit down and talk with him/her face-to-face? Standing up in front of a few PowerPoint slides is going to make you look like some kind of salesman. Make sure you rehearse your 'casual conversation' before going in but don't make it look like a rehearsed speech. Please no Powerpoint slides. That will make your arguments look like some slick, over-marketed bullshit. Just sit down and TALK TO HIM/HER. Tell them what your concerns are and make sure you answer every one of the questions satisfactorially.

GMD

Re:Please no powerpoint (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808106)

Slick over-marketed bullshit is what convinces congressmen to pass bad bills, so I assume that it should work here.

If you think an earnest conversation with a politician is the way to enact change, then I have some ocean-front property in Kansas to sell to you.

Re:The Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12808155)

How Much?

Also, it won't come with any of those dino bones to 'test my faith' will it?

Re:The Property (0, Offtopic)

stinerman (812158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808240)

"Does that trouble anyone here? The idea that God might be fuckin' with our heads? Anyone have trouble sleeping restfully with that thought in their heads? God's running around, burrying fossils: 'Hu hu ho. We will see who believes in me now, ha HA. Im a prankster god. I am killing me. Ho ho ho ho."

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bill_Hicks [wikiquote.org]

Re:Please no powerpoint (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808137)

meh, it depends on what your rep has in mind. If he brings lots of people in (say his entire staff and then some), you're going to have to get your ideas across to everyone and the Powerpoint will be the easiest way to do this. If it's just you and him (or maybe a few more), then yeah I'd probably take your approach.

Planning is incredibly important (1)

Mistlefoot (636417) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808064)

Planning is incredibly important. Make sure you understood and try not to use passion as much as logic. Remember that he/she may listen, understand and disagree. Remember also that what you tell him/her may possibly the first in depth information on the subject he/she may have heard and if you provide him with information that is lacking he/she could base his decision against open source on a predisposition from your 'speech'.

Of course he/she may not be as clueless re open source as you think. Be prepared to counter any questions he/she may have. He/she is not a member of the house by not paying attention to what is happening in the world.

Re:The basics... (2)

Rs_Conqueror (838344) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809065)

Or, if your senetor is from massachusetts, wrap your letter around about a pint of cold rum.

Re:The basics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12812245)

And when you visit him, bring a life jacket.

Re:The basics... (3, Interesting)

anticypher (48312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811035)

I get to talk to elected and non-elected officials on a regular basis. They have a tremendous number of people talking at them all the time, with so many opposing points of view they can never keep up. The only bits that stick are the well presented ones, carefully crafted and without repetitions or ambiguities.

I've seen some of the FFII [ffii.org] supporters talking to Parliamentarians, and frankly it was embarrassing watching a few of them. They had the nugget of an idea, but couldn't present it clearly and concisely. They would start a beautifully thought out thread, then before getting to a conclusion lose the train of thought and end up talking about something completely different, often repeating ideas already presented. Very annoying for all those very familiar with the issue, and certainly annoying and confusing for the intended audience.

The guy is a busy man ... present for 30 minutes and give the rest for him to either ask questions

Not that you will have time to hone your presenting skills, but the best lobbyists present each idea in one to three minutes, then engage the politico with questions where they have to actually think about the issue. The guys who make the biggest money are schooled in the tradition of rhetoric, where every thought is presented as a series of conflicting questions (with spin) and as if...then statements. This requires the politician to make a concious decision on the spot on which way to think about a subject, and this forced thinking will most likely be the way they will vote later.

There is a whole debate on the best way to word the if...then statements, first, second or third person, singular or plural. Compare and contrast "if you support long term growth in rapidly changing fields, then are you prepared to oppose entrenched laws?" with "if our objectives are to protect ideas of individuals from the oppressive threat of corporate lawsuits, can we obtain a balance...". (N.B. there is no right way) Forcing immediate responses from an audience is orders of magnitude more effective in creating lasting impressions. Even more effective is to word the if...then statements so the politician comes to conclusions on his own, thus becoming his ideas.

Impassioned emotional pleas are no good here, construct a good well founded argument

Precisely. The issue of patents, copyright, and ideas having value goes back thousands of years, and is a very complicated area. Narrow down your arguments to a very limited discussion of a single domain, and be prepared to place it within the larger and global (historical) scope of the battle. The emotion should be evident by the fact you have taken the time to become politically active to protect what you believe in.

Do your homework throughly before going in

This is the most important idea in the post, buried right in the middle. Not only do your homework, but practice the presentation as well. Out loud, on real humans, several times. If you have a lawyer friend, ask them to hear your presentation and offer criticism (then listen to them and correct yourself). Lawyers who practice in front of courts have to be skilled at presenting clear and linear ideas. Even if you don't know any lawyers, just try out your presentation on a few people and ask for feedback. By the third or fourth time you will notice a huge improvement in which ideas get presented, and which ones you drop because they are not needed. Try videotaping your presentation and then review it later with friends, watch where you say "ummm..." or where you repeat yourself.

For material to study, browse the websites of the EFF [eff.org] and the FFII, and read this speech [federalreserve.gov] by Alan Greenspan. If you have an entire hour, you can effectively present four to six points with a limited background and context. Limit yourself to only these, avoid digression and monologing.

the AC

Re:The basics... (2, Insightful)

brontus3927 (865730) | more than 9 years ago | (#12812750)

The following is adapted from the National Space Society (NSS) Chapters Network Hub Chapter Handbook, Chapter 8: Political Action. Copyright 1998 NSS.

You can visit your Congressman's office in Washington or in your home district when he visits. You can go alone or with a group. Call or write ahead for an appointment if you want to talk to him or her directly. Don't expect more than a few minutes. Dress conservatively, be polite and get right to the point. Listen carefully to his replies and comments, so you can follow-up on any important points later. It is usually better (and easier) to visit staffers in the home office first. If you can visit their Washington office, it can actually be of more value to talk to their staff member in charge of science and technology issues. You can talk to your Congressman during his visits to your district, the Washington staffers stay in Washington.
Staffers are responsible for gathering information and working it into policy for their Congressmen. Educating them is therefore a very important accomplishment.

Gratuitious use of links (0, Troll)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 9 years ago | (#12807975)

Gee, thanks for the links to the House of Representatives and to a definition of Open Source and software patents. I would have been completely lost without these.

GMD

The links may be gratuitous... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12808253)

...but the House of Representatives got slashdotted anyway!

Re:Gratuitious use of links (2, Insightful)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809867)

Hey, stop complaining. Usually there are too few links... much better to have too many than to have too few, IMO.

Re:Gratuitious use of links (1)

stevejsmith (614145) | more than 9 years ago | (#12815374)

If I had mod points, I'd mod you up in a second. This pisses me off to no end -- especially when they do it with things like nytimes.com or microsoft.com. Or when they link both the news source and the article, and so without hovering over the link, you can't be sure what is what.

Earning money off of IDEAS (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808019)

The basic difference between a copyright and a patent is the same as the basic difference between software and hardware- one is for ideas, the other is for physical items. Since software processes are NOT physical items, the idea of patenting them is ludicrous at best- and really stupid at worst.

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808105)

So which one is which? By the order you just used copyright is for ideas and patents is for physical items where I was under the impression it was the opposite. Ya know, copyright is for controlling work which is a particular embodyment of an idea, which is why you can come up with an idea for some software and code it and I can say hey, that's a good idea, I think I'll code my own version of that. Whereas patents are awarded for a particular concept and even if I independantly discover that concept after you have patented it I still have to license it from you. This is really basic stuff and maybe people who don't get it should not be commenting on it (or god forbid, voting on it).

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (2, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 9 years ago | (#12813514)

you can come up with an idea for some software and code it and I can say hey, that's a good idea, I think I'll code my own version of that. Whereas patents are awarded for a particular concept and even if I independantly discover that concept after you have patented it I still have to license it from you.

That isn't accurate. If I decide, "Hey, it would be great if you could cook hot dogs using electricity," I can't get a patent on that. I can build an electric hot dog cooker consisting of an arrangement of motors, heating elements, heat-conductive rollers, glass panels and a blinking light, and get a patent on that. Then for 17 years noone can take my design and produce it. But they're free to build their own electric hot dog cooker.

The key difference is there's more than one way to cook a hot dog.

The computer field is new enough that we're still discovering many of the basics. Often there's only one way to do something efficiently and the patent office is granting patents on those concepts, or worse, blatantly obvious ideas.

Take two windows. Say they're Mozilla windows. These windows contain tabs. Raise your hand if it seems REALLY CLEVER to move a tab from one window to another. Anyone? No, that's pretty obvious. But Adobe has a patent on moving tabs between windows so you can't have that feature in Mozilla.

Now, if Adobe wanted to submit the code to move tabs between two windows in its application framework, OK, maybe grant them a patent on THAT IMPLEMENTATION of the concept. But they can't (shouldn't be able to) patent the idea, any more than they should be able to patent the idea of cooking hot dogs.

Granted, part of this is a bad patent process, and a patent examiner should have thrown out that patent application. But the patent process doesn't apply experts in the field to the patents in question, which is part of the problem.

Just to be safe, someone should raise lots of money and start filing for open source friendly patents. Put it in the Bylaws of the NPO. File for moving every GUI widget between windows. Buttons, checkboxes, Menus, text, text boxes, scrollbars, tabs (whoops), icons, just to be sure. Oh, does that sound silly? Exactly.

The only silver lining here is that after a tumultuous century or so most of the basic ideas in computing should be free from patent protection and some innovation can occur. But we'd rather not wait another 50 years to get going.

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12815439)

But if I write a novel- you have to purchase the rights to make a movie of that novel- so your example is somewhat flawed. Historically, though, patents have been for hardware, and copyrights for software. Westinghouse patented air brakes- Douglas Adams had the copyright on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Seems pretty clear to me.

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (2, Insightful)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808396)

Patents are for ideas. One doesn't patent each pill in a new drug line or each jet turbine his company produces, he patents the formula of (and process for manufacturing) the drug and design of the turbine.

I'm not the biggest fan of patents, but the argument you're making here doesn't make sense.

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12809235)

he patents the formula of (and process for manufacturing) the drug and design of the turbine.

Right on target! The eng. and biological approch is the basis for the explanation I use:

Patents are for registering designs or if you prefer, one specific application of scientific knowledge. Usually, patents are closer to the engineering side of a project than the scientific side.

So:
Scientific advance: research paper
Engineered design: patent

While it's possible to patent some form of scientific advancement, most of it is useless it is a very specific application.

The problem resolve around the fact that in computer software, scientific research and engineering application are very tightly linked, So that any discovery is potentialy patenable and any engineered creation is potentialy a dicovery.Now, the consequences of that tight integration in software patents:

Everything: patent

since the field is young, very simple ideas haven't been implemented yet, and aren't available in prior arts, but COULD be VERY easily done...

The biological analogy:
Imagine if one could patent EVERY chemical reaction... espacily ones already found in human beings...Or every combination of all chemicals found in a drug store

Taking more than on drug would then become patent infringement and only lawyers and thoses with enough money and power to chanledge the patent would be capable of taking pills legaly (or force a review of the patent)

Anything in software could be potentialy patenable. Since the economic insentive is VERY interesting, companies are going to try to patent any real-life idea implemented in software (ex: "how to draw a rectangle on a screen using PosibleFutureTech")

Final result: Gridlock developpement in small firms than can't afford lawyers, and more power to already big companies...



...Am I making any sense?
(IANALOASE: I am not a lawyer, only a simple engineer)

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS .. you're right-ish! (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811104)

You're right of course. Patents are for ideas. The parent is an ignoramus (sp?!).

But, companies do try to patent (and often succeed) each pill and jet turbine. If they can get a patent covering ostensibly the same thing but in a different enough way to encourage the patent examiner that "in balance there's probably something new in the patent application" then you get extra years out of your invention.

Extra years = extra $$$ (Profit!!).

And terms are way too long.

In the UK we have SPC's (extra long terms for drugs companies). But drugs companies spend alot more on marketing than on R&D. Go figure. http://www.egagenerics.com/gen-phrmapatents.htm [egagenerics.com] and http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_we_do/issues/health/o pb16_globalhealth.htm [oxfam.org.uk] and others that you can google for yourself.

The point for software patents is that compensation is good for inventors. There should be reward too. In software patents a cap on profits of 10 times the country of origins annual wage should be more than sufficient. Anything more than that hurts innovation as it encourages innovators to leave the industry and party!

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (1)

cowens (30752) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811297)

I believe the parent was trying to say that patents should be for working implementations of ideas. So, for example. you could not patent the idea of a pill that cures depression, but you could patent a specific type of molecule that achieves that effect.

Now, what would that mean for code? Well, for one thing Amazon's one-click patent would revert to only protecting their implementation of one-click. If this is the case, then what does patent law provide that copyright doesn't? Nothing, and we go back to the sane old days where software is deemed unpatentable (but still protected by copyright).

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (2, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 9 years ago | (#12813673)

he patents the formula of (and process for manufacturing) the drug and design of the turbine.

Right, but one can't get a patent on 'treatment of erectile disfunction with a pharmaceutical' though he can get a patent on Viagra. So you can have Levitra without violating the patent on Viagra.

And both patents will stand up in court.

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12815464)

I did miststate it- but the end result is the same. Here's why: the pills and the jet turbines are PHYSICAL ITEMS. A diskette is a physical item. What's on the diskette is information only- and that's the realm of copyrights, not patents.

Re:Earning money off of IDEAS (2, Insightful)

ctr2sprt (574731) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808418)

OK. Couple problems here. First, your analogy is... dubious. See the other reply to your post. Second, you are using your conclusion (software patents are bad) to prove itself (patenting ideas is ludicrous/stupid). Third, you are insulting the guy you hope listens to you by implicitly calling him stupid. How to win friends and influence people... Fourth, you are appealing to some broad philosophical principle. Unless you are actually debating that principle, you should leave it out entirely. You have a nice, narrow topic - software patents - stick to that.

What I would do is go at this problem from three directions.

First, explain why software patents are bad. This is where you need to come up with examples. Patently (no pun intended) absurd patents are good targets for this. Other good examples include companies in your home state being sued for software patent infringement. In this latter case, it's more important that they are companies in your state getting sued - it's not really relevant whether the patent is a good one or not.

Second, explain why getting rid of software patents are good. Ask John Kerry and Bob Dole about the efficacy of running on a platform of "Vote against X." You also need to show what positive things will come from your proposal. You can do a little philosophical handwaving here because there's never been a time we haven't had software patents; but you can extrapolate a little, or find examples in other countries, which should be compelling.

Finally, anticipate arguments you will get from proponents of software patents. You shouldn't incorporate them into your presentation unless they are obvious, but they will help you refine your work. Look at it this way. If you say "Some people might say X, but..." you are coming across as defensive, argumentative, and negative. But if you account for the counterargument, and then build your argument to exclude it entirely, you just seem positive, certain, and well-prepared. Head off any objections before they happen, in other words. You can't do this for everything (of course), but it's important that you not end every point with "but here's what the other guys will say and why they're wrong."

I do agree with other posters that your presentation should be as short as humanly possible while still getting the point across. There's the attention span issue. If your Congresscritter gets bored, your chances of success drastically diminish. And software patents are a pretty dry topic even for people really interested in them.

Oh yeah. And note how this post roughly follows the outline I suggested. I don't bother with part 3 for Slashdot posts.

How to relate the evil (2, Funny)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808080)

How can a computer geek relate the evil in patenting algorithms to a non-computer geek to where it will have an effective impact?

A solid kick to the groin ought to do the trick.

Examples (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808176)

I would suggest researching some examples of software patents in the wild that have already impacted the marketplace in some important way. Any patents responsible for stopping upcoming technologies is one great situation where the evils can be pointed out, and I am sure that searching the last few months of /. stories will provide plenty of ammunition there.

Also look for places where software patents have impacted the non-software world. I cannot think of anything, but I am bad at association. Something related to e-voting would be particularly handy, but anything legally oriented (were there patents involved in that breathalyzer case recently?) should get his attention.

Re:Examples (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808247)

Oh, don't recommend that! I mean, you can't go up in front of politicians and tell them that the sky will fall if software patents are enacted in Europe if you have to admit that the sky hasn't fallen in the US - cause ya know, it hasn't, and for some reason I don't think Europe is holding up the sky, do you? Everyone wants to cry about software patents and, yes, as the system currently stands it all looks bad, but the US has had them for years and a whole lot of software is still made in the US isn't it?

Re:Examples (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809798)

I would suggest the example of Brazil and their major foray into free software.

Re:Examples (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 9 years ago | (#12814447)

Also, explain what an algorithm is. People assume it's a new idea. It isn't. I recently had a discussion about software patents, and I explained an algorithm by using an ancient method to approximate pi and the circumference of a circle.

Draw a circle. Make a square around it. You know how to calculate the length of the edges of a square. Now, change it to a pentagon. Then, a hexagon. Keep adding sides. The more sides you add, the better the approximation of a circle, and the closer your value of pi.

There, that is a simple mathematical algorithm that anybody can understand. It's thousands of years old. Now, talk about some of the mathematics advances in recent centuries. Like, the Fourier transform. No need to try and give a lawmaker a full understanding of what it does. Explain that it has uses in signal processing, and the math is very well understood.

Now, explain that some jackass was able to get patents on image and video compression just by using the old math they didn't invent, but prefixing it with "Use a computer to:" and suffixing it with "... on an image buffer." Now, anybody who wants to write their own software from scratch using old school math may have to pay a licensing fee to a jerk with a patent who is a leech and doesn't do anything to help the economy.

Now, next step explain that most useful video software is developed in Europe because of US patents. Things like VLC, and mplayer. You can't start a project like that in the US, which means there are very few US citizens who are as familiar with the technology. This means lots of high tech jobs in Europe because there is nobody who has the experience to do them here. (Or, importing workers at best, and leaving Americans jobless...) So, money is flowing out of our economy and into Europe, and internal economic inefficiencies are introduced because US comapnies have to waste time and effort fighting in courts, when they could be making actual products which help the economy because they can be exported.

That's how I'd structure the explanation. Point by point, starting with, "It just sounds hard, but this is all obvious shit," and clinching it with, "this costs US jobs, and hurts the economy"

The main issue (3, Insightful)

drspliff (652992) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808321)

is not just with 'Open Source' or other trendy keywords, but it just happens to be one of the worst hit by it (as most open source projects have no commercial backing to help with legal issues or licensing etc.)

Ok, so i'll try and explain it in ways that your average local politition will be able to understand (mr g.w.bush comes to mind as an exception though..).

The main goals behind patents are to protect an inventors hard work, research and ideas from exploitation by restricting other peoples rights to duplicate/copy/rip/etc the idea.

For most industries the research process which is needed to create the idea is usually costly (both in time and money), in this context you can think of patents as allowing the inventor(s) to recouperate that initial investment and to control revenue from the invention while it's still considered 'new'.

In todays scociety the software industry is a completely different beast compared to what I would consider as the 'old stle' industry (think of the industrial revolution etc.). Thinking of ideas new software inventions isn't very hard, thousands of new products are designed every day due to the low cost of researching and designing software inventions.

Basicly the two industries are reversed, so the actual hard work and investment is in developing the product and getting it to market.

The first point that I was trying to demonstrate is that somebody could think up 10 product ideas every week and patent them (al la Microsoft & IBM), but they may not even have the technical expertise or money to create it.. generally all software ideas are useless until they have been developed.

So by patenting ideas in an invention-per-second industry, you are restricting the rest of the industry from making a product of it.. bad karma.

My personal gripe (and I'm sure most of you share the same opinion) is the US patent offices reluctance or inability to check if the patent breaks one of the simple rules set out: 'No bussiness methods or mathematical algorithms', 'Must be non-obvious to a professional from within that industry' and 'There must be no prior art' (i'm sure theres another one.. cant be assed to think of it right now).

So this means that I could for example patent a really simple theory, such as 'transfering memory from one computer to another via analogue signals across a distributed network'... and the patent office would probably approve it if it had not been patented before and the wording was sufficiently obfuscated so that only non-technical lawyers and civil servants can understand it..

So given those two pieces i've brought up, you can think of thousands of different 'inventions' in an industry where inventions alone are fairly worthless, and apply for patents with them.. and a lot of them would probably get approved due the lax standards at the patent office.

So given that our industry moves at such a fast pace (compared to something like the petroleum extraction business) and the length of the patent is relatively very long it restricts the actual development of new software (e.g. developers and companies are probably going to be scared of getting sued, or having unreasonable licensing terms pushed upon them).

Anyway.. try and extract as much drunk ranting gibberish out of it as possible, and hopefully you can use some of the arguments i've brought up.

Jus my £0.02

In programming, the "non-obvious" is routine (1)

hadaso (798794) | more than 9 years ago | (#12810158)

> ...somebody could think up 10 product ideas every week
> and patent them ...

> ... inability to check if the patent breaks one of the
> simple rules set out:
> 'No bussiness methods or mathematical algorithms',
> 'Must be non-obvious to a professional from within that industry'
> and 'There must be no prior art'

Creating software basically involves solving a series of "mathematical problems". Many of them non-trivial. The non-obviousness test fails for software because mathematical problems usually are non-obvious until you've solved them, and then many of them become obvious. What might not be obvious to some people is obvious to others, and there's nop common knowlege of "experts in the field" that can be used to determine "non-obviousness". The finding of non-obvious solutions to problems is the programmer's routine job. Software patents allow the patenting of whatever a programmer is routinely producing. Obviously it is not the aim of patent law to grant monoploly on the outcome of routine production.

Also: software is just a description of a process in a stripped down language (compared to natural language). Any process that can be described can be described in this kind of language and implemented on a computer. This was discovered by turing in the 30's, and led to the invention of the digital computer. This means that the fact that any process is implentable by computer is already encompassed in the invention of the computer, and shouldn't be repatented by allowing patents on input (software is input to the computer. Turing's main point was that there's no need for many kinds of computers' because there is a universal computer that can receive descriptions of processes as input). At least any "innovation" by replacing an element in a gadget by a computerized element should not be allowed, since it is obvious since the time Turing published his results' before digital computers existed.

Re:The main issue (1)

Tonnerre (891997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811573)

Please note that the statement that patents are not granted twice is wrong. Every big company who's involved with software patents owns e.g. at least three patents on webservers.

Tonnerre

Re:The main issue (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820745)

What about an example of what would have happened if software patents had been introduced earlier? For example, spreadsheet software has improved enormously because of intense competition between MS, Lotus, Wordperfect etc. over the years. If the originator (Visicalc ?) had a patent, there would not have been such a strong incetive to improve the original product. It is also worth pointing out that there was no discernable increase in the software industry's R & D following the court ruling that software was patentable.

Here's how I would put the argument (5, Insightful)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808329)

Here's how I would put it.

Patents exist only in order to encourage innovation. This much is essentially in the Constitution, because the right for congress to create patent and copyright laws is preceded by "To promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts..."

The way that patents encourage innovation is to provide an incentive to expend resources to create an invention. The incentive is the exclusive right to use that invention. Many inventions take millions of dollars to create, so the patent plays an important role for those inventions, at least with the way our society currently operates.

Here's the rub: most software inventions do not take millions of dollars to create, since the resources involved are almost always simply a guy and a computer (or pencil and paper). We've seen this many times, as fairly obvious ideas are re-invented, or old, overly generic patents are applied to unrelated inventions years later. Here, patents stifle innovation instead of promoting it. There already exists an incentive to invent, and since it is so easy to do so, patents just provide an unnecessary friction.

There are also many specific problems with software patents. The term is too long considering the pace at which the field moves. The patent office is woefully underequipped to evaluate software patent applications. Patents are often incompatible with free software, which has shown to provide a huge amount of value (for the Progress of Science and the useful Arts!), probably more than software patents ever have.

Re:Here's how I would put the argument (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808727)

May I retort? The majority of new algorithms created in computer science today are either created by graduate students who get paid nothing for their work or by researchers in commercial labs who hide their results. The former group of people have the incentive of getting their degree and forwarding their academic career, etc. The second group of people have the incentive of producing superior products to their competitors and capturing greater market share, etc. Only the former group actually publishes their work and forwards the state of the art of computer science, and they can only afford to work on producing new algorithms part time as they have to earn a seperate living as well (or hope to earn one in the future to pay off their debt, or get a piddling living allowance from their government and as such want to stop this line of work as quickly as they can).

From this I hope it is clear that the progress of computer science is pretty damn slow. Now imagine if we had a fair patent system where there were direct incentives for the creation of new algorithms (much like there are for other industries, like pharmaceuticals). People could afford to work on creating new algorithms full time. Industries could be built around these new algorithms. Research that is currently kept secret could be revealed to the public. Computer science would start moving forward at a faster pace.

Note that I said a fair patent system. I agree that without patent reform computer science will go backwards instead of forwards.. but I seem to be alone in this suggestion. The debate appears to have polarised into for and against camps with no-one willing to discuss the possibility of a fair compromise.

Re:Here's how I would put the argument (2, Insightful)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809125)

As a graduate student working in computer science, I don't agree that the progress of CS is slow at all, so I can't follow the argument that there is need for new incentives.

Isn't the free software movement another source of progress? This is composed of loads of people who can "afford" to invent software, with little more incentive than "cool" points among their peers.

Re:Here's how I would put the argument (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809174)

As a grad student you wouldn't see a problem.. unless that is you believe that more people would actually produce new algorithms if they could work on them full time. Instead we have people like you who use up public resources to produce something that the private sector could produce more readily. Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of research that is performed by grad students has no economic value. As for the free software movement, we don't make many new algorithms, we just use existing ones.

Re:Here's how I would put the argument (1)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12813102)

Instead we have people like you who use up public resources to produce something that the private sector could produce more readily.

Why do you think the private sector could produce this "something" more readily? Although many CS research projects are funded by the government (mainly the NSF these days), many are funded by industry, and it doesn't make a major impact on the efficiency of the students in carrying out research.

As for the free software movement, we don't make many new algorithms, we just use existing ones.

I must be very confused by the way you're using the world "algorithm" since this just doesn't make any sense to me. There are loads of algorithms created by free software hackers. Many are derived from academic work. (bzip, rsync, FFTW, bittorrent are good examples.) Most of the Internet protocols come from this same community. Corporations produce algorithms, too, but I just can't take your word for it that that there is some huge disconnect, since this contradicts my experience.

Re:Here's how I would put the argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12809059)

patents just provide an unnecessary friction.This is a good point that ought to be hammered a little harder, e.g.:
There already exists an incentive to invent, and since it is so easy to do so, patents just provide an unnecessary friction, like an unnecessary regulation or a heavy tax.
That ought to work at least a bit on the moderate-to-conservative section of the spectrum. For the more left-wing members with an anti-corporate streak, the phrase "limited monopoly" will be the attention grabber; the rest of the argument should play naturally to them.

Few other points (3, Insightful)

lilmouse (310335) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811733)

Software patents are getting really absurd because they try to patent ideas. It's like patenting brushing your teeth instead of patenting a single toothbrush. In the software world, there is no reason to patent a toothbrush - the software toothbrush is already covered by copyright, which gives more control than patents anyway.

If you allow someone to patent brushing teeth, then you actually end up stifling innovation (no power toothbrushes, no water piks, no...you get the idea), and the People (e.g., voters) get hurt. On the other hand, if a company can only patent a toothbrush (or is it a process of producing toothbrushes - patents were supposed to protect factories and such?), then other companies are free to innovate, more jobs are created, and the People both have more work and better teeth.

If the software world, 10 different companies can have the same idea and implement it 10 different ways (one will write 20 lines of C, one 2 unreadable lines of perl, one 200 lines of basic, whatever). The old idea of patents would only apply to the 20 lines of C, not to the idea - 20 lines that are already covered (as I said) by copyright.

As an extreme example of bad patents, how's "Using a computer to do work." Heh.

Anyway, good luck!

One Huge Problem (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 9 years ago | (#12808445)

The biggest that I know of is that so many software patents are granted for stuff that existed before the patent was granted. I think I wouldn't mind software patents if they were actually restricted to original stuff. So, in my mind, the solution is to encourage the challenging of all software patent claims by anyone/everyone BEFORE they get granted.

Re:One Huge Problem (1)

Tonnerre (891997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811410)

This is far too late, there are around 30'000 trivial patents that have already been granted by the EPO and that are about things like remote shell, webservers, progress bars, the if statement, the turing machine, ... Also, challenging a patents involves a cost of something like EUR 260.-, so it's not a thing to do for the free software foundation.

Here's a point to consider (1)

Peter Greenwood (211400) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809151)

One problem with software patents is that software is pretty well solid inventions, where other products are not.

If you sit down to write some software, a relatively high proportion of your effort is actually spent on design; maybe like 25%, with the other 75% on testing, documentation etc. Manufacturing is close to zero.

Compare that with a hardware product such as a vacuum cleaner. The scope for ideas is limited, because the vacuum cleaner is a well-understood product. Nearly all of a business's capacity is devoted to manufacturing; a great deal of the design team's effort goes on things like safety testing (most software can't kill anyone, but a vacuum cleaner can).

In consequence the sheer number of ideas a software designer has to generate to get a product built becomes a problem. If every one of these ideas has to be checked against every possibly-relevant patent, software development will immediately bog down in patent lawyers and there will be no innovation.

Some large organisations work around this by cross-licensing agreements, effectively agreeing among themselves not to enforce their patent rights. This actually defeats the point of patents as protection for the described inventions; those organisations are not benefiting from their inventions as such, only from the fact that they have enough patents that others feel the need to let them join the no-patent-search club.

Any organisation with an innovative product but no existing stock of patents has no way to break in. No matter how brilliant its programmers/inventors, the dead weight of patent searches it needs to undertake to get a product out without infringment will sink it.

Start a major corporation... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 9 years ago | (#12809322)

Use your skills to create a corporation and then lobby your representatives.

That's the _only_ way to get enough time to convince them of any viewpoint.

If you're an average joe, however; welcome to "1984".

Re:Start a major corporation... (1)

Tonnerre (891997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811425)

Not quite true. You're the people to get the MEPs elected, and you're the people that decide if the EU has a future. Tell them that and they will listen.

Simple question (2, Interesting)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 9 years ago | (#12810001)

How come the 2005 patent reform bill introduced last week (H.R. 2795) is still not available on thomas [loc.gov] and why is there no mainstream press coverage of this bill ( per google news search on '2795 patent' - 3 results, all irrelevant) [google.com]

?

Re:Simple question (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811387)

Interesting.

If you check the list of submitted bills [loc.gov] , it isn't there either. It is mentioned in the Record [loc.gov] , but only if you search for a closely numbered bill.

The GPO site is also missing the bill. Let us get our tin-foil hats ready now.

Re:Simple question (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 9 years ago | (#12813593)

I'm a proud Libertarian Socialist [wikipedia.org]

Where do you live if you can't own property? Does the state provide your housing? And if you don't like it 'too bad'?

Re:Simple question (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12815206)

1) In a house/apartment/etc.
2) Depends on your definition of "state".
3) Maybe.

To clarify, you can live where ever you like. The domicile in which you live is built by members of your community (possibly read as state) for the enjoyment of its members. That is, if there aren't enough places to live, the community will build places to live of its own accord. Logically, if there aren't enough of 'X', then more of 'X' will be built, procured, etc (assuming supply is ample).

This is an example of a gift economy [wikipedia.org] . A working example are the kibbutzim of Israel. Imagine if all economic activity was based on the BSD (or in some variants, the GPL) license. If I like growing potatoes, then I grow potatoes. I give them to people who want them. I ask for nothing in return, but reciprocation will hopefully occur. At the very least, people will know me as a respectful person who is doing his best for the community.

The "too bad" part would apply to someone who simply leeches off the efforts of the community. The community could decide wether to expel that person, do nothing, or whatever. It would depend on the community.

Re:Simple question (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 9 years ago | (#12815468)

To clarify, you can live where ever you like. The domicile in which you live is built by members of your community (possibly read as state) for the enjoyment of its members.

OK, so what if you want to live in a different kind of house than the community thinks is 'best'?

If I like growing potatoes, then I grow potatoes. I give them to people who want them. I ask for nothing in return, but reciprocation will hopefully occur.

How do you handle the situation where 'hopefully' doesn't occur, or if half of the people decide to grow potatoes? It's very hard work twice a year in temperate climate, but pretty chill between planting and harvest (or harvest and planting).

Re:Simple question (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12815955)

OK, so what if you want to live in a different kind of house than the community thinks is 'best'?

I suppose your house specifications would be up to whomever built it. Since it isn't your house, but the community's house (they just let you live there) you probably wouldn't have any say in the matter. It would be a take it or leave it situation with the "leave it" portion being homeless or having to find a different community with better houses.

I should mention the "community" should be thought of as small city sized. I envision many (10,000+) such communities in an area as large as the lower 48.

How do you handle the situation where 'hopefully' doesn't occur, or if half of the people decide to grow potatoes?

My understanding is that there are a few working assumptions:

1) Anyone freeloading or abusing the system will be either voted out or coerced in one way or another.
2) Overproduction of a resource will not be commonplace as some people will abandon that job in order to fulfill their own wants/desires. If Bill McGonigle wants a new PC, but no one is specializing in PCs, he will likely start to specialize in PCs.

In absense of these assumptions, there may be a problem.

Patents (1)

aicra (239865) | more than 9 years ago | (#12810457)

There are certain standards that contain patented algorithms. We can not comply with industry standards without infringing on these patented algorithms. Thus we are unable to compete.
You may try to invoke the Sherman Act, however, this may not work as that patent may not be seen as an attempt to monopolize but an attempt to protect work.

* Section 2 of the Sherman Act makes it unlawful for a company to "monopolize, or attempt to monopolize," trade or commerce. As that law has been interpreted, it is not necessarily illegal for a company to have a monopoly or to try to achieve a monopoly position. The law is violated only if the company tries to maintain or acquire a monopoly position through unreasonable methods. For the courts, a key factor in determining what is unreasonable is whether the practice has a legitimate business justification.

* Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act outlaws "unfair methods of competition" but does not define unfair. The Supreme Court has ruled that violations of the Sherman Act also are violations of Section 5, but Section 5 covers some practices that are beyond the scope of the Sherman Act. It is the FTC's job to enforce Section 5.

While some may collect royalties on software, we don't. Not that the rep would care, but we can't pay royalties on an algorithm. Thus we might be expected to stop distributing and developing code.
This brings a level of monopoly to the patent holder as we can not compete. Of course, we might be able to hack around some patented algorithm, but when it comes down to a patent suit, how can we fight it?

Unless the developer is independently wealthy, this person will fold. The cost of a defense is well into the 100s of thousands of dollars.

Any patent ... (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811152)

I'd summarise the problems with patents as being that compensation is good to stimulate innovation. There should be reward too. However, this has grown out of all proportion and it is no longer the innovators themselves that are profiting - instead it is share holders and executives. Also there should be some hindrance to filing for non-innovative stuff.

One can argue that those that fund R&D are stimulating innovation and so should be rewarded. To a point that's perhaps true. But there's no evidence to say that a system of fat-cats increases innovation (and much to suggest it doesn't).

In software patents a cap on profits of 10 times the country of origins annual wage should be more than sufficient. Anything more than that hurts innovation as it encourages innovators to leave the industry and party!

As far as stopping patent phishing (filing everything even if it is clearly not innovative) perhaps there should be a sliding scale for patent filings. You can file say 100 applications at the basic fee level, for every additional application you pay a huge fee ($20k or so, not that much compared to patent attorney costs and the like, but enough to stop companies like HP filing a few thousand applications on the off chance that they might have something in them!). If your patent succeeds to grant and remains in force for one year then you get a refund of the additional monies paid.

Re:Any patent ... (1)

Tonnerre (891997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811481)

This still doesn't hit the point. The point is that 1) 30'000 software patents have already been granted illegaly covering basic code that everyone who writes a program will most likely use. 2) The only actual winners of software patents are big companies that have thousands of them. The innovation cycles are too short for software, and also, software evolution happens incrementally. The only thing patents can do is harm. 3) As already outlined by the british parliament in the 1870s when patents were introduced, a patent is a government-granted monopoly. This is orthogonal to the liberalism people proclaim. 4) This directive has come around in illegal practice by ignoring many people that are legally allowed to have their opinion on this heard, such as the countries' parliaments. I'm sure there are many more points of what's wrong with it. Read http://www.thundrix.ch/hacktivity/swpat.php [thundrix.ch] to find out.

My 2 cents (2, Insightful)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811224)

* Keep it short
* Give a printed outline of your strongest arguments for future reference
* Use examples, preferably from local or well known companies/projects.
* My opinion would be that I'm not against Software Pattents, but that the current pattent system is too inpractical for actually promoting innovation.
- Compared to the speed of developements the duration is to long.
- Court battles can't be won before a pattent becomes obsolete, and are too expensive.
- Because of lack of standardization it's impossible to find if you're infringing, esp. because possible infringement extends to all tools you are using (OS, editor, desktop, etc.)
- Because of the currenty used funding system the (US)PO approves to many (trivial) pattents.
- The current system favors large corporations over the little man
- You'll find more arguments on the net, but these alone should get your point across.

* I would try to make some analogy's with how books work.
- Books are also mainly protected by copyright.
- Compare some of the current pattents with Stephen King having a pattent on Horror stories.

* The only OSS specific points I would make is:
- It's easy for closed-source compettitors to find possible infirngements, but hard the other way round.
- A lot of OSS lacks financial and juridical support to fight back.
- A lot of OSS has no financial means to obtain pattents themselves.

just my 2 cents.

What to tell your MEP (1)

Tonnerre (891997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12811386)

Salut, It's a good thing that you want to fight for your rights by telling your local MEP how you feel about software patents. However, you should know that MEPs don't care very much about ideology, or free products. They care about economic advantages, and about getting elected (this is why they'll listen to you). They'll be on your side if you tell them how companies will suffer if their inventions are subject to patent claims, and how this is going to affect their ability to do business. Also, they will care about increasing the acceptance of the EU, so you should tell them about the legal problems with the decision. I'd recommend you to check out a little page I set up on this matter a few weeks ago, you find it on http://www.thundrix.ch/hacktivity/swpat.php [thundrix.ch] Thanks for your help! Hope it works! Tonnerre

How to relate? (1)

malachid69 (306291) | more than 9 years ago | (#12813018)

How can a computer geek relate the evil in patenting algorithms to a non-computer geek to where it will have an effective impact?

Perhaps by relating to something he might be used to... Not that this is the right example, but you could equate algorithms to choosing a path through town -- one might take into account time (rush hour?), construction, freeways / surface streets, etc... but he wouldn't allow someone to patent a specific route between his house and his job.

I'm sure you can come up with a better example, that was just one off the top of my head early after getting to work through rush hour ;)

Add a layer of abstraction (3, Insightful)

booch (4157) | more than 9 years ago | (#12813019)

Don't concentrate on Open Source. Concentrate on creativity.

Start by talking about how everything idea is built upon the ideas of others. As Isaac Newton said, I can see further because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. Tell him how the whole ideas of patents and copyrights were designed to ENCOURAGE creativity and new ideas, but they've been coopted to do the opposite. Explain to him the logical conclusion of what will happen if we don't fix that -- the US will quickly lose its leading role in technology, art, and entertainment.

You should only mention Open Source, in the context that people are creating computer programs and sharing them for free, in order to build up their own creative pool of work, in order to work around the laws that are mostly preventing such collaborative efforts. Mention that these folks are forsaking some amount of money in order to build these things and return to the model of building on the works of others, and wanting others to build upon their work. Restricting them from doing this doesn't make sense. Also mention that every large enterptrise is using this Open Source software, so promoting it helps all companies.

Concentrate on the reasoning behind the Constitution's patent/copyright clause. Explain how it requires balance, and that not only is it currently off balance, but large corporations have enough money and clout to successfully lobby for even more restrictive laws. Mention the Mickey Mouse extensions. Talk about how small companies are where most of the creativity in the world happen, but the laws are increasingly preventing them from creating.

Basically, summarize the larger issues. Read up on Lawrence Lessig's work and other such material. Try to get in as much of the larger issues so your rep can see the Big Picture.

Forget about open source (2, Insightful)

ciscoguy01 (635963) | more than 9 years ago | (#12815114)

Forget the issue of open source, that is a side issue and matters not one bit.

The issue here is the USPTO is issuing patents on software that they don't understand the ramifications of. That is all that needs to be stopped.

Clearly a better mouse trap might be patentable. But the USPTO has issued patents on functions that are obvious, in use by *everyone* and their attitude is this: "Let the courts work it out".

That sounds fine to the USPTO which is lousy with lawyers, lawyers love that stuff, legal fees and litigation. But how would you like to receive a cease and desist letter from a patent holder for something you and everyone else has done the same way for 10 years, and *THEY* have deep pockets. Sue them? Wait for them to sue you? Call a lawyer and pay a $10,000 retainer? That is the USPTO approach. Let the litigants pay their lawyers to figure it out in court. There are companies set up for this express purpose, litigating patents for stuff that is in use by lots of others that they can get the USPTO to issue to them, and they can demand licensing money from those who can't afford to litigate against them.

That's what's wrong with software patents. Patents creating expensive needless litigation over the obvious, issued by lawyers at "Law Office No. 82", who just don't have the expertise to understand the issues or the technology, or that the patent application is for something that is neither *new*, *nonobvious* or *patentable*.

If you could convince your congressman to help rein in this behavior at USPTO that would be worthwhile. Make the USPTO get the expertise somewhere to evaluate the patent applications for software in at least as thorough a manner as patents on devices. I somehow doubt it.

Try this site... (1)

JofCoRe (315438) | more than 9 years ago | (#12816263)

This site seems to focus on software patents in Europe, but they seem to have some information on why they are "bad": http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index. html [nosoftwarepatents.com]

(disclaimer: I haven't really read much of it myself, just looked over it briefly since it was linked from the knoppix site...)

Interesting idea... (1)

biglig2 (89374) | more than 9 years ago | (#12826687)

... in the UK it is normal for your Member of Parliament to be available to the public one day a week for a consultation - called constituency surgeries - perhaps I should go and pester Boris [boris-johnson.com] !

Re:Interesting idea... (1)

Tonnerre (891997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12844625)

If you have the ability to act, act. It is necessary right now in order to reject this policy.

You have 18 days left.

Tonnerre

Re:Interesting idea... (1)

biglig2 (89374) | more than 9 years ago | (#12847497)

Hmmm, can't see Boris having too much influence with the US senate, but it's worth a try I guess...
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