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UK Judge: Who needs software patents?

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the the-question-many-ask dept.

237

Glyn Moody writes "C|Net has a surprising story about a seminar given by a top judge at the U.K.'s Court of Appeal who specializes in intellectual-property law. According to the article, he has "questioned whether software patents should be granted, and has criticized the U.S. for allowing "anything under the sun" to be patented." Is the tide turning?"

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237 comments

Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483176)

While this judge's message may seem absurd, remember to pay royalties when you code a progress bar [espacenet.com] in your application.

That's right, a whole lot of people owe William S. Andreas and Jeffery P. Foster of IBM a whole lot of money.

Oh, and this was filed in the U.S. but approved by a European patent office so I don't think it's fair for this judge to bash only us Yanks.

My church had a fundraiser once and I believe they used a progress bar on a website to track their earnings ... I should e-mail Mr. Andreas and Mr. Foster--the Catholic Church has got deep pockets!

Say, have any of you Java swing programmers ever typed

JProgressBar [sun.com] myJPB = new JProgressBar [sun.com] ();

? Because I was thinking of starting a patent lawyer career, I just need you to reply with your name, contact information and the application you used it on and distributed.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (5, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483218)

A baking thermometer is prior art.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (5, Insightful)

TheAwfulTruth (325623) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483461)

No, because a baking thermometer does not track progress. During baking the temp usually remains constant.

However, using a visual representation of a thermometer to track the progress of a school backing sale to fund the cheerleaders trip to Washington for cheerleading finals would qualify as prior art of the concept at least.

What really stinks is how ideas that have been in use in various forms for years, decades or even centuries are suddenly now new and novel becuase they are used on a computer. The word "non-obvious" has been completey removed as a screening criteria from the patent process. :(

That type of patenting must be stopped and all previous such obvious patents reversed.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (4, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483613)

The word "non-obvious" has been completey removed as a screening criteria from the patent process.

Sir, here at the USPTO we take pride in granting patents without consideration of trifling concepts such as; gross obviousness, unoriginality and indeed patentability itself.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (5, Informative)

Doctor Faustus (127273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484056)

No, because a baking thermometer does not track progress. During baking the temp usually remains constant.
The temperature of the oven, yes. The temperature of the food, no. Food doneness is usuallly checked by the temperature in the middle of the food: 140-180F for various meats, and a little over 200F for bread.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484482)

Doctor Faustus is correct, the grandparent is a moron. If the temperature of the baking item is constant, why put a thermometer in it? Sheesh.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483465)

No, that's "A device to measure and visually indicate the average velocity of molecules inside a cooking enclosure for the purposes of assessing the status of baked goods".

Completely different.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (2, Insightful)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483255)

Oh, and this was filed in the U.S. but approved by a European patent office so I don't think it's fair for this judge to bash only us Yanks.
He seems to have been talking about law rather than practice. The EPO seems to be breaking the law, but it would take determination and money to bring that before the relevant court(s), if it's even possible. (IANAL, and I can't be bothered to wade through the treaties to establish jurisdiction and procedures).

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (2, Informative)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483608)

While this judge's message may seem absurd, remember to pay royalties when you code a progress bar in your application.

Like most such citations, you apparently have NOT really read the patent claims (or even disclosure) -- it seems to be much more speicific than you imply. As usual, the patent itself contains a discussion of the related art that says: "Users typically need or desire to know the status of such tasks running in the background. Heretofore, this need has been accommodated by displaying a dialog box with a progress indicator on it for one or more background operations (also referred to as tasks)."

IOW, the patent itself openly acknowledges that progress bars (of various sorts) were already well known, and the patent itself is much more specific. In particular, the patent only seems to cover a progress bar that's embedded into a status bar AND accompanied by a button that allows the user to do something that affects whatever task the progress bar is related to.

Say, have any of you Java swing programmers ever typed

JProgressBar myJPB = new JProgressBar();

Hmm...does this embed the progress bar into a status bar and create an associated button to allow the user to affect the task associated with the progress bar?

Because I was thinking of starting a patent lawyer career, [...]

Why don't you start by just being a reasonably well-informed layperson. The first step would be to learn that (barely) glancing at a patent abstract does not tell you what the patent covers. Much like the abstract to a scientific paper, the abstract of a patent gives a minimal description of the general sort of thing that's covered by the patent. Only the claims tell you what the patent really covers.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (2, Insightful)

makomk (752139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483773)

OK, so it covers the use of a progress bar with a cancel button next to it (or a button doing anything else to the task whose progress is being represented), in a status bar, with a caption on top describing the task. It might well be a new combination of features, but is that really patent-worthy?

Progress bars with cancel buttons are old hat, as are progress bars in status bars (some of which, I'm sure, have cancel buttons) and progress bars overlaid with text. Just because no-one else has combined all four before (the closest I've seen (can't remember where) is, in a status bar, a description of the task, then a progress bar, then a cancel button, in a row. Spot the difference...)

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (2, Insightful)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484342)

It might well be a new combination of features, but is that really patent-worthy?

I'm not sure I can say it is. I'd tend to agree that it might be open to some question -- but I also think there's a huge difference between something being open to some question, and being clearly bogus.

I'd also note that from the viewpoint of the patent office having done its job, this is a crucial difference. IMO, it's unfortunate, but the current US patent law favors issuing a patent if there's any real room for doubt. It basically says to apply for a patent, you have to sign an affidavit saying that as far as you know, this is really your own invention. From there, the burden of proof shifts to the patent office -- the law requires them to issue a patent unless they can show evidence that the invention in question is obvious, not original, etc. If there's room for much doubt at all, the PTO is legally obliged to issue the patent.

IMO, that's where a big part of the problem lies -- the assumption should really be that something really isn't new or novel until the patent applicant shows real evidence that it is, rather than being assumed to be new and novel until the patent office shows it's not.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483965)

In particular, the patent only seems to cover a progress bar that's embedded into a status bar AND accompanied by a button that allows the user to do something that affects whatever task the progress bar is related to.

It sounds like KMail infringes this. When a task is running (e.g. moving a bunch of messages from one folder to another on an IMAP server), a progress bar is displayed in the status bar in the bottom right of the window. Clicking the button to its side with the up arrow on it lists exactly which actions are being taken at that time - each task has a progress bar and a cancel button to the side.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483636)

This patent is for a progress bar which tracks multiple threads. Why would your examples infringe?

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (1)

anzev (894391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483788)

Actually, according to the patent [espacenet.com] we don't owe anybody anything.

If you were to RTFA, you would see that it says: A system for displaying the status of a plurality of threaded tasks operating in the background includes a status bar; a progress control bar in the status bar for a primary task operating in the background and including a progress bar and first and second action buttons; the progress bar visually representing progress of a primary background operation; the first action button being selectable by a user for initiating an action with respect to the primary background operation and the second action button being selectable by a user for alternately displaying and canceling a drop list of secondary progress control bars for secondary tasks also operating in the background.

WHICH IS NOT A PROGRESS BAR but rather a special status pane. I don't care if they patent that. I'll implement it with two or three different buttons. I won't use a button, whatever...

Please, don't mislead the readers. And don't consider going into patent law, actually don't consider going into law at all - you have to read the whole document.

On a side note, this is however, what Eclipse uses [eclipse.org] -- or the whole article [eclipse.org] . But since development of that falls under IBM, I think we have no problem using that also.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (1)

J. Random Luser (824671) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483867)

Oh, and this was filed in the U.S. but approved by a European patent office so I don't think it's fair for this judge to bash only us Yanks.

Unfortunately the EPO and its Board of Appeal have been making up their own rules and approving patents on IP which should not be patentable according to the law establishing the EPO. Last night (EST) Groklaw carried this story [groklaw.net] about the European Parliament's recent rejection of the Computer-Implemented Inventions Directive. The essay has many quotes from a British judge criticising the EPO for exceeding its brief, and from software industry sources as little as 12 years ago observing that software patents would be counter-productive. Open source advocate lobbying had little to do with the CII directive being thrown out. It was Microsoft and friends' sudden fright when they realised the European parliament was serious about enforcing the existing law as distinct from the existing practice of the EPO. Note that the bureaucrats of the European Commission were the ones who were lobbied by industry, and the ones who lost to the democratically elected members of parliament.

Just to show its fairness the Commission is now revisiting [eu.int] the whole field of industrial patents, including the possibility of software patents.

Re:Pay for the Progress Bar You Use! (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484162)

Oh, and this was filed in the U.S. but approved by a European patent office so I don't think it's fair for this judge to bash only us Yanks.

Unfortunately, I can't deny this fact but I would like to point a situation so weird that in comparison, US legal system would seem clean.

It is pretty clear according to the EU laws that a software or an algorithm can not be patented. It is written, it is a binding law of the European patent office. Despite of this, this office delivers software patent. Just like this. Politicians diplomaticaly call this a "gray zone" and nobody knows the true legal value of these patents.

I think this is a good thing (2)

Morlark (814687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483190)

Software patents are already (technically) not permitted here, and yet crazy inconsistencies and loopholes are allowing people to patent whatever they want. Including software and other things that are explicitly not allowed to be patented. It is good that some people are finally starting to look at this from a sensible point of view. Maybe now some progress can be made on making the patent laws sane.

Here? (2, Insightful)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483388)

Where is "here" in your case?

Huh? (5, Insightful)

Sneftel (15416) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483198)

Is the tide turning?

No. Judges aren't The Borg. One judge's opinion (and that's little-o opinion, not an opinion handed down) is hardly a watershed event.

Re:Huh? (5, Interesting)

bitkari (195639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483315)

No. Judges aren't The Borg. One judge's opinion (and that's little-o opinion, not an opinion handed down) is hardly a watershed event

But this Judge's opinion is quite representative of the concerns of many in Europe. Remember that the EU software patent directive was rejected [eu.int] by a margin of over 600 votes.

If the concerns of people such as Sir Robin Jacob are well publicised, this can only help educate the public at large and inform the MEPs who vote on such matters.

Re:Huh? (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483937)

But this Judge's opinion is quite representative of the concerns of many in Europe.

And? Here in the US our government is about to confirm a candidate to the Supreme Court who has been clear in his opinion that the courts of the United States should not look to courts in other parts of the world as barometers of jurisprudence.

All of Europe could decide software patents are invalid and that would have little bearing on the granting or enforcement of such patents within the United States.

Re:Huh? (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484094)

If software companies everywhere in the world except the US can disregard software patents then this will mean:
  1. Software development in the US will be more expensive, and/or
  2. Software sold in the US will be more expensive
I can think of at least one company with a very large lobbying fund that would not be too happy to see this. Currently, software patents are tolerated by US businesses based on the belief that they will be valid in the rest of the world eventually, and the US will have an advantage since they were allowed to start collecting them before anyone else. If it looks like this is not going to be the case, then I can see a lot of pressure placed on the government to revoke them.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484281)

All of Europe could decide software patents are invalid and that would have little bearing on the granting or enforcement of such patents within the United States.

I'm sure that's true, but I think you forgot to say what your point is.

Is the tide turning? No. (4, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483208)

Is the tide turning?
I don't think so. Lots of people have been saying that software patents aren't needed, for a long time, and this is just one more guy. Sure, he's a guy with `credentials', but even that's not so unusual.

When the patent process actually changes, THEN you can say the tide is turning. Until then, the tide is just growing, like it has been for a long time ...

Re:Is the tide turning? No. (3, Insightful)

Karzz1 (306015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483262)

I concur 100%. If I see Bill Gates or Sam Palmisano (or even Darl McBride hhahaahahahaha) make these types of statements I might change my mind. However, until the powers that be (i.e. the ones w/money buying up and enforcing all these patents) take the necessary measures to fix the problem they have created, I don't foresee any improvement regarding software patents.

Re:Is the tide turning? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484133)

I concur 100%. If I see Bill Gates or Sam Palmisano (or even Darl McBride hhahaahahahaha) make these types of statements I might change my mind.

Bill Gates in 1991: "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. ... The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors."

He says the exact same thing, albeit from the opposite viewpoint. The judge asks "why do we need software patents", Bill Gates answers "exluding future competitors", both statements question wheither the answer to the why do we need software patents question is "to encourage innovation", have you changed your mind yet?

Re:Is the tide turning? No. (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483455)

The tide will only turn when the whole goddamn patent system comes screeching to a halt, when one can't write software that does any more than print "Hello World" without having ever facet of the program picked through by some species of patent lawyer, where development becomes so difficult that even the larger corporations begin to falter under the weight of idiotic patents and a moronic, ill-conceived patent system which was designed for a novel use of springs and cogs, and not for the arrangement and interactions of pixels.

The patent system has never been terribly great, but by allowing software patents it becomes an obstacle to development, a costly legal hurdle that has produced a business whose sole purpose is licensing. It's a cruel joke, but because so many of the big players like Microsoft, while being victimized by a corrupted patent system, are themselves players in that very system, using outrageous patents (like the FAT file system) as a means to actually stifle innovation and protect monopolistic practices.

Re:Is the tide turning? No. (4, Funny)

umeboshi (196301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483816)

God has a patent on the "Hello World" program. We are still waiting for Him to finish His "Goodbye Cruel World" program.

There are a few good patents as well (4, Interesting)

poeidon1 (767457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483209)

Though the whole topic of software patents has usually only one solution of abolishing them completely, there were a few good works as well which deserved to be patented for e.g. RSA encryption etc, But these are really very few in number compared to the number of stupid/ridiculous/outrageous patents that are granted.

Rank 'Em (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483392)

Perhaps a compromise is for patent examiners to assign a rating to the patent. For example, C are weak patents, B are medium ones, and A strong ones. If all the "one click" and "same as 1940 except with a computer" patents get a C ranking then judges will be more likely to overturn them.

Judges don't understand technology and generally give the patent office the benefit of the doubt if they don't get something or are confused. A rating system will allow them more leeway to turn down questionable stuff.

Re:Rank 'Em (1)

poeidon1 (767457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483624)

But who will decide the rating, everyone who files a patent application would be trying to prove it a Class A patent, and the patent office idiots will grant that as well

Re:Rank 'Em (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483817)

But who will decide the rating, everyone who files a patent application would be trying to prove it a Class A patent, and the patent office idiots will grant that as well

Set quotas perhaps, just like instructors who award too many A's in universities that wish to be certified.
       

Re:There are a few good patents as well (4, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483528)

RSA encryption is a mathematical algorithm. You can't patent that. You can't patent a program that implements a mathematical algorithm either (or you shouldn't be able to). I don't think i've seen a piece of software that should be patentable.

Re:There are a few good patents as well (4, Insightful)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483840)

I had a choice between modding this down and replying, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. Anything can be described as a mathematical model based on a set of axioms, from which operations on elements can be performed. That's right, your toaster has many underyling mathematical principles, so does your microwave, and any other device. There really isn't a whole lot you can't use some mathematical model to explain. So given your reasoning, there ought to be no patents. Even such ideas as relational databases can be explained quite well using Tuple Calculus [wikipedia.org] . Complex operations within relational databases can be derived from broad mathematical definitions. It's a property of emergence, and in the future I don't see many, if any, fields not represented by some subset of mathematics.

To put it succinctly, if you don't like patents, simply say so. If you're going to be grabbing for excuses not to like certain kinds of patents, you're not helping the problem.

Re:There are a few good patents as well (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484054)

The difference between a toaster (which would be patentable if it was a new invention) and software is that the toaster isn't implementing a mathematical algorithm. The resulting actions of the toaster can be explained by physics and chemistry, but isn't the result of pure manipulation of numbers. RSA is just a way of manipulating numbers. A toaster, or any other physical invention should do more than manipulate numbers. unless it's a computer, and it's purpose is manipulating numbers. I have no idea why nobody ever patented the computer. Basically it should work like this. If you can't patent something without adding "software","a computer", or "the Internet" to it, you shouldn't be able to patent something simply by adding "software","a computer", or "the Internet" to it. If you could patent RSA you wouldn't need to patent software that implements it, because that would be covered by the existing patent. Since you can't patent RSA, you can't patent a piece of software that implements it.

Re:There are a few good patents as well (1)

evilbessie (873633) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484269)

Actually it's the application of a specific property of prime numbers and "clock" algebra. It is non-trivial and was a specific work to make encryption from available tools.

It took lots of work by 3 very very clever people and if you honestly believe that YOU could have done it then by all means don't grant that patent.

Now navigating songs by 3 hierarchical screens is trivial and ANYONE could have come up with that.

Dewey decimal patentable but putting books in alphebetical order I don't think so.

You just need to ask yourself, could I have come up with that solution in about 2 minutes of thinking about it. If you can I would like to see a good reason why it deserves a patent.

enjoy

Re:There are a few good patents as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483534)

It was recently revealed that RSA style encryption was first figured out by a fellow working at the British Intelligence agency a few years before the US guys figured it out and patented it (do a google on it).

It was classified so the general public didn't know about it. Still does beg the question of whether it was really such a huge leap for a person with the mathematical/cryptographic know how.

The fact seem to be that with billions of people in the world, innovation is largely a building process (i.e., if it is the logical time for a development, and enough qualified smart people are working on the problem, the ideas are not going to be unique).

Re:There are a few good patents as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483579)

Remember, the idea behind patents is to encourage someone to make their idea public. As a reward, they get exclusive use of the idea for a limitted time, afterwhich ANYONE can use it for FREE. Without a patent system, ideas and innovations might remain secret forever, and potentially be lost.

Many like to complain about absurd patents. If the concept is absurd, why do you want to use it? If it is "obvious", it can't be patented, though obvious is in the eye of the beholder. If it is something everyone already knows/does, there is prior art, and again can't be patented.

My main beef with software patents is that 20 years might be a bit long to wait before it can be used freely. I expect 10 years might be a better number for software.

Re:There are a few good patents as well (2, Interesting)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483592)

There was actually prior art for RSA, but the USPTO didn't see it because GCHQ (the UK equivalent of NSA) didn't like their researchers publishing in academic journals.

Re:There are a few good patents as well (No!) (2, Insightful)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484120)

Many of us *don't* consider something like RSA to be patentable. It's an algoritm, basically just like using a**2 + b**2 = c**2 to calculate the proper length of a diagonal when building a house. Most people would scoff at the idea of patenting the pythagorean theorem, and making home builders everywhere pay a royalty to some random guy who patented it.

For some reason, people are more willing to accept a patent on an encryption algoritm. But, it is basically the exact same thing. Some math, and a description of what to do with it. That's all an algorithm is. Patenting math is non-sensical to a reasonable person. It has been possible to invent and publish new math for years without the benefit of patent protection. So, the notion that patent protection is somehow a prerequisite for the advancement is utter poppycock.

Personally, I have no problem with patents on things. But, algorithms patents should be abolished completely. When you start trying to figure out where to draw the line between pythagoras and RSA, you realise that you should just put the pen away.

santa (4, Insightful)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483211)

just so you can see how retarded the US patent system is, see this santa hat patent [uspto.gov]

it seems to me that the purpose of the USPTO is not to grant patents but to make money from applications etc

i could probably patent my ass if i tried to

Re:santa (2, Interesting)

smvp6459 (896580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483417)

For me the search is down, but I know someone filed a patent for an ass-kicking machine. The sketches were great. So that's pretty close to patenting your ass.

Re:santa (2, Funny)

Freexe (717562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483656)

It look pretty damn funny, http://www.dvorak.org/blog/?p=1233 [dvorak.org] .

I'm still not sure if i can believe this, because if it is true then i think i would explode

Re:santa (1)

Freexe (717562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483676)

I love the quote:

Butt-kicking machine? Thats ridiculous!

This is clearly a shoe-polishing machine, and a damn fine one at that.

Re: santa (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483477)

> i could probably patent my ass if i tried to

But would anyone pay you royalties for it?

Re:santa (2, Funny)

jcjones86 (946317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483598)

> i could probably patent my ass if i tried to

You, sir, are in violation of my patent (PT #9546812321687987651321) on your ass! Please send a Paypal payment of $5 per subsequent viewing of your comment.

Thank you,

The Law Offices Of Conniving, Deceptive, and Crook, Ltd.

Re:santa (1)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483621)

Well, just to show how retarded you are, the patent you reference is a Design patent, which is not a Utility patent.

Design patents cover Ornamental designs, as opposed to the software patents under discussion, which are regular utility patents.

There are sure enough examples of crap utility patents, but using a design patent an example of a silly patent isn't one.

Re:santa (1)

woods (17108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483635)

That's a design patent, not a standard utility patent (note the "D" before the patent number). It's basically just a registered design. There is no claim of improvement, functionality, or usability with a design patent. As a result, design patents probably don't stifle innovation much more than copyright does.

Re:santa (4, Funny)

Intron (870560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483695)

i could probably patent my ass if i tried to

Rejected - too broad

images working? (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483718)

i'm trying to look at the images/drawings for the hat, and it doesn't work. not even if i switch to the USPTO's favorite browser (blue e)

Re:santa (1)

Ruie (30480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483802)

i could probably patent my ass if i tried to

No you can't, but never worry - you have copyright on its imprint.

Re:santa hat perfectly legitimate DESIGN patent (2, Insightful)

equack (866135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483993)

The USPTO grants both DESIGN patents and UTILITY patents. They are completely different animals. A design patent protects only the ornamental appearance of an invention, not its utilitarian features. The santa hat received a DESIGN patent, which is perfectly reasonable. It provides stronger protection against knock-offs, clones, and imitations.

Re:santa (1)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484341)

i could probably patent my ass if i tried to

Isn't that hat patent prior art?

Turning tide (5, Funny)

ClippySay (930525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483213)

/ You look like you are trying to turn   \
| the tide. Turning the tide is patented |
| by Microsoft and is not implemented    |
| yet. Shall I call the police? Feds?    |
\ BSA?                                   /
        \     ____
         \   / __ \
          \  O|  |O|
             ||  | |
             ||  | |
             ||    |
              |___/

Re:Turning tide (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483431)

Man, for a mintue I thought your comment had that goatse ascii art that is usually posted by the GNAA trolls in /.

Then I saw it was worst... it was clippy!!

Re:Turning tide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484308)

Well that's stupid, good job.

Extremism. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483224)

"According to the article, he has "questioned whether software patents should be granted, and has criticized the U.S. for allowing "anything under the sun" to be patented." Is the tide turning?""

Tide turning for most humans means going to the opposite extreme.

No (4, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483233)

"Is the Tide Turning?"

No.

This subversive will be dealt with quickly and harshly. Already the muck rakers are fervently searching for mud to fling at this commu-terrorist.

We are the IP companies. Fire your lawyers and prepare to be sued. We shall add your intellectualy distictive property portfolio to our own. Justice is futile.

This message brought to you in association with: "The USPTO. For a more prosperous, litigious future."

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483280)

God, you're like a modern day George Orwell. Such wit! Such subtlety! May I bask in your verve? Please?

Re:No (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483328)

May I bask in your verve? Please?

No, I'm afraid that basking in my verve has already been patented.

Re:No (1)

CheechBG (247105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484044)

I like the cut of your jib, sir, and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

I almost forgot, I patented newsletters. Assuming you have one in circulation, I would need 15% of the gross in licensing fees.

Jib's still good though.

The tide isn't turning (4, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483236)

The EU Commission are trying to push through software patents again. There's a write-up on Groklaw [groklaw.net] . I think their idea is to keep trying again and again until we get sick and tired of protesting it.

Re:The tide isn't turning (3, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483358)

I think their idea is to keep trying again and again until we get sick and tired of protesting it.

That's exactly it. The IP companies only need to get lucky once, the rest of us have to be lucky time and time and time again. Eventually, they'll get through, and then we'll be stuck with software patents forever, as to atempt to dislodge them would be "theft" of IP rights.

Re:The tide isn't turning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483648)

Yep, that seems to be pretty much how he E.U (of which I am a member) works.

The treaty of Nice (a treaty to enlarge the E.U tp 25 states- now passed) was bullied though also.

It was rejected and then accepted literally only a few months later via propaganda.

The Treaty of Amsterdam which was accepted prior to that was legitimately passed at the first vote (this was a treaty for reduced enlargement which would be slower more careful progress).

I have no faith in a positive outcome regarding s/w patents. Te future is a combination of ludicrous software/hardware DRM. But, it may have positive results too...like maybe we could se and end to paying lawyers regarding this BS..one can only hope

Didn't I say I'd never post on this site again? Ok I changed my mind (that seems to be the order of the day) Ok - this IS my last /. patent...erm post

Miseung is much more important to me and Im tired of repeating myself here.

Re:The tide isn't turning (3, Insightful)

Saib0t (204692) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483977)

As CTO of a company, I was thinking that I'd send them my position on the matter... It looks like they're making this consultation as difficult to contribute to as they can get away with...

The thing is a PDF, you read it, write your answers separately and send them all to an email address.
I just read the damn thing and it's basically HEAVILY BIASED towards companies... Seeing that, I'm not sure my answer would do anything, but I'll do it anyway... take for instance this introductory exert from from the PDF:

The idea behind the patent system is that it should be used by businesses and research organisations to promote innovation.

Strange, I was under the impression that patents were there to protect INVENTORS, not businesses.

Pisses me off (pardon my french)

tides? (2, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483263)

has criticized the U.S. for allowing "anything under the sun" to be patented." Is the tide turning?"

Silly slashdot editor... the moon controls the tide.
The sun don't do nothing.

Re:tides? (2, Informative)

LadyLucky (546115) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483415)

That's not entirely correct. Both the sun and the moon contribute to the tides. While the moon is primarily responsible, the sun has a secondary effect, which causes the spring and neap tides - where the peak to peak variation is maximized and minimized respectively.

Re:tides? (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483458)

the moon controls the tide. The sun don't do nothing.

Just to be a pain in the butt, I'd like to put out that the sun actually does affect the tide. It is much less noticeable then the moon, because it is so far away, but it does have an impact on the tides (and a technically measurable one at that).

Re:tides? (0, Offtopic)

s21825 (946313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483551)

Actually the sun has a significant affect on the tides. The amplitude of the tide is much higher during a new moon and a full moon. This is because during these phases of the moon the moon and the sun are lined up with each other so their combined gravities pull the earths oceans together. During a half moon the moon and the sun's gravity pull at right angles resulting in a lower tide amplitude.

Re:tides? (1)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483782)

The amplitude of the tide is much higher during a new moon and a full moon.

Getting pretty badly off-topic, but as-stated, that doesn't seem (to me) to make a lot of sense.

I'd think the tide would be maximized at new moon, and minimized at full moon. The sun and moon are aligned in both cases, but during full moon, the moon and sun are on opposite sides of the earth, so the gravity from the sun and moon are in direct opposition to each other. Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems like that should reduce the amplitude, shouldn't it?

If you wanted to get technical, there's also the tilt of the moon's orbit to take into account -- which normally causes a mild mis-alignment between the two. The truly maximum tide should be during a solar eclipse, and the minimum during a lunar eclipse, I'd think.

During a half moon the moon and the sun's gravity pull at right angles resulting in a lower tide amplitude.

At half-moon, they're at (roughly) right angles all right, but that shouldn't minimize the tide -- you should get two basically separate tides (one lunar, one solar), each at it's own amplitude, with neither reinforcing nor reducing the other.

US patent system doesnt work (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483272)

I agree you should be able to patent a process. However the US system defines no logical limits on such a definition. The RIM Blackberry versus NTP is only one good example. NTP patended the process of sending communication to a device from a server, this is basically the concept of all TCP/IP traffic, however since NTP was successfull in making certain claims they OWN this process, and others must pay royalties to use it, regardless of how obivous it is.

--------------
www.kybe.com
^its an adult text and image search engine i'm working on.

Re:US patent system doesnt work (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483391)

I agree you should be able to patent a process.

I don't.

A process is not a tangible thing. It does not operate on specific components. no matter how specific you make it, a process is not a tangible, "hold in your hand" item. It doesn't do anything, not by itself at any rate. A process is an abstract concept, and patenting abstract concepts used to be disallowed.

It would be bad enough if the process was well defined, but with half the process patents out there, what was originally meant to be applied to computer chip manufacture is so vauge taht it could just as easily be used to sue a kid selling lemonade to passers by.

Re:US patent system doesnt work (1)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483846)

Huh? That's not true, at least in the US. Processes have been patentable since, well, the first patent act. In fact, the very first patent issued in the us was directed to a method of making potash in 1790; the patent was signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (No, it's not patent No. 1; the current utility series dates from 1836 IIRC).

Perhaps if you meant to say "abstract processes" like mathematical algorithms, which the Supreme Court of the US has disallowed. The debate, relative to software patents, is the scope of the adjective "mathematical" (Which, from your user id, I gather you have some informed opinions).

Cheese-Eating Overturn Monkeys! (-1, Troll)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483320)

Since when has the US gov ever cared what Europeans think?

Re:Cheese-Eating Overturn Monkeys! (0, Flamebait)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483548)

Since when has the US gov ever cared what Europeans think?

Prior to Bush, we at least gave it weight. We bent over backwards for European politics in the Balkans (as we should have done, IMO), and Bush Sr. got a big coalition together (including our European allies) for Gulf War I. I have a feeling that once Bush is gone, the US will pay a lot more attention to Europe.

Re:Cheese-Eating Overturn Monkeys! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483657)

and Bush Sr. got a big coalition together (including our European allies) for Gulf War I.

That was to stop and undo an outright invasion by Iraq of another country. This time is different because it is not tied to any (confirmed) huge sin by Saddam.

(Actually, what the US should have done in 1992 is annex the Shiite part of Iraq, annex the Kurd portion, which sort of happened by itself anyhow, and leave the Sunni's to stew with Saddam. We would end up with what we will have soon without the bloody civil war.)
     

Re:Cheese-Eating Overturn Monkeys! (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483786)

That was to stop and undo an outright invasion by Iraq of another country. This time is different because it is not tied to any (confirmed) huge sin by Saddam. You misunderstand me. I meant that previous presidents paid attention to what other countries had to say. I'm not criticizing European nations for not going into Iraq, I think they made the right call there.

Re:Cheese-Eating Overturn Monkeys! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484035)

I am not sure the first golf war is an example of that. If anything the US was pushing the idea as much as anybody, perhaps to protect the oil status quo.

Re:Cheese-Eating Overturn Monkeys! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483589)

Based on my rollercoaster mod score, I think I need to clarify something. I am *not* saying that the US should not listen to Europe. In fact, I am not even making my preference known in that message.

I am only saying that the US has traditionally danced to its own beat such that what happens in the UK is not likely to make any big impact here. I am just pointing out historical patterns and using mild cheese humor to hilite this.

Fat, Ignorant American Assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483769)

They sure seemed to care when Germany decided to destroy the jews in Europe... they sure seemed pissed off when Russia (also europeans) decided Communism was the way to go, in recent times they sure didn't like it when France opposed invading the WMD-free Iraq! I'd say there's a pretty good chance the US gov cares!

Re:Fat, Ignorant American Assholes (5, Informative)

Bezben (877719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484506)

Thats funny, I was always under the impression that the US got into world war 2 after they were attacked, a few years after it started... My history has always been shakey though.

Notice to appear (4, Funny)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483447)

"Is the tide turning?"

Hardly. This judge is in the UK, and is clearly in violation of U.S. Patent #15648663245877954-5468, "Method for Citizens of Foreign Countries to Criticize the United States on Matters of Intellectual Property," filed by my company, Litigious Bastards, Inc., on November 3, 2002. He will be hearing from our lawyers shortly.

Re:Notice to appear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483789)

...Litigious Bastards...
You work for SCO ?

Is the tide turning? (3, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483451)

The tide is never going to turn in countries that let themselves be ruled by lobbyists.

Re:Is the tide turning? (2, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483522)

The tide is never going to turn in countries that let themselves be ruled by lobbyists.

Unless we lobby Congress to put things right!!

Re:Is the tide turning? (2, Insightful)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483696)

"Unless we lobby Congress to put things right!!"

And thats where the problem arises. No matter how much you care about lobbying congress, a company with a few million to spare on lobbists and campaign funds is going to get further.

*SOFTWRE PATENTS IS DYING (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483452)

SCO reports.. blah blah blah

lolzers

Immediately thereafter ... (5, Funny)

athomascr (851385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483491)

According to the article, he has "questioned whether software patents should be granted, and has criticized the U.S. for allowing "anything under the sun" to be patented."
Immediately thereafter, the USPTO approved a patent on his questions.

Re:Immediately thereafter ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484313)

I wonder if someone could patent the process for the granting of patents. You know, it actually might go through.

Who needs any patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14483550)

Any product worth patenting is to complicated to copy in a short time. A product that can be copied in a short time isn't worth patenting.

Why NOT allow Software Patents (5, Insightful)

jglazer75 (645716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483612)

It doesn't seem to me that the patent process is inherently ill-suited to software. In fact, it's a far better fit than copyright because of the nature of the resultant work. The patent system requires full disclosure of the invetion (the copyright laws do not) and the term is definite (20 years v at least 70 years for copyright). With the copyright system (the only system left for protection if patents are withdrawn), there is no disclosure, so you end up with DRM to protect access to copyrighted elements even though not all the elements are copyrightable. However, circumventing the DRM to discover non-copyrightable elements is either a violation of the law or it is a violation of the EULA that you agreed to. If the software could only be patented, the applicant would be required to disclose the entirety of the invention and thereby promoting science. It would, by definition, only allow those elements that are protectable to be protected and the patent would clearly disclose what those are. Copyright laws only act to obfuscate the promotion of science.

The problem with software patents is not that patenting is ill-suited but rather that discovery of prior art and laziness by the PTO have resulted in questionable patents being issued. Even this isn't a problem, because when challenged and scrutinized those patents that are bad are discarded and those that are good are upheld. The problem lies in the cost to litigate this - essentially ensuring that the "little guy" must bow to the pressures of the multi-national corporation.

Instead, maybe the PTO should adopt a cheap ex-parte reconsideration procedure (to my knowledge only the applicant can request reconsideration for a patent that is denied) that lasts for the lifetime of a patent where the challenger only needs to present some evidence of a patent-destroying issue. This would eliminate the huge costs of trying the patent in a court of law and make the process a little more fair. If there is evidence of non-obviousness or prior use for a "progress bar" the patent will destroyed, otherwise, why shouldn't the patentee be rewarded for his new and novel invention (it should be to his benefit that such an invention is widely used!)

Re:Why NOT allow Software Patents (2, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483717)

Mathematical algorithms cannot be patented.

All software programs are mathematical algorithims.

Ergo, software programs cannot be patented.

Disclaimer: The above relies on the issuing patent body being in some way competant. Does not apply to USPTO.

Re:Why NOT allow Software Patents (2, Interesting)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483945)

The problem with software patents is not that patenting is ill-suited but rather that discovery of prior art and laziness by the PTO have resulted in questionable patents being issued. Even this isn't a problem, because when challenged and scrutinized those patents that are bad are discarded and those that are good are upheld. The problem lies in the cost to litigate this - essentially ensuring that the "little guy" must bow to the pressures of the multi-national corporation.

The problem is that most solutions that are obvious and derivative to people within a specialized community are insanely convoluted and novel to people even a step or 2 outside that community. As someone else just pointed out, NTP's patent can be interpreted to cover almost all Server/Client communication, yet it was granted AND upheld in the first round of legal action.

IANAL/A but I remember hearing/reading it averages about US$500,000 to invalidate the most obvious and stupid patent if it's contested.

I do agree that the time limit on patents is much more appropriate, but remember, the darn mouse just got the limits on copywrite protection extended. You think that if M$'s patent on pissing on customers was about to expire they wouldn't get it extended somehow?

Re:Why NOT allow Software Patents (1)

Rocko Bonaparte (562051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483987)

Sure, you could fight them in court, but that costs money. These patent farms could whack you with a ton of patent infringements, and some will find it easier to roll over as opposed to fight it in court.

Re:Why NOT allow Software Patents (3, Interesting)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484076)

The problem lies in the cost to litigate this - essentially ensuring that the "little guy" must bow to the pressures of the multi-national corporation.

Actually, the opposite tends to be true. The bad publicity associated with suing "little guys" tends to prevent big companies from suing. By contrast, lots of the little guys sue big companies all the time -- and quite a few make a good (sometimes almost unbelievable) living out of it too.

If you want a serious example, look up "Jerry Lemelson". In case, you want to see a serious example of how badly wrong Wikipedia can get things, look him up there to start with (if you know anything about him, it'll give you a good laugh).

Though he got hundreds of patents (and they may still be issuing) the only thing he ever invented (and I'm not sure he invented it, but he certainly used it a lot) was the submarine patent -- he'd keep patents "in the system" for years, often even decades. He'd write an initial patent that was exceptionally broad and vague, but then keep writing amendments to it for years at a time. Then, when somebody invented something roughly similar, he'd rewrite his old patent (that was still in the system) to cover what they invented, and claim he invented it decades earlier.

Just for one obvious example, he originally wrote a patent on a computer system. Later, when TI invented the microcontroller (i.e. CPU and peripherals on one chip) he rewrote his old computer system patent by basically adding "and...uh...all of that is on one chip." It took quite a long time, but eventually this did get sorted out in court -- the court fuled that his rewritten patent was invalid because the original application showed no evidence that he'd originally even contemplated what was really the important part of the invention -- moving the peripherals onto the same chip as the CPU.

TI did the right thing, fighting this all the way through court to get a bogus patent invalidated. Most companies, however, won't do that -- if the patent holder offers to settle for (say) half what they'd have to pay for the patent litigation itself, they'll just pay the money, and move on.

Given that a patent case will usually cost millions of dollars, it's pretty easy for "little guys" to go and basically blackmail big companies into giving them a few hundred thousand dollars (or so) with even a thoroughly bogus patent. The afore-mentioned Jerry Lemelson did exactly this to the tune of billions of dollars. Despite the money he made (and his estate still makes, as I understand things) he did stay a little guy in terms of (complete lack of) integrity though.

How long does it take to become a patent lawyer? (0, Redundant)

RouterSlayer (229806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14483682)

So seriously how long does it take?

I am really serious in getting into this field.
because it seems like an incredibly lucrative business!!!

seriously!

so is there a fast-track to this? or something?
mail-order/web learning, anything?

Patents aren't the problem (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484082)

Patents are not the problem. It is ill-equipped patent reviewers and weak reviewing guidelines that are.

Innovative work expressed in software (a virtual machine) should have the same protection as any innovative work expressed in mechanical form (a physical machine). It is the non-obvious innovative work part that the patent office seems to not understand when it comes to software as well as they do when it comes to physical machines.

IMHO, what is needed are stricter rules, guidelines and use of software experts to review software patents.

Tide not turning (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14484197)

No, the tide is not turning, as the Microsoft FAT patent nonsense has demonstrated. There is much outcry on both sides of the pond about software patents. There are frivolous lawsuits in the US, protests in Europe. And now an EU judge has said that patents shouldn't apply to software. So what? This policy, at least in the US, is not determined by public sentiment, nor by obvious negative experiences with patenting software. It's determined by the Congress, and they are in the pockets of media, technology and pharmaceurical corporations. Jack Abramoff's surrender to the Justice Department, which relates directly to Congressional corruption, will have more impact on the issue of software patents than this EU judge. When the dirty money comes out of Capitol Hill, and only then, will we see software patents disappear.

Incentive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14484443)

If you can't patent code, where is the incentive to research new algorithms.
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