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UK High Court Allows Software Patent Claims

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the there-goes-the-industry dept.

Patents 125

An anonymous reader tips us to a note up on the IPKat blog, written by one of the four law-professor types behind that venture. The British High Court has ruled on appeal that the UK Patent Office must not reject software patent applications out of hand, as it has been doing for some time now. "In a surprising (to this Kat at least) turn of events, the Honourable Mr Justice Kitchin has ruled today that the current UK Patent Office practice of flatly rejecting patent claims to computer program products is wrong... Kitchin J found that the appeals should be allowed. Each application concerned a computer related invention where the examiner had allowed claims to, in effect, a method performed by running a suitably programmed computer and to a computer programmed to carry out the method... The cases were remitted to the [UK Intellectual Property Office] for further consideration in light of the judgment."

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125 comments

Welcome (2, Funny)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197350)

Welcome to the party, our British cousins.

Is it tea time yet?

Re:Welcome (4, Informative)

albalbo (33890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198868)

It's not really that bad.

It brings the UK back in line with the rest of Europe; for a while, we were the only place disallowing any form of software patent. We're now back to "software patents if you can show a technical effect", which is enough to block most stuff which gets patented in the US/Japan.

The software patent battle was never properly won in Europe. It was prevented from being made much worse, but we still have software patents of limited sorts.

Re:Welcome (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22199942)

"Software patents" or "you've lost the right to be smart" in Europe is illegal. They are huge efforts to make it appear the opposite way and to give such abomination credibility. But it's bare illegal whatever any fooled or corrupted judge will say. But, in some countries, it's quite the opposite:they have stupid laws voted by fooled or corrupted politicians, and only judges can trick the law to make the stupid parts harmless.
Now, most of open source dev is taking place in Europe... I wonder why it's not US anymore... submarine "open source" devs genocide?

Re:Welcome (4, Funny)

drseuk (824707) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200558)

It brings the UK back in line with the rest of Europe; for a while, we were the only place disallowing any form of software patent.
"At least you can count on my support and that of the other millions of Daily Mail / Torygraph readers after they've finished choking on their dentures then. They won't be able to understand what a software patent is anymore than I do but "thought taxes" as you call them sound dreadful. No matter - anything that the EU is "forcing" on This England, *especially* if the Yanks are colluding with the French over it is as obviously un-British as ... and must be stopped on the beaches at all cost ... send for the Women's Institute ... Battle of Britain ... during the war ... " - continued on page 197 ...

My dad's reaction after he spotted your post on my screen.

Wow! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197374)

You have niggers in the UK too?

Damn, it must stink.

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22199088)

Not just niggers, but paki's too!

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22199882)

I like Indian food...

But i like it made with bacon and ground beef instead of lamb.

sad news (5, Insightful)

yakumo.unr (833476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197380)

This is NOT good news for software innovation in the UK at all.

Anyone claiming that there hasn't been any innovation in software over the last 10 years because of the lack of ability to patent it in the UK is clearly barking mad.

Yes, as someone that has worked on generating IP before I strongly believe that people should be paid for their work if they don't wish to donate it for free, but clearly a lack of patents hasn't prevented this either.

All this will bring eventually is the stifling of the software industry, oh, and more patent trolling, joy.

Once upon a time.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197512)

...old people were best suited to make very important decisions. After all, they had the most learning, the most experience, and the most wisdom.

Now, however, technology moves much faster than the human mind. A person may easily see two or three technological revolutions in his lifetime, each one forcing the rejection of old value systems and the embracing of new perspectives.

Unfortunately, the older a human mind gets, the less able it is to reject old value systems and embrace new perspectives.

So now, the decisions of the old-and-powerful wind up causing great harm to the young-and-visionary.

The thing that REALLY gets me is when young people...people who *should* know better...buy into this we-need-control-to-have-innovation crap.

If I could put smart in the water, I would.
 

Re:Once upon a time.... (2, Interesting)

yakumo.unr (833476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197656)

If I could I would certainly mod up your post, I don't really see why you'd post that Anonymously though.

Sadly there isn't any real way to compensate for the years of legal knowledge, training, experience required first.

Perhaps there should be some kind of requirement for a 'young' specialist advisement team on modern technological issues or something. Though the mere suggestion is probably bordering on ageism. I certainly have always felt that someone in tune with the issues at hand should be presiding on them, and in cases such as this that will mean leaning toward the younger generation.

I don't mean to be offending any 60, 70 year old I.T. geniuses reading Slashdot, or anywhere, but you must admit you are in the minority.

Re:Once upon a time.... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22198400)

FYI, some of us don't have slashdot accounts. It lets us pretend that this is just a passing phase, and that we'll be reclaiming this block of time from our daily lives Real Soon Now.

Just the perspective of someone who's been reading for a bit more than half a decade now and still doesn't want to admit it.

Re:Once upon a time.... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198490)

Perhaps there should be some kind of requirement for a 'young' specialist advisement team on modern technological issues or something.

I don't know about the UK, but in the US judges are usually empowered to seek expert advice on their own initiative. Obviously, the parties in a lawsuit can introduce expert testimony as well.

Re:Once upon a time.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197922)

If I could put dick in mouth, I would. Specifically, my dick, your mouth. Open up.

Re:Once upon a time.... (4, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198212)

Now, however, technology moves much faster than the human mind. A person may easily see two or three technological revolutions in his lifetime, each one forcing the rejection of old value systems and the embracing of new perspectives.

Has any of this has ever been true?

Alexander Graham Bell was born in 1847 and died in 1922.

He was born before the transcontinental telegraph and lived to see the beginnings of broadcast radio.

He was an infant when the wagon trains began moving westward along the Oregon trail and lived to see the steam locaomotive in its twilight and 20,000,000 automobiles on the American road.

He was a contemprary of John Deere, Erricson, the Roeblings, Edison, George Eastman, Ford, Burpee, Louis Sullivan, Willis Carrier, and a hundred others.

He was a witness - and often a participant - in technological revolutions that transformed agriculture, manufacturing, engineering, architecture, transportation, communications. transportation, medicine.

In 1881 he devised a metal detector to probe for the bullet that would kill President Garfield. In 1901 an X-Ray machine might have saved McKinley.

Re:Once upon a time.... (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22201092)

The short of my reply is, yes, it was once like that.

The longer version is:
You're using a short timeline.

Bell is in the modern period, though at the start of it. If you go back before him, the railroad was revolutionary, but it was over a century in development. It fed off the steam engine, which was still earlier. The "industrial revolution" was comparable (or perhaps slightly more important than) the "computer revolution" It took place over a period of two or three centuries, depending exactly on how you figure the boundaries. The computer revolution started with Claude Shannon (Babbage was an outlier, and not a proper part of this) and is still continuing...but it's nearing it's point of maximal impact (probably within the next decade) after which it's place will be taken by, perhaps, nanotech, or perhaps genetic biology, or robots, or ... But this is a period of less than a century. That's a speed-up factor of >2 and possibly 3. And there are reasons to believe that the increase in rate of change is, itself, speeding up. (One of those is that there are three or more obvious candidates for the "Next big thing" already visible. Contrast this with "Everything important has already been invented", reputed to have been said by a retiring patent commissioner during the 1800's.)

It's NOT clear that the rate of change will continue to speed up. It takes time to materialize inventions. It takes time to absorb the implications of new information. So perhaps there is an upper bound to the rate of change. There is, however, no reason to believe that we are yet approaching such a bound.

N.B.: I'm counting "The Robot Age" as different from "The Computer Age" because of several differences between computers and robots. Computers are "Thinking Machines", while robots are actors is the basic difference. "bots" are kind of on the edge of both, and so primitive that they don't easily categorize. They're rather like memes..individually small, weak, stupid, etc., but collectively quite impressive. Not exactly "smart", but adaptive. And definitely not weak. (Rather like a virus. One virus won't harm anyone. But it doesn't stay "one virus". And it doesn't stay the same. [Current "bots" are even more primitive,but they don't have the long history of adaptation, and they don't live in an environment full of sophisticated countermeasures. Virus checkers are considerably more primitive than the viruses are.])

Re:Once upon a time.... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22201274)

And there are reasons to believe that the increase in rate of change is, itself, speeding up.

That's been evident for a long time. If the pace of progress were even remotely linear, people would have a much easier time predicting it. But it's not, and they fail pretty much every time, and have been failing for over a century.

Who knows ... maybe we'll live to see Vernor Vinge's Singularity.

Re:Once upon a time.... (0)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199224)

Unfortunately, the older a human mind gets, the less able it is to reject old value systems and embrace new perspectives.

As far as I understand, a judges job is not to make the rules, but to interpret them in the face of ever changing technology. We don't want judges to embrace new value systems. We want the same vale system that has been in place for the last few hundreds or thousands of years to be diligently applied to the modern world. An old, objective and experienced judge really is the best person to do this.

From reading the summary, what the judge seems to have said is that maybe it is possible to be inventive purely in software, and that we should treat such claims on a case-by-case basis. This doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I agree that most software patents granted in the US are not good. But I don't agree that a software patent by definition is bad. That would be a pretty much indefensible and, if I can turn your accusation against you, an inflexible position.

Re:Once upon a time.... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199316)

It is undoubtedly true that inventions can be implemented purely in software. But the rules say that certain types of inventions are excluded from patent protection. These include methods of carrying on business, mathematical algorithms, and computer software programs.

If people want a change to these rules, it is up to parliament to decide on it. The European Parliament considered it recently, and decided not to change the rules relating to software patents. I don't think any any proposal in the history of the Euro Parliament has been defeated by such a wide margin as the the software patents proposal was.

Re:Once upon a time.... (2, Insightful)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200156)

From reading the summary, what the judge seems to have said is that maybe it is possible to be inventive purely in software, and that we should treat such claims on a case-by-case basis. This doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I agree that most software patents granted in the US are not good. But I don't agree that a software patent by definition is bad. That would be a pretty much indefensible and, if I can turn your accusation against you, an inflexible position.

I have to say I disagree with you. I think that it IS possible to be 'inventive purely in software', but because of the nature of software, it SHOULDN'T be patentable. There's a big difference between software and a device, or even a book. One piece of software builds on ideas of other pieces of software; it borrows very heavily from other components, and 'stands on the shoulders of giants' in order to provide its advanced functionality (take a look at what % of the GUI the programmer of a modern Visual Studio Windows app actually programmed).

I don't think this position is indefensible in the slighest, and I invite you to try and knock it down.

Re:Once upon a time.... (1)

lysse (516445) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199934)

...old people were best suited to make very important decisions.

Yeah, in those days stupidity tended to mean an early death. Now any fool can live into old age and all the intelligent people seem to be dying young, time served doesn't have quite the cachet it used to.

Re:Once upon a time.... (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200878)

Actually old folk never made decisions in the interest of young folk. But this used to be becasue of selfishness rather than disconnection with reality.

Of course, "old folk" used to be people in the late thirties and up rather than in their late fifties and up...

Anyway, the old males have been sending the young males off to risk being eaten by a leopard since before we were apes.

Re:Once upon a time.... (1)

Post-Globalism (1227918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22201210)

Unfortunately, the older a human mind gets, the less able it is to reject old value systems and embrace new perspectives.

Nonsense, you're biasedly accusing the old people of rigidity. "New vs old" and "progressive vs conservative" are false dichotomies. Not all innovations and visions are sound or offer anything we should celebrate.

What we in actuality need is competent leadership who can see to the core of the issue and act accordingly for the sake of better society.

What matters is what works. The general rule is that the same ideas that established the civilization should serve well distant future, as human mentality isn't subject to sudden changes.

Anyone can reasonably agree that the original US Constitution is not only a fine piece of law but also the spiritual cornerstone of the society upon which it should expand. Currently our society isn't working, which certainly isn't a surprise, since we're constantly "progressing" away from that vital cornerstone.

The many ill-thought laws with significant bias for the benefit of industry and commerce is not a result of rigidity and conservatism, but the very contrary political forces which continually take more distance to the core of the Constitution.

What matters is what works. The spirit of Constitution demands that well-meaning and competent people are in charge. We need better leadership to fix this issue, as well as many others.

Re:sad news (2, Insightful)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197866)

Anyone claiming that there hasn't been any innovation in software over the last 10 years because of the lack of ability to patent it in the UK is clearly barking mad.

Actually, there hasn't been much innovation in software... and US software patents have contributed to that.

Whether the UK does or does not have software patents has some symbolic significance, but it doesn't matter much in terms of the software business.

Re:sad news (4, Insightful)

MrSteveSD (801820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198250)

I used to work for a small software company targeting the energy sector and we were frequently in competition with much larger firms. Despite their size, we often beat them and won important contracts. Software patents would be a disaster because in these vertical markets you are bound to be violating some of the patents that the larger companies will have in their arsenals.

The smaller companies are just going to get blown out of the water. It's also going to massively increase small companies costs because they would have to try to patent everything they are doing. Not because they want to attack other companies, but because larger companies might patent it and try to attack them. Even if a big company was violating your patent, it would be stupid to attack them because you will soon discover you are violating lots of their little patents. Patents just protect big companies from smaller faster companies that might come along with new ideas.

It's obviously a big threat to open source as well.

Re:sad news (1)

Beliskner (566513) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199454)

I used to work for a small software company targeting the energy sector and we were frequently in competition with much larger firms. Despite their size, we often beat them and won important contracts. Software patents would be a disaster because in these vertical markets you are bound to be violating some of the patents that the larger companies will have in their arsenals
Relax, if you violate a patent and a Judge awards damages, those damages will not be greater than the profit you made from that product.

Re:sad news (1)

xkhaozx (978974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200020)

Yeah definitely relax, because theres nothing wrong with having to pay out all the money you've earned for a lame software patent violation.

Re:sad news (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22199112)

Bad news for the software industry in England and Wales, not for the software industry in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The strange thing about the uk is that some bodies are 'british', most are not. So whilst the patent office is UK-wide, the courts and legal systems obviously are not.
I assume (although the blog is based in england so it doesnt clarify) that this is the English High Court of Justice, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Court_of_Justice [wikipedia.org] , not the Scottish High Court of Justiciary, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Court_of_Justiciary [wikipedia.org] . Thus we end up in a situation where a law is badly interpreted in England leading to a practice being illegal in England and Wales but legal in Scotland and, presumably, Northern Ireland.
To put this in a US context, imagine state law was the highest authority and there was no Federal law. Imagine software patents were legal in all US states except California, where innovation ran riot.
I look forward to the day when innovation is illegal in 50% of the UK and legal in the other 50% ;-)

Re:sad news (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200680)

A simple question - where is the Patent Office?

That's right, in Newport, Gwent - and thus subject to the rulings of the English High Court.

If you want to set up a Scottish Patent Office (aye -a new way to catch the wee haggis...), good luck.

Well ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197382)

there goes the U.K. software industry. It's unfortunate that the people we most trust to protect our industry and our livelihoods are the most clueless about the very technology we must have in order to do that. The United States is no better in that regard, that's for damn sure. Too bad ... it looks like we're just going to roll over and leave whatever innovation is left in the software field to the Chinese and the Indians.

Re:Well ... (2)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197758)

I didn't realize the US software industry is dead. I guess all the employed programmers confused me.

Well ...If "/." were reality TV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197838)

It's not. Extreme arguing is the geek version of reality TV and about as worthless. Besides who is OSS going to sell it's philosophy to if we're all dead?

Re:Well ... (2, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197844)

And how much innovation has happened in the last 10 years? Sure processors have gotten faster, internet connections have gone from Dial-Up to cable yet everything else is the same. Look at the latest MS OS, Vista, it hasn't done anything more than 95 did save for use a whole lot more resources and got a decent enough kernel. Look at OS-X, sure it looks new and such but its based on Unix which has been around for a good while now. Most employed programmers don't innovate or change the tech industry they just find better ways to do simple things such as a company-wide backup, more security, ETC. Today it doesn't seem like the next OS is going to change the world, nor does web 2.0 seem like a revolution, technology is basically the same just a bit improved then 10 years ago.

Re:Well ... (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198176)

Try to write a software program that does something cool, and then start a bussiness.
I dare you.

Software patents make big companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, etc almost immune since they can hold different patents against each other, but for small businesses, they only create a barrier to entry into the market, which hurts everyone and slows down innovation a lot. Why does it slow innovation if the big companies can still make stuff? Because they already made stuff, and they're getting money for it. Why would they change anything if it's profitable the way it is?

Yay! (2, Funny)

pavera (320634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197396)

Well, all I can say is I'm happy I don't live in the only completely backwards developed country in the world anymore! Welcome to the bottom rung of the ladder UK! I think there's room here next to us lowly US techies.

Re:Yay! (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197592)

I don't think "backwards" is sufficiently descriptive ... I'd say "corrupt" more closely resembles the situation with regards to Imaginary Property. These laws didn't just happen ... in the U.S., Congress couldn't have cared less about patent and trademark law until they were paid by the private sector to revise it. We the People got sold out, and I'm sorry to say it's happening in the U.K. as well. That's too bad, because this is the very stuff that ends civilizations.

Re:Yay! (1)

Free_Meson (706323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197852)

in the U.S., Congress couldn't have cared less about patent and trademark law until they were paid by the private sector to revise it.
The gradual relaxing of subject matter restrictions on patentability over the last 30 years in the U.S. has been the result of court decisions, not congressional action. Arguably, the establishment of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals facilitated an acceleration in change in patent law, but that's about as close as you can get to a link between congress and the explosion in patentable subject matter.

The large, consolidated, established industries best able to lobby congress also, with a few notable exceptions (pharma), benefit the least from patents. Their dominant players often have market power without having to result to patents (which rarely grant market power anyway).

Re:Yay! (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197880)

No, it's also been corporate. The changes to patent law, and USPTO funding, were made by Congress, not by the courts. Don't try to let those pricks get off scott-free in this matter, because they're guilty up to their eyeballs.

Re:Yay! (1)

Free_Meson (706323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198388)

Please name one substantive change to patent law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President since 1982. We have had a few minor changes to bring us into compliance with treaties we've signed with other countries, and we've made changes to prevent submarine patents, but the changes to patent law causing so much trouble now (patenting of algorithms, living things, and business methods) were all the result of court decisions.

Of course funds for the USPTO, for better or for worse, came from Congress. It's how our system of government works. I should note, though, that the USPTO generates a great deal of its own revenue in the form of fees related to the filing and prosecution of patents.

Re:Yay! (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200186)

Please name one substantive change to patent law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President since 1982.

Okay. You asked for it, you got it Toyota.

I should note, though, that the USPTO generates a great deal of its own revenue in the form of fees related to the filing and prosecution of patents.

Precisely. And that's wrong.

It is an advantage to large rightsholders who can afford to pay periodic maintenance fees. However, it's a drawback to the small inventor who might have managed to patent his invention, but can find it falling into the public domain well before the expiration date because he couldn't afford to pay the fee. That's one example of how Congress skewed the patent system to serve corporate America at the expense of the independent inventor. Please don't tell me that it doesn't matter because the only significant innovation comes out of corporate labs. That's just not true. I have a few patents myself, and at the time I was just an independent developer contracting for a big company. I pushed the envelope enough, improved their product enough, that the new design was patentable. As it happens, I share those rights with a large corporation whose law firm picks up the tab for the maintenance fees.

This [washingtonmonthly.com] article describes much of what I'm talking about here and puts it better than I could. Here's a relevant passage:

Then, in 1991, under pressure to reign in massive budget deficits, lawmakers passed (and President George H.W. Bush signed) a law that revolutionized the way the patent office does business. Borrowing ideas then in vogue among private sector consultants and CEOs to "reengineer" organizations to make them more "customer-driven," Congress instructed the patent office, which had always been funded from government revenues, to now pay its own way through fees charged to applicants, and to make the process of winning a patent easier on them.

Here's another tidbit:

Additionally, patent-holders pay annual maintenance fees for the first 12 years of a patent's life, meaning that each approved patent brings in a total of over $3,000 to the office.

Consequently, due to Congress' fiddling (I would call it "malfeasance in office") the USPTO is now highly motivated to just issue the damn patent and let the courts sort it out later, because it is in the patent office's best interests to do so. It is not, however, in the best interests of the United States and its citizens for them to operate that way.

I suggest you read the rest of the article, it's very informative. So yeah, Congress did this, and they're the only ones that can fix it.

Re:Yay! (1)

OECD (639690) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197856)

I don't think "backwards" is sufficiently descriptive ... I'd say "corrupt" more closely resembles the situation with regards to Imaginary Property.

Yeah, I thought Lessig was making a huge error in trying to go after corruption in general.

Now, I'm thinking he's just ahead of me on this one.

What if I... (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197412)

...patent filing applications concerning computer related inventions where the examiner had allowed claims to, in effect, a method performed by running a suitably programmed computer and to a computer programmed to carry out the method?

Do it! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197446)

Bite the curb bitch!

Bite it!

Motivation is Required (1)

DigitalisAkujin (846133) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197490)

Motivation is a requirement for a market based on capitalism to drive innovation.

It is possible to grant patents on software but the patent must be well defined and checked by someone who knows the industry and isn't just some office peon. We must all spend more resources for patent reform not by reforming the patent system but by simply pooling more resources into the system and giving it the resources it needs to truly make correct decisions on patents.

The amount of money given to the patent office as well as the time a patent is active should correlate to the amount of inventions (patents) there are per year. Since innovation has been accelerating the time a patent is active should go down while the patent office should get more money.

This will allow innovation to thrive. Eventually innovation will reach a critical mass where it doesn't even make sense to have patents but we're not there yet.

PS: My comment applies to all patent systems. Not just the UK. !:O

Re:Motivation is Required (1)

schon (31600) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197802)

Motivation is a requirement for a market based on capitalism to drive innovation.
So you're saying that copyright isn't a sufficient motivation?

Perhaps since it's not enough of a motivation, we should just eliminate all software copyrights and just use patents then.

Re:Motivation is Required (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197918)

while the patent office should get more money.

So for that reason alone that is going to make the patent office patent more things to get more money whether it should be patented or not.

Don't panic just yet. (3, Insightful)

lysse (516445) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197500)

The High Court is not the highest court in the land; there's potential (at least, I don't see anything ruling it out) for the UK-IPO to appeal to the lawlords for a definitive ruling on what UK patent law actually is. And then if they decide that the law does not allow for software patents to be discarded without consideration - which would surely be something of a surprise to everyone, given that the stated position of just about every authority is that it does and they should - there is always the chance that Parliament will stomp out the loophole again (because ultimately, the judiciary in this country can't override Parliament; it can only clarify).

Re:Don't panic just yet. (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198028)

(because ultimately, the judiciary in this country can't override Parliament; it can only clarify).


I wish Canada worked that way. Yeah I know... off topic, I don't care.

Re:Don't panic just yet. (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199476)

I wish Canada worked that way. Yeah I know... off topic, I don't care.

Why?

The ability of the judiciary to override parliament helps parliament can't do an end run around the charter of rights etc. The judiciary can't create laws, only reject them. Canada has its whole checks and balances thing much better set up than the UK... now if only we could get a working senate...

Re:Don't panic just yet. (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199952)

laws are created by elected officials who have to answer to the people. the can be held responsible for their actions and ultimately are representing the people. the judges represent no one, answer to no one other than 'law societies' and are not able to be held accountable for their actions. they are not a part of the checks and balances of government in canada, nor is that the role they are supposed to have. the senate and the queen are the checks and balances. you may scoff, but royal assent is not just a rubber stamping. if something is onerus enough, like say parliment proclaiming the primeminister president for life, the governor general can refuse to sign the bill, and it dies. judges in canada spend too much time interpreting/re-writing laws. That is not up to them. they should just make sure the cases are presented within what the laws say they should, and let juries decide. People who don't have to answer to anyone should NEVER be allowed to influence everyone. If they changed the laws so that the people of canada could remove judges from the bench, even supreme court justices, during elections as a referendum ballot, then I would say let them carry on as is. but people who are out of touch with most of society (judges and lawyers only hang around people with shit loads of money, not the average working person... they are out of touch in their ivory towers) shouldn't be just given carte blanche with no recourse to being fired if they screw up. and law societies should not be the ones to determine if they screw up... secret/closed societies should never be allowed to influence the whole country like they do now. anyone who has anything to do with the laws governing a country should be open, and open to being fired if they screw up. and in a democratic country, the people, not the closed law societies run by members with enough money to get law degrees and connections to get into the inner circle of the law societies, the people should have the final say. open law written by the people and for the people. and don't try the crap that anyone can be a lawyer if they want, life doesn't work that way, and some people can't. and society can't have all lawyers anyway, who would pave the roads etc. but the lawyers should not have a monopoly on justice like they do now. and there should be no activist judges who can't be fired.

Re:Don't panic just yet. (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199324)

It goes to the Court of Appeal before the House of Lords. Then, as it relates to European law, it could go to the European Court of Justice.

As the courts are interpreting European Law, the British Parliament can't reverse the court's decision with new legislation.

But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (3, Insightful)

EvilGrin666 (457869) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197508)

I was under the assumption that software patents in the EU were not valid. Thus making any pro software patent verdict by the court in the UK invalid?

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197640)

European member states still haven't harmonized their patent regimes, despite the existence of the European Patent Office. to make a long story short; when it comes to software patents, wether they are recognized in a given member state depends on this state's legal system.

for an example, software patents are recognized in France (but only thoses registered at the French patent office, US patents have no legal leg here)

In the UK, the patent office itself rejected software patents, but a judge seems to have claimed that this is wrong.

chaos, hilarity and sadness ensues...

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (0, Troll)

melink14 (1160527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197686)

The UK isn't apart of the EU and not privy to it's demands. There are other European agreements the UK is apart of but those are outside of the EU proper.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (2, Informative)

remahl (698283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197916)

No. The UK joined the EU in the 1970's and is as full a member as any other. Maybe you're confusing it with the fact that they have not adopted the Euro currency.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (2, Informative)

melink14 (1160527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197988)

I was thinking I might eat my hat on that one, but I think the euro thing happened around the time I started becoming cognizant of world affairs, and I tend to conflate the EU and its currency. I'll have to be more careful in the future.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199286)

I think the euro thing happened around the time I started becoming cognizant of world affairs
Well, it seems you've a long way to go yet.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (1)

melink14 (1160527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199606)

Well, it seems you've a long way to go yet.
Yeah, that must be true. Maybe once I learn all the continents, and maybe something about some of those arab countries we're interested in, I'll be able to advance to a stage where I never make mistakes about whether the EEC turned into the EU, or whether the UK, which generally is at odds with the France, Germany controlled EU was a member or not. Well, I can only hope that someday I'm smart like you, who is omniscient.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200266)

By the time you've learned enough, you'll be so old you'll have started forgetting it.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (1)

hiruhl (1171697) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200632)

I was thinking I might eat my hat on that one, but I think the euro thing happened around the time I started becoming cognizant of world affairs, and I tend to conflate the EU and its currency. I'll have to be more careful in the future.
If you were thinking you might "eat your hat", maybe you shouldn't have made the original statement with such certainty, or perhaps looked it up first. Not that people should use /. forums for a factionary, but it helps when we can have faith in the community that someone firmly believes that which they are professing as truth.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22199194)

The UK isn't apart of the EU and not privy to it's demands.
That word doesn't mean what you think it means. To convey the meaning you intended you wanted the two separate words "a" and "part", while as it stands it means the opposite of what you intended.

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (1)

nbert (785663) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197688)

Yes, that's the case. However, this doesn't prevent software companies from filing them and most other countries in the EU accept them. The funny part is that they won't be of much use in court. I guess the reason why those companies do it anyways is because they hope that all those software patents become valid one day...

So the way the UK patent office handles applications for software patents doesn't change the status quo at all - it just makes a good headline...

Re:But I thought the EU thew out Software patents? (2, Interesting)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197768)

I was under the assumption that software patents in the EU were not valid

It's more complicated than that. Article 52 of the European Patent Convention excludes, among other things, "schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers ". (emphasis added)

However, it also says of those exclusions, "The provisions of paragraph 2 shall exclude patentability of the subject-matter or activities referred to in that provision only to the extent to which a European patent application or European patent relates to such subject-matter or activities as such ". (emphasis added).

Those last two little words, "as such", are a heck of a big loophole. You could drive a truck through it. And if you were a patent attorney, you could drive a software patent through it, and many have. The courts in Europe are all over the map in trying to figure out what the hell "as such" means.

Wikipedia has a pretty good article on this [wikipedia.org] . It's very confusing, but that is not the fault of the article. It is the fault of "as such" and the confusing attempts of the courts and others to figure out what it means.

There's also a pretty good article there on UK software patents [wikipedia.org] , but it hasn't been updated to reflect this latest development.

Don't panic! (2)

gerardolm (1137099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197522)

From what I understand after reading the article, he ruled that software patents are to be reviewed for "methods" of doing something. In other words, it's still impossible to patent the double click in the UK, and only patent things like "manufacture something using a computer as the control unit".

Still, I think the UK "wouldn't" be allowed to give out software patents if the European Parliament says not to do so.

And yes, I do believe this judge is horribly wrong, but it's not too bad anyway.

The patents.. (3, Informative)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197524)

Patent 1: Software 2000 has developed a method of generating bit masks for use with laser printers which results in higher quality images. It is implemented by programming a conventional computer, printer or copier to process images in a particular way. Software 2000 exploits its invention by selling the program to its commerical partners who then incorporate it in their printers and printer drivers and distribute it to the end users in the form of printers, computer discs and web downloads. The end users are located worldwide.

Patent 2: Astron Clinica was founded to commercialise skin imaging techniques developed at the University of Birmingham which enable images of the skin to be processed to identify the distribution and concentration of underlying skin chromophores. The invention described in its application provides a system and process for generating realistic images representing the results of planned cosmetic or surgical interventions which change the actual or apparent distribution of these chromophores. The invention is implemented by programming a computer to process images in a particular way. It is commercialised here and abroad by selling a disc which causes a computer to be configured so as to undertake the required processing.

Patent 3: Inrotis is a spin-off company established by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to commercialise drug discovery and network analysis techniques. Broadly speaking, the inventions the subject of its two applications in issue concern methods of identifying groups of target protein interactions. The commerical product which Inrotis sells is a computer disc which causes a computer to be configured so as to carry out the necessary processing.

Patent 4: SurfKitchen is a mobile services company and has made an invention which improves the ability of mobile telephones to access services on the internet. It is implemented by pre-storing a program on a mobile telephone memory or by downloading the program from the internet. In either case the program is usually made available by one of SurfKitchen's commerical partners to whom it makes the program available on a computer disc.

Patent 5: Cyan Technology is a semi-conductor company which designs and builds micro-controllers. It has invented a method of generating data for configuring micro-controllers which greatly simplifies chip design and programming. The commerical products that implement the invention are computer discs and Internet downloads worldwide.

Re:The patents.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197698)

HAH, the most anti patent / copyright person I've ever met has worked for one of those companies for years, I bet he wont be happy they're pushing their bottom line as far as they can at the expense of our entire software industry. I sure know the fact I recognize them made me angrier than a list of firms I'd never heard of.

Art52-2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22199754)

The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:

1. discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
2. aesthetic creations;
3. schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;
4. presentations of information.

Now let's dismiss these patent descriptions...

  1. In a free market, they price their software appropriately and it's not worth while any company reimplementing it. I could argue that this one fails all 4 of the art52-2 criteria just as easily as pro-patent side argue it's a "patentable invention".

  2. Sounds to me like they could patent that without software claims. What's the problem, is it a patent application for an existing technique done in software?

  3. Again the fact that they're doing it in software is irrelevant.

  4. From that description... not patentable!

  5. There is no invention. This is a sequence of processing instructions (information) to generate a specific kind of information. What's patentable here exactly? Is someone saying that anyone suitably skilled in this field couldn't knock up a perl script to do this? Not patentable!

Give me a break.... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197542)

Give me a break- break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.... (Hehehe.... captcha: phosgene.... LOL)

Patents stopped following reality a long time ago (5, Interesting)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197594)

"This will spur innovation in unprecedented ways in the coming years in the UK!"

I would be able to say that if, with this change, the patent system would be improved to further function as intended in... Uhh, 1474 [wikipedia.org] . Only more efficiently.

The period of protection was back then 10 years to protect the profit from new innovations, so inventors didn't get ripped off immediately, in turn keeping them interested in innovating. A great idea! Really, I think patents are in general a great idea, no sarcasm involved. They were then released after 10 years, fairly early at the time of technological evolution back then, so that it also didn't halt competition and innovations that were based on it. You also needed to have the product out. Because otherwise, there's not much to protect, you know? People back then didn't think mere ideas should be patentable.

Now, two main things seem to have changed. First, patents are now in effect for 20 years. And you can patent stuff before products are out and in use. Actually, you can patent without even planning to innovate anything! This of course has very harmful effects for innovation, and forms the breeding ground for businesses exploiting this as their business model, suing others for infringing on their oh-so-valuable patents.

As for the extended lifetime, it would still work out fairly well if this interesting graph [wikipedia.org] just wasn't in effect. (note: that graph is logarithmic; it's actually an exponential rate) Unfortunately for our patent situation, but fortunately for us living in this interesting day and age, history itself has proven it is. We don't even need to speculate, because it's historical evidence, not about anything that may happen in the future. The facts here are that we know which key events have happened in history (we know if something is a key event or not by looking at what the product of the paradigm shift was) and when they did, and that's pretty much all we need to see patent lifetime extensions are the least we have needed.

So, what I think must be done to restore patents to a working state again would be two main things:

1. Once again, like a long time ago, we should only be able to patent what's released, or possibly (in fear of day 1 patent hijacking after insider leaks) some duration less than e.g. a year in advance, but then the company will immediately have the patent expire if this goal is not fulfilled, along with having a hefty penalty associated with it, possibly a percentage of a company's revenue for some duration X (for an example, how about X being the time in advance the patent was granted?). So the more a company would "guess" and just throw things out without being sure of themselves, the greater risk of real losses they would run. They would now be forced to weigh the risk against the benefit. If they definitely have something worked on and are sure of themselves, sure, they could then submit the application, no special risks involved. Because they would be using the system as intented. I'm not sure if a patent should be allowed to be cancelled with no penalty, because that could be used to stall competition. Maybe that a project might not bear fruit and getting abandoned would have to be a risk a company submitting quite early patents would simply have to take.

2. Second, we need to adjust patent lifetimes to the accelerating rate of paradigm shifts in order to not risk slowing them down. This risk should logically increase the further into the future we get. The doubled patent lifetime since 1474 should probably instead have been halved by now. The adjustment was made in the opposite direction as demaned by society and rate of innovations. The lifetime may also need to be adapted to various business needs. For example, computer software is often considered old in 5 years. Within that timeframe, even Microsoft will have had time to develop Windows Vista, including the project reboot in between PDC 2003 and Beta 1, so that's not saying little.

Re:Patents stopped following reality a long time a (2, Insightful)

ilikepi314 (1217898) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197814)

I completely agree! However, unfortunately, you're preaching to the choir. The question now is, what do we have to do to convince those that make the law that this is what needs to be done? I've been thinking lately - I wonder if someone could get them (corrupt congressmen) at their own game. For instance, run for office and have a reasonable chance at becoming a senator or representative, and then create a bill with some catchy acronym like "The 2008 DON'T EAT BABIES Act" that gives money to orphans, and just so happens to also change patent law. If anyone comes out against it, gather a list and send a letter to all the major news outlets saying "Senator So-And-So is against the DON'T EAT BABIES Act!" and invite them to ask him why he is against it. That'd get them to vote for it real quick, if they want to stay in office. But nah, I think that sort of behavior would require me to give up certain virtues, which I won't do. Still, nice to dream.

Re:Patents stopped following reality a long time a (1)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197836)

I think that the major problem with patents is not just that, in software in particular, rapidly changing ideas are patented as soon as they are thought up. At least to a degree, patents also defeat the purpose of capitalism as it was originally designed. Capitalism thrives on competition. If you remove the ability of more than one company to create a product with a certain feature, then you have a limited form of a monopoly. The best way to prevent other people from making more money than you by copying your product is to make your product better than the competing versions. (Or, unfortunately, to spend more money on advertising.)

On a somewhat related note, I find this graph [wikipedia.org] rather interesting.

Arguments stopped following reality a long time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197958)

"First, patents are now in effect for 20 years."

Why don't you give readers the full truth [ipo.gov.uk] ?

You can renew your patent for up to 20 years. To keep your patent in force, you must renew it from the 5th year and every year after that. You may, of course, choose not to renew it.


Not so "let's get the rabble up in arms" is it?

"As for the extended lifetime, it would still work out fairly well if this interesting graph just wasn't in effect. (note: that graph is logarithmic; it's actually an exponential rate) Unfortunately for our patent situation,"

Funny, I don't see the breakdown for "patents".

Re:Patents stopped following reality a long time a (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22200908)

interesting graph [wikipedia.org]

t would still work out fairly well if this interesting graph [wikipedia.org] just wasn't in effect.

A little off topic, maybe, but I would say that this graph may represent our nearsightedness more than an actual rate of change.

No change on patent criteria (4, Informative)

ContractualObligatio (850987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197626)

Before too many hysterical reactions kick in, bear in mind the actual rules have not changed here, and software patents as such are still disallowed in Europe. If you follow the link in TFA you'll get the current definitions (emphasis added):

"(1) European patents shall be granted for any inventions which are susceptible of industrial applications, which are new and which involve an inventive step.

(2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:
a. discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
b. aesthetic creations;
c. schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;
d. presentations of information."

In that context, the test is then to decide whether claims such as the following are industrial applications which involve an inventive step, or purely programs for computers. I don't think they're all equal. The SurfKitchen sounds like a computer program to me, while I have some sympathy for the thought of Astron Clinica having invented a new overall way of carrying out surgery and wanting to patent the method, including the part that is carried out on a computer: it is not obvious, nor a business process, or something as basically stupid as the whole "One Click" thing. Also, note that these are mostly not software companies. You might still disagree with judge's conclusion and have further points to make, but please no more mindless nonsense about the imminent death of the UK software industry and a shift to the American system.

1. Software 2000: a method of generating bit masks for use with laser printers which results in higher quality images.

2. Astron Clinica: a system and process for generating realistic images representing the results of planned cosmetic or surgical interventions which change the actual or apparent distribution of underlying skin chomophores.

3. Inrotis: methods of identifying groups of target proteins for drug theray by processing proteome data defining proteins and protein interactions.

4. SurfKitchen: an invention to improve the ability of mobile telephones to access services on the Internet by pre-storing a program on a mobile telephone memory or by downloading the program from the Internet.

5. Cyan Technology: a method of generating data for configuring micro-prodcts which greatly simplifies chip design and programming.

Re:No change on patent criteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197816)

UK law is not governed by EU law, unfortunately in this case, but fortunately in others.

Re:No change on patent criteria (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22198238)

Agreed, I think a lot of people are missing the point here. The court was NOT ruling on whether the substance of the claim was patentable. They were ruling on whether the FORM was patentable. This essentially overturns Aerootel/Macrossan back to Fujitsu which was very much on substance over form.

In simple terms, it doesn't matter if you start your claim "A method comprising x, Y, Z", or "An apparatus comprising X, Y, Z" or "A computer program comprising X, Y, Z".

It's the X, Y and Z that matters not the form of claim.

Re:No change on patent criteria (2, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199234)

Salami tactics, thin edge of the wedge, slippery slope, spearhead strategy... etc... Sure, if it stops here it may not be so bad. Problem is that history suggests it won't stop here.

Re:No change on patent criteria (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199370)

Correction:

1. Software 2000: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

2. Astron Clinica: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

3. Inrotis: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

4. SurfKitchen: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

5. Cyan Technology: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

Software is nothing but a special form for writing elaborate math equations. A long "non-obvious" math equation can no more be an invention than a long "non-obvious" number can be an invention.

Now if you want to invent some new useful non-obvious chunk of hardware and attach it to a computer, sure, that's an invention.

-

Hysteria ( and toast ) (1)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199372)

I agree: there is a lot of hysteria here, and not a lot of cause for it. The more panicky of you can find a paper bag and breath into it, while I talk slowly and calmly about something familiar, like toast, maybe, until your heart rate comes down a bit.

To the outsider, the world of patents may seem utterly without reason. However, as patents are supposed to cover things that haven't existed until now, there are always problems as the patent laws meet something new. There was a famous fuss back in about 1857 (?) when someone patented putting a rubber at the end of a pencil - both rubber and pencil existed: was putting the two together obvious? If it wasn't obvious, why wasn't anyone doing it?

Right now, we have several such struggles gong on at once. The whole issue of computer program patentability is a bit clearer than the issue of business models or games: there is clear prior art. Any Turing complete system has been known to be capable of performing any calculation that can be performed. So you are going to have to patent a computer plus something. An Europe (and, patentwise, the UK is in Europe, here) the program is not patentable in itself, so we are gong to have to add something physical.

Okay - on to toast. The first bit always comes out too light. If you twiddle the knobs, the second bit comes out too dark. If you fill both slots, it may be different. Say - you could stick a computer in there. It would know whether you have put in one slice or two, and whether this is the first slice of the day. It could learn what corrections it needs to apply to these special states from whether you pop it up early, or push it down again. It could even estimate the albedo of the toast from the resistence, and hence the temperature of the filament. Nice toast for everyone, and a patent for me, yay!

Okay, now I want to protect my mighty toaster empire against the circling, predatory rivals, so I have to tighten up my patent. A toaster with a computer is patentable, just like a rubber on a pencil, but the toaster and the computer aren't. A toaster with a USB output so you can control it from a computer might be patentable, so you have to add that as a claim in your patent. A toaster with a general purpose computer that can also be used for checking your toast is OK too. An unprogrammed toaster computer that picks up the latest software from a website would be okay as well, so you stick in extra claims for these. A hear-resistant computer designed to interface with toasters might be patentable too, provided you can point to some innovation.

This is not a completely silly example. Xerox had patents covering the photocopier. Canon patented a photocopier with a computer between the scanner and the recorder at a time where real-time image processing on whole pages seemed absurd. This was worth a huge amount of money as they could make photocopiers, and laser printers.

You can perhaps see why we got here. To protect my idea, I have to consider all the possibilities where the computer is not in the toaster, the program isn't in the computer, the toaster fits into a slot in your computer, the program is in the package but not loaded in the toaster, the computer is next to a conventional toaster and turning its controls, and so on. The more toaster I cut away, the more it looks like a software patent. There is no risk for sticking in extra dependent claims, so in they all go, and it is up to a judge to determine the exact point where the toaster disappeared.

If you have a glib patent agent, they might persuade a judge that there is still some toaster left, when there really isn't. These things happen. Doesn't change the law, though.

Re:No change on patent criteria (1)

iive (721743) | more than 6 years ago | (#22201128)

1. Software 2000: a method of generating bit masks for use with laser printers which results in higher quality images.
2. Astron Clinica: a system and process for generating realistic images representing the results of planned cosmetic or surgical interventions which change the actual or apparent distribution of underlying skin chomophores.
3. Inrotis: methods of identifying groups of target proteins for drug theray by processing proteome data defining proteins and protein interactions.
4. SurfKitchen: an invention to improve the ability of mobile telephones to access services on the Internet by pre-storing a program on a mobile telephone memory or by downloading the program from the Internet.
5. Cyan Technology: a method of generating data for configuring micro-prodcts which greatly simplifies chip design and programming.

These days you can find computer in everything. The line between casual electronic and computers is getting smaller and smaller.

Still, I think it is possible to put an clear line where the software patent ends and normal patent begins.
If the invention only improves the working of existing hardware, then it is software patent.
If the invention requires hardware modifications in order to work, then the way of using this modifications to achieve this result is patentable.

In other words
1. If you add new optic component to the printer to fine-print the bit masks, you patent it.
2. If you need wider spectrum camera and/or filter to see "invisible" for naked eye skin formations, you patent the use of camera to get that data.
3. If you use special chemical to make the target protein glow and be visible to camera, you patent that process.
4. If you put more memory on a phone to cache more things you try to patent that, (nothing innovative here)
5. If you find a way to put transistors in a way that would improve chip parameters - you patent it. Not the program that does it.

As all the patents in question are distributed on disk and can be used on existing and (some of them) on generic computers they are software patents.

If patent could be described without the involvement of computer then it should be done so. In theory this gives much wider coverage as it would cover doing same process without computer (e.g. manually). However, the practice have shown that once you patent program for doing something in some way, you don't patent the way, you patent the doing.
1. Patent dithering in printers.
2. Patent Photoshoping in cosmetics.
3. Patent object recognition in biology.
4. Patent caching in phones.
5. Patent layout generating programs.

This is what they really want to patent. And this is why they should not be allowed to.

Perspectives. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22197784)

Obviously we're going to have the SAME discussion we always do so rather than the usual I recommend everyone who wishes to learn [slashdot.org] read this book [amazon.com] . Yes it covers all of IP not just patents or software patents in particular. You all could use the fresh perspective.

Re:Perspectives. (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197964)

Make sure that Amazon though doesn't have a patent of a link from another website to it's website to advertise a product or else they might sue you for patent infringement!

Hasn't anyone picked up on writing software? (2, Interesting)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22197946)

Hasn't anyone noticed how (us programmers) refer to programming as "writing" software not "inventing" software? Or how we "write" code not "invent" code? Software shouldn't be patented much as books aren't, software builds on each other much as books do.

Re:Hasn't anyone picked up on writing software? (2, Interesting)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198080)

You're writing software the same way a construction worker builds a house, but the software architect, the computer scientists (the ones that actually do computer science, not code writers...), especially thse with PhDs, and such, most definately consider their work research and development, and the result is as much an invention (it the way it gets discovered, and the process to get there) as someone who invent a new medecine or a new hardware technology.

That doesn't mean that it should be patentable, because there are fundamental differences in what the invention actually is... But when I spend months (or years!) researching and trying different approaches, studying results of hypothesis that take thousand of hours to get, and it takes just as long before we have an "engine" (that in the end, is only a few douzan thousands of lines long) that we can finally use in an actual product, it sure as many properties of an "invention".

Note: I'm mostly playing devil's advocate, as I am against software patent, but for different reasons, as I definately disagree with your assertion.

Re:Hasn't anyone picked up on writing software? (2, Interesting)

ContractualObligatio (850987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198194)

It's just basic English. Writing code describes the act of programming, simple as that. If you are also inventing e.g. a new algorithm, great, but you could instead be maintaining code, optimising code, porting code, etc.

If I wrote a new text editor, I'd own the copyright to it, but imagine the reaction I'd get if I claimed I'd invented text editing? (insert Al Gore / internet joke here)

Re:Hasn't anyone picked up on writing software? (2, Funny)

Layth (1090489) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198518)

Tey don't call them "Al Gore"-ithms for nothing, ya know.

Work is a privilege, not a right. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22198126)

It seems.

Ron Paul for President 2008. Liberty and peace for all.

technical effect (1)

glas_gow (961896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22198594)

Here's a quote from the filing.

The EPO [European Patent Office] considers such claims [software patent claims] allowable if the program has the potential to bring about, when running on a computer [?], a further technical effect which goes beyond the normal physical interactions between the program and the computer.

Software should be protected by patent alone (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22199106)

And only if a complete build environment with nonobfuscated code in a vmware bubble is distributed along with the patent application. After the patent expires the source code enters the public domain. Otherwise, no patent protection and no, copyright should not apply to source code anymore than it does to any other mathematical proof.

Can I get a copyright on 2+2=4? No, that would be rejected out of hand, every mathmatical process is the same, just at difference scales, including source code.

Re:Software should be protected by patent alone (2, Funny)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199436)

Can I get a copyright on 2+2=4?
No, but I'll give you a patent on it, forcing everyone else to use 3+1=4!

What annoys me most... (2, Interesting)

WampagingWabbits (627551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22199604)

A judge with probably a superficial understanding of software, gets to make a technical decision that contradicts the vast majority of software experts.

It's not a legal decision, its a technical judgment of what really constitutes writing software. Writing software should be treated the same way as writing novels. Certainly imagination is involved, but in the plot, and ideas, and not the process of writing. Think what would happen if the plots of novels could be patented: how soon it would cripple the publishing industry? Publishing houses would prevent other authors from copying their plots. Companies would form just to generate new plots in the hope of suing some successful author whose plot bears a faint resemblance to one of their own.

Actually this scenario bears an uncanny resemblance to the current US software industry, with software patent trolls beginning to grind the industry there to a halt.

So please Judges, don't stray outside your field of competence - just ask some programming experts what they think of software patents!
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