The Cultural Gulf Between Lawyers And Technologists On Patent Law

from the patent-bar-solipsism dept

On Wednesday I attended the Brookings Institution's conference on "The Limits of Abstract Patents in an Intangible Economy." The conference was organized by software patent skeptics, so that perspective has been well represented. But I was struck by the dramatic differences between the views of lawyers on the one hand (who made up the majority of the panelists and audience members) and the handful of technologists on the other. The first panel focused on the economics of abstract patents, and included a mix of technologists, economist, and lawyers. All of the panelists spoke about the serious problems being caused by patents in the software industry and argued for dramatic restrictions on software and business method patents. The tone of the second panel, which focused on legal issues, was rather different. All of the panelists were lawyers, and although they acknowledged that the patent system had problems, and that these problems are especially serious in the software industry, their focus was on abstruse details of patent law. None of them supported explicit restrictions on software patents, and few seemed to feel any urgency about the need to rein in patenting in the software industry. I think this contrast is reflected in the broader software patent debate—patent attorneys and law professors who write about patent law are overwhelmingly in favor of patents on software, and prefer to argue about how to fine-tune patent law to get fewer "bad" software patents without invalidating the "good" ones. In contrast, a lot of computer programmers simply wish the patent system would leave them alone.

There are a couple of ways you can view this split. On the one hand, it's possible that the economists and technologists on the first panel are naive and don't understand the complexities of patent law. Maybe broad restrictions on patenting of software or other abstract inventions would have unintended consequences in other parts of patent law that only one schooled in the minutia of patent law can understand. On the other hand, the perspectives found on the second panel could be a reflection of the solipsism of the patent bar. Patent attorneys seem to have an unshakable faith that there's no sector of the economy that couldn't be improved by more patenting. I suspect that one reason for these different attitudes has to do with the role the two groups play in the software industry. Patent attorneys only interact with those parts of the software industry that participate in the patent system. When software engineers write useful software without seeking patents on it—a vastly more common occurrence—patent attorneys will, by definition, not be there. Therefore, patent lawyers are inevitably going to over-estimate the importance of patents to the software industry. In contrast, the average programmer deals with the patent system infrequently. For a lot of entrepreneurs, patents are basically a nuisance—they have to get some for defensive purposes, but they're not an important part of their business plans. For employees at larger firms, patents are basically irrelevant to their day-to-day jobs. No programmer starts a programming project by consulting the patent database.

As a consequence, the two communities have radically different views of how well the patent system is working. The lawyers certainly acknowledge that there's a problem, but they seem to find it incomprehensible that there could be a major American industry that's better off without patent protections. Techies understand that patents are not an important part of the software industry, and so they're much more likely to say that their industry would be better off without them.



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  1.  
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    KeillRandor, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Hmmm...

    'When the only tool you have is a hammer - every problem looks like a nail...'

     

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    dustyscreams, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Let's not forget incentives

    This is an economics-focused blog after all. What incentive to patent lawyers, who charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their work, have to eliminate a significant part of their client base?

     

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  3.  
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    jilocasin, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:43am

    The problem is the purpose of patents....

    I think the fundamental misunderstanding stems from the perceived purpose of patents themselves.

    Most people against software patents are those that believe patents, like copyrights are:

    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    The people who like patents, software and business method patents in particular, seem to think patents are there for you to 'own' ideas and get a big payday from anyone who wants to actually do something with that idea.

    Think about it, if you can get the government to grant you exclusive rights to a useful idea, you could be set for life. No need to to anything but hire a few patent lawyers to enforce your bounty.

    Why would people, especially patent lawyers, want to change that? If you got rid of the really juicy patents (it's harder to collect widely for a patent on a threshing machine than from say doing anything remotely common "with a computer"). They might actually have to innovate, produce, or compete.

    How much fun would that be?

    jilocasin.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re: Let's not forget incentives

    I agree with dustyscreams on this one. The lawyers don't care about the industry, they care about the money they can squeeze from it. If you remove the ability to patent, you remove the ability to file lawsuits, you, in turn, remove lawyers from their jobs. It's really as simple as that.

     

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  5.  
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    Mike C., Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:56am

    If you REALLY want to teach the patent lawyers...

    ... patent the process of filing a patent.

    To be honest, I really don't believe that they'll ever see a problem with the system until it directly affects how they are able to work.

    It'll never happen, of course, but one can dream... right?

     

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  6.  
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    Willton, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:56am

    What techies think is irrelevant

    Unless the techies are the ones paying for the research and development of new software creations, their opinions as to whether patents in software are needed or not should be of no moment. Techies are not the ones who stand to lose or gain anything if patents were to leave the software sector. It is their employers that have a stake in the system, as they are the ones paying for software innovation and they are the ones who stand to benefit from software innovation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Yes, heaven forbid the people producing the products have any opinion. We've got to make sure the big guys have a nice big paycheck!

     

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    mike42 (profile), Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Wow, you're absolutely right! There's no such thing as open source software, or single-man shops, or hobby-software. And even if there was, no one could make money from such a venture. I mean, look at Microsoft and Apple! Were they one- or two-man shops?

    What matters is what the lawyers think, because they are the ones who get things done! Do you think we'd have electricity without lawyers? Or the corporations that fund the lawyers? Lawyers are the only ones to gain or lose anything by the elimination of software patents, and what would we do without lawyers?

    So just leave yer mitts off them thar patents, if ya know what's good fer ya!

     

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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Classic Willton.
    What techies think is irrelevant
    their opinions as to whether patents in software are needed or not should be of no moment.

    Incredibly short sighted seeing how Bill Gates started as a programmer and incorporated. By your logic, a 'techie' cannot open his own business nor work freelance yet retain rights to his work. Generally speaking no rights are transferred from the programmer to his employer, unless explicitly transferred, say, by being hired by the company, and even then they can stipulate otherwise. You are quite the greedy one Willton. I'm sure we're all clear to which side of the aisle you sit.

    Here's a comment for ya. Attorneys opinions as to whether patents in software are needed or not should be of no moment. They do not produce anything useful but a protracted and expensive argument in courts. They don't invent, create or solve a single problem. They do however chance to gain or lose their ability to charge clients astronomical sums to debate and argue, if that counts. Of course they would want even more ability to do that. I and others tend to view them as leeches on society, strong perhaps, then again, you think I cannot own or create Intellectual Property for some reason.

     

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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:22am

    Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Funny how fast he is to cut out the one person in the argument actually doing the work eh ? Classic I tell ya.

     

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    jobuca, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:35am

    Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    How would you own intellectual property without patents?

    I don't think any side's ideas are irrelevant but there are a few extremes. Lawyers tend to be overly risk averse and cautious, techies are over optimistic. There are major problems with the patent system but a lot of it could be solved by changing enforcement rather than rules (especially the prohibition on patenting 'obvious' ideas.)

    Techies need to realize that without patents there are no angel investors, no venture capital, no servers, bandwidth, snacks or caffeinated drinks. The lawyers may not produce much themselves but they maintain the rule of law that allows the techies to ply their trade.

    BTW if it helps my credibility at all or if anyone has any questions I should note that I was 2 semesters away from a CS degree when the dot com crash happened, switched and got several economics degrees and just got my law degree last May so I feel I've got a pretty good idea of all the sides here.

     

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    :Lobo Santo, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    "How would you own intellectual property without patents?"

    That's easy (you fuckin mook), once you think of it; keep it to yourself.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    How would you own intellectual property without patents?

    Ohhhh I don't know, say by having a copyright ?

    "Techies need to realize that without patents there are no angel investors, no venture capital, no servers, bandwidth, snacks or caffeinated drinks. The lawyers may not produce much themselves but they maintain the rule of law that allows the techies to ply their trade."

    To say there are no, implies zero which is just incorrect with a slightly enlightened approach. Take a look at Apache or Mozilla for examples.

     

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    Kiba, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Last time I check, Red Hat and other free software vendors don't use patents to build their business. They got caffeinated drinks, lot of servers, and some mighty bandwidth for sure.

    They might stockpile patents, but that's for scaring anybody who want to sue them.

     

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    jobuca, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    What if someone reverse engineers it? or if its something that you can't monetize without exposing its details?

    And what do you mean by own? If someone else starts selling something identical your response would be what... "i came up with it first and I own it, I just kept it to myself"

     

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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Also see how google treated their "techies" too. Very true, and they use those patents (like the GPL does) as shield from the clubs the attorneys like to bash others with.

     

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    Dallas IT Guy, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Notwithstanding the fact that many "techies" *are* the employer...

    ...the reason techies have a substantial stake in the software patent mess is that basic tools of the trade are being patented. As a result, the cost of producing the product is higher with no benefit. It either takes more time to work around the patent, or it's a direct cost to license it.

    To put things into perspective for the "non-techies", it's as if patents were being granted on the concept of using nails to hold two boards together. Things which are obvious to a practioner of the trade are being patented, and there's no way that can be good.

     

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    Jobuca, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Don't get me wrong I'm a huge supporter of the open source movement. But its unlikely that the entire industry could be sustained that way. A significant portion of it sure, but there will always be some interplay between open source and proprietary systems.

    The Mozilla foundation survives largely on money from google. But more to the point there wouldn't be the massive amount of programmers willing to contribute to open source projects on their own time if they didn't have day jobs at proprietary companies.

    Red Hat's (which,as you say does maintain patents how they use them is probably opening up another way too long thread in this argument) business model probably wouldn't function if they had to develop linux from the ground up rather than relying on the work of the open source movement. Which again, wouldn't exist on the scale it does if most of the contributors didn't have day jobs.

    To anonymous coward. yes, you're right no implies zero and there would probably be a few benefactors but thats really a straw man argument.

     

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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    "What if someone reverse engineers it? or if its something that you can't monetize without exposing its details?"

    You cannot reverse engineer(s) it without it being available, if one invented and hid the invention, what would you reverse engineers from ?

    "And what do you mean by own? If someone else starts selling something identical your response would be what... "i came up with it first and I own it, I just kept it to myself"

    Perhaps they would reason that in any established industry many business might be trying to accomplish what they were. Then they might think that their invention may not have been so novel or unique so as to require 20 years of a monopoly on the idea. If two companies spend billions trying to cure Aids or Cancer would they never try similar approaches ? I sure hope so, as all the years of research before Aids even came into being might be critical in battling it. I also don't think a race to the patent office should determine the "winner" of the idea leaving the other at a loss or worse, paying for something he was on the verge of creating for themselves.

     

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  20.  
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    jobuca, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Yes, you're absolutely right. The problem is that there is supposed to be a ban on 'obvious' patents. This is the key that has been lost in the last several decades. Largely, as I understand it, because the patent office was understaffed and didn't have enough technical expertise to keep up with rapidly advancing tech. As a result, they weren't up to date enough to realize whether something would be 'obvious' to a techie or not. Even though this problem has been made clear to them now, over time the rule just got weaker and weaker in the culture of the office and the courts used to adjudicate these claims.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    "The Mozilla foundation survives largely on money from google. But more to the point there wouldn't be the massive amount of programmers willing to contribute to open source projects on their own time if they didn't have day jobs at proprietary companies."

    First off there are many many open source projects, skip on over to sourceforge for such a list. Second, I can't emphasize how wrong you are with the 'proprietary' statement. Many own their own businesses, develop apps for the web, and many do things just to say they succeeded.

    The only strawman argument is that ONLY financial rewards are considered when creating software (or IP). That, again is so wrong it's not worth arguing over. Many people donate their time for many different purposes, and many people take great pride in trying to figure something out, just to see how it works, or if they can make it work better for them.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Its mainly education

    Lawyers are taught to live in a very tight box intellectually. They are for the most part "small thinkers" with great attention to detail. Not necessarily the type of people who lead to great innovations. It can happen of course, but its a rare anomoly.

     

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  23.  
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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    The real problem is every time I go to 'create' a piece of software for a customer, it is based on their needs. If their needs match that of others, perhaps their is only one way to accomplish the goal. If I were to involve lawyers every time I went to program something for another users computer or my own, how much would that end up costing a client ? How much would my hobby cost me if I developed something completely on my own without knowledge of an existing patent? Consider that typically lawyers make more per hour, and the cost soars to an unreasonable amount. Consider that most software is iterated in versions and every time a business wanted to add a new function or utility to their software design a call would first need to be made to the attorney. Consider that an attorney may give advice that a court doesn't agree with and a client STILL gets hit with a massive judgment after all that expense. Is none of that a deterrent to innovation ?

    Other than open source, most people who create or develop software don't disclose their source code, therefore there are many patents being infringed at any given point in time, yet the world turns quite nicely. Once a pocket gets deep, it's like a Calvary call to attorneys. What is the incentive there ? And who is that incentive greater for ?

    Wish I would have went to law school these days. It's like congress voting themselves a raise. Who wouldn't if it were only about opinions. Reality dictates, someone will have to pay.

     

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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Re: The problem is the purpose of patents....

    Think about it, if you can get the government to grant you exclusive rights to a useful idea, you could be set for life. No need to to anything but hire a few patent lawyers to enforce your bounty.

    I doubt you could get a patent for an idea. Ideas are specifically listed as non-statutory matter

     

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  25.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Re: Let's not forget incentives

    I agree with dustyscreams on this one. The lawyers don't care about the industry, they care about the money they can squeeze from it. If you remove the ability to patent, you remove the ability to file lawsuits, you, in turn, remove lawyers from their jobs. It's really as simple as that.

    I think it is more complicated than that. There are two types of attorneys. There are IP attorneys, who generally make their money from patent applications, and there are litigation attorneys, who make their money from lawsuits. The two sometimes overlap, but mostly not. I doubt you will put litigators out of work because if they are not working on IP litigation, they will be working on some other non-IP litigation. IP litigation only makes up a tiny fraction of law practice.

     

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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Yes, heaven forbid the people producing the products have any opinion. We've got to make sure the big guys have a nice big paycheck!

    lol...Have you ever been an engineer working for a company?

     

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  27.  
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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Let's not forget incentives

    Actually, they may get their backs up in the air and switch to abusing copyright law.

     

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    mike42 (profile), Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Oddly, the software sector did just fine for a good 20+ years without software patents, thank-you-very-much. That was the climate that allowed Microsoft and Apple to thrive, and allowed IBM to fall. We had this thing called a "copyright", which meant people couldn't copy our programs without our consent. If you wanted to invest the time and effort to make one like it, go ahead, that was your time and money in development. There was no protectionist "patent" that would stop anyone. It wasn't until the late 90's that UniSys pulled its "gif patent" garbage, and its all been downhill from there.

    To put it another way: had software patents been available, there would be no Excel or Lotus spreadsheets, it would all be VisiCalc. There would be no Word or Word Perfect, it would all be WordStar. The list goes on and on, with no one having the need to improve or innovate because they have cornered the market via patent.

    Deal with it: angel investors, venture capital, servers, snacks and caffeinated drinks all came before software patents were considered viable, and would easily survive their demise. The only thing that would be eliminated is IP patent lawyers.

     

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  29.  
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    jobuca, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    No one suggested that financial rewards are the only consideration. In fact most open source contributors (and yes I'm very familiar with sourceforge) don't receive any financial compensation. But, they could devote that time if they weren't paying their bills in some other way.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    I mean 'couldn't' not 'could'

    opps

     

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    jobuca, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Uhmm, that 20+ years without software patents. Not true, sorry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patents_under_United_States_patent_law

    Besides how can people forget the big moment for MS when they told IBM they wanted to keep the patent on DOS. Whether that was good or bad (though I tend to think MS isn't as bad as IBM would have been) is another question. Patents do date back to the beginning of modern software.

     

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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Actually, many open source developers make money supporting their own works. Some companies engage them to tailor the code to their own needs. A process impeded by patents and copyrights. Which is why the GPL was created, "to turn copyright on it's end" and guarantee that I could use the program no matter what. Patents aside.

    As for how they spend their time. There are some projects I take that I get so into that I spend tons of 'off the clock' time on because I want it to be as perfect as I can. That goal, not the money becomes my driving force and that's how I know I'm taking on the right projects. Even 'proprietary' programmers don't get compensated for everything they do with a computer or code. Yet they freely give that time away.

     

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    eleete, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Actually, they retained the copyright to it, not the patent.

    The "Microsoft Disk Operating System" or MS-DOS was based on QDOS, the "Quick and Dirty Operating System" written by Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products, for their prototype Intel 8086 based computer.

    QDOS was based on Gary Kildall's CP/M, Paterson had bought a CP/M manual and used it as the basis to write his operating system in six weeks, QDOS was different enough from CP/M to be considered legal.

    Microsoft bought the rights to QDOS for $50,000, keeping the IBM deal a secret from Seattle Computer Products.

    Gates then talked IBM into letting Microsoft retain the rights, to market MS DOS separate from the IBM PC project, Gates proceeded to make a fortune from the licensing of MS-DOS.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    I find it curious that the second panel is characterized as being all lawyers, suggesting to many that "tech" was not represented on the panel. Anyone who takes the time to learn about each member of this panel quickly realizes that the majority, if not all, hold technology degrees, some at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Let's not forget incentives

    Mr. Holder,

    Merely FYI, the majority of so-called IP attorneys fall outside of the two categories you mention. The practice is very broad based and embraces much more than patent application prosecution and litigation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 2:48pm

    Technologists VS Lawyers

    Technologists: Want to create as much as possible which adds to life

    Lawyers: Want to make a ton of money by stifling innovation

    Lawyers should be outlawed.

     

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  37.  
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    Joe, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 2:52pm

    Market Sectors that can benefit from patents

    As has been noted several times above - patent attorneys make their living with Patents so it's not too surprising they want to see their business grow.

    If you want lawyers to notice problems with the patent system, then I'd suggest trying to patent legal strategies. If you can patent ideas, recipes, and all sorts of IP, then why not patent legal strategies. Then if a lawyer wants to defend a client by aggressively attacking the credibility of a witness, they would first have to pay a license fee. It makes sense that if every other industry can benefit from patent protection, so can the legal industry. I'm sure it would encourage strong innovation in defense and prosecutorial techniques.

     

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  38.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 3:27pm

    Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Jobuca wrote:

    ...there wouldn't be the massive amount of programmers willing to contribute to open source projects on their own time if they didn't have day jobs at proprietary companies.

    You mean, companies making a nice profit off those open-source projects?

     

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    dave, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 4:34pm

    This is unbelievable

    I can't believe lawyers would just want to fine tune the existing software patent law, rather than greatly reduce the ability to get patents software.

    I mean, just because they get large fees for:
    -writing up and applying for patents
    -going to court to fight either for or against one or more patents
    -negotiating patent swaps between companies

    They wouldn't just want to keep/expand the existing system for their own self-interest. They just want to keep the software development industry viable.

     

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  40.  
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    Timo, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 12:56am

    You have to understand the cost of the patent system = revenue for lawyers

    This is a common problem. The people who benefit from the high costs of the present system i.e lawyers do not see a problem; for them it is revenue.

    I have the same problems getting software developers to see that their salaries are a cost to somebody.

     

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  41.  
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    Wes, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    Why not compare with software copyrights?

    First, Apple & Microsoft *did* start as 2 man shops - point?

    Second, while it appears you direct ire at patents, it was a famous Letter to the Editor by Bill Gates in which he argued software should not be free (1975?). Prior to that you as a consumer had to get your software from the hardware provider or develop your own.

    Third, patents should not differ between industries (what is a business method? Please define that) - that is the correct argument - patents made possible innovation without grants made by connected industries. Our USPTO is *our* industrial policy.

    Fourth, you went to a legal conference - what did you expect? It would be preferable to get more people - not just patent attorneys - to understand patents & patentability *not* less! Taxpayers DO NOT pay for patents, applicants pay!

    Last, what is a better way to promote innovation? You fail to list a single thing. While you're at it, please explain the difference between software & hardware (in Turing or Church sense) - if you had no problems with hardware being patentable get your head out of the sand ... A patent can only last 20 years from date of filing - then, having served it's public notice function - it belongs to us all (the public).

    The alternative? How about all that trade secret code in those election machines many people complain about ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    gene_cavanaugh, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 10:33am

    Patents on software and business models

    Here is one patent attorney who feels software and business model patents should be eliminated, or, at the minimum, severely limited.
    I also think patents in which the inventor does not aggressively pursue bringing the technology to market should be done away with. Royalties, if that is the only involvement of the inventor, should be limited in size and scope.
    But, I believe patents, especially small entity patents, the only type I do, can be a very good thing. I agree with the makers of the U. S. Constitution, who I believe felt as I do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Patents on software and business models

    Perchance is Gene your middle name and your first name begins with an "M"? There are only two listed in the Attorney Roster that have an "E" in their name (I presume Gene is short for Eugene), and in each case it is the first leter of their middle name.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Bruce Storms, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 3:34pm

    which group, generally speaking, makes more money or "cash flow incoming"---why ??--the objective is to make money, correct ???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    mike42 (profile), Jan 17th, 2009 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What techies think is irrelevant

    Oh, I'm sorry, can you please name the major software developer that sued for patent violation prior to the UniSys Gif debacle?

    Patents on dos... linking to a "software patent" page where the patents include physical devices... I hope you're not trying to become a trial attorney. Your arguments don't hold water.

    Nice sidestep of the copyright issue, investor issue, and lack of innovation issue. Maybe you'll win a case yet!

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Wes, Jan 18th, 2009 @ 3:28pm

    Patents are about novelty & nonobviousness - value

    To the atty who does small entity work, clearly you are in the minority. Second, I do not believe the Constitution was written with lawyers in mind - "writers" & "inventors" is express language.

    To "mike42", what? Get a clue - Apple spent years suing Microsoft over "look & feel"; look at how Intel has enforced its portfolio then come back with more insight; or, better yet, have heard of the RSA patent? Is that a signal? Business method?; IBM consistently leads in patent activity in the US - are all these parties seeing more value in patents than you? Me thinks do.

    Yeah we have DMCA & plenty of protection (as opposed to "for limited times").

    Why not first get an understanding of what bundle if rights accrue to patent-holders - copyright is registration- based/ patents are search & examination. As for importance, name one patent that you believe has taken a single dollar out of your pocket? Now name one copyright holder.

    Truly sad day for innovation when you read these comments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2009 @ 4:36pm

    Re:

    > I find it curious that the second panel is characterized
    > as being all lawyers, suggesting to many that "tech" was
    > not represented on the panel. Anyone who takes the time
    > to learn about each member of this panel quickly realizes
    > that the majority, if not all, hold technology degrees,
    > some at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    There is a big difference between having an undergraduate degree in something and having some real clue how the relevant industry works. You can have an undergraduate degree in a field without having so much as done a summer internship in that field. A degree by no means implies having any meaningful experience as a practicioner.

    If you want to crow about something, crow about their
    work experience. On their own, their degrees are
    meaningless.

    THIS is the sort of academic thinking that plagues the patent bar. They're like a PI attorney that's never been in traffic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2009 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Patents are about novelty & nonobviousness - value

    > IBM consistently leads in patent activity in the US

    Yup. And they do more than just patent algorithms.

    They have also done interesting basic research for decades. They don't just file software patent, but they also file patents on hardware.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    dinnerbell, Jan 19th, 2009 @ 6:00am

    inexperienced

    my experience has been that most sfw programmers have no knowledge or experience with the patent system. the few who express views about it generally have no knowledge or speak from limited experience. those who have developed something and patented and marketed will understand the importance of...especially when you're going up against the Microsofts of the world who will thumb their noses at you and your patents. you are in for a fight.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Wes, Jan 19th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    "Anonymous Coward" - really?so what, software patents have been around for a long time ... signal patents too ... guy named Morse. I'll leave it at that -try learning about patents first, what us going on now is pure politics, not innovation. Patent attorneys are not inventors though they appear to negotiate away inventor rights as though the patent system was about them ... Go figure.

    "dinnerbell" (have to say I prefer morningbell - radiohead) right on! What I would like to see is real antitrust enforcement & then follow the money for the members of the Coalition for Patent Fairness ... The distorted facts on litigation relating to patents is absurd (less than 0.11% of revenues are paid in damages & patents suits win only 50% of the time) & no cap should ever exist to discourage truly innovative activity by those who create the most jobs - small entities & independent inventors

     

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  51.  
    icon
    mike42 (profile), Jan 22nd, 2009 @ 8:01am

    Re: Patents are about novelty & nonobviousness - value

    Wes - "look and feel" is not a patent. And Apple lost every suit. RSA was granted in 1977, but was never used in court (at least according to Wikkipedia - do you have other info?) Just because the USPTO grants a patent does not mean its valid, as can be seen throughout this site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    mike ip, Jan 23rd, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Re: Its mainly education

    Having worked in both fields - software and patent - you seem to have the roles reversed. How do you think many past court decisions came about? A lawyer had a big idea and developed it into a winning argument. Maybe you should meet some lawyers and, no, DUI attorneys and slip-n-fall attorneys don't count.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    Judith, Jan 23rd, 2009 @ 3:32pm

    Those who advocate against software patents, are you against all patents? If not, how would you draw the line between software and hardware? Anything you can implement in software can be implemented in hardware (and I'm not even addressing the software/hardware cross-over inherent in FPGAs and the like).

    I'm a patent lawyer, and I'm an engineer. Most patent lawyers have worked in technology for a number of years. Most of us actually keep up with technology because we're interested in it. Don't assume that we don't understand what you're talking about. And listen, because that's the only way you'll learn what we're talking about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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