UK Continues To Move Towards Software Patents

from the just-as-we-move-away-from-them? dept

Back in January, we noted that the UK’s high court appeared to have told the country’s patent office to stop saying software couldn’t be patented. Apparently, that wasn’t enough as the same court has now again told the patent office that it can’t ignore software patents, this time due to a case involving mobile phone operating system maker Symbian. It’s rather unfortunate that this appears to be happening just as the US courts are finally questioning the wisdom of software patents.

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Companies: symbian

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Comments on “UK Continues To Move Towards Software Patents”

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angry dude says:

Are you sure you know what you are talking about ?

WTF is “software patent”, Mikey ?

Did they teach you some intro computer science ?

Like Turing equivalence etc. ?

You know… software is equivalent to hardware…
This is apparently the First Law of computing you should learn…

Do you know what Verilog is ?

How about ASIC or FPGA ?

Get familiar with the subject first, dude..
This is the First Law of journalism, which you haven’t learned either…

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Are you sure you know what you are talking abo

Are you sure you know what you are talking about ?

Yes, quite sure. Thanks for asking, though. From someone who has admitted to lying about himself and about me, it’s comforting to know that you want to check in every once in a while.

Speaking of which, were you ever going to explain:

(a) Why you said you had a few patents a few years ago, and then later admitted you just got a patent?
(b) What patent you actually have?

WTF is “software patent”, Mikey ?

Ah, yes, the only sleight of hand trick of software patent fans to claim that it’s no different than any other type of patent. You play dumb, but you have to admit that most patent offices around the world recognize the difference and it took a specific set of decisions in the US courts before software patents were allowed.

So, claiming they’re no different is a weak trick of someone who has no argument.

Get familiar with the subject first,

You know quite well that I understand the topic, your weak attempts at misdirection and lies aside.

Frons says:

Re: patent protection for OpenOffice and MS office

Now, Sun seeks patent protection for OpenOffice with LGPLv3, Until Microsoft and the ever-waiting horde of patent trolls start contributing to OpenOffice, it’s unclear how users of OpenOffice will gain any new patent protection from the license change. No one was worried about Novell, Sun, etc. waging a patent war against users of OpenOffice. The threat is elsewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

A patent should only be granted for “unique” ideas and how they are implemented.

Putting aside the issue of “obvious” patents (because that issue is totally different from “software” patents because it is very possible to have “unique” software ideas)

Also, if you are against patents in general for any ideas, then you too are excluded from this discussion because the issue of whether software patents should be granted or not is totally different then believing no patents should be issued for any ideas.

Thus, we are left with whether an idea that can only be implemented in “software” should be patentable or not.

If you are OK with patents for “hardware” things like the laser, or telephone, then why are against software patents?

In the time before computers, ideas could only be implemented using hardware. But, as time moved forward, new technology advances are made, and along with those advances are new ideas that are either based on or created from those new advances.

A “software” patent is simply another idea, but it’s an idea that can only be implemented/executed in software.

But, it’s still an idea, so why can’t it get patent protection if it is truly a unique and non-obvious idea?

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:


Well, you have to keep in mind the distinction between mathematics and science. The truth, falsity, or undecidability of mathematics does not depend on external reality. Science does depend on external reality, but it also depends on imperfectness of perception. The equations physicists (and engineers) write are not reality– they are merely an imperfect model of reality. Immanuel Kant’s old Phenomena/Neumena distinction in short. A mechanical engineer will write equations in Newtonian physics. That doesn’t mean that he denies Einstein– it merely means that he does not expect mechanical parts to move fast enough for the difference between Einstein and Newton to matter. An electrical engineer would of course take a somewhat different view.

Now, if you take a complex digital circuit, say a microprocessor, it is built up out of logic gates. A logic gate is a transistor circuit designed to perform an elementary logic operations. The “inventive step” from the logic gate to the microprocessor is a mathematical, or formal logical process. It may very well, as Angry Dude (#2) points out, take the form of a Verilog file, or or a “gatemap” file for a FPGA, and both of those would qualify as programs. This does not, however, apply to the internal design of the logic gate itself. The internal design of the logic gate itself is concerned not with bits, but with physical quantities such as volts, amperes, ohms, coulombs, farads, etc., There is the breakpoint between software and hardware.

However, we can take this forwards rather than backwards. Traditionally, the expense and complexity of debugging digital circuits has been because bug fixes involved going and etching batches of new chips or circuit boards. Obviously, that is no longer the case when you have FPGA’s to use. To allow an analogy, EEPROM’s were not always EEPROM’s. The first ROM’s were “mask-programmable,” customized during manufacture, and those were followed by PROM’s, which could be written once, blowing fuses, and EPROM’s, which could be erased with ultraviolet light, and finally EEPROM’s and Flash chips. The philosophical status of firmware did not change because it was becoming easier to write and rewrite. The more rigid types of fixed manufacturing have dropped out of circulation. An electronic device is manufactured with EEPROM’s, not because the manufacturer actually expects to go out in the field and reprogram the things, but because he has access to highly economical EEPROM programming machines, and an old-style mask-programmed ROM would be an expensive special order. In the same way, stamping out CD’s does not make sense anymore, when there are these cheap CD-DVD-burning machines. According to this logic, a microprocessor/chipset can reasonably incorporate a certain proportion of FPGA logic, to be configured as needed by the program running on the microprocessor. Beyond the components of the standard computer, you just would not have ASIC’s anymore, because the comparatively small volumes would make them uneconomic.

There are a number of firms which are called “fabless” chip manufacturers, meaning they don’t actually produce chips. Rather, they merely produce Verilog code, which they employ other firms to make up into chips. Fabless manufacturers are in fact proprietary software developers. NVIDIA would be an example, and so was ATI before it got absorbed by AMD. I believe the major wireless chip makers fall in this category. By the standards of conventional software, chip logic is not really very complex, not compared to things like operating system kernels. Such firms are in fact prime candidates for being overtaken by open source, or rather, “Open Cores.” A lot of these firms are in fact making money doing things which are at approximately the level of Google Summer-of-Code projects. They were artificially protected by the traditional chip-etching regime, with its very high cost of “recompiling.” I have found historical instances of early computer programmers (back in the late 1950’s) who were working under a regime where recompiling took about one to two days. Their access to the computer was effectively by mail order, so to speak They would send a program off to the computer within half an hour or so of the start of the work day (9:30), and get the results back within half an hour of closing time (4:30). Depending how quick they were, the programmers might or might not have the revised version done fast enough to send it off the next day. Naturally, their productivity was only about a twentieth of the productivity of someone with his own personal computer. That seems a roughly analogous situation to the fabless chip manufacturers.

Thus, if software patents are invalid for word processors, then they are also invalid for things like processor instruction sets and memory models.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Slide Rule

I don’t know if you’ve ever used a slide rule? About thirty-five years ago, I had a 22-scale log-log rule. If I recall rightly, it had three positive log-log scales, for calculating exponents, and three negative log-log scales, for calculating roots. It was branded as Keuffel & Esser, but it was cheap and made out of yellow plastic, and didn’t have a serial number, so it was presumably made under license. This was about the time that K&E stopped producing the laminated rules. I used to use a mechanical pencil to lubricate the groves, and it was accurate to about two significant figures. I don’t still have it. I remember that when I got my first desktop computer, something over twenty years ago, I gave away my pocket calculator (a TI-58), and I must have given away the slide rule at the same time.

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