Defense Of Software Patents Actually Raises Questions About All Computer Patents

from the why? dept

A bunch of folks have been submitting the recent Patently-O post by Martin Goetz, the guy who claims to have the first "software patent," defending the concept of software patents. The argument boils down to pretty much the same argument we've heard a thousand times before: that what people create in software is no different than what they create in hardware -- it's just a different method of doing the same thing, and thus, software should be patentable. To some extent, I agree. Unlike some, I'm not in favor of making a specific "exemption" for software as not being patentable (though, I do question why or how something should be covered by both copyrights and patents, and also am curious how you can patent basic mathematics... but those are questions for another time).

Honestly, in reading through his arguments, what struck me is that there is no explanation for why even computer hardware should be patentable. It's just taken for granted that computer hardware patents must be good, and since software is the equivalent of what's done in hardware (not really true in many cases, but...), software patents must be good. But shouldn't the original question be whether or not the hardware itself requires patents and whether or not that helps to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts"? Goetz never bothers to explain how any of these patents promote progress.

And, of course, the bigger point is whether or not it's really true that software is just a different way of doing what you can do in hardware. In some cases, that's true. In other cases, it's not. Most software today is not just a different way of doing things that could be done in hardware, but involve things that couldn't be done without software. How do you offer wireless email without any software? How do you do "one-click shopping" without software? What the article is really arguing is that because you could build software-functionality into hardware, you should be able to patent it, but perhaps that never should have been allowed to be patented in the first place?


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  1.  
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    Pete Austin, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 1:47am

    Goetz' argument fails at the very start.

    Re: "1. What is a Software-Related Invention? It is well recognized that whatever you can design in hardware circuitry (chips) can be developed in computer software (a computer program) to perform the same functions."

    This is self-evidently untrue for anything which affects the real world, as all useful computer inventions ultimately must. For example nobody can design a camera, a keyboard, or a display screen entirely in in computer software.

    If this is typical of the pro-patent lobby, then only the most foolish politician would pay them any attention, and maybe they are just as wrong about computer hardware.

     

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  2.  
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    Doctor Strange, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 1:53am

    I can understand people who think that both software and things like physical machines should be patentable. I can also understand people who think that neither software nor things like physical machines should be patentable.

    The people I don't understand are the ones that think that physical machines should be patentable, but software shouldn't be.

    If you're going to make the argument that:

    • All software is just algorithms
    • All algorithms are just math
    • Therefore all software is just math, and
    • Math isn't patentable


    Then why doesn't a physical machine fall victim to the same logic? A machine is just atoms and the laws of physics (Newtonian or quantum), so why should we allow patents on those laws of nature?

     

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    Griff (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 2:49am

    Surely it's about obviousness

    I would wholeheartedly applaud the patenting of something really novel in software but I think we're all a bit irked when someone gets awarded a patent for (say) 1 click shopping.

    Such a development is, I would have said, what can be expected when someone skilled in the art of software tried to improve a shopping site.

    By all means award a trademark for "1 click shopping" as long as you don't stop others saying "you can buy stuff from my site with one click".

    As with many things discussed in TD, it is a matter of degree. (Selling fake CD's bad, burning a copy for your own use in the car is fair use etc). Which means most "bad" outcomes come down to how well the parties fought to push the line in their preferred direction, and often how much the judge or deliberating body understood the issues.

    Cheerleaders for each side of the argument will always hold up the straw men of the extremes (no patents = why invent, everything patented = total monopolies etc) but deep down we all know that what is needed in most cases is a sensible middle ground.

    In manufacturing industry people generally get more protection by having a secret process noone can copy (that they have become really good at) than by relying on a public patent to protect it, especiallty if competing globally against countries with different IP laws.

    Some things are simply harder to rip off. Someone might, for example, sell you a fake Office CD but noone is going to run a fake google apps site. Similarly, fake DVD's are widespread, but seeing a fake copy of a movie at the local movie theatre is unikely. Buying a fake copy of a U2 Album is possible, unwittingly going to a fake U2 stadium gig is not (though being sold a fake ticket is).

    Assuming someone wanted to completely rip off googlemail, they'd have to do a lot of development work to construct the back end. They'd get the look and feel for free (just copy what google appear to do) and they might even copy the client side javascript without having to go through all the process of user feedback and testing google have done.
    Even so, they'd probably be onto a loser. Even with outright copying, there'd still be a huge amount to do and the payback (with no brand or monetization in place) would be rubbish.

    I guess my point is that moving to the cloud could make the idea of "under the hood" patents irrelevant.
    On the downside, it would put all the focus onto more of the "business process" patents (like 1 click ordering), but the upside is that the small inventors can be protected without needing to resort to huge legal fees.

    So to summarise, innovate your way round the NEED for patents, rather than having a business model that hopes a patent is enforcable.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 2:59am

    Well it is true anything you can do in software you can do in hardware. The thing is that while in software there is no physical property to it in my view so it should never be patented.

    Is like ideas, if they are not fixed in a physical verifiable manner there is no copyright for it is there?

     

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  5.  
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    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 3:00am

    Hardware-Software Boundary.

    Well, I went into this about a year and a half ago. The proper line of demarcation is the line between bits and similar abstract imaginary quantities, versus physical quantities.

    http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20080319/015324581#c141

    In practice, the doubtful boundary areas were developed a long time ago, and the question of whether they deserve patents is moot, any such patents having long since expired. At this late date, I don't think you're going to find many hard cases. On the one hand, you are going to find people at Intel or AMD doing straight-out physical chemistry pertaining to chipmaking, and on the other hand, you are going to find people filing software patent applications which are business method patents in all but name, or else filing software patent applications which fail to disclose obviously relevant prior art which is well-known to thousands of people.

    One of the Supreme Court justices (I believe it was Justice Stevens) observed in the Bilski oral arguments that it was practically difficult to ban business method patents without banning software patents, because nowadays, business methods are all computer programs. Suppose the Court banned software patents and digital logic patents, going all the way down. Would there be any significant injurious effects on anyone except the patent trolls, large-scale commercial monopolists such as Microsoft, and suchlike? I don't think so. Any time there is a functioning open-source movement, the economic case for patents gets very thin.

    The impression I get from reading Patently Obvious is that some of the shadier patent lawyers are shifting towards using design patents to cover things like software interfaces, mostly because the law of design patents is underdeveloped, and has a lot of gray areas. The Supreme Court will become more and more exasperated, and will rule against them in stronger and stronger terms.

     

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    Svante Jorgensen (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 3:09am

    Yes software is the same as hardware

    I'm currently doing an undergraduate project in computer science. Between 10% and 100% of the functions in the product can be made in hardware (the rest in software). It's just about comparing the pros and cons, but theoretically there is no difference. There are very few things you can do in hardware that are not possible in software, and there are _nothing_ you can do in software that can not be done in hardware.
    From this experience, I feel that software should just be called "Dynamic hardware" or something like that.

    I agree that the overall benefit from software patents are very questionable (just like hardware patents).
    But to say that there is no creative component in making software is just as wrong as saying there is no creative component in writing literature.

    I think that #2 is very right in questioning the logic in

    - All software is just algorithms
    - All algorithms are just math
    - Therefore all software is just math, and
    - Math isn't patentable

    You could just as easily say

    - All literature is just paragraphs
    - All paragraphs are just words
    - Therefore all literature is just words, and
    - Words isn't patentable

     

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  7.  
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    Chill, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 4:06am

    Re:

    It's funny to bring up patenting nature because we are doing exactly that.

     

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    vivaelamor (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 4:09am

    Re: Surely it's about obviousness

    "Cheerleaders for each side of the argument will always hold up the straw men of the extremes (no patents = why invent, everything patented = total monopolies etc) but deep down we all know that what is needed in most cases is a sensible middle ground."

    Putting words into the mouths of others, and so blatantly, does nothing but harm your credibility. Not only that but you accuse THEM of fallacious logic. Do you have an irony deficiency or are you trying to kill us all with over exposure?

     

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    Chill, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 4:15am

    Re: Yes software is the same as hardware

    Words [aren't] patentable

    Exactly!!! They're not patentable at all!! They're not a new invention!! Stories aren't a technology, they are just a rearrangement of words. Words can give insight and wonder to the reader, but they shouldn't be patentable. A written patent isn't patentable, the idea in the patent is.

    Why patent code when you can copyright it?

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 5:16am

    I am a firm believer that patents exists solely to help the rich get richer. Their is no evidence anywhere that shows that patents actually help innovation and progress. No where. What patents, and software patents specifically, do is help companies like google and Microsoft and Amazon beat the shit out of smaller and open source companies with baseless and frankly unfair software patents that stifle all creativity in the business. Then you have the fuckers that use patent litigation as their business model.

    I'm going to stick with my "ignore all patents" theory and see where it leads me. We, as a populace, have a duty to ignore and openly disobey baseless and immoral laws. this is one of them.

     

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  11.  
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    Michel Billard, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 5:27am

    In my opinion, only the methods should be patentable, not the result.

    Anyone could have thought of the 1-click feature, that shouldn't be patentable. How it's implemented, the algorithms behind it could be patented in my opinion if they are not considered obvious.

    The same goes for hardware, the built object shouldn't be patentable, but the construction method should.

     

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  12.  
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    mike42 (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 5:32am

    Re:

    You are actually missing the point made in several cases: if an algorithm can be performed completely in the human mind, it is not patentable. In other words, you should not be able to infringe on someone's patents purely by thinking. Something tangeable and concrete must take place, and that tangeable and concrete thing must be part of the patent.

    Think of general software programs run on general use hardware as automated thought. (I'm a developer, so I certainly do!) With everything that I do, I think through the problem, then I write the steps to solve the problem in code. And thus, the crux of the problem: everything I write, and everything almost every developer writes, must be UNDERSTOOD by the developer, which means he has a copy (memory) of the algorithm is IN HIS/HER MIND!

    Once you view patents in this way, you see the need for a physical component to make a patent valid. And that component has to be more than a "general purpose" computer.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 5:46am

    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20091111151305785

    I stumbled across that article the other day, and personally I think it's the best explanation of why software should not be patentable. Maybe others have seen it and disagree, but I thought I'd post it in case anyone is up for some morning reading.

     

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  14.  
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    Michial Thompson, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:29am

    Software and Method Patents

    I don't agree with a lot of the talk on here about abolishing Patents and Copyright etc. I do agree though that Patents on Software is unrealistic. There isn't a software program out there that does not have it's origin in some non computer way of doing things.

    Every Database system started off in filing Cabinets, Every Game started off on a board or in a book or on paper etc. So prior art already exists simply in the necessity of the software in the first place.

    As for patents on processes and methods that is almost as rediculous. I am facing a lawsuit because a company has a patent on the process of making a collect call. A process that has been around since before I was born, but go figure.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:55am

    Re: Yes software is the same as hardware

    WORDS ARE NOT PATENTABLE...

    never have been

     

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  16.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:57am

    Pantenting software? I've a patent on that.

    I would wholeheartedly applaud the patenting of something really novel in software.
    This is the crux of those who feel software should be patented, but it's also the weakest reason why it should. It's just that many simply won't accept it.

    *ALL SOFTWARE* is limited by the hardware it's run on. One can not create "really novel" software beyond the scope of the hardware's capability.

    30 years ago, having a computer rendering 3D software was expensive. Should the makers of Maya be allowed a patent for making 3D software compliant on the Windows operating system?

    No, they shouldn't. They didn't invent 3D nor did they invent the computer. They simply wrote code to the limitations of the machine and will continue to do so as computers become more powerful.

    This is why Amazon's "One Click" patent is wrong. When Amazon first started, its website was limited to:
    -The browser's capability of rendering software (HTML)
    -The computer systems hosting the requests from users

    However, once browsers supported more features, this entitled Amazon to file and patent the "one click" system because *then* it could be supported.

    This is akin to Apple's iPod. It didn't invent the microchip, the touch wheel, nor the MP3 player, but because specific design was created, it's allowed a patent?

    I find it incredibly stupid people want to lock up the knowledge of others under the protection of a "patent".

    NOT A SINGLE PERSON ON THIS PLANET BUILDS WITHOUT THE FOUNDATIONS OF OTHERS.

    You couldn't read the statement above without the help of those teaching you to read.

    Now you want to patent the knowledge?

    I sit perplexed why people don't see anything wrong with this.

     

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  17.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:14am

    Re: Software and Method Patents

    "I don't agree with a lot of the talk on here about abolishing Patents and Copyright etc."

    "I am facing a lawsuit because a company has a patent on the process of making a collect call."

    Something about these statements just doesn't seem right.

    It'll be interesting if your position over the first statement changes when you're put out of business because you can't 1) afford the legal fees to dispute it or 2)pay the patent fees.

    Good luck, though you're well beyond the point of actually needing it. Use if for the next time a patent troll looks at your design.

     

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  18.  
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    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:27am

    Here we go again, little punks

    Jeez

    you people are retards

    I would not trust you to clean my toilets

    there are no software patents !!!

    SOFTWARE == HARDWARE

    Write it on your foreheads

    It's all explained here but somehow I doubnt you will be able to digest this info: http://www.ipjur.com/01.php3

    Mikey takes good care of you - feeds you daily portion of his bullshit

     

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  19.  
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    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:45am

    retarded audience on techdirt

    Hey punks

    Do you understand the difference between
    "patent eligible" and "patentable" ?

    Guess not

     

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  20.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:49am

    Re: Here we go again, little punks

    "SOFTWARE == HARDWARE"

    Except, of course, that from a computer science point of view, this isn't the case. Although all software can be implemented as hardware, not all hardware can be implemented as software -- so even at that level, the two are not equivalent. They are different at other levels of abstraction as well, but I won't turn this into an essay.

    As a software developer, I don't take the point of view that all software patents are necessarily invalid. However, the patent office does an absolutely awful job in determining what software is patentable and what is not. They simply don't understand software or the history of the art.

     

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  21.  
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    MRK, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:55am

    There are Software patents, and there are business method patents. The first should be patentable, the second should not. All of the clearly bogus software patents are actually business method patents. IMHO a software patent requires the exact algorithm used to create it. If the algorithm is undefined, its overly broad. It also would make the USPTO job easier since they could look at the actual code to determine uniqueness.

    For the sake of argument, Imagine a piece of software analogous to a mousetrap. I use the mousetrap because everyone is familiar with them and is easily visualized, whereas software is not. But the basic concept of a machine performing a function is the same in both the mechanical and software realms.

    You should not be able to patent all forms of software that trap mice, just like how I cannot patent all physical devices that trap mice. If I were to patent a device that traps mice with a unique spring loaded cage, that method is patentable. but it does not prevent anyone else from creating a mousetrap that uses sticky glue. I certainly cannot patent "a device for trapping a mouse" without explaining exactly how that mouse is trapped.

    Software patents like the 1-click shopping patent are overly broad, and are a case of the USPTO utterly dropping the ball on checking for novelty in an invention.

     

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  22.  
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    Michial Thompson, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:56am

    Re: Re: Software and Method Patents

    As I said, I adimently disagree with Software Patents, it doesn't mean that I do not respect the fact that they are allowed. I do hope that if anything is reformed it is this aspect of the patent laws.

    As for the lawsuit that I face, it's a fact of the industry that I am moving into with my business. Every new company in this industry fights the same lawsuit, and the patent holder uses it as a way to try to prevent them from competing in the industry.

    To my knowledge not one of these companies has ever seen their day in court though, from what research I have been able to do the suits are always settled out of court.

    As for the costs involved I have already factored into the startup costs the legal expenses for defense, and have already prepared the lawyer and even went so far as to ask him to begin researching the case law around this lawsuit.

    The facts are though that any LEGITIMATE patent on making a collect call would have belonged to the Bell Telephone companies and would have long since expired due to age. This particular patent is held by the same company that holds a patent on "Press 1 for English" and they try forcing anyone using that in their IVR systems to pay royalties too.

     

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  23.  
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    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: Here we go again, little punks

    "Except, of course, that from a computer science point of view, this isn't the case."

    Punky

    ever heard about Turing macnine ?

     

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  24.  
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    Bob Webster (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:06am

    Taking out the trash

    I disagree. There is a huge difference between software and hardware. Patenting a software technique is like patenting a method of taking out the trash. Patenting hardware is like patenting wheels on a trash can. You should be able to patent the invention of wheels, but not the idea of getting up in the morning to take out trash.

     

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  25.  
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    mike42 (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:20am

    Re:

    You state that, in your opinion, some software patents are valid. Could you give an example of a valid software-only patent?

     

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  26.  
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    Anon, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:23am

    "Their is no evidence anywhere that shows that patents actually help innovation and progress."

    Here's an unusual question for this forum: Who said the role or purpose or motivation for the patent process is to foster innovation?

    Conversely, who says getting around patents or essentially making them useless is not more innovative than doing a little riff on something that exists? In other words, who's more lazy and unimaginative?

    Patents exist to make everyone a little unhappy, but still get something. It is fallacy to think a group or groups won't get filthy stinking rich in any scheme.

    Face it, even is somebody somewhere gets money, some nut is going to complain how it offends their sensibilities.

     

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  27.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Re: to retarded angry dude on techdirt

    do you?

    (pssst: i doubt it)

     

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  28.  
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    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:30am

    Re: Re:

    RSA cryptography patent

    LZW compression patent

    JPEG compression patents

    MP3 audio patents

    voice compression for mobile phones patents

    etc
    etc
    etc

    All of the above are routinely implemented both in "pure software" on general purpose computers and as specialized hardware chips in consumer gadgets

     

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  29.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    "Here's an unusual question for this forum: Who said the role or purpose or motivation for the patent process is to foster innovation?"
    that's kinda the point of the outrage over shitty patents that foster monopolistic tendencies in businesses.

    And besides, the rhetoric from the other side always says that more patents == more innovation.

    "Face it, even is somebody somewhere gets money, some nut is going to complain how it offends their sensibilities."
    its not bad to make money, it is bad to make sure noone else can make money.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re: Here we go again, little punks

    Angry dude is a troll. Tonight he feasts well.

     

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  31.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    and yet people like me who use Linux can't "legally" use mp3's. i haven't paid the licensing fee nor has the distro i use. (thankfully, most of my library is ogg now).
    Software patents hurt the software industry more than it helps. and proprietary software companies can easily use baseless software patents to harm, hinder, or destroy open source projects.

    Basically, software patents will kill the software industry if it isn't fixed soon.

     

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  32.  
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    MRK, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re:

    A good specific example I can give is the fast inverse square algorithm used by id software. This software could be patented, and it is very short, really just a number. A number! How can that be valid? IMHO It is certainly innovative, and is narrow in scope. someone else is welcome to come up with their own fast inverse square algorithm, but bit shifting with 0x5f375a86 is taken. The use of the number 0x5f375a86 is the key here to make it a novel invention.

    more on it here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/0x5f375a86#History_and_investigation

    It was also recently featured in the popular comic XKCD.
    http://www.xkcd.com/664/

     

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  33.  
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    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Here we go again, little punks

    A patent troll

    Any punk can be a troll, but not a patent troll

     

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  34.  
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    Richard Corsale, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Except that all compression algorithms are... primarily algorithms they actually exemplify why software should be explicitly excluded from patent eligibility.

     

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  35.  
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    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Huh ???

    I guess you can call your iphone or pocket mp player "just an algorithm" and demand that they should be free for free-loving punks like you

    To the rest of us, normal folks, they are hardware gadgets

     

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  36.  
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    Richard, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:28am

    Re:

    what about literature??

    Can you patent writing and publishing these algorithms? Because the reality is that software does not transform a computer into another device. It's not as mysterious as it was thought to be in the mid 90's.. it's little more than interactive literature. I say this as an owner of a software company, and an independent developer.

    I'm utterly shocked that Mike thinks software should be patent eligible??? Why not write your own article in defense of software patents Mike?

     

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  37.  
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    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:35am

    Read it again

    http://www.ipjur.com/01.php3

    Software per se (as text) is NOT patent-eligible

    It's functionality is

     

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  38.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    Here's an unusual question for this forum: Who said the role or purpose or motivation for the patent process is to foster innovation?

    The founders of our country and the creators of the patent system.

    "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."

    Note the opening.

     

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  39.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Software patents

    Right on, Michael! As a patent attorney, I am an advocate, not a decision maker. As such, if I am told to apply for a software patent I will likely comply (it's also likely that I will recommend that my client look for another attorney, but that does not, in itself, absolve me from my duty to advocate for my client).
    On a personal note, I am totally against software patents, since, to me, they are mathematical algorithms (or, at least, "mere products of the human mind"). I am "conditionally" against computer hardware patents - I can imagine hardware that would qualify, such as the Von Neumann structure, but I have not seen it in modern times.

     

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  40.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 10:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "free loving punks"

    love the open mindedness there. nice to know you are all for other people thinking differently from you.

    You like the idea of Big Brother in 1984, didn't you? Didn't see anything wrong with it in fact.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    staff, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 10:18am

    house

    Yes, let's do away with all property ownership. What's you home address? I'll move in this weekend.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Mikey's property

    I've been asking Mikey for a while when he is going to release his domain name "techdirt.com" - an IP his shitty company owns , a simpl and obvious combination of 2 English words, but the SOB owns it !!!

    His usual answer is some bullshit he preeches about scares goodies vs abundant ones

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 11:05am

    Re: Software patents

    Dude

    what's your registration number ?

     

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

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Here we go again, little punks

    Yes I have heard of the Turing Machine -- its a hypothetical thought experiment of a machine that could never be built with transition rules (i.e. software) specifying what it does. Now please complete the thought and tell us how this hypothetical thought experiment relates to the subject at hand.

     

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

  45.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's "free" as in beer, punky

     

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

  46.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Re:

    Conversely, who says getting around patents or essentially making them useless is not more innovative than doing a little riff on something that exists? In other words, who's more lazy and unimaginative?

    That's also been discussed here.

     

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

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Haha

    Looks like AD has crawled out from under his rock.

     

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

  48.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 3:42pm

    Inventor Community

    Perhaps the inventor community should raise funds to purchase tents and other supplies for the homeless along with free transportation for the less fortunate to patent socialists homes. We should do PR and place an organizer on site.

    The owner should make their facilities available to the indigent. They should open their pantries for the less fortunate.

    This would be a great media opportunity. Lets discuss who the lucky SOB should be and get cracking.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  49.  
    icon
    anymouse (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 4:00pm

    How about 'hardcore' patents, think patenting reproduction would be possible?

    You wouldn't think so, but apparently if you are really creative you can....

    "As of February 2005, Monsanto has patent claims on breeding techniques for pigs which would grant them ownership of any pigs born of such techniques and their related herds. Greenpeace claims Monsanto is trying to claim ownership on ordinary breeding techniques.[9] Monsanto claims that the patent is a defensive measure to track animals from its system. They furthermore claim their patented method uses a specialized insemination device that requires less sperm than is typical."

    This from the same company who patented Soybeans (Roundup Ready that are resistant to roundup) and uses it's patents to put poor farmers and seed recovery firms out of business. Farmers aren't even allowed to plant the seeds they have grown, they have to purchase new seed from Monsanto every year (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto).

    When patents prevent the growing of plants and the reproduction of animals, you know something is SERIOUSLY messed up in the system, and it goes to show that there is really no reason for these patents. Does anyone honestly believe that people wouldn't plant soybeans or breed pigs if these patents didn't exist? Did these patents promote the progress of anything, or were they only used to pressure smaller companies and individuals?

    Now for a message from out Sponsor:
    Reynolds Wrap makes the best tinfoil hats around, you just can't beat the durability and alien-ray blocking quality of Reynolds Wrap (I have to disclose that I was once given a roll of Reynolds Wrap by the company, so my opinions may be a little biased).

     

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

  50.  
    identicon
    Sandro, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 5:12pm

    Re:

    Software and hardware are economically different, that is, the former does not suffer scarcity while the latter does because it requires raw materials and machines to process those materials into a final product. Also, the marginal cost of production of material goods is non-zero which is not the case for software.

    Patents are good for hardware because research in physical goods requires significant investment in raw materials, machinery, etc. What capital is required to write software? A $300 computer from Walmart will do. The low startup costs and zero marginal cost of production is why progress in software is so rapid as compared to other fields (look how far we've come in 20 years and compare to other industries).

    The economics of the two goods is so drastically different it amazes me that anyone thinks they can be treated the same, particularly in regards to patents.

     

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

  51.  
    identicon
    gwenhwyfaer, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:16pm

    Re: Yes software is the same as hardware

    "- All literature is just paragraphs
    - All paragraphs are just words
    - Therefore all literature is just words, and
    - Words isn't patentable"

    Er, literature *isn't* patentable, at least not yet, and for pretty much precisely those reasons (with better grammar). In general, the mechanism we have for protecting creative works is copyright; how well that works is a whole other debate, but at its core is the recognition that form is everything - that there is no physical product, as such, being produced, other than as a medium to convey that form.

    Patents exist to cover the place where creativity meets physicality. An inventor who creates a new device, who realises a new way of automating some task, has not created a work which exists wholly in form; the essence of his creation is its function, and unlike form, function is not protected by copyright. Hence, patents sought to extend the same protection to function (because I should derive a share of any profit from my talent, I get a veto on any use of my mechanism) as copyright extends to form (because I should derive a share of any profit from my talent, I get a veto on any use of my creation). And when it cost money to reproduce a creation or a mechanism - so nobody would actually do it if there weren't profit to turn - that made all kinds of sense.

    Unfortunately, when copying (whether mechanism or creation) becomes free, those underlying assumptions need to be thrown out of the window, in favour of revisiting the basic principle: that a creator is entitled to a share of profits made from his creation, and to be identified as the creator. But I cannot accept that a creator should be entitled to prevent or veto the dissemination of his creation. In a world of zero-cost duplication and publication, it isn't practical; but given how completely the progress of civilisation has depended on the free dissemination of knowledge and invention, it was arguably never moral. It was only ever expedient, and expendiency never makes good law... even if the flaws only show up hundreds of years down the line, when an underlying assumption changes and fractures the whole damned edifice.

     

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

  52.  
    icon
    The Mad Hatter (profile), Dec 4th, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Patents are good for hardware because research in physical goods requires significant investment in raw materials, machinery, etc. What capital is required to write software? A $300 computer from Walmart will do. The low startup costs and zero marginal cost of production is why progress in software is so rapid as compared to other fields (look how far we've come in 20 years and compare to other industries).
    This is incorrect. The cost of development for most "inventions" is about the same as the cost of software development. In places where patents are weak, such as China, you see the most amazing hardware developments. In places like North America where patents are strong, you see very little in the way of hardware development, except from a few large companies, who are able to fight patent infringement suits.

     

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


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