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Patents The Courts Politics

IEEE Supports Software Patents In Wake of Bilski 122

Posted by timothy
from the they're-going-to-hell-for-that dept.
Mark Atwood points out this critical commentary on the IEEE's response to the outcome of In Re. Bilski, which points out the contrast between work done by IEEE luminaries like Donald Knuth and lobbying for software patents.
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IEEE Supports Software Patents In Wake of Bilski

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  • speaking of knuth (Score:4, Interesting)

    by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @04:53PM (#32750044) Journal

    Where is today's huge breakthrough announcement?

  • somehow i cant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @04:56PM (#32750072) Homepage
    imagine donald, with all the work hes put into latex and the public opinions hes made related to open source and copyright law, will take this laying down.

    the "if you dont follow the community we'll just do it ourselves" threat is very real.
    • Nice point. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:16PM (#32750258) Homepage Journal

      Donald Knuth, and many of the other top names from IEEE, have name-brand power comparable to the IEEE itself. A split is not entirely impossible. If that happens (and in all seriousness, I expect the announcement to be at least a threat of a split) and the rival has reasonable policies and ethics, it will likely capture a fair chunk of the income and PR of the IEEE. (Hell, I've seen arXiv mentioned more in the popular press than the IEEE.) That could cause a serious disturbance in the Force, not to mention a serious disturbance in boardrooms, where there's a heavy reliance on political leverage to get things done. It's extremely difficult to manipulate crusaders - it can be done, but the RIAA and MPAA don't have that kind of Machiavellian skill.

      • by lakeland (218447)

        Given that ACM continue to oppose software patents, that seems an easy place to start.

    • somehow i cant imagine donald, with all the work hes put into latex and the public opinions hes made related to open source and copyright law, will take this laying down.

      1) Donald Knuth doesn't work on LaTeX. He works on TeX.
      2) The IEEE has never been against software patents. So why do you suddenly think this statement is going to be some sort of tipping point?

    • by Tolkien (664315)
      tex, not latex.
  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @04:58PM (#32750098) Homepage
    The IEEE may consider itself and its most influential members to be among those who gain from the Bilski ruling and software patents, but here's my top ten list of losers [blogspot.com]:
    1. 1. The free software and open source communities [blogspot.com]
    2. 2. Software patent abolitionists [blogspot.com]
    3. 3. Small and medium-sized companies who can't or don't want to play the patent game [blogspot.com]
    4. 4. The proponents of bogus treatments: Linux Foundation, Open Invention Network etc. [blogspot.com]
    5. 5. The Patent Absurdity movie [blogspot.com]
    6. 6. Red Hat [blogspot.com]
    7. 7. Google's foray into new markets (Android, WebM) [blogspot.com]
    8. 8.Salesforce.com (Marc Benioff) [blogspot.com]
    9. 9. The "captive court" theory [blogspot.com]
    10. 10. IBM's open source credibility [blogspot.com]

    It was kind of surprising to see on Twitter that not only open source advocates such as Steven Vaughan-Nichols and Brian Proffitt considered that list a good summary but also ACT, a lobby organization that supports software patents all the way (we lobbied against each other several times). But ACT pointed out that they didn't agree with all I wrote. That didn't surprise me.

    • by jgrahn (181062) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:30PM (#32750380)

      The IEEE may consider itself and its most influential members to be among those who gain from the Bilski ruling and software patents, but here's my top ten list of losers:
      1. The free software and open source communities
      2. Software patent abolitionists
      3. Small and medium-sized companies who can't or don't want to play the patent game
      4. The proponents of bogus treatments: Linux Foundation, Open Invention Network etc.
      5. The Patent Absurdity movie
      6. Red Hat
      7. Google's foray into new markets (Android, WebM)
      8.Salesforce.com (Marc Benioff)
      9. The "captive court" theory
      10. IBM's open source credibility

      You forgot us normal programmers, free software guys or not. Who wants to come up with a neat design, get himself or his company into trouble for it, and be forced to go back and tear out that neat design again?

      • You forgot us normal programmers, free software guys or not. Who wants to come up with a neat design, get himself or his company into trouble for it, and be forced to go back and tear out that neat design again?

        That's because Mueller doesn't give 2 shits about normal programmers, or free software, except when it's convenient for him. Remember, he tried to pull a McBride on Oracle [cnet.com] to get them to cave into the crybaby former owner of MySql (the money lost in delaying the Oracle rescue of Sun is that much mo

        • Why not blame RMS for the 3000 jobs lost? He too opposed Oracle getting control of MySQL.
          • by tomhudson (43916)

            Why not blame RMS for the 3000 jobs lost? He too opposed Oracle getting control of MySQL.

            Good point. RMS also has to bear some of the blame.

  • No win, No loose (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stanlyb (1839382) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:02PM (#32750144)
    It appears that the case is: No one won, No one lost. Which is good for our copyleft cause, because for the first time in USA patent history, the judge questions the whole nasty patent troll system, and who knows, maybe there will some positive change? Or with other words: I have a dream, a world, without war.......and software patents.
    • I wish I could agree that the ruling is at least a draw, but unfortunately I can't. It clearly favors an expansive patent system, assuming that new technologies must fall within the scope of patentable subject matter unless there's legislation that sets limits (mentioned in this analysis [blogspot.com], for an example). Such legislation is a long shot to say the least, given the lobbying power of all those favoring software patents.

      Through my work on the NoSoftwarePatents campaign (which I founded and managed until 2005)

      • Make no mistake about it folks - Muller/Mueller is a shill.

        This is the same lobbyist who helped delay the Oracle rescue of Sun. The delay cost 3,000 additional jobs over and above the 6,000 that were originally slated [cnet.com].

        This is the same lobbyist who is trying to pull a Darl McBride on IBM for Turbo Hercules [slushdot.com] - and who "complained to the establishment" when slashdotters down-modded his bullsh*t.

        This is the same lobbyist who is now threatening to "expose" groklaw [slushdot.com] because astroturfers got the boot.

        His latest lie? He's now saying that I've claimed he's a Microsoft shill. I've never said anything one way or another on that topic. His tin-foil hat is too tight - or he can't keep his lies straight.

        He's no friend of the community.

        This court ruling was a win. To say this:

        It clearly favors an expansive patent system, assuming that new technologies must fall within the scope of patentable subject matter unless there's legislation that sets limits

        flies against reality.

        So why does Mueller continue to lie and spread fud? It's what he does - he's a lobbyist. Not a programmer.

        • > This court ruling was a win.

          How so? The lower court wanted to force patents to be put through the "particular machine or transformation" test. The Supremes said, well, sure THIS patent is too abstract... but we're not sure about that test. So we'll make a narrow ruling and discourage people from using that test, which could be used to eliminate software patents wholesale, unless they can start convincing the courts to buy trivial "transformations" like the hard drives doing their thing.

          In short, nob

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            The court said that, at the very least, most "business methods" shouldn't be patentable. That's a big win.

            So we'll make a narrow ruling

            That's what courts do. They don't have a mandate to rule beyond the scope of the case before them. The people arguing their case (for either side) don't have the obligation of addressing anything outside the scope of their case either - that would be an unconstitutional burden. So it is what it is, and we got what we needed.

            In short, nobody got what they wanted,

            How so?

            • > Also, Muller's not against software patents. All the DPL does is create even more problems. It's stupid. Let me rephrase that - the Defensive Patent License is REALLY stupid. It's like trying to fix a site with too much flash by adding even more flash, or trying to clean up spaghetti code by adding even more spaghetti code.

              No, see, that's a strategy for dealing with them if they become reality (just like the GPL helps us deal with the reality of an out-of-control copyright system). Is it horrible to m

              • by tomhudson (43916)

                The software patent issue is a temporary problem. As the nature of software changes, the most advanced software will eventually become unpatentable for reasons that have nothing to do with laws - but that's 20 years down the road.

                Lets look at a more immediate case - .h264 codec patents. They might have a "patent pool life" of 20 years, but they only have a "shelf life" of 10 - because 10 years from now, we'll be able to stream uncompressed 1920x1080x32bitx120hz streams in real time, using only non-loss

                • > The software patent issue is a temporary problem.

                  The specific patents may be temporary. I don't see the problem going away unless we kill software patents at the root. I really hope we do, though!

                  > but they only have a "shelf life" of 10 - because 10 years from now, we'll be able to stream uncompressed 1920x1080x32bitx120hz streams in real time, using only non-lossy, non-patented compression schemes.

                  Are you saying that we'll be using current schemes when the patents expire and better hardware, or

                  • by tomhudson (43916)

                    Are you saying that we'll be using current schemes when the patents expire and better hardware, or new schemes (which they'll patent if they can)?

                    There's no need for compression at high enough data rates, and we'll be there within the decade. The local cable co has spent the last decade running fibre everywhere.

                    This is why I'm against "fair compulsory licensing" - by removing the pain, it takes away the incentive to develop alternatives, it takes away the incentive to adopt alternatives, and it encourag

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      It appears that the case is: No one won, No one lost.

      Wrong, the Supreme Court left the door to software patents open and as long as software patents are allowed individual programmers, open source projects, small businesses, on up to medium businesses loses. The only ones to win are the mega-corporations that have the resources, money, to patent everything they can which they can then cross-license to other mega-corporations.

      Falcon

  • lol Roy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:09PM (#32750194)

    Do people still take Roy seriously? Have people really fallen for his lame rebranding of his site?

    As an aside this was amusing quote:

    The disparity between these views of Knuth (creator of LaTeX, which is Free software)

    Sorry, buddy, but Knuth created TeX. LaTeX was created by Leslie Lamport.

  • Well, that's it; I'm going to have to cancel my long-standing IEEE membership. I encourage the rest of you to do the same.

    • Your canceling your membership based on a FUD story by Roy Schestowitz? You do realize that IEEE hasn't had a problem with software patents for pretty much forever, right?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        the original source may be biased, but the press release cited is real and states IEEE-USA is pleased that software patents have been upheld.
        • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

          but the press release cited is real and states IEEE-USA is pleased that software patents have been upheld.

          And that's news, how? IEEE has never been against software patents.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jedidiah (1196)

            It might not be news to you personally but there still may be a few people out there that need clued in.

            If the PTO worked as it was supposed to, software patents would be far less of a problem.
            However, that isn't the case and we have to deal with the highly non-ideal PTO and courts
            that we actually have.

            This is a classic case of the disconnect between theory and practice.

      • and to elaborate, not being against software patents and being for software patents are two very different things.
        • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

          and to elaborate, not being against software patents and being for software patents are two very different things.

          Since when has IEEE not been for software patents? They even brag [ieee.org] about how they get cited in more patents than ACM.

          • Maybe they've always been dicks, but we haven't been reminded of it in at least a while, and IEEE has brought that back to our attention. ASCAP have been dicks for a while, but the recent call for donations against CC, EFF, and Public Knowledge has reminded us that they are dicks and has pissed us off.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by XanC (644172)

        Please quit spamming this forum about this not being news.

        You seem to be arguing that there is no such thing as a last straw, a tipping point. You seem to assume that everybody knows everything about IEEE's positions and history. You seem to believe that it's illogical for people to react to an organization doing something that they disagree with.

        None of these are necessarily true. We're glad to hear that your opinion of IEEE was already so fully formed, but please let the rest of us react as we will.

        • Please quit spamming this forum about this not being news.

          So pointing out facts to counter Roy's FUD is now spamming? Really?

          • by XanC (644172)

            I haven't seen one fact from you, although maybe I missed it. What I have seen is you replying to three or four posts, exclaiming that the news isn't news, and that the poster should just not have bothered. You even copied and pasted the same thing you wrote earlier into a new comment at least once.

            • I haven't seen one fact from you, although maybe I missed it.

              Yeah, cause posting things from IEEE themselves on their stance to software patents clearly aren't facts.

              What I have seen is you replying to three or four posts, exclaiming that the news isn't news, and that the poster should just not have bothered.

              It isn't news. IEEE's stance on software patents is pretty well-known by anyone who has had any significant experience with them.

              You even copied and pasted the same thing you wrote earlier into a new comment at least once.

              No, I haven't. I posted the same link to IEEE twice, but that's not the same thing.

              • by XanC (644172)

                They aren't facts that contradict anything from TFA, which was your contention.

                Basically your point is that nobody can have an opinion on this if they didn't have one a year ago, and my contention is that you can cram it.

                • Basically your point is that nobody can have an opinion on this if they didn't have one a year ago, and my contention is that you can cram it.

                  No, that's not my point at all. Lovely strawman though.

                  • This is news. IEEE has made an announcement about how they feel about the Bilski decision. It isn't surprising for those well versed in the IEEE's stance on patents, but many are not well versed.
      • You do realize that IEEE hasn't had a problem with software patents for pretty much forever, right?

        That is the problem, the IEEE does not disavow software patents. With software patents allowed all of those who do not have the big war chests to patent anything and everything loses. Only mega-corporations are safe.

        Falcon

        • Mega corporations are mostly in favour of patents only because they still think they can get laws introduced to limit damages and prevent complete sales injunctions ... at which point it might really be in their favour. They really don't like paying 100's of millions of dollars every time the Texas jackpot falls again though.

          At the moment only the patent trolls and the lawyers always benefit from patent law, they have nothing to fear from patent war chests ...

    • by hax4bux (209237)

      You go ahead, mine will remain intact.

    • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:58PM (#32750680)

      When they started publisinhg so many papers on watermarking and other forms of DRM I realized that the IEEE is no longer an institute of Engineers.

      It has become now an institute of the electronics industry.

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I let my IEEE membership expire way back around 2000, long before this software patent controversy came up. I just didn't see what I was getting for the money, except a pretty magazine.

  • by ivoras (455934) <(ivoras) (at) (fer.hr)> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:23PM (#32750310) Homepage
    Any organization which is as openly against open access to scientific articles (journals, conference proceedings) yet continues to wave its clout as IEEE does deserves to die out in infamy.
  • The IEEE-USA, i.e., the United States branch of the IEEE, has in the past lobbied against visas for high-tech workers. They seem to like rather reactionary policies. I long dropped my membership for that very reason. The ACM and USENIX are much better anyway.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:41PM (#32750496)

    Who writes that crap blog?

    Here is the actual IEEE press release:

    http://www.ieeeusa.org/communications/releases/2010/062910.asp [ieeeusa.org]

    They basically complain that there's still no clear litmus test for patentability because the decision was to vague on the definition of what constitutes "too abstract".

    -- Terry

  • by ScientiaPotentiaEst (1635927) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:45PM (#32750550)

    Like so many large established organizations, the IEEE seemingly no longer exists to represent their individual members - but more to increase the need for its own existence. Quite a few years ago, I wrote them to relinquish my membership. One particular objection I stated (among a couple of others) is their heavy promotion of professional certification (the exams of which they would administer, naturally).

    It seems to me that they want to become a guild or "engineering bar association". Even were they to grandfather existing members, I oppose such additional gates. They are nothing but protectionist - increasing barriers to entry without adding much societal value. It is clear to me that their support of software patents continues this trend.

    (PS: Lest it seem like I'm frightened of "missing the academic boat", I have a Master's degree in Computer Science with many supporting courses in Electrical Engineering and Space Dynamics - along with 30 years experience in developing e.g. guidance systems & firmware).

    • by XanC (644172)

      Thanks, you've given me some more fodder for my own cancellation letter.

    • by PPH (736903)

      There already exists a system of professional licensing in the states. The IEEE doesn't have much to do with certification or licensing standards. Whether or not they want to get involved in this aea is an interesting question. A number of companies I've delt with tend to send their 'second string' engineers to IEEE conferences (they don't want competitors picking the brains of key people, let alone knowing who's working on what). The IEEE's membership standards aren't that great. And the state PE licensin

  • what the heck IEEE has anything to do with software stuff. They should stick to circuits, devices, CAD and systems, where their strength really is. The Red/Yelllow/White and Violet Journals are still among the most prestigious publications in the electrical engineering field.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @06:02PM (#32750738)

    I oppose patents, as currently implemented in the U.S., for the same reason I oppose our legal code: There are so many patents / laws, that no one can be confident that he's in full compliance.

    This means that for all practical purposes, the patent system and the U.S. legal code are ex post facto systems: it's a big trap, just waiting for {well-funded patent attorney} / {prosecutor with an axe to grind} to come after you. In both systems this is compounded by the system permitting patent applications / laws to be so vaguely worded that they could easily cover implementations / situations never precisely anticipated by their author.

    Also, in both systems, an innocent person can be bankrupted, or be forced to settle, simply because of the legal cost.

    In summary, both of these systems are significant sources of injustice, enacted by a legislature with little self-control.

    • I oppose patents, as currently implemented in the U.S., for the same reason I oppose our legal code: There are so many patents / laws, that no one can be confident that he's in full compliance.

      This means that for all practical purposes, the patent system and the U.S. legal code are ex post facto systems: it's a big trap, just waiting for {well-funded patent attorney} / {prosecutor with an axe to grind} to come after you.

      That's not what "ex post facto" means. Furthermore, every patent is published, in a freely searchable database.

      In summary, both of these systems are significant sources of injustice, enacted by a legislature with little self-control.

      The first patent act was written in 1790, three years after the Constitution was written. I don't think it really departs from the founding father's intent, considering they were all involved in it. Thomas Jefferson was even the first patent examiner.

      • by chichilalescu (1647065) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @06:43PM (#32751122) Homepage Journal
        As I understand it, there's someone saying there are so many patents / laws that no one can be sure not to break them; you're saying that everyone is free to read those patents / laws, so this is not an issue. I remember that some time ago there was a story about some contracts (some company and their customers) that were written so that normal people couldn't really read them, and a judge decided the contract was void because of this. And I don't see a reason why someone should own an idea, just because he had it first. so what? subsequent discoveries of the same idea are still because someone worked for it. Today you can't claim patents help because someone steals ideas to claim as their own; there's arxiv for proving that you did what you did. My personal belief is that we are passed the point in human history where the concept of "intellectual property" is of any use. The thing is that today, if someone proves their worth as an inventor / programmer / artist / whatever, they will most likely be able to find at least a decently paid job, if not grants or something similar. It might take time, it might be problematic, but the only stable solution to the fact that information is so cheap will be to give up the idea of ownership of information.
      • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @07:29PM (#32751500)

        every patent is published, in a freely searchable database.

        But is the source code published? A searchable database doesn't mean much if the searcher can't see how something was done. If more than one person creates a product that does X but they do it in different ways, it's too bad for those who do not get to the patent office in tyme to file a patent.

        The first patent act was written in 1790, three years after the Constitution was written. I don't think it really departs from the founding father's intent, considering they were all involved in it. Thomas Jefferson was even the first patent examiner.

        Two things here. One is that even when Thomas Jefferson was patent examiner a working copy was required so that the average professional in the industry could duplicate what was being patented. I doubt the compleat source code for software patents is included though. And two, software already enjoys copyrights. And even those copyrights don't include the compleat source code. According to Copyright Witness [copyrightwitness.com] only the first 25 pages of source code is needed.

        Falcon

        • But is the source code published? A searchable database doesn't mean much if the searcher can't see how something was done.

          It's a pretty terrible programmer who thinks a flow chart is unclear, and needs source code to see how something was done. Why, it's almost as if they want to copy and paste that source code, rather than writing their own from the flow chart!
          Wait, what's your point?

          If more than one person creates a product that does X but they do it in different ways, it's too bad for those who do not get to the patent office in tyme to file a patent.

          Oh... Your point is that if I invent a new way of doing X and I code it in C++, you should be able to copy it in C# and claim that you're not infringing, even though you only copied and pasted my source code into a compiler. Well, I can certainl

          • Troll

            Falcon

          • > Why, it's almost as if they want to copy and paste that source code, rather than writing their own from the flow chart!

            You'd almost think that the purpose of a patent was to enable people skilled in the art to make the disclosed invention, rather than for patent lawyers to make money.

            • You'd almost think that the purpose of a patent was to enable people skilled in the art to make the disclosed invention, rather than for patent lawyers to make money.

              A flow chart and accompanying description is certainly enough disclosure to enable people skilled in the art to write software that follows the flow chart. People skilled in the art wouldn't need source code also. Complaining that you can't understand a flow chart as a reason that software patents should be invalid is like complaining that you, a programmer, can't read a genetic sequence chart and so therefore all pharmaceutical patents should be invalid, or that you can't read an exploded diagram, so all m

              • Yeah, well those flow charts sometimes look a little like this [annieinfinite.com].

                And you never answered the question: how many patents have you ever actually attempted to implement from the description?

                Or maybe I should just reverse course and say that any patent lawyer who doesn't understand the Curry-Howard correspondence is incompetent? It shows that all software is a mathematical formula. And no, the president of IEEE-USA's amicus brief did NOT do anything but hand wave the response to that. His reply was on the orde

                • Yeah, well those flow charts sometimes look a little like this [annieinfinite.com].

                  Huh. See, that's a cartoon, not a patent application. I know you meant that as a joke, but if that's your evidence that patents are confusing to "one of ordinary skill in the art", then it's not very convincing.

                  And you never answered the question: how many patents have you ever actually attempted to implement from the description?

                  Didn't realize you even asked that, since it wasn't in your post, just the subject line. In any case, dozens. Possibly as many as a hundred.

                  Or maybe I should just reverse course and say that any patent lawyer who doesn't understand the Curry-Howard correspondence is incompetent? It shows that all software is a mathematical formula.

                  That's not so much "reversing course" as "completely changing tracks". See, you were previously arguing about 35 USC 112. Now, all of a sudden, you've abandoned

                  • > See, you were previously arguing about 35 USC 112. Now, all of a sudden, you've abandoned that argument and are instead arguing about 35 USC 101.

                    You could have just said "enablement" and "patentable subject matter," but you were trying to show off and talk down to us, right? No, I won't believe you if you try to tell me all lawyers talk that way. Ray Beckerman doesn't. You were a jerk to him, too.

                    > Since that seems to be a horrible mischaracterization of his comments, I'm going to have to say [Ci

                    • Considering that I've managed to work on everything from zinc fingers to electronics to numerical analysis, I'm not really that impressed that you can manage more than one technical domain.

                      Did you also manage to get to the gym in 26 minutes? Or get rated an 8.9 on Hot or Not?

                      Sorry, but with all of the substantive stuff you clipped out of my post so that you could cherry pick your responses, there's really nothing left in your post to address. I don't play the "let's respond to trolls honestly and fully" game ever since I got bitten by Ray Beckerman- sorry, MISTER Beckerman- and his "I'm not responding to anyone who doesn't properly suck up to me" attitude.

                    • Here's the amicus brief [groklaw.net] written by the IEEE-USA president Professor Lee A. Hollaar. I direct your attention to footnote #28, which reads in relevant part:

                      It is unfortunate for purposes here that the early developers of programming language made their calculation-and-assignment statements look like mathematical equations so that they would seem familiar to scientists and engineers. But the common programming statement I = I + 1, which increments the value stored at location I, is essentially nonsense as a

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There are so many patents / laws, that no one can be confident that he's in full compliance. ...and the reason there are so many patents is because the idea of IP is fundamentally flawed.

      The problem as I see it reduces to this:

      The ultimate standard for a trivial extension to an existing idea is whether two individuals independently think of the extension.

      This is almost always the case, so almost everything is trivial.

      The reason why average joe programmer or small business runs into these practices is precis

  • ... become of IEEE. I EEEEEE.

  • .. get FUCKED! Because over the last 25 years, software patents have done nothing but FUCK this industry completey!
  • I've made a start on documenting IEEE-USA's take on software patents. Help sought:

    swpat.org is a publicly editable wiki, help welcome.

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