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Software Patent Reform Happening Now 130

Posted by timothy
from the advancing-the-useful-arts-and-sausages dept.
Jim Hall writes "Many of us in IT recognize that software patents are a bad idea — you can patent just about anything if you put "on a computer" at the end of it. But now we can finally do something about it. Congress is considering the America Invents Act — your Representatives are very interested in hearing from you. Also, the USPTO is inviting public comments to change the system (you need to file by June 29, 2011.) I've written a blog post about software patents with more, starting with a primer of copyright and patents."
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Software Patent Reform Happening Now

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the same legislature that has basically extended copyrights indefinitely, I'm sure this will end well

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The sad fact is that extending copyrights basically hurts nobody with money. Ensuring Micky Mouse is perpetually in copyright only harms the public domain and the insults the various founding principles of America.

      Patents on the other hand, do harm people with money, and worse, patent trolls ensure that everyone is at huge risk. Thus change will happen.

      It is depressing that, as a highly trained engineer, my patents have less monetary value to society than the latest Justin Bieber garbage. If society had to

      • IMHO - the best thing would be to say lifetime of patents == lifetime of copyrights

        Apologists might rationalize the shorter patent term thus: Unlike patents, copyrights in theory have an independent creation defense. Proving an allegation of copyright infringement involves proving that the alleged infringer had at some time had access to a copy or performance of the plaintiff's work. This theoretical defense does break down, however, in the case of musical works played over radio and over loudspeaker systems in grocery stores, where someone can effectively force access to a work on someon

  • Can't be worse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FoolishBluntman (880780) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:08PM (#36481610)
    So write your congress critter now and tell them to scrap software patents!
    • Re:Can't be worse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jim Hall (2985) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:14PM (#36481658) Homepage

      Yes. As cheesy as it sounds, your voice does matter.

      Seriously, call their office, write them a letter (handwritten carries the most impact, but typed will do), or visit them in their office. Ask your Representative and/or Senator to push for "software" patent reform. Have some examples of "software" patents handy, and feel free to make a suggestion for how to fix the system. I think the citizen review [blogspot.com] method is a workable option. I've been discussing this topic with Sen. Franken's office for a while now, so if you don't have a particular suggestion to offer, ask your Senator to see what Sen. Franken is up to. I'm not kidding, they do listen to comments like that.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      How about get them to write a better bill

      The thing is utterly horrible. Issuance of support of this bill will in fact, not help the software patent situation at all. [techdirt.com] I hope people realize that. We need software patents to go away and guess what? This bill isn't it. It's a doublespeak bill.

      So yes, please send to your congresscritters, who will ignore your pleas, water down the bill more, and make the only substantial thing it does be enable first to file which will fuck over people who don't file patents be

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Oh it can be made worse : there was a plan to replace the "first to invent" rule by the "first to file for a patent". I'm not even making this up. I don't know how this could be considered a good idea.
      • by Jim Hall (2985)

        By the way, "First to File" is part of the America Invents Act.

        And yes, "First to File" is really stupid. Fortunately, many Representatives (who are about to vote on AIA) also think "First to File" is a Bad Idea. But they need to hear from their constituents, or they won't fight it. And Reps do listen to their voters, and are especially open when they're about to vote on that topic.

        So does that convince you to contact your Representative about the AIA?

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)

          So does that convince you to contact your Representative about the AIA?

          Hell yeah but they answered "This is an American thing, stupid geek, you are living in Europe."

          • by Jim Hall (2985)

            Hell yeah but they answered "This is an American thing, stupid geek, you are living in Europe."

            I know you are joking (or trolling) but you should know that several EU countries are considering changing their patent system to be more like the US. So if you live in the EU, you should be concerned about what's happening to the US patent system, because you might be next.

  • No matter what should be done with software patents. What will be done is ensure the profits of the biggest lobbyist there, and that won't be abolish them, at best will make harder to non-lobbyist to fill them.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Defeatism is definitely the best route to positive change, well played!

    • Re:Should vs Will (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jim Hall (2985) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:28PM (#36481764) Homepage

      I don't believe this is really the case.

      It's true that politicians don't understand technology very well. They come from varied backgrounds, but rarely does that include IT. So they need people to explain technology topics in terms they can quickly understand. Otherwise, they'll listen to the people who are in their face most often - and that's usually the big lobbyists.

      Do some research on software patents before you talk to your Senator or Representative. I often bring up the progress bar patent [blogspot.com] (which expired just a few months ago.) Start with "You know when your computer boots up, or you're loading a web page on your browser? Notice that progress bar at the bottom of the screen? That's patented, and technically someone would have had to pay a license for that."

      Never fails to stun them into realizing that's stupid.

      I honestly believe that if enough people go to their Representatives RIGHT NOW and talk to them about software patent reform, they'll listen.

      • I often bring up the progress bar patent [blogspot.com] (which expired just a few months ago.) Start with "You know when your computer boots up, or you're loading a web page on your browser? Notice that progress bar at the bottom of the screen? That's patented, and technically someone would have had to pay a license for that."

        That is not the impression I get from reading the patent [uspto.gov], which is much more specific (and the patent claims the methods to accomplish this task. In fact, the patent doesn't even mention a bar, it mentions a rectangle of twenty characters, and the characters disappear in an unspecified order (but not necessarily linearly):

        The icon does not require a graphics display to be used and therefore can be used on both graphics and non-graphics displays. The icon of the prepared embodiment has five rows consisting of four percent (%) symbols surrounded by a border. At the beginning of a task, a task monitor quantifies the task into substantially equivalent task work units. All twenty "%" symbols are present and displayed to the user. When the task monitor determines that one task work unit has completed, one "%" symbol is replaced in the icon by a replacement character, such as a blank or null character. The replacement of one "%" symbol each time a task work unit completes continues until all of the "%" symbols are replaced, indicating 100% completion of the task. The order in which symbols inside the icon are replaced is determined by a pattern array and can be modified if desired. The symbols used inside the icon and for the border are selected to be available in virtually all languages, and can also be modified to meet the needs of a particular user.

        Granted, it still seems pretty trivial, though it was filed in 1989. The main problem is that it makes no sense for software patents to last 20 years from filing... that's an eternity and

  • It is not software patents itself that is a bad idea, it is that math (or anything else) is patentable just because it is executed on a computer that is a bad idea, which do cover many software patents.

    • No, software patents themselves are a bad idea.

      A software patent is a form of thought censorship: it means that there are certain ideas you're not allowed to think up and write down and exploit, even though it's entirely your idea and you came up with it on your own, just because someone you've never met has paid the government for it some time earlier. Worse, you don't even know you had a thoughtcrime until years later when you get sued for infringement.

      • by yuhong (1378501)

        That would be an argument for an independent invention defense.

        • Yes. An independent invention defense would be a good first step. The history of science is full of independent (re)discoveries of important ideas, and could be used as strong supporting evidence.
          • I would take it further. Independent invention should not only be a defense, but also proof of "obviousness". Hence the original patent is then nullified.
        • by kanweg (771128)

          The idea of a patent law is that people don't sit on their ideas and keep them secret. An independent inventor defense would be an incentive for a person NOT to learn what is already out there. Society benefits more if he DOES learn about other ideas. Both to incorporate in his own product to make it even more attractive (from which society benefits by getting better products) and give him new ideas.

          A couple of posts higher, I explain why a patent system is a good idea and software patents are a bad idea .

      • by kanweg (771128)

        The patent system is a trade-off. You don't want people to sit on their ideas. If half of the creative, thinking people don't want people to leech off their ideas without compensation, society loses a big part of the forward momentum.

        For software, the situation is different:
        - Developers don't sit on their ideas.
        - Ideas get stale quickly
        - Programs use a multitude of (networking, interface, manipulation of objects etc. etc.), so there's tons of opportunity to infringe (not so with a mechanical invention. If s

  • ...you can patent just about anything if you put "on a computer" at the end of it.

    That is by design. If that wasn't a separate patent, then Ikea could hold patents that affect HP devices.

    I'm not saying software patents are good, I'm strictly saying that the 'put computer at the end of it' rationale actually has some basis in reason.

    • by Jim Hall (2985)

      I'm not saying software patents are good, I'm strictly saying that the 'put computer at the end of it' rationale actually has some basis in reason.

      Okay, that's fair. But look at the examples I give, and tell me that doesn't seem like an abuse of the system. Honestly, assembling a flight plan on a computer [blogspot.com] is an example of going too far.

      • What you linked to is a 2001 patent for creating a flight planning system using the client system to generate the flight plan from data served on the internet and from radio signals the device is receiving. There are a lot of specifics in this patent that'd be easy to bypass. Assuming this didn't have any real prior art, I don't see what's not patentable from it. Seriously, all you'd need to do to avoid this patent is to use a custom app instead of a web browser.

        There's a reason patents are TLDR.

        • Yes, patents are often written to be overly broad. Sometimes that's a hedge against a later change in technology, so the patent still is applicable in some way. Other times, it's just to get the patent accepted - if it sounds hard, it must be "new", right?

          Richard Stallman wrote a great article about that once, about how they intentionally write these software patent applications to be obscure. I don't see it on my blog, [blogspot.com] so it must be queued for next week (I post one item a day.) Check back next week.

          But on

      • by evilviper (135110)

        There is tremendous abuse of software patents, just as there is of traditional patents.

        Let's turn the question around... Why should your innovative and novel idea be patentable when designed in a purely mechanical system, but NOT when it is upgraded to do most of the work in software?

        Should it be okay that the rom drive in your dvd player has a dozen patents on it, but the video and audio codecs have to be given away for free? If so, say goodbye to open audio and video formats like h.264 and he-aac+, beca

    • by PPH (736903)

      I think you're missing the point. The thing that is being patented is prior art or not novel. Computers and the Internet are also 'prior art' and their use for storing data, processing data by the application of algorithms, and transmitting data is in the public domain for the all encompassing set of things called data and/or algorithms. Simply taking a single existing (albeit inefficient) process or a particular type of data and putting it on a computer (even if doing so makes it practical) is not patenta

      • I would agree with you if integrating a computer into a solution was straightforward or even simple, but it's not. Try building the equivalent of a paper filing cabinet and copy machine out of assembly language, make sure to cover all of the use cases that would apply in that context. To fix your metaphor, it'd be like building a refrigerated truck while everybody else is using wheelbarrows.

        • by PPH (736903)

          It is straightforward. And pretty simple. First of all, nobody in their right mind would undertake such a task in assembly language. There are powerful SDKs, libraries and run time environments that make such a task childs play. I give you VB and its suite of tools together with all the barely competent programmers that still manage to foist 'usable' apps onto the user community as evidence.

          The problem (producing flight plans) is well defined and the client-server/Internet solution follows the prior art i

          • The point wasn't that SDK's aren't available, the point was that just attaching a computer to a problem is not simple or straight forward. Think about how the files and folders paradigm was built in the first place. It's not like you just bolt a computer on to something and it magically works, utilizing that processing power takes design, research, and development.

            Now, with that in mind, go read the patent.

            • by PPH (736903)

              And my point is that once the files and folders paradigm was developed for the general case (easy or not), extending the general case to one specific use of 'files and folders' is a trivial task. Even older, the client-server model existed long before the Internet. I worked with some apps using dial up connections.

              The obligatory bad car analogy: Back in the old days, farmers carried their produce to market with horse and wagon. Then, someone invents the pickup truck as a replacement for those. Now, the po

              • And my point is that once the files and folders paradigm was developed for the general case (easy or not), extending the general case to one specific use of 'files and folders' is a trivial task. Even older, the client-server model existed long before the Internet. I worked with some apps using dial up connections.

                You're talking about a generic model and not a specific implementation. Again, the actual process of hooking a computer into a particular business is not a straightforward or easy process. Computers are not magical devices that instantly make everything better. To illustrate, I'm going to fix your metaphor:

                Back in the old days, farmers carried their produce to market with horse and wagon. One farmer sees a Model T and thinks "hmm... that could make this heaps easier". So he buys a Model T, then he puts

                • by PPH (736903)

                  You're talking about a generic model and not a specific implementation.

                  But once the generic model has been developed (arguably the most difficult part) specific implementations drop out of the trees like over-ripe fruit.

                  Again, the actual process of hooking a computer into a particular business is not a straightforward or easy process.

                  Yes, it is. In spite of some well publicized failures, thousands of small and medium sized businesses moved from paper and filing cabinets to little icons of file folders on desktops without batting an eyelash (or hiring CS graduates). Those are all what we would call 'specific implementations'.

                  • But once the generic model has been developed (arguably the most difficult part) specific implementations drop out of the trees like over-ripe fruit.

                    They seem like that in hind-sight. Look at the year we're talking about.

                    In spite of some well publicized failures, thousands of small and medium sized businesses moved from paper and filing cabinets to little icons of file folders on desktops without batting an eyelash...

                    No they didn't. They ponied up cash to hire consultants to design it and get it all running, then they invested in people to maintain it. They didn't 'buy a faster truck', they flipped their businesses inside-out.

  • Software is just not a patent-able matter http://abstractionphysics.net/pmwiki/index.php [abstractionphysics.net]
    • And when you don't want to patent something you developed.... how do you keep someone else from prevent you from your own work with this shit about dumping inventor rights over first to file... Anyone want to go into the patent troll business?
      • by Jim Hall (2985)

        And when you don't want to patent something you developed.... how do you keep someone else from prevent you from your own work with this shit about dumping inventor rights over first to file... Anyone want to go into the patent troll business?

        (emphasis mine)

        And at least in my case, when I spoke to my Representative's office, they "got it" that "first to file" was a bad idea, and would lead to big problems later. I got the impression that "first to file" was (partly) the reason the America Invents Act has been held up for a vote. The Reps are actually arguing over that.

      • how do you keep someone else from prevent you from your own work

        Defensive publication. Google it if you want..

        with this shit about dumping inventor rights over first to file

        As I understand it, a switch from first-to-invent to first-to-file only affects conflicts of patent vs. patent, not patent vs. published prior art. An invention that is not novel would still be not patentable, and an invention described in a publication in the prior art would still be not novel.

  • They'll happily take your opinion but then do what the guy with the most money wants them to do.
    • by Kuruk (631552)
      Correct.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      In this case, I don't think so. They will likely ignore us if we ask for software patents to be completely abolished, however, there's big money on both sides of this one. Consequently, we can probably get things that are more beneficial for the part on the side of reducing the impact of software patents.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:32PM (#36481788)

    The RFC by the USPTO is limited in scope to restructuring the re-exam process for increased efficiency, quality, and throughput. Comments on this process will need to be framed by the current statute and case law built on the statute, because the USPTO cannot change the statute by itself. Instead, this is talking about changing internal procedure as well as possibly changing the regulations (37 CFR).

    • by Jim Hall (2985) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:38PM (#36481824) Homepage

      The RFC by the USPTO is limited in scope to restructuring the re-exam process for increased efficiency, quality, and throughput. Comments on this process will need to be framed by the current statute and case law built on the statute, because the USPTO cannot change the statute by itself. Instead, this is talking about changing internal procedure as well as possibly changing the regulations (37 CFR).

      Correct, and as pointed out in TFA:

      The USPTO seems open to considering this issue, and it is inviting public comments on a proposed rule to streamline patent reexamination proceedings (although you would need to file by June 29, 2011). See Docket No. PTO-P-2011-0018. As you probably know, the patent reexamination process allows a third party or an inventor to have a patent reexamined by a patent examiner to verify that the subject matter it claims is patentable. During patent reexaminations, trial proceedings may be put on hold if a judge agrees to wait for the outcome of the reexamination.

      Streamlining patent reexamination proceedings could help in software patent litigation by offering a quicker and more cost effective option for invalidating software patents awarded for obvious methods. Reexaminations have been increasing steadily in recent years, and claims in almost 75% of reexaminations have been either amended or canceled - whereas in courtrooms the majority of claims are decided in favor of the plaintiff patent holders.

      (emphasis mine) (TFA is mine too, actually)

      Maybe I should have made it clearer that I'm advocating two separate actions here:

      1. Contact your Representative and/or Senator about the America Invents Act, and talk to them about adding software patent reform.
      2. Respond to the USPTO's RFC to recommend streamlining the reexamination process. This isn't the ideal solution, but if the AIA can't get amended to include real software patent reform, then a procedural change with the USPTO can at least mitigate the damage.
      • Part of the problem, though, is that you really have to understand how re-exams work in order to provide substantive suggestions on how to streamline them. If you speak in generalities and try to grind an axe over software patents, I suspect your comments will find their way to the round file.

      • I'll write to my Rep. He's a Republican, so I'll put it in terms I think will resonate. Patents are government interference! Get the government out of my business!

        But I want to go much further than a mere bill. I want to remove the "exclusive" part of both patents and copyrights. No more monopolies. To do that would, I believe, require a constitutional amendment. I'd like to change to a permissive system, in which anyone can use anyone else's work without explicit permission, payment, or anything e

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I recommend the following process:

        Is it a patent over software? If so, throw patent in trash can then goto next patent.

        Just imagine how much time that would save.

  • This law will make things worse. Also, this will make it seem like a problem has been addressed, so getting the problem looked at again will take another 30 years.
  • >Your Representatives are very interested in hearing from you.

    No... no they're not.

    They are interested in how much money they can get from their campaign "donors" to vote one way or the other.

    --
    BMO

    • Re:Rrrrriiiight.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jim Hall (2985) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:57PM (#36481954) Homepage

      No... no they're not. They are interested in how much money they can get from their campaign "donors" to vote one way or the other.

      I call BS on that one. Have you actually talked to your Congressperson? They do want to hear from you.

      Maybe I'm lucky. I live in Minnesota, so I have Senator Al Franken: privacy [slashdot.org], net neutrality [slashdot.org]. I actually met him a few times, which is what got me interested in doing something about software patent reform. Al made a great comment to me: "It's your job (constituent) to tell me what's important, and my job (Senator) to go do something about that in Washington - but first you need to let me know what's important."

      And true to form, when I contacted his office, they listened to me. At my first contact, I spoke with the office's state director. Then I got to meet the constituent affairs person. That led to a conversation with the office's lead counsel on patent issues, and who works with Al on the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. [senate.gov] Everyone was very helpful, and very engaged with what I had to say. His office is the one that pointed out the USPTO RFC to me - I had missed it. (USPTO web site is hard to navigate.)

      Don't be defeatist with your "They are interested in how much money they can get from donors" attitude, and do something about it. On Slashdot, we've been bitching about software patent reform for years (and I have a low UID). Finally, now we have a window of opportunity. Don't lose it!

      • Re:Rrrrriiiight.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2011 @10:00PM (#36482308)

        This is true. I work for a Rep in the US House. And I've been talking to lots of people about this bill. Not too many constituents, though, which is too bad. Lots of business people from our state though. We do want to hear. Especially on bills like this, which are very technical. I'm having trouble offering a recommendation since this is a flawed bill with some good, some bad, and much missing.

        But I'll tell you this, too: It's pretty much too late to change this bill on most issues. That was a done deal by leadership and committees over the past 6 months. Rank and filers don't get much of a say on the major issues unless they're on that committee. Big changes (like software patents) will blow it up. There is a small chance the House will have a chance to substantively amend on the floor, which could get interesting. So this advice if you call:

        0. Call the House. The Senate voted (something like 95-4) to pass this bill. Now's the time to influence the House process. You can go back to the Senate if there's a conference.
        1. As for the "LA (Legislative Assistant)" handling patent issues. Talk to them if you can. If you can't, leave a message and ask for a call back. Many LA's will work 12-16 hour days and are still way behind. So the odds are they won't be there. But most will call you back.
        2. Don't focus overly on software patents. You can say that they're bad. You can say vote against them in an amendment if you get the chance. But ...
        3. For the most part we'll want to know what you think of this bill. Will things be better or worse if we pass it? Yes, I know it's flawed, but ... how should the Rep vote given that reality?
        4. If you want to go deep, look at amendments next week and offer opinions on those if there's something impt.

        • No matter what rep you work for, their office - through the auspices of a series of elected officials - is known to have completely and utterly broken their solemn oaths; known to have violated the constitution repeatedly and deeply; and you... you suggest we trust the current rep in that office, that we spend our time providing suggestions to them.

          You're hilarious, you are.

          But I'll tell you what. When the reps you work for rewrite the laws to respect the commerce clause for what it actually was meant to ac

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Indeed, the thing is that no matter how much money a politician can get for voting one way or another, it doesn't do them a damned bit of good if it results in 2/3 of the voters voting for somebody else at the next opportunity.

      • Mod parent up!

  • If you're going to write a primer on patents, at least try to make it sound like you know what you're talking about. Getting basic facts wrong about for example term length makes you look silly.

  • your Representatives are very interested in hearing from you

    Is there anyone out there who still believes this?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm VERY interested in hearing why the American Medical Association and IEEE are against the bill. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

    • by Jim Hall (2985)

      I'm VERY interested in hearing why the American Medical Association and IEEE are against the bill. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

      The "First to File" is a major issue for a lot of folks. I believe this is true for IEEE - not sure about AMA, but I'd hazard a "yes" on that too.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Friday June 17, 2011 @09:14PM (#36482062) Homepage

    This is a fourth rebranding of the proposed Patent Reform Act. Deckchairs get rearranged but there is little substance to all this and none of the driving forces have computer users in mind.

    Some procedures get changed to make X more efficient and to improve quality sometimes for Y.

    None of this solves the software patents problem in the USA. The software patents problem *isn't* caused by some bad apple applications slipping through the procedures. The problem is that software has to conform to standards (interfaces and data formats), and these are being covered by thickets of patents.

    If there's 900 patents on something (i.e. mpeg), then weeding out the worst 10% changes nothing.

    We need abolition, and we need Congress's support in this. The current Supreme Court has shown itself to be reluctant regarding substantial changes to law, and even if we won there, if we have no support in Congress then our victory would be wiped out by a legislative change.

    Yes, do work on this proposal. Work to get software clearly excluded - you have to keep trying if you want to have a chance. But don't get overexcited. This is unlikely to be a big turning point - that is, of course, unless you get active and make it happen.

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/The_Patent_Reform_Act_(USA) [swpat.org]
    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Harm_to_standards_and_compatibility [swpat.org]
    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/MPEG_LA [swpat.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The current Supreme Court has shown itself to be reluctant regarding substantial changes to law

      That's because the Supreme Court isn't designed to make changes to law. That's the legislative branch's job, not the judicial.

      • AC says:

        > the Supreme Court isn't designed to make changes to law.

        The Supreme Court has an obligation to make a ruling. If the law is incomplete or unclear (as is the case for software patents), their decision has the same effect as what a legislature can do.

    • None of this solves the software patents problem in the USA. The software patents problem isn't caused by some bad apple applications slipping through the procedures. The problem is that software has to conform to standards (interfaces and data formats), and these are being covered by thickets of patents.

      I think everyone concerned about this sad state of affairs should read Xiph's comments [xiph.org] to the FTC Patent Standards Workshop. Their submission focuses on how software patents affect Standards Setting Orga

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From reading the Wikipedia article, it is pretty obvious the Intellectual Ventures(Read: Patent Troll Incorporated), is leading the opposition to this bill. If patent trolls like IV oppose the America Invents Act, then that seems like a pretty decent heuristic to determine that the AIA is a good idea.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday June 17, 2011 @10:46PM (#36482558)

    Now send yours. Click the "inviting public comments" link above and email the patent office. There is an address in the link.

    It's one thing to sit and bitch about the state of things. You have an opportunity to fix it, right now.

    So do so. Be heard!

  • Another way to look at it is that within the next 17 years nearly everything will be public domain.
    • by russotto (537200) on Friday June 17, 2011 @11:34PM (#36482776) Journal

      Another way to look at it is that within the next 17 years nearly everything will be public domain.

      No, it won't. Because someone else will get another patent covering basically the same area with different language. If you cry "prior art" they'll point out some trivial difference and have the patent upheld. If you actually build the prior art, they'll claim your device is equivalent to theirs and thus covered by the patent... and likely win.

      • by kanweg (771128)

        No they won't win. Gilette defense is the best to have if you're accused of infringement.

        If they do use that defense, they're basically admitting it isn't inventive because the difference is trivial.

        Bert
        Patent attorney

      • by fnj (64210)

        If they use a trivial difference to repatent, then you can use a trivial difference to evade the patent.

  • software patents are bad, yet copyright for music in perpetuity, handed down to heirs or held by companies, is good?
  • Banks Turn to Schumer on Patents [nytimes.com]

    After years of fighting Mr. Ballard at the federal Patent Office, in court and across a negotiating table, the banks went to see one of their best friends in Congress, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who inserted into a patent overhaul bill a provision that appears largely aimed at helping banks rid themselves of the Ballard problem. The Senate passed the bill easily in March.

    Banks do not like “business method” patents.

  • My problem is that my US Representative is Joe Walsh. A bigger idiot, corporate lick-spittle and traitor to the American citizen never existed. Writing to him is a huge waste of time. (I know I've tried.) Calling him is worse. You're lucky if you ever get past voicemail. (I never have.) Joe doesn't want to hear from the "little people". The only way to get his attention is to have "Corp." after your name and a check in your hand.
  • Patent licenses are one of the main forms of passive income enjoyed by rich people along with copyrights and real state.

    Software patents should not exist. These so called inventions should be protected by copyright instead but this is going to be very hard to change since the same rich people earning passive income from them is the people that pays lobbyists or happen to be the lawyers and judges that hear these cases.

    Patent reform to the point of eliminating software patents can be done but it would requir

  • I think that there had been some abuses on the software industry since govement lacked to regulate this at its time. It is time to pass a law that: 1) All software source code of commercial product should be available for public observation under the license the author choose. 2) All software that reached EOF must be open source under a license that allow legally derivate work.
  • Jim, your software patents primer page asserts: "A patent protects an invention."

    Is that really the case, in your opinion? (Honest question, not sarcasm, since I was personally defrauded of multiple patents by a former employer.)

    It seems to me that protecting inventions is a root of the problem: it shouldn't be an invention that is protected, but a right, of an inventor. Inventions don't have rights, inventors do.

    The implication of that, in my view, is that intellectual property rights (in the US) should

    • by jdRock (2287894)

      I would suggest, by the way, that an invention that has "rights" has another name - it is a "standard." Those may have other kinds of protection, but standards that aren't open are effectively not standards at all, in my opinion.

      It seems to me that the law dances around this distinction. What benefits society and what benefits an individual (inventor or otherwise) or an organization may be very different things since, stating the obvious, individuals, organizations, and societies are different things.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman

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