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European Software Patents Not Dead Yet 331

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the kill-the-head-and-the-body-yet-lives dept.
Ensign Nemo writes "Software patents in Europe still being pushed. They're at it again and they're not waisting any time. Even though opposition is there the backers of software patents are getting sneakier and sneakier." Poland, if you help us out again, I pledge to never, ever forget you.
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European Software Patents Not Dead Yet

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  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:42AM (#11428602) Journal
    If you create something really novel, even if it is in software, why *shouldn't* you be able to get a patent on it?
  • by __int64 (811345) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:02AM (#11428737)

    If you create something really novel, even if it is in software, why *shouldn't* you be able to get a patent on it?

    12:02 Restate my assumptions:
    1. Mathematics is the language of nature.
    2. Principals and ideas in mathematics are universal truths; hence they are discovered, not created.
    3. Computer science is the straight forward application of discreet mathematics. Thus ideas and algorithms written in computers are not patentable.

  • by kenthorvath (225950) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:05AM (#11428755)
    If you create something really novel, even if it is in software, why *shouldn't* you be able to get a patent on it?

    The motivation behind patents is not to reward people who innovate for the sake of patting them on the back, but to provide insentive for them to begin innovating in the first place, with the hopes that society will benefit from their creation after a small time period.

    The reasoning behind patents is dubious in general - it presupposes that there would be less innovation were they not to exist (or even to exist in a more limited form). If history has taught us anything, it is that greed always finds a way to mask its ugly head and I'm sure that businesses would find a way to profit from their inventions even were patents not to exist. Being the first to market (and the name recognition that goes along with it) can be a very powerful ally indeed.

    Secondly, it is not clear that the current time period for software patent expiration is anywhere near reasonable. In the fast-changing world of computers and information technology, even a year can be a long enough time period for software to become obsolete. How long do software patents last? 10 years? 17 years?

    Then look at the patents that companies try to secure - one click ordering via amazon.com? If the patent on one-click ordering were even remotely influential on the companies decision to implement that feature, then I could perhaps see that a software patent may be useful in achieving its dubious purpose. But in this case, it is the ease of ordering - the desire to improve the customer's experience - from which the implementation gains its lure.

    The above question strikes me as no more grounded than when a five year old gets into a fight with his sibling and says "stop copying me!". One person's being the first to have a particular idea does not in anyway entail his or her posession of that idea. So with this in mind, the question is: "If you create something really novel, even if it is in software, why *SHOULD* you be able to get a patent on it?"

  • by dweezil-n0xad (743070) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:05AM (#11428756) Homepage
    This reminds me, next month is FOSDEM (Free and Open source Software Developers' European Meeting) in Brussels: http://www.fosdem.org [fosdem.org]. I suggest we raid the EU headquarters and talk some sense into the EU ministers.
  • Why not be pedantic? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KarmaBlackballed (222917) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:16AM (#11428838) Homepage Journal
    The difference between invention and discovery is an arrogant illusion.
  • by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:34AM (#11428924)
    Software shouldn't be *patented* because you're patenting an algorithm.

    Newsflash: ALL patents are algorithms. Stop acting like this unique to computers. Chemical process patents, for example, are structurally and functionally indistinguishable and very obviously map into the same space as "software algorithms" and yet those are not considered controversial.

    And computer code is a completely logical process. It'd be very similar to patenting a mathematical formula.

    This is not an argument against anything. Everything machine is reducible to software, and every software is reducible to machine. It is a distinction without a difference. To reuse my example above, chemical process patents are not generally considered controversial here, yet every argument against software patents can be used against them because they are the exact same kind of thing.

    Everyone needs to stop pretending that software patents are a special aberration. The reason this is controversial at all is that many people are trying to assert an arbitrary distinction where none exists. We either need to decide that patents are good, or patents are bad. Quibbling over meaningless distinctions between identical classes of things is completely missing the point. All it does is make it an argument purely from politics i.e. who does and does not get special protections for their particularly flavor of Kool-Aid.

  • by Coryoth (254751) on Friday January 21, 2005 @02:20AM (#11429128) Homepage Journal
    Being the first to market (and the name recognition that goes along with it) can be a very powerful ally indeed.

    To be fair, this was potentially something that patents were about: If a small company or lone inventor comes up with a stunning new product they potentially don't have the capital to get it to market. To get the capital they need to shop the invention around venture capitalists. Once they've made the idea somewhat public (in the shopping around phase) a large company with lots of resources could easily duplicate, produce, and market said invention before the inventor can manage to raise the capital and get production underway. In principal the patent would help alleviate this because the invention could be openly published, but there would still be a window of time for the inventor to raise funds and get his product to market before anyone else was allowed to join in.

    Of course in this day and age of NDAs for everything, and the rate at which new products (particularly software) can be brought to market, this sort of concept just doesn't carry as much weight as it use to.

    Jedidiah.
  • by novakyu (636495) <novakyu@member.fsf.org> on Friday January 21, 2005 @03:15AM (#11429337) Homepage
    This is not an argument against anything. Everything machine is reducible to software, and every software is reducible to machine. It is a distinction without a difference. To reuse my example above, chemical process patents are not generally considered controversial here, yet every argument against software patents can be used against them because they are the exact same kind of thing.

    I guess this is one major difference that sets software apart from everything else: R&D cost. As far as I know, R&D for chemicals and proteins (i.e. medicine) is expensive, even after taking the salaries of the researchers/inventors out of the consideration, due to the infrastructure, equipment, and raw material necessary even just to build the prototype. So, for someone (and nowadays, most likely a company) to even get started on a new invention/innovation, he has to have some sort of guarantee that if he succeeds, he will be able to recover his costs and even proft, perhaps---thus, a simple solution is legalized monopoly (and the price-markup that necessarily follows).

    On the other hand, software patent? What R&D cost exactly goes into it? Sure, programmers might get paid a lot (or at least there was a time when that was the case...), but if a lone-coder is making a program, other than the so-called "opportunity cost" what other cost is there? Hardware purchase cost? Perhaps---but that's negligible, compared to other expenses (i.e. "cost of living") throughout a year. Multiple hardware purchases (for testing, etc.)? But that would only be limited to programs that deal with the hardware directly, and those don't constitute a majority.

    So, with software, the developer doesn't have to worry about recovering the costs because there isn't that much to begin with (now, profit motive is something else, but why should we make a law that make a few people wealthy beyond reason?)---so, there isn't that much incentive software patent gives to innovate. Rather, by creating an artificial barrier-to-entry in the market, it stifles innovation (and yes, the same argument may be used for even traditional patents, but in those cases, it can be argued that the incentive outweighs this).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2005 @04:13AM (#11429549)
    not when the third world is a burnt out hull! BOMBS AWAY!
  • by Tim C (15259) on Friday January 21, 2005 @04:31AM (#11429597)
    Very very few people argue against copyright when it comes to software.

    Which makes the constant stream of slashdot posters arguing against copyright for music, films, etc all the more gauling and hypocritical. Why should the result of my efforts be afforded special protection just because they happen to be code, rather than music?
  • by lordholm (649770) on Friday January 21, 2005 @05:01AM (#11429714) Homepage
    Yes, it is sort of like that. I do believe that it is illegal for them to do it (correct me if I'm wrong).

    And many Europeans are always pissed on the Council and their undemocratic methods (they are not directly elected, but they have lawmaking power).

    The thing is that ppl are complaining on the Council and the lack of democracy in the EU and at the same time, the same ppl are crying out loud on every attempt to move power from the Council to the Parlament (they are basically afraid of the superstate of Europe); however, a federal path for Europe is the only way to go for ensuring democratic legiticy for the EU.

    (And of course the EP voted no to SW patents the last time)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2005 @05:06AM (#11429731)
    WARNING: This test can crush your ego and expose you as a biased and/or mindless drone.

    1. I challenge all anti-patent activists to name several major *benefits* of patents and software patents.

    2. I challenge all pro-patent activists to name several major *negatives* of patents and software patents.

    3. I challenge both sides to propose ways in which we can get all the benefits of patents while eliminating all the negatives of patents.

    If you cannot or is unwilling to see the other side of the issue, then you are getting in the way of true progress and wasting everyone's time.

    ---
    "Hey, I found examples of bad patents--lets abolish the patent system! No more patents!"
    ==
    "Hey, I found examples of buggy software--lets abolish software! No more software!"
    ---
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2005 @05:12AM (#11429761)
    You're absolutely right. The agriculturalists are the main beneficiaries of "Europe" and a complete industry has been created on subsidies.

    Besides that, they have absolutely no business discussing, let alone deciding, on the software patents issue. They have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of the subject matter.

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