Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Government The Courts News

UK High Court Allows Software Patent Claims 125

Posted by kdawson
from the there-goes-the-industry dept.
An anonymous reader tips us to a note up on the IPKat blog, written by one of the four law-professor types behind that venture. The British High Court has ruled on appeal that the UK Patent Office must not reject software patent applications out of hand, as it has been doing for some time now. "In a surprising (to this Kat at least) turn of events, the Honourable Mr Justice Kitchin has ruled today that the current UK Patent Office practice of flatly rejecting patent claims to computer program products is wrong... Kitchin J found that the appeals should be allowed. Each application concerned a computer related invention where the examiner had allowed claims to, in effect, a method performed by running a suitably programmed computer and to a computer programmed to carry out the method... The cases were remitted to the [UK Intellectual Property Office] for further consideration in light of the judgment."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UK High Court Allows Software Patent Claims

Comments Filter:
  • Welcome (Score:2, Funny)

    by nurb432 (527695)
    Welcome to the party, our British cousins.

    Is it tea time yet?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Better question: who is King George in this equation?
    • Re:Welcome (Score:5, Informative)

      by albalbo (33890) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @04:36AM (#22198868) Homepage
      It's not really that bad.

      It brings the UK back in line with the rest of Europe; for a while, we were the only place disallowing any form of software patent. We're now back to "software patents if you can show a technical effect", which is enough to block most stuff which gets patented in the US/Japan.

      The software patent battle was never properly won in Europe. It was prevented from being made much worse, but we still have software patents of limited sorts.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Software patents" or "you've lost the right to be smart" in Europe is illegal. They are huge efforts to make it appear the opposite way and to give such abomination credibility. But it's bare illegal whatever any fooled or corrupted judge will say. But, in some countries, it's quite the opposite:they have stupid laws voted by fooled or corrupted politicians, and only judges can trick the law to make the stupid parts harmless.
        Now, most of open source dev is taking place in Europe... I wonder why it's not US
      • by drseuk (824707) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @12:34PM (#22200558)

        It brings the UK back in line with the rest of Europe; for a while, we were the only place disallowing any form of software patent.
        "At least you can count on my support and that of the other millions of Daily Mail / Torygraph readers after they've finished choking on their dentures then. They won't be able to understand what a software patent is anymore than I do but "thought taxes" as you call them sound dreadful. No matter - anything that the EU is "forcing" on This England, *especially* if the Yanks are colluding with the French over it is as obviously un-British as ... and must be stopped on the beaches at all cost ... send for the Women's Institute ... Battle of Britain ... during the war ... " - continued on page 197 ...

        My dad's reaction after he spotted your post on my screen.
      • by Wolfbone (668810)

        "We're now back to "software patents if you can show a technical effect", which is enough to block most stuff which gets patented in the US/Japan."

        Perhaps that would be true if "technical effect" meant something but it doesn't: http://www.ffii.org.uk/archives/28 [ffii.org.uk] The EPO is determined to allow 'pure' software patents and - as is also clear from that patent - to enable its customers to engage in extortion and theft.

  • sad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yakumo.unr (833476) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:52PM (#22197380) Homepage
    This is NOT good news for software innovation in the UK at all.

    Anyone claiming that there hasn't been any innovation in software over the last 10 years because of the lack of ability to patent it in the UK is clearly barking mad.

    Yes, as someone that has worked on generating IP before I strongly believe that people should be paid for their work if they don't wish to donate it for free, but clearly a lack of patents hasn't prevented this either.

    All this will bring eventually is the stifling of the software industry, oh, and more patent trolling, joy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by christurkel (520220)
      Welcome to the USA.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:19PM (#22197512)
      ...old people were best suited to make very important decisions. After all, they had the most learning, the most experience, and the most wisdom.

      Now, however, technology moves much faster than the human mind. A person may easily see two or three technological revolutions in his lifetime, each one forcing the rejection of old value systems and the embracing of new perspectives.

      Unfortunately, the older a human mind gets, the less able it is to reject old value systems and embrace new perspectives.

      So now, the decisions of the old-and-powerful wind up causing great harm to the young-and-visionary.

      The thing that REALLY gets me is when young people...people who *should* know better...buy into this we-need-control-to-have-innovation crap.

      If I could put smart in the water, I would.
       
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by yakumo.unr (833476)
        If I could I would certainly mod up your post, I don't really see why you'd post that Anonymously though.

        Sadly there isn't any real way to compensate for the years of legal knowledge, training, experience required first.

        Perhaps there should be some kind of requirement for a 'young' specialist advisement team on modern technological issues or something. Though the mere suggestion is probably bordering on ageism. I certainly have always felt that someone in tune with the issues at hand should be presiding on
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          FYI, some of us don't have slashdot accounts. It lets us pretend that this is just a passing phase, and that we'll be reclaiming this block of time from our daily lives Real Soon Now.

          Just the perspective of someone who's been reading for a bit more than half a decade now and still doesn't want to admit it.
        • by nomadic (141991)
          Perhaps there should be some kind of requirement for a 'young' specialist advisement team on modern technological issues or something.

          I don't know about the UK, but in the US judges are usually empowered to seek expert advice on their own initiative. Obviously, the parties in a lawsuit can introduce expert testimony as well.
      • by westlake (615356) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @01:09AM (#22198212)
        Now, however, technology moves much faster than the human mind. A person may easily see two or three technological revolutions in his lifetime, each one forcing the rejection of old value systems and the embracing of new perspectives.

        Has any of this has ever been true?

        Alexander Graham Bell was born in 1847 and died in 1922.

        He was born before the transcontinental telegraph and lived to see the beginnings of broadcast radio.

        He was an infant when the wagon trains began moving westward along the Oregon trail and lived to see the steam locaomotive in its twilight and 20,000,000 automobiles on the American road.

        He was a contemprary of John Deere, Erricson, the Roeblings, Edison, George Eastman, Ford, Burpee, Louis Sullivan, Willis Carrier, and a hundred others.

        He was a witness - and often a participant - in technological revolutions that transformed agriculture, manufacturing, engineering, architecture, transportation, communications. transportation, medicine.

        In 1881 he devised a metal detector to probe for the bullet that would kill President Garfield. In 1901 an X-Ray machine might have saved McKinley.

        • by HiThere (15173)
          The short of my reply is, yes, it was once like that.

          The longer version is:
          You're using a short timeline.

          Bell is in the modern period, though at the start of it. If you go back before him, the railroad was revolutionary, but it was over a century in development. It fed off the steam engine, which was still earlier. The "industrial revolution" was comparable (or perhaps slightly more important than) the "computer revolution" It took place over a period of two or three centuries, depending exactly on how
          • And there are reasons to believe that the increase in rate of change is, itself, speeding up.

            That's been evident for a long time. If the pace of progress were even remotely linear, people would have a much easier time predicting it. But it's not, and they fail pretty much every time, and have been failing for over a century.

            Who knows ... maybe we'll live to see Vernor Vinge's Singularity.
      • Unfortunately, the older a human mind gets, the less able it is to reject old value systems and embrace new perspectives.

        As far as I understand, a judges job is not to make the rules, but to interpret them in the face of ever changing technology. We don't want judges to embrace new value systems. We want the same vale system that has been in place for the last few hundreds or thousands of years to be diligently applied to the modern world. An old, objective and experienced judge really is the best person to do this.

        From reading the summary, what the judge seems to have said is that maybe it is possible to be inventive p

        • by jonbryce (703250)
          It is undoubtedly true that inventions can be implemented purely in software. But the rules say that certain types of inventions are excluded from patent protection. These include methods of carrying on business, mathematical algorithms, and computer software programs.

          If people want a change to these rules, it is up to parliament to decide on it. The European Parliament considered it recently, and decided not to change the rules relating to software patents. I don't think any any proposal in the history
          • by zoips (576749)
            Software is mathematical algorithms. People just get easily confused because to the laymen high level languages often don't seem to look like math.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jez9999 (618189)
          From reading the summary, what the judge seems to have said is that maybe it is possible to be inventive purely in software, and that we should treat such claims on a case-by-case basis. This doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I agree that most software patents granted in the US are not good. But I don't agree that a software patent by definition is bad. That would be a pretty much indefensible and, if I can turn your accusation against you, an inflexible position.

          I have to say I disagree with you. I think t
      • by lysse (516445)

        ...old people were best suited to make very important decisions.

        Yeah, in those days stupidity tended to mean an early death. Now any fool can live into old age and all the intelligent people seem to be dying young, time served doesn't have quite the cachet it used to.
      • by HiThere (15173)
        Actually old folk never made decisions in the interest of young folk. But this used to be becasue of selfishness rather than disconnection with reality.

        Of course, "old folk" used to be people in the late thirties and up rather than in their late fifties and up...

        Anyway, the old males have been sending the young males off to risk being eaten by a leopard since before we were apes.
      • Given the demographic changes, where the majority of the western world will be old folks, we can only expect more old people in positions of power.

        Does that mean the decisions will get more conservative? Hard to say. I'm not sure I buy into an ageist argument. It's not like they're going to suddenly lose what they've learned over the past 20 years, assuming they had tech exposure.
    • clearly barking mad
      For suitably greedy/monopolistic values of CBM.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nguy (1207026)
      Anyone claiming that there hasn't been any innovation in software over the last 10 years because of the lack of ability to patent it in the UK is clearly barking mad.

      Actually, there hasn't been much innovation in software... and US software patents have contributed to that.

      Whether the UK does or does not have software patents has some symbolic significance, but it doesn't matter much in terms of the software business.
    • Re:sad news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrSteveSD (801820) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @01:18AM (#22198250)
      I used to work for a small software company targeting the energy sector and we were frequently in competition with much larger firms. Despite their size, we often beat them and won important contracts. Software patents would be a disaster because in these vertical markets you are bound to be violating some of the patents that the larger companies will have in their arsenals.

      The smaller companies are just going to get blown out of the water. It's also going to massively increase small companies costs because they would have to try to patent everything they are doing. Not because they want to attack other companies, but because larger companies might patent it and try to attack them. Even if a big company was violating your patent, it would be stupid to attack them because you will soon discover you are violating lots of their little patents. Patents just protect big companies from smaller faster companies that might come along with new ideas.

      It's obviously a big threat to open source as well.
      • by Beliskner (566513)

        I used to work for a small software company targeting the energy sector and we were frequently in competition with much larger firms. Despite their size, we often beat them and won important contracts. Software patents would be a disaster because in these vertical markets you are bound to be violating some of the patents that the larger companies will have in their arsenals

        Relax, if you violate a patent and a Judge awards damages, those damages will not be greater than the profit you made from that product.

        • by xkhaozx (978974)
          Yeah definitely relax, because theres nothing wrong with having to pay out all the money you've earned for a lame software patent violation.
      • It's also going to massively increase small companies costs because they would have to try to patent everything they are doing. Not because they want to attack other companies, but because larger companies might patent it and try to attack them.

        There's one simple and effective way to prevent a bigger company from patenting software. All that needs to be done is to put the code into the public domain. While others will be able to use the code no body else can patent it. Of course if the other company c

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Bad news for the software industry in England and Wales, not for the software industry in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The strange thing about the uk is that some bodies are 'british', most are not. So whilst the patent office is UK-wide, the courts and legal systems obviously are not.
      I assume (although the blog is based in england so it doesnt clarify) that this is the English High Court of Justice, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Court_of_Justice [wikipedia.org], not the Scottish High Court of Justiciary, http://en. [wikipedia.org]
      • A simple question - where is the Patent Office?

        That's right, in Newport, Gwent - and thus subject to the rulings of the English High Court.

        If you want to set up a Scottish Patent Office (aye -a new way to catch the wee haggis...), good luck.

  • Well ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:52PM (#22197382)
    there goes the U.K. software industry. It's unfortunate that the people we most trust to protect our industry and our livelihoods are the most clueless about the very technology we must have in order to do that. The United States is no better in that regard, that's for damn sure. Too bad ... it looks like we're just going to roll over and leave whatever innovation is left in the software field to the Chinese and the Indians.
    • by qbzzt (11136)
      I didn't realize the US software industry is dead. I guess all the employed programmers confused me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by webmaster404 (1148909)
        And how much innovation has happened in the last 10 years? Sure processors have gotten faster, internet connections have gone from Dial-Up to cable yet everything else is the same. Look at the latest MS OS, Vista, it hasn't done anything more than 95 did save for use a whole lot more resources and got a decent enough kernel. Look at OS-X, sure it looks new and such but its based on Unix which has been around for a good while now. Most employed programmers don't innovate or change the tech industry they just
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by liquidpele (663430)
        Try to write a software program that does something cool, and then start a bussiness.
        I dare you.

        Software patents make big companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, etc almost immune since they can hold different patents against each other, but for small businesses, they only create a barrier to entry into the market, which hurts everyone and slows down innovation a lot. Why does it slow innovation if the big companies can still make stuff? Because they already made stuff, and they're getting money for it.
    • it looks like we're just going to roll over and leave whatever innovation is left in the software field to the Chinese and the Indians.

      And Brazil [aosd.net] and other countries of South America. [ddj.com]

      Falcon
  • Yay! (Score:3, Funny)

    by pavera (320634) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:56PM (#22197396) Homepage Journal
    Well, all I can say is I'm happy I don't live in the only completely backwards developed country in the world anymore! Welcome to the bottom rung of the ladder UK! I think there's room here next to us lowly US techies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015)
      I don't think "backwards" is sufficiently descriptive ... I'd say "corrupt" more closely resembles the situation with regards to Imaginary Property. These laws didn't just happen ... in the U.S., Congress couldn't have cared less about patent and trademark law until they were paid by the private sector to revise it. We the People got sold out, and I'm sorry to say it's happening in the U.K. as well. That's too bad, because this is the very stuff that ends civilizations.
      • in the U.S., Congress couldn't have cared less about patent and trademark law until they were paid by the private sector to revise it.

        The gradual relaxing of subject matter restrictions on patentability over the last 30 years in the U.S. has been the result of court decisions, not congressional action. Arguably, the establishment of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals facilitated an acceleration in change in patent law, but that's about as close as you can get to a link between congress and the explosion

        • No, it's also been corporate. The changes to patent law, and USPTO funding, were made by Congress, not by the courts. Don't try to let those pricks get off scott-free in this matter, because they're guilty up to their eyeballs.
          • Please name one substantive change to patent law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President since 1982. We have had a few minor changes to bring us into compliance with treaties we've signed with other countries, and we've made changes to prevent submarine patents, but the changes to patent law causing so much trouble now (patenting of algorithms, living things, and business methods) were all the result of court decisions.

            Of course funds for the USPTO, for better or for worse, came from Congre
            • Please name one substantive change to patent law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President since 1982.

              Okay. You asked for it, you got it Toyota.

              I should note, though, that the USPTO generates a great deal of its own revenue in the form of fees related to the filing and prosecution of patents.

              Precisely. And that's wrong.

              It is an advantage to large rightsholders who can afford to pay periodic maintenance fees. However, it's a drawback to the small inventor who might have managed to p
              • I should note, though, that the USPTO generates a great deal of its own revenue in the form of fees related to the filing and prosecution of patents.

                Precisely. And that's wrong.

                Actually how it's done is what's wrong. What I'd suggest, and I got this partially from another /.er, is to have a short term for patents say 5 years. Then have a tyme table for the extension of patents. To keep a patent active for another year, to make it 6 years, the patent holder will pay X which could be a percentage o

          • by pavera (320634)
            while congress has its role, don't let the courts off. Certainly this is also corporate as the corps have the money to buy the best lawyers which invariably sways a court.

            Software patents, business method patents, patents on plants, genomes, general biology, and chemical compounds (seriously you invented putting 3 carbon atoms together?!?) etc are all here because the courts have ruled that the USPTO must allow them, not because congress said so. As I said, this is still driven by corps suing, filing suit
      • by OECD (639690)

        I don't think "backwards" is sufficiently descriptive ... I'd say "corrupt" more closely resembles the situation with regards to Imaginary Property.

        Yeah, I thought Lessig was making a huge error in trying to go after corruption in general.

        Now, I'm thinking he's just ahead of me on this one.

  • I have to wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:59PM (#22197410) Homepage
    ...who paid for this and how much did it cost?
  • ...patent filing applications concerning computer related inventions where the examiner had allowed claims to, in effect, a method performed by running a suitably programmed computer and to a computer programmed to carry out the method?

  • Motivation is a requirement for a market based on capitalism to drive innovation.

    It is possible to grant patents on software but the patent must be well defined and checked by someone who knows the industry and isn't just some office peon. We must all spend more resources for patent reform not by reforming the patent system but by simply pooling more resources into the system and giving it the resources it needs to truly make correct decisions on patents.

    The amount of money given to the patent office as wel
    • by schon (31600)

      Motivation is a requirement for a market based on capitalism to drive innovation.
      So you're saying that copyright isn't a sufficient motivation?

      Perhaps since it's not enough of a motivation, we should just eliminate all software copyrights and just use patents then.
      • by JoelKatz (46478)
        Copyright and Patent serve completely different purposes. One is not a replacement for the other and one doesn't really supplement the other either. Patents protect the discovery of new ways of doing things which are demonstrably better than previous ways. Copyright protects creative choices where a large number are equally good.
    • while the patent office should get more money.

      So for that reason alone that is going to make the patent office patent more things to get more money whether it should be patented or not.
    • The amount of money given to the patent office as well as the time a patent is active should correlate to the amount of inventions (patents) there are per year. Since innovation has been accelerating the time a patent is active should go down while the patent office should get more money.

      This won't work. Because the patent office wants the money it will grant more patents, even frivolous and onerous ones.

      Falcon
  • by lysse (516445) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:17PM (#22197500)
    The High Court is not the highest court in the land; there's potential (at least, I don't see anything ruling it out) for the UK-IPO to appeal to the lawlords for a definitive ruling on what UK patent law actually is. And then if they decide that the law does not allow for software patents to be discarded without consideration - which would surely be something of a surprise to everyone, given that the stated position of just about every authority is that it does and they should - there is always the chance that Parliament will stomp out the loophole again (because ultimately, the judiciary in this country can't override Parliament; it can only clarify).
    • (because ultimately, the judiciary in this country can't override Parliament; it can only clarify).


      I wish Canada worked that way. Yeah I know... off topic, I don't care.
      • by vux984 (928602)
        I wish Canada worked that way. Yeah I know... off topic, I don't care.

        Why?

        The ability of the judiciary to override parliament helps parliament can't do an end run around the charter of rights etc. The judiciary can't create laws, only reject them. Canada has its whole checks and balances thing much better set up than the UK... now if only we could get a working senate...
        • laws are created by elected officials who have to answer to the people. the can be held responsible for their actions and ultimately are representing the people. the judges represent no one, answer to no one other than 'law societies' and are not able to be held accountable for their actions. they are not a part of the checks and balances of government in canada, nor is that the role they are supposed to have. the senate and the queen are the checks and balances. you may scoff, but royal assent is not j
      • because ultimately, the judiciary in this country can't override Parliament; it can only clarify).

        I wish Canada worked that way.

        Though I don't like all the rulings the US Supreme Court hands down I'd rather have the 3 legs the USA Constitution set up than only have one or two legs. It sets up checks and balances that way.

        Falcon
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      It goes to the Court of Appeal before the House of Lords. Then, as it relates to European law, it could go to the European Court of Justice.

      As the courts are interpreting European Law, the British Parliament can't reverse the court's decision with new legislation.
  • by EvilGrin666 (457869) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:18PM (#22197508) Homepage
    I was under the assumption that software patents in the EU were not valid. Thus making any pro software patent verdict by the court in the UK invalid?
    • by nbert (785663)
      Yes, that's the case. However, this doesn't prevent software companies from filing them and most other countries in the EU accept them. The funny part is that they won't be of much use in court. I guess the reason why those companies do it anyways is because they hope that all those software patents become valid one day...

      So the way the UK patent office handles applications for software patents doesn't change the status quo at all - it just makes a good headline...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I was under the assumption that software patents in the EU were not valid

      It's more complicated than that. Article 52 of the European Patent Convention excludes, among other things, "schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers ". (emphasis added)

      However, it also says of those exclusions, "The provisions of paragraph 2 shall exclude patentability of the subject-matter or activities referred to in that provision only to the extent to wh

      • by iangoldby (552781)
        If you want to know what "as such" means, find the person who wrote it into that particular law, and #*&#@ ask them what they meant by it.

        Seriously, this sort of thing makes me so angry. Words are supposed to communicate meaning, not to obfuscate.

        (Yes, I know that my suggestion is not practical, because doubtless in this case the words "as such" were not intended to provide clarity of meaning.)
        • If you want to know what "as such" means, find the person who wrote it into that particular law, and #*&#@ ask them what they meant by it

          Why would you expect the person who wrote it to know what it means?

          That was a serious question. Yes, seriously.

          I'm not sure exactly how EU laws get written, but it is almost certainly similar to the way laws nearly everywhere else get written, so with that assumption, I'll continue. Those words probably came out of a committee, after much going back and forth ov

          • Generally, it is what the legislative body thinks a law means that counts, and a large part of what judicial bodies do is try to figure out what the majority of the legislative body thought a given law meant when they passed it.

            Yes, and no. The different European legislative systems are on a whole similar in that they are not like the UK/US Common Law system but amongst each other they can differ a lot. There is a great leap between the French system to the Scandinavian-German tradition in interpreting, co

  • From what I understand after reading the article, he ruled that software patents are to be reviewed for "methods" of doing something. In other words, it's still impossible to patent the double click in the UK, and only patent things like "manufacture something using a computer as the control unit".

    Still, I think the UK "wouldn't" be allowed to give out software patents if the European Parliament says not to do so.

    And yes, I do believe this judge is horribly wrong, but it's not too bad anyway.
  • The patents.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by LingNoi (1066278) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:23PM (#22197524)
    Patent 1: Software 2000 has developed a method of generating bit masks for use with laser printers which results in higher quality images. It is implemented by programming a conventional computer, printer or copier to process images in a particular way. Software 2000 exploits its invention by selling the program to its commerical partners who then incorporate it in their printers and printer drivers and distribute it to the end users in the form of printers, computer discs and web downloads. The end users are located worldwide.

    Patent 2: Astron Clinica was founded to commercialise skin imaging techniques developed at the University of Birmingham which enable images of the skin to be processed to identify the distribution and concentration of underlying skin chromophores. The invention described in its application provides a system and process for generating realistic images representing the results of planned cosmetic or surgical interventions which change the actual or apparent distribution of these chromophores. The invention is implemented by programming a computer to process images in a particular way. It is commercialised here and abroad by selling a disc which causes a computer to be configured so as to undertake the required processing.

    Patent 3: Inrotis is a spin-off company established by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to commercialise drug discovery and network analysis techniques. Broadly speaking, the inventions the subject of its two applications in issue concern methods of identifying groups of target protein interactions. The commerical product which Inrotis sells is a computer disc which causes a computer to be configured so as to carry out the necessary processing.

    Patent 4: SurfKitchen is a mobile services company and has made an invention which improves the ability of mobile telephones to access services on the internet. It is implemented by pre-storing a program on a mobile telephone memory or by downloading the program from the internet. In either case the program is usually made available by one of SurfKitchen's commerical partners to whom it makes the program available on a computer disc.

    Patent 5: Cyan Technology is a semi-conductor company which designs and builds micro-controllers. It has invented a method of generating data for configuring micro-controllers which greatly simplifies chip design and programming. The commerical products that implement the invention are computer discs and Internet downloads worldwide.
  • Give me a break- break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.... (Hehehe.... captcha: phosgene.... LOL)
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:38PM (#22197594) Journal
    "This will spur innovation in unprecedented ways in the coming years in the UK!"

    I would be able to say that if, with this change, the patent system would be improved to further function as intended in... Uhh, 1474 [wikipedia.org]. Only more efficiently.

    The period of protection was back then 10 years to protect the profit from new innovations, so inventors didn't get ripped off immediately, in turn keeping them interested in innovating. A great idea! Really, I think patents are in general a great idea, no sarcasm involved. They were then released after 10 years, fairly early at the time of technological evolution back then, so that it also didn't halt competition and innovations that were based on it. You also needed to have the product out. Because otherwise, there's not much to protect, you know? People back then didn't think mere ideas should be patentable.

    Now, two main things seem to have changed. First, patents are now in effect for 20 years. And you can patent stuff before products are out and in use. Actually, you can patent without even planning to innovate anything! This of course has very harmful effects for innovation, and forms the breeding ground for businesses exploiting this as their business model, suing others for infringing on their oh-so-valuable patents.

    As for the extended lifetime, it would still work out fairly well if this interesting graph [wikipedia.org] just wasn't in effect. (note: that graph is logarithmic; it's actually an exponential rate) Unfortunately for our patent situation, but fortunately for us living in this interesting day and age, history itself has proven it is. We don't even need to speculate, because it's historical evidence, not about anything that may happen in the future. The facts here are that we know which key events have happened in history (we know if something is a key event or not by looking at what the product of the paradigm shift was) and when they did, and that's pretty much all we need to see patent lifetime extensions are the least we have needed.

    So, what I think must be done to restore patents to a working state again would be two main things:

    1. Once again, like a long time ago, we should only be able to patent what's released, or possibly (in fear of day 1 patent hijacking after insider leaks) some duration less than e.g. a year in advance, but then the company will immediately have the patent expire if this goal is not fulfilled, along with having a hefty penalty associated with it, possibly a percentage of a company's revenue for some duration X (for an example, how about X being the time in advance the patent was granted?). So the more a company would "guess" and just throw things out without being sure of themselves, the greater risk of real losses they would run. They would now be forced to weigh the risk against the benefit. If they definitely have something worked on and are sure of themselves, sure, they could then submit the application, no special risks involved. Because they would be using the system as intented. I'm not sure if a patent should be allowed to be cancelled with no penalty, because that could be used to stall competition. Maybe that a project might not bear fruit and getting abandoned would have to be a risk a company submitting quite early patents would simply have to take.

    2. Second, we need to adjust patent lifetimes to the accelerating rate of paradigm shifts in order to not risk slowing them down. This risk should logically increase the further into the future we get. The doubled patent lifetime since 1474 should probably instead have been halved by now. The adjustment was made in the opposite direction as demaned by society and rate of innovations. The lifetime may also need to be adapted to various business needs. For example, computer software is often considered old in 5 years. Within that timeframe, even Microsoft will have had time to develop Windows Vista, including the project reboot in between PDC 2003 and Beta 1, so that's not saying little.
    • I completely agree! However, unfortunately, you're preaching to the choir. The question now is, what do we have to do to convince those that make the law that this is what needs to be done? I've been thinking lately - I wonder if someone could get them (corrupt congressmen) at their own game. For instance, run for office and have a reasonable chance at becoming a senator or representative, and then create a bill with some catchy acronym like "The 2008 DON'T EAT BABIES Act" that gives money to orphans, and
    • I think that the major problem with patents is not just that, in software in particular, rapidly changing ideas are patented as soon as they are thought up. At least to a degree, patents also defeat the purpose of capitalism as it was originally designed. Capitalism thrives on competition. If you remove the ability of more than one company to create a product with a certain feature, then you have a limited form of a monopoly. The best way to prevent other people from making more money than you by copying yo
    • interesting graph [wikipedia.org]

      t would still work out fairly well if this interesting graph [wikipedia.org] just wasn't in effect.

      A little off topic, maybe, but I would say that this graph may represent our nearsightedness more than an actual rate of change.

    • First of all, the straight line from upper left to lower right is inherent in the graph. The way it's defined, no points can be above that line.

      Second, information storage technologies almost inevitably have a limited lifetime, and the longer the lifetime the more expensive it is. To store information like "when was fire first used as a tool" required hundreds of thousands of individual controlled fires to be kindled for there to be enough remains to survive to mark the time (yes, the people creating the fi
  • by ContractualObligatio (850987) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:46PM (#22197626)

    Before too many hysterical reactions kick in, bear in mind the actual rules have not changed here, and software patents as such are still disallowed in Europe. If you follow the link in TFA you'll get the current definitions (emphasis added):

    "(1) European patents shall be granted for any inventions which are susceptible of industrial applications, which are new and which involve an inventive step.

    (2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:
    a. discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
    b. aesthetic creations;
    c. schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;
    d. presentations of information."

    In that context, the test is then to decide whether claims such as the following are industrial applications which involve an inventive step, or purely programs for computers. I don't think they're all equal. The SurfKitchen sounds like a computer program to me, while I have some sympathy for the thought of Astron Clinica having invented a new overall way of carrying out surgery and wanting to patent the method, including the part that is carried out on a computer: it is not obvious, nor a business process, or something as basically stupid as the whole "One Click" thing. Also, note that these are mostly not software companies. You might still disagree with judge's conclusion and have further points to make, but please no more mindless nonsense about the imminent death of the UK software industry and a shift to the American system.

    1. Software 2000: a method of generating bit masks for use with laser printers which results in higher quality images.

    2. Astron Clinica: a system and process for generating realistic images representing the results of planned cosmetic or surgical interventions which change the actual or apparent distribution of underlying skin chomophores.

    3. Inrotis: methods of identifying groups of target proteins for drug theray by processing proteome data defining proteins and protein interactions.

    4. SurfKitchen: an invention to improve the ability of mobile telephones to access services on the Internet by pre-storing a program on a mobile telephone memory or by downloading the program from the Internet.

    5. Cyan Technology: a method of generating data for configuring micro-prodcts which greatly simplifies chip design and programming.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Agreed, I think a lot of people are missing the point here. The court was NOT ruling on whether the substance of the claim was patentable. They were ruling on whether the FORM was patentable. This essentially overturns Aerootel/Macrossan back to Fujitsu which was very much on substance over form.

      In simple terms, it doesn't matter if you start your claim "A method comprising x, Y, Z", or "An apparatus comprising X, Y, Z" or "A computer program comprising X, Y, Z".

      It's the X, Y and Z that matters not the form
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlueParrot (965239)
      Salami tactics, thin edge of the wedge, slippery slope, spearhead strategy... etc... Sure, if it stops here it may not be so bad. Problem is that history suggests it won't stop here.
    • by Alsee (515537)
      Correction:

      1. Software 2000: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

      2. Astron Clinica: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

      3. Inrotis: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

      4. SurfKitchen: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and calculates another set of numbers.

      5. Cyan Technology: some interesting math that takes one set of numbers and
    • I agree: there is a lot of hysteria here, and not a lot of cause for it. The more panicky of you can find a paper bag and breath into it, while I talk slowly and calmly about something familiar, like toast, maybe, until your heart rate comes down a bit.

      To the outsider, the world of patents may seem utterly without reason. However, as patents are supposed to cover things that haven't existed until now, there are always problems as the patent laws meet something new. There was a famous fuss back in about 1

  • Astron how you feel? Since it is Astron [siascope.com] that launched this stupid case in the first place.
  • by webmaster404 (1148909) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @12:07AM (#22197946)
    Hasn't anyone noticed how (us programmers) refer to programming as "writing" software not "inventing" software? Or how we "write" code not "invent" code? Software shouldn't be patented much as books aren't, software builds on each other much as books do.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shados (741919)
      You're writing software the same way a construction worker builds a house, but the software architect, the computer scientists (the ones that actually do computer science, not code writers...), especially thse with PhDs, and such, most definately consider their work research and development, and the result is as much an invention (it the way it gets discovered, and the process to get there) as someone who invent a new medecine or a new hardware technology.

      That doesn't mean that it should be patentable, beca
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It's just basic English. Writing code describes the act of programming, simple as that. If you are also inventing e.g. a new algorithm, great, but you could instead be maintaining code, optimising code, porting code, etc.

      If I wrote a new text editor, I'd own the copyright to it, but imagine the reaction I'd get if I claimed I'd invented text editing? (insert Al Gore / internet joke here)
    • by dangitman (862676)

      Hasn't anyone noticed how (us programmers) refer to programming as "writing" software not "inventing" software?

      Do you mean "we programmers", or ""programmers in the USA" and forgot to capitalize?

    • by D4C5CE (578304)

      Hasn't anyone noticed how (us programmers) refer to programming as "writing" software not "inventing" software?
      Lawyers have. [slashdot.org]
  • Here's a quote from the filing.

    The EPO [European Patent Office] considers such claims [software patent claims] allowable if the program has the potential to bring about, when running on a computer [?], a further technical effect which goes beyond the normal physical interactions between the program and the computer.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And only if a complete build environment with nonobfuscated code in a vmware bubble is distributed along with the patent application. After the patent expires the source code enters the public domain. Otherwise, no patent protection and no, copyright should not apply to source code anymore than it does to any other mathematical proof.

    Can I get a copyright on 2+2=4? No, that would be rejected out of hand, every mathmatical process is the same, just at difference scales, including source code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LingNoi (1066278)

      Can I get a copyright on 2+2=4?
      No, but I'll give you a patent on it, forcing everyone else to use 3+1=4!
    • by JoelKatz (46478)

      Can I get a copyright on 2+2=4? No, that would be rejected out of hand, every mathmatical process is the same, just at difference scales, including source code.


      You can't get a copyright on "2+2=4" because it is a fact. Most software contains facts but is not itself a fact nor a list of facts. Software consists of a set of creative choices out of millions of possible equally-good choices, just like works of literature.
  • A judge with probably a superficial understanding of software, gets to make a technical decision that contradicts the vast majority of software experts.

    It's not a legal decision, its a technical judgment of what really constitutes writing software. Writing software should be treated the same way as writing novels. Certainly imagination is involved, but in the plot, and ideas, and not the process of writing. Think what would happen if the plots of novels could be patented: how soon it would cripple the
    • by dangitman (862676)

      A judge with probably a superficial understanding of software, gets to make a technical decision that contradicts the vast majority of software experts.

      WTF? It's a legal question, not a technical one. The question of whether software patents should or should not be allowed is in no way technical. Let's take murder for example. It is technically possibly to kill somebody. Does that mean that killing somebody should be allowed legally? The two have nothing to do with one anohter.

      What's the technical/physical/natural law that demonstrates that patents on software should not be allowed?

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson

Working...