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The Software Patent Debate Is Incorrectly Framed 274

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the through-the-looking-glass dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It doesn't matter whether a true invention is implemented in hardware or software, it should still be patentable, argues Marty Goetz — the man who was granted the first software patent in 1965." The crux of the argument, according to the author: "Has there ever been a controversy about whether an invention using hardware circuits is patentable? I doubt it, even though hardware circuits are much like software in that they can be reduced to a mathematical algorithm."
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The Software Patent Debate Is Incorrectly Framed

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  • Re:flawed logic (Score:4, Informative)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @08:50AM (#37906110)

    So is your analogy.
    You and your sister have the same family name so when you too are compared together by name the assumption will be that you are part of the same family. Where the same family values and traditions are shared.

    Computer Hardware has the rules and logic built straight into the equipment. In theory you can make any programming language when compiled except for creating opt code it can create a circuit diagram that can be made into a chip. Once it is created it cannot be changed, without replacing the part.

    Computer Firmware has the rules and logic built into a flash chip, that simulates hardware. It is not quite hardware because it can be reflashed, it isn't quite software because it is required for operations of the device.

    Computer Software has the rules and logic saved in a method that is changeable and movable. Unlike Firmware or Hardware this can be changed while keeping the device functional and its job is to use the hardware and firmware in different methods.

    But Hardware Firmware and Software are all methods of storing Rules and Logic. The creative process in making all three is about the same so legally they should be treated equally.

    As for Patents I am under the impression that too many of them are getting passed because they are obvious where someone would come up with the same solution when faced with same problem.

    However there are some (Some that are easy to code after you see it, and some that may be a major project) that are really a unique approach to a problem that wouldn't happen otherwise, and the inventor should have rights to the idea. Yes freedom for the developer to choose how he wants to use his invention is against the Open Source Software agenda, however I think you should reward inventors and innovators.

  • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:01AM (#37906198) Journal

    Masks are copyrighted. The designs they implement can generally be patented, but those designs are described in patents as certain interconnections of devices typically. Violations of circuit patent is generally easily verified. You just send the competitor's device to have the mask layers extracted from an actual die and run circuit extraction on the result.

    VHDL and Verilog are normally copyrighted. When they implement patented algorithms, it's effectively a software patent, which should also be banned as patenting mathematical algorithms. However, most patents are things like "Connecting a first fifo to a blah blah blah", where rather than patenting an algorithm, they patent a certain connection of circuit blocks. I would argue that is not a mathematical algorithm.

    The original authors of our patent system were wise to ban mathematical algorithm patents. Such patents present a real threat to the free flow of ideas in universities and in open source software. They hold back progress. While it is easy to find patent violations in open source software, it's nearly impossible in proprietary binary-only software. As a result, we get vague threats like "Linux violates 100 of our patents. Pay us royalties *or else*." When you ask which patents you violate, they say it's a secret. The system is so screwed up, it's unbelievable it has supporters at all. I personally have several software patents. For the first few years, I refused to file them, and only filed hardware patents, but then a competitor patented an algorithm we'd been using for years, so I gave up and patented everything that was allowed by law. The result was a huge waste of time and money at both our companies, with zero benefit. Only the lawyers win.

  • Re:New Idea (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:05AM (#37906240) Homepage

    The problem is that you're taking a lot of obvious and known methods, apply them slightly different then patent it. You are essentially creating an anti-competition moat around your product. To take one example, Apple's slide to unlock patent. Is is really that fundamentally different than the slide-to-open camera I've had for many years? The purpose is the same, rather than some button that can be accidentally pushed in the slide doesn't happen very easily. For example, the latest hype now is tablets. I'm pretty sure you can find plenty patents filed lately taking what is obvious on a cell phone or computer, but reapplied to tablets and patented again.

    Another example was the Creative patents Apple had to license for the iPod, I read a bit of them. It was essentially taking all the functionality in WinAmp or other PC players and patenting them on a portable music player.

    Of course I can see that sometimes taking an existing technique from a different industry and applying it can be a rather revolutionary and novel idea. But most of the time it's not and yet they grant patents for it all the time.

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