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Federal Patents Judge Thinks Software Patents Are Good 171

Posted by timothy
from the everything's-a-nail dept.
New submitter Drishmung writes "Retired Judge Paul Michel, who served on the Federal Circuit 1988-2010 — the court that opened the floodgates for software patents with a series of permissive decisions during the 1990s — thinks software patents are good. Yes, the patent system is flawed, but that means it should be fixed. Ars Technica have a thoughtful interview with him. Ars' take: 'If you care most about promoting innovation, offering carve-outs from the patent system to certain industries and technologies looks like a pragmatic solution to a serious problem. If you're emotionally invested in the success of patent law as such, then allowing certain industries to opt out looks like an admission of failure and a horrible hack.'"
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Federal Patents Judge Thinks Software Patents Are Good

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  • Re:In other news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @07:05AM (#39993083)

    Slashdot headline: "Federal Patents Judge Thinks Software Patents Are Good"
    Ars headline: "Top judge: ditching software patents a "bad solution"

    If you bother to read the article, he says that simply throwing out the patent system is not a good idea. He also says that software patents are rife with garbage which needs cleaned out, and that the entire system from top to bottom needs to be overhauled.

    But I guess it's easier to post a knee-jerk response and get a +5 Insightful than it is to read the article.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday May 14, 2012 @07:48AM (#39993263) Homepage Journal

    The other problem is ideas can't be patented.

    Hmm, I've always thought that this was exactly the point of patents. So once you have them in laws, ideas can, in fact, be patented.

    no, point of patents was to get protection on a specific way to implement a technical solution, for example to create an internal combustion engine you'd use valves and a cylinder and some way to deliver fuel/air mixture into it, have it attached to a set of wheels in specific way that's doable. you wouldn't grant and uphold a patent on something as "4 wheels and a motor" which is on some level a mere idea, but not a technical solution at all.

    a quick fix would be that in order to get the patent you would need to submit a device and it's plans, including the software that makes it tick, to the patent office. that way you couldn't patent a perpetual motion machine without building one and showing how it works - which would be the point. that would protect your porridge boiler from 1:1 chinese copies but not from a ceramic pot. you also shouldn't be able to patent a chemical substance(which seems also to be a recurring thing for people to try), but you could patent the most viable technical solution for making said substance..

    and supreme court definitely isn't the solution, no amount of hard work from them is going to fix it really when it's broken at the other end, the cases shouldn't even hit them - they're not supposed to be the guys who figure out what the law should be really.

  • by mattr (78516) <mattr.telebody@com> on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:54AM (#39994089) Homepage Journal

    The software industry is indeed different.

    There is a reason why people say an Internet technology year is like 7 years in another industry.

    If patents are intended to protect inventors while commercializing their inventions, then current patent policy is a grevious failure and harm to inventors, and must be scrapped or greatly reformed.

    Following are some key points:

    - Huge number of obvious patents

    - Large companies forced to buy tens of billions of dollars in patents as insurance against mutually assured destruction. This warfare means a single inexperienced jury can greatly impact trillion dollar multinational business strategies and a great segment of the global population, while making further invention exponentially risky.

    - Smaller companies are unable to defend themselves in this warfare. They are periodically destroyed by large companies wielding patent weapons.

    - U.S. inventors are put at a disadvantage by patents / legislation due to the immediate nature of software / Internet / speed of development overseas

    - Mathematical nature of software languages and code

    - Cooperative nature of software repositories, libraries, class hierarchies and APIs

    - Revolution of the software industry, as a simultaneously cottage industry and international in nature

    - The nature of software and the Internet means code can be transparently executed on servers in other jurisdictions.

    - Legislation is both hidebound, slow and naive while having a permanent and disproportionately large impact on the software industry. A quickly reacting and quickly editable legal board is probably necessary if laws on software are to continue realistically.

    As other industries become more and more dependent on software, they too will become more endangered by software patents, and by Internet-style information technology based disruptions. As it currently stands, individuals are at a severe
    disadvantage in patent wars and on a global stage due to the USPTO's spamming of software patents with a total lack of responsibility for the massive losses in time and money required to justly determine the patents' validity after the development of critical infrastructure using them.

  • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grond (15515) on Monday May 14, 2012 @01:14PM (#39996573) Homepage

    nobody who is seriously involved in the development of software products can claim that software patents are a good thing

    Would you consider Steve Jobs "seriously involved in the development of software products?" When he announced the original iPhone, he noted "and boy have we patented it." [youtube.com] It's right there in the presentation as a bullet point, alongside "works like magic" and "no stylus." Later he pointed out that "We filed for over 200 patents for all the inventions in iPhone and we intend to protect them." [youtube.com]

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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