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Richard Stallman: Limit the Effect of Software Patents 257

Posted by Soulskill
from the system-and-method-for-arranging-0s-and-1s dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We can't get rid of software patents, says Richard Stallman, but we could change how they apply to creating and using software and hardware. In an editorial at Wired, he advocates for a legislative solution to the patent wars that would protect both developers and users. Quoting: 'We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement. This approach has several advantages: —It doesn't require classifying patents or patent applications as "software" or "not software." —It provides developers and users with protection from both existing and potential future computational idea patents. —Patent lawyers can't defeat the intended effect by writing applications differently.'"
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Richard Stallman: Limit the Effect of Software Patents

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:54AM (#41853083)

    Stop blaming the lawyers and start blaming the people who ask them to file the lawsuits. It is like blaming the engineers that build an M1 tank, rather than the military that buys and operates it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The lawyer scumbags you are protecting should have the moral fortitude to turn down these bad cases, just like the slime-ball engineers you speak of should refuse to work on said death-machines.

    • by drakaan (688386) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:32AM (#41853541) Homepage Journal

      I'll re-troll, since IHBT

      ...It's like blaming the engineers that build an M1 tank, rather than the president and congress that tells them where and what to shoot.

    • by mellon (7048) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:48AM (#41853733) Homepage

      This would be true if there was limitless work for lawyers, and they could simply choose the most lucrative work. But that's not the case—lawyers, like contractors in any industry whose opportunities are affected by the laws the government writes, have a vested interest in supporting laws that increase demand for their work. Diamond v. Diehr could as easily have been called the Legal Profession Full Employment Act of 1981.

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      Stop blaming the lawyers is the first step on the road to hell. They are guilty of something, by definition, if there is a law that could be twisted or corrupted for their profit, they will, no matter what comes after, they got their pay. And politicians, of course, that because malice or idiocy do those laws (also, some are lawyers or take lawyers advice, see previous point). In your example, is the difference between designing a gun and using it, the lawyers in this case are the ones using guns, and acti

      • Stop blaming the lawyers is the first step on the road to hell. They are guilty of something, by definition, if there is a law that could be twisted or corrupted for their profit, they will, no matter what comes after, they got their pay.

        I know. Shakespeare definitely had it right! Especially these [splcenter.org] guys! Money grubbing scumbags, the lot!

    • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:57AM (#41853823)

      Stop blaming the lawyers and start blaming the people who ask them to file the lawsuits. It is like blaming the engineers that build an M1 tank, rather than the military that buys and operates it.

      Yeah! The lawyers are just exploited innocents! There is a demand for evil, and they are only supplying that demand. Is that so evil? Of course not!

      It's the same reason why drug-dealers, car thieves, and human traffickers aren't really evil, they are just supplying a demand.

    • Stop blaming the lawyers and start blaming the people who ask them to file the lawsuits.

      That's the "we were just following orders" argument and it is pretty flimsy. Basically it is arguing that they have no responsibility to consider whether their actions might be harmful before proceeding. While it is probably true that the lawyers are not the proximal cause of the problem, they do bear at least some of the blame even when they aren't the ones filing suit. Lawyers always can decline to accept the case if they believe it lack merit or be unethical.

      Furthermore the lawyers themselves are ofte

    • by shaitand (626655)

      Give me a fsckin break. It was the scum bag lawyers that wrote the BS patent laws in the first place.

      Lawyers write convoluted and complicated laws. Lawyers then interpret those laws in precedent setting arbitrary ways that no reasonable adult would derive from the text of said laws. Then lawyers charge people for interpreting and exploiting those laws. It's a vicious cycle. Every bullshit lawsuit is possible because of lawyers, was advised by a lawyer, executed by a lawyer, and presided over by a lawyer.

      Wit

  • Right on (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:58AM (#41853133) Homepage Journal

    As usual, he's right. Cue the morons who ignore him because they don't like him personally.

    There was one thing that stuck out at me, though:

    Second, the U.S. already has many thousands of computational idea patents, and changing the criteria to prevent issuing more would not get rid of the existing ones. We would have to wait almost 20 years for the problem to be entirely corrected through patent expiration. And legislating the abolition of these existing patents is probably unconstitutional. (Perversely, the Supreme Court has insisted that Congress can extend private privileges at the expense of the publicâ(TM)s rights but that it canâ(TM)t go in the other direction.)

    Anyone got a citation for this, that Congress does not have the power to limit patents which already have been granted? AFAIK patent exist completely at the pleasure of Congress.

    • by godrik (1287354)

      Well, the main problem with his approach is that it is way too strong. Congress will never vote something like that. It would nullify in practice most patent. I do not think they will vote such a thing.

    • IANAL by any stretch of the imagination, but I have read about copyrights and patents and what the constitution states about them. My feeling has always been that what we see in so-called "IP" law is well beyond what the stated intent and power given by the constitution.

      It's one of those things that prove to me the "strict constitutionalists" are full of it. They're for strong IP law most of the time, but the constitutional purpose of copyright and patents was explicitly limited and was explicitly not put

      • Like most political positions, 'strict constitutionalist' should always be followed by 'so long as this does not conflict with my higher-priority goals.' See, for example, all the people who will in one paragraph decry the way the federal government has taken over healthcare, and in the very next paragraph say that the federal government needs to act to ban gay marriage.
      • by Immerman (2627577)

        I'm not so sure - it seems like more and more of the big players are coming to the conclusion that the current state of software patents is a losing proposition for everyone, and they have deeper pockets for lobbying than the patent trolls. More importantly this solution wouldn't tamper with the patent system itself, and so wouldn't threaten the profits of pharma companies, etc. that *do* have deep pockets and a vested interest in preserving the status quo. And as Stallman points out there's already an ex

      • Re:Right on (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Zordak (123132) on Friday November 02, 2012 @11:21AM (#41854093) Homepage Journal

        It's one of those things that prove to me the "strict constitutionalists" are full of it. They're for strong IP law most of the time, but the constitutional purpose of copyright and patents was explicitly limited and was explicitly not put in place to make companies rich but to encourage inventors and artists by letting them profit off of their work for a *limited* amount of time.

        I consider myself a strict constitutionalist (or a "textualist" if you want to nitpick). I am in favor of strong IP (and I ought to be---I'm an IP lawyer). In fact, the patent system has stayed pretty true to its constitutional footings. I have plenty of policy complaints about some of the details, but overall it does exactly what it's supposed to: grant a strong, limited-time monopoly to inventors.

        Copyrights, on the other hand, are totally out of control. Life of the author +70 years is both too long and (in my opinion) too indefinite to meet the Constitution's "limited times" requirement. And if we're being realistic, there's no way Walt Disney is ever going to let Mickey Mouse go out of copyright. They want a perpetual term, and they will pay whomever they need to pay to make it happen. And revoking works from the public domain? Seriously? And DMCA? And I could go on. Copyright has been tainted by the worst excesses of the lobbying culture.

        (These views, of course, are simply my own. If I represent a client whose interests lie in defending the existing copyright regime, I will stand up and extoll the virtues of the existing regime. Now cue the trolling about how unethical it is to advocate for my clients' interests instead of standing up and talking about my personal preferences...)

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          No, you're not unethical for extolling your client's position - that is after all your job. You're unethical for taking on a client in the first place, knowing that arguing their case will require you to take an unethical position in front of the bench. Would you make less money turning away such clients? Probably. But nobody ever said being "good" was the easy choice - and you'd still likely be making far more than the median income (which was only $44,389 in 2004, and that was *household* income, not

          • by Zordak (123132)

            The fact that I disagree with a law does not mean that upholding that law or advising a client how to benefit from the law is unethical. If I have a client with a copyrighted work and the DMCA provides the most generous protection of that work, I will advise him how to use the DMCA for its intended purpose. To fail in doing that would be a gross breach of my professional responsibility. I also owe duties to my firm, and it would be unethical for me to breach those responsibilities by turning away clients be

        • You say the patent system is doing what it's supposed to.

          My impression was that the patent system was supposed to give a strong, limited-time monopoly to inventors--in return for exposing the implementation details rather than keeping it a trade secret.

          Do you think software patents do this?

          My impression is that software patents (if allowed at all) should include complete source code for the implementation. Also, I see quite a few software patents of the form "do *this* in software" where *this* is a high-l

    • Anyone got a citation for this, that Congress does not have the power to limit patents which already have been granted? AFAIK patent exist completely at the pleasure of Congress.

      Doesn't matter if they have the power - they won't do it. Too many companies have spent too much money on the registration of patents - invalidating them all would piss off far too many constituents. .

      • Strike "constituents" and replace with "donors."

        They are two different things. If election laws were sane they wouldn't be, but right now they are.

    • Software Patents are a US idea and a US problem, Patents are government granted and so can be taken away or invalidated easily ...

      • Don't be naive (Score:5, Informative)

        by Any Web Loco (555458) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:41AM (#41853657) Homepage
        Don't be naive - patents may have their roots in Anglo-American law but they're a global phenomenon and, given the reach and influence of the US legal system, a global problem.
      • Software Patents are a US idea and a US problem

        They also exist in every other patent system, including Europe's, despite what some people would have you believe. They actually have the same rule as in the US - software per se is unpatentable, but a software method performed by a machine, or a machine executing software, or a DVD including software instructions are all patentable.

    • Re:Right on (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:45AM (#41853705) Homepage Journal

      Anyone got a citation for this, that Congress does not have the power to limit patents which already have been granted? AFAIK patent exist completely at the pleasure of Congress.

      Patents have been held to be property, and are therefore subject to due process rights against seizure by the government (there are also arguments about them being a legal entitlement). While Congress could abolish the patent act tomorrow, they probably couldn't make it retroactive or take away existing patents.

    • by Grond (15515)

      Anyone got a citation for this, that Congress does not have the power to limit patents which already have been granted?

      It's a long-standing principle dating back to McClurg v. Kingsland [google.com], 42 US 202 (1843). But even if a patent could be retroactively invalidated by legislative fiat or effectively invalidated by making it (virtually) unenforceable, the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause would likely entitle the patent owner to just compensation.

    • by shaitand (626655)

      I've got no citations to support that but it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility. Congress can't make retroactive laws so laws they pass today can't retroactively revoke existing patents that were perfectly legal yesterday. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto_law [wikipedia.org]

      It can however pass a law that would effectively make them unenforceable tomorrow which is what he is suggesting.

  • by Runesabre (732910) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:07AM (#41853239) Homepage

    My issue with software patents are that inventors have the tools to create just about anything in their own home. Anyone could have created Facebook, JPG rendering, one-click purchase with simply a laptop. If software patents were music, it would be like patenting piano music. Press the keys in a certain way (which anyone will eventually do who plays piano at all) and .. oops... you just violated a patent. Press keys in an arbitrary other pattern and viola... instant patent and license to pester future composers with your "invention".

    There's nothing non-obvious with just about any software. Developers should not have to worry about the dark legal cloud of patents hanging over them for something literally anyone could create with readily available tools in their own home. That very fact should make it obvious why software patents should not exist. People don't accidentally find a cure for cancer in their basement with their Junior Chem Lab Set which is why patents do have a place in general.Even worse is the fact you could be unknowingly violating a patent without even knowing it and the system purposely allows patent holders to wait around until inventors start to actually profit from their inventions and THEN start suing. The fact that patent holders can even have patents without even having a real product simply shows the system isn't about stimulating and rewarding invention but stirring up revenue for government agencies and legal firms.

    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:33AM (#41853563) Homepage Journal
      Like I've argued, actual code is covered by copyright. If I code something that has the end result as yours, from a patent perspective, it would be like a Xerox copier to a Ditto machine. They both copied documents, but differently. Now if I code something and the guts are the same that is naughty, and covered by copyright law.
      • by Runesabre (732910)

        +1 Agree with you here. Stealing content is bad. Go write your own code, create your own music, whatever. Content creators should not have to worry about whether their METHODS are infringing, but, they should be given pause when attempting to steal someone else's effort instead of creating their own.

        • by tepples (727027)

          Go write your own code, create your own music, whatever.

          Say I write my own music. What steps should I take to I make sure that the combination of notes I happen to choose isn't accidentally the same as the hook of some existing song?

    • There's nothing non-obvious with just about any software.

      That's an odd statement. If there's nothing non-obvious in software, then why are there still developers? Why haven't we had 3D UIs with head tracking for decades? Why are people looking for new encryption systems, and why are there any that haven't already been cracked?

      Basically, I think you're using a different definition of "non-obvious" than the legal one.

      • by Runesabre (732910)

        That's a fair point and observation. Development takes time. The reward should be focused on those who actually take the time to develop and market their product for meaningful use in society (or team up with others who can bring a product to market) and not reward those who simply come up with the idea for it and wait to sue someone else who actually spends the time to make it a reality.

    • Anyone could have created Facebook, JPG rendering, one-click purchase with simply a laptop.

      So what? Anyone can create a machined part in their house with a drill press which costs less than most laptops. The fact that the tools are readily available does not have any bearing on whether something made with them should be patentable. Furthermore the mere fact that in theory "anyone could have created Facebook" is belied by the fact that only one person actually did create Facebook. Just because others possess the technical skill to do something doesn't matter at all with regard to the novelty,

      • by Runesabre (732910)

        I like how you're thinking and appreciate your response.

        In fact, I don't believe you should be able to patent the output of a drilling press or a milling machine. In general, as I think out loud, it seems the root problem is allowing the output from a single device or process to be patented. Once a machine or process exists that can produce an output then nobody should be able to hold license to any one particular output of that device or process.

        Now, combine multiple outputs from multiple different devic

    • by Grond (15515)

      My issue with software patents are that inventors have the tools to create just about anything in their own home

      For the cost of a high-end computer you can also buy a CNC mill or a 3D printer. Should mechanical device patents also be abolished, since just about any device can be designed and built in a person's home?

      There's nothing non-obvious with just about any software

      Ah, right. That's why computer science had a massive explosion of ideas in the 30s and 40s and then has been completely stagnant ever since. It was all so obvious!

      Even worse is the fact you could be unknowingly violating a patent without even knowing it and the system purposely allows patent holders to wait around until inventors start to actually profit from their inventions and THEN start suing

      That's not how patent damages work. Damages don't start accruing until after the infringer has notice of the patent (actual or constructive

      • by Runesabre (732910)

        See my previous response. In a word, yes, the output of a single mechanical device shouldn't be patentable. Combining outputs from multiple unique devices, however, should be something we encourage and reward with legal defense.

  • That requires voting for people who will create the required legislation. It won't happen with the current crop we reelect now.

  • This might not be explicitly removing software patents, but in effect that sounds like what would happen. What would the point of software patents be if this made it so nobody could ever infringe on one?

    Maybe this kind of indirect approach is exactly what is needed to blend in with other legislation.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      It would still permit special purpose software patents that are an integral part of a larger system - embedded software, industrial control systems, self-driving car controllers, etc. would still be covered. i.e. it becomes all about the peripherals and problem domain - only consumer oriented software designed for use on general-purpose hardware would get a pass.

      That is to say that while yes, for a theoretical definition of general-purpose computer one Turing-complete architecture is equivalent to any oth

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:19AM (#41853383)

    I'm not against it at all, but II really would like to understand how Stallman's proposal would apply to, say, the following example (one I've used before [slashdot.org]):

    Suppose we take something like the FM demodulator in a radio. When Edwin Armstrong invented it, back in the stone age of the 1930s, I think we can all agree that (a) it was an "actual physical device," and (b) that it met all the other criteria (novelty, non-obviousness, utility, etc.) needed for a patent. It was implemented with the technology available at the time -- stone knives, bear skins, vacuum tubes (valves), and a transformer.

    Skipping over details like the invention of ratio detectors, phase-locked loops, etc., the next change in implementation of FM detectors came when the tubes were replaced with discrete transistors. This required some change in bias methods, impedance levels, etc., but no major redesign. It did save cost, size, and power, though.

    The next change was integration. At first, the transformer was still needed for the demodulator, and so it was pinned out of the ICs, which were still analog. This saved cost, size, and power still further.

    Later, schemes were found to integrate the function of the transformer, fully integrating the (still analog) demodulator. This saved cost and size still further.

    Still later, improvements in integration processes enabled the function of the FM demodulator to be performed digitally, using an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and a bunch of hard-wired logic gates, emulating the mathematical function performed by the analog demodulator. This saved cost, size, and power still further.

    Demodulator designs were next ported into programmable hardware dedicated to signal-processing applications (digital signal processors); this required the ADC, plus the algorithm converted to the DSP's assembly language. This saved cost and size.

    After that, demodulator designs were moved into hardware register-transfer languages, like Verilog, providing portability from chip to chip using standard-cell logic families. This saved cost.

    Later, the Verilog designs were ported into field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), enabling one to program the hardware in the chip to become, when preceded by the ADC, an FM demodulator. This saved cost.

    Finally, technology improved to the point that the FM demodulator could be made by an ADC followed by a microcomputer, programmed with software in a high-level language as part of a much larger system. This saved cost.

    At what point in this development do we draw the line and say, "Below this, it's not patentable (or patent infringement)?" Where is "software"?

    • by amorsen (7485)

      If the microcomputer is "generally used computing hardware", then it is not patent infringement. FPGA's are not at this time "generally used computing hardware", so the patent still applies to that line and above.

      I would prefer a different split, but I think Stallman's proposal is clear and easy to understand. There will be a gray area -- is an iPhone "generally used computing hardware"? Is a Raspberry Pi in general? Is the Raspberry Pi GPU? Case law should make that gray area quite small in no time at all

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        FPGA's are not at this time "generally used computing hardware", so the patent still applies to that line and above.

        I beg to differ -- billions and billions of FPGAs have been sold, over the last 30 years, for just about every computing application one could name. It's hard to think of a more generally-used piece of computing hardware than one that can be programmed to be anything you want.

        Or does "generally used computing hardware" mean that it has to be a consumer product? That wouldn't protect the armies of software developers in the world working on industrial or imbedded applications...

        Besides, how do DSPs escape

        • I think an FPGA should fit in the same category personally and be covered by the same anti-liability law. An FPGA is an off the shelf part that's programmable, violating no patents by itself, but suddenly doing so if someone programs it in a way that violates a patent.

          If you encode an MP3 decoder in an FPGA you own, then good for you. Likewise if you ship source to such a thing. If you, however, bundle that FPGA into a hardware product, and sell the hardware product, then it's a whole new ballgame. I'd

        • billions and billions of FPGAs have been sold, over the last 30 years, for just about every computing application one could name.

          How many of these FPGAs have been sold in a device where the user is encouraged to control what fusemap runs on the FPGA? The only one I can think of is the PowerPak, a CompactFlash adapter for the Nintendo Entertainment System that uses the FPGA to provide memory mapping and raster timing services to the running NES game.

        • by Cormacus (976625)

          billions and billions of FPGAs have been sold, over the last 30 years, for just about every computing application one could name

          Yes, BUT they have not all been sold as part of a standard board design (eg ATX, ...) for use in part of a standard system (desktop, laptop) with a set of standard IO (USB, ethernet, etc), running a specific instruction set (x86, etc). And I guarantee you that they have not all been able to run the same bit file, which is the analogous part of the system to the software that th

      • by Grond (15515)

        FPGA's are not at this time "generally used computing hardware", so the patent still applies to that line and above.

        You've stated a conclusion without giving any reasons. What does "generally used" mean? What does generally mean? A majority of people in the market? What's the market? Used for a long time? How long? What does used mean? Used in a way that would be infringing or used for any purpose? Used by whom? What is "computing hardware?" Is an abacus computing hardware? What about a special-purpose chip that can't be used for general purpose computation? And once you've defined these terms in a rigorous

    • t what point in this development do we draw the line and say, "Below this, it's not patentable (or patent infringement)?" Where is "software"?

      At this point:

      Demodulator designs were next ported into programmable hardware dedicated to signal-processing applications (digital signal processors); this required the ADC, plus the algorithm converted to the DSP's assembly language. This saved cost and size.

      At the point programmabel hardware was used. From this point on the actual improvements were performed by the people working on improving programable hardware not the people implimenting FM demodulators.

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        . . . but suppose that the guys working on programmable hardware developed an improved algorithm to use on their programmable hardware, and some other guy took their algorithm, instantiated it in hard-wired logic gates, and sold it. Is your position that the guy who took the improved algorithm and made money off of it owes nothing to those who invented the algorithm?

      • by Grond (15515)

        At the point programmabel hardware was used.

        Why? Stallman just talks about "generally used computing hardware." What does that have to do with programmability?

    • by mspohr (589790)

      I think Stallman's point is that you can sidestep the issue of what is "software" by just stating that it's not patent infringement running code on standard computer hardware. You don't have to muck with the definition of hardware or software or patents (which can all be gamed by lawyers).
      From TFA:
      "My suggestion is to change the effect of patents. We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement. This approa

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        once you move the code to general purpose hardware, it's no longer infringement.

        As I have asked elsewhere, suppose that the guys developing code for general purpose hardware developed an improved algorithm, and some other guy took their algorithm, instantiated it in hard-wired logic gates, and sold it as a physical product. Is your position that the guy who took the improved algorithm and made money off of it owes nothing to those who invented the algorithm?

        • by mspohr (589790)

          First, this is not "my" position. I'm just attempting to understand what Stallman is saying so don't start an argument with me.
          So your hypothetical is: taking a patented algorithm that runs on general purpose hardware (not patent infringement) and moving it to hard-wired logic (not general purpose hardware). I think (if I understand Stallman correctly) that once you move the patent algorithm to hard-wired logic, it would require a patent license.

          • by dtmos (447842) *

            so don't start an argument with me.

            Apologies. That was not my intent. I, too, am trying to understand what Stallman is saying.

            [rubs chin] . . . so his proposal would establish a sort of one-way intellectual property door, in which patented hardware could be emulated in software without patent infringement, but patented software algorithms implemented in hardware would infringe.

            The implications of that are interesting. On the one hand, it would tend to force implementations of all kinds of things into software (even things that would be b

            • by mspohr (589790)

              I think that patent holders could implement their designs in hardware (which might have speed or cost advantages) but "copycats" could implement in software to avoid infringement (or could license the patent and implement in hardware).
              It certainly would make software patents less valuable... "one-click" would be worthless.

      • by Grond (15515)

        You don't have to muck with the definition of hardware or software or patents (which can all be gamed by lawyers).

        Right, you just have to much with the definition of "a program" and "generally used computing hardware." So you do have to muck with the definitions of software ("programs") and hardware after all, plus whatever "generally used" means.

        In your example, once you move the code to general purpose hardware, it's no longer infringement.

        Stallman's suggestion has nothing to do with general purpose hardware, only generally used hardware, which may or may not be general purpose.

        • by mspohr (589790)

          I don't think that there would be any issues of defining "program" but I do think there could be battles about "generally used computer hardware".
          Stallman is clearly on the side of software freedom in his proposal anything that can be reduced to a software program would be free to run. The sticky area is in defining the hardware. I think that once you code something in hardware such as a gate array, it ceases to be in the category of "generally used computer hardware" but there are grey areas. Stallman's

    • You make a very good set of points. I've made similar points in other places too. The truth is there's no clean line between 'hardware' and 'software', and ANY process who's primary purpose is to consume and transform information is an embodiment of a fundamental numerical/logical algorithm.

      Lets just imagine a simple case WRT to Stallman's suggestion. You implement an algorithm in hardware using discrete logic. You patent it. I implement the same algorithm purely in software on a general purpose computer. I

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      There was no claim of making things not patentable. All of that would still be patentable (assuming it qualifies on the usual criteria). Someone producing a radio using it would need to license the patent. However, someone developing, distributing, or running code that does any of that on a generally used computer hardware would not. Of course we have a very unspecific term there, but that's something law makers love or they could define it more precisely.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      It's law, not computer science - there is no hard line. It's all based on the interpretation of the lawyers, judge, and jury - none of which are likely to be competent in interpreting technical nuances. Personally, assuming Stallman's wording was used, I'd say the moment you write a piece of software that does the work on the main CPU of a general-purpose desktop computer/tablet/etc. you qualify for the exemption.

      More to the point Armstrong's patent expired in the 50's - decades before anything resembling

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you can unknowingly break some patent without even realizing its there, its a sign of a patent being awarded for something that should not be patentable in the first place.

    Patents for a vague idea, or a general approach of implementing it - do not want.

  • I think this approach gives judges the freedom to apply a basic test on any attempt to enforce a patent... "Is the dispute based on the implementation of a software product and does the software product run on a generic platform where many hundreds of different development shops target for their own products?" If both of these questions can be answered with "Yes" then the dispute is spurious.

    With this, I think iPods and Servers remains novel but Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops, and Desktop software will be

  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:40AM (#41853641) Journal

    The things you cannot patent, universally accepted:
    Physical Phenomenon, Natural Law, Abstract Ideas and out of these we also have Mathematical Algorithms. Certainly Software can be proven to not qualify for patent-ability, http://abstractionphysics.net/ [abstractionphysics.net] or add dot net to it for the reality of which the fictional trilogy "the matrix" characters were representations of. In other words, we all use the fundamental actions of which software must make use of in playing back what amounts to nothing more than the physical phenomenon of the natural laws of our creation and use of abstract ideas, which include the well defined abstractions of mathematics. All done on a machine that processes abstraction.

    Why has this not come to light? Nature likes 3, as in three primary colors of paint or light, etc. from which you can create all other colors of that media. Software has three user interfaces. The CLI, GUI and the side door port to automating software use, including its creation. However this third user interface is kept from the general user, limiting what the general user can do. For the user to have such access is in analogy like giving users a decimal calculator when the accountants are using roman numerals. A great deal of what software patents cover today would become non-novel and invalid.

    Bill Gates said the way to become wealthy is to make people need you. He was also the one to coin the term "software piracy"

    And there you have the reason for the fraud of software patents.

  • 1 except in the cases of "separable" claims a patent does not apply unless ALL Claims apply (separable claims are only allowed for Common Sense type things like use in Fixed , Mobile Air , Mobile Water and Mobile Land)

    2 in cases where another company has produced a product covered by the patent you have 90 days to start the suit or this product is to be considered "Prior Art" unless 1 you have no way of knowing about the conflicting product 2 You have produced a Product and included a "Covered by The Follo

    • in cases where another company has produced a product covered by the patent you have 90 days to start the suit or this product is to be considered "Prior Art" unless 1 you have no way of knowing about the conflicting product 2 You have produced a Product and included a "Covered by The Following Patents : %list%" block

      I believe this is already covered under laches [wikipedia.org], except that the period beyond which a presumption of intentional harm is imputed longer than that.

    • by gknoy (899301)

      Won't Prior art be meaningless when the US changes to a First to File system (like most of the rest of the world) next year?

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        No - F2F only effects whether the case where two or more inventors apply for what is substantially the same patent. Currently the patent would go to the inventor who could prove that they invented it first - next year it will go to the one who's application was received first. In either case if a similar invention was already patented or published years ago you have prior art and *nobody* gets the new patent (or the patent should be ruled invalid when someone points out the older invention)

  • Stallman's idea is very compatible with a notion of reversing the reversal of the original intent of patents that has happened in the modern corporate business environment.

    The main necessity of patents in the past was specifically the differential between the capabilities of the individual or small company, and the large established company, to take a concept from initial concept/implementation to large-scale production. That differential was, in large part, the reason why the market in itself was not tru

  • Patents last way too long 20 years from the filing date is what it says .. but if the patent office takes long to approve it then you get to tack on that time too. There are still patents on HDTV that were filed in the 1990s that have not even been issued yet! When they get issued they will get about 18 or 19 years from the issue date.
    Companies deliberately delay the approval of their patents to take advantage of this loophole. The loophole was made for pharmaceuticals (FDA approval can take a decade), but

That does not compute.

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