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USPTO Asks For Input On Software Patents 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the first-step-is-admitting-you-have-a-problem dept.
New submitter MouseTheLuckyDog writes "The patent office is reviewing its policy on software patents and is asking for feedback (PDF). Groklaw reports that the USPTO will be hosting a pair of roundtable sessions in February, during which the public will have the ability to attend and put forth their viewpoints. From the article: 'It's obvious the USPTO realizes there is serious unhappiness among software developers, and they'd like to improve things. Software developers are the folks most immediately and directly affected by the software patents the USPTO issues, and it's getting to the point that no one can code anything without potentially getting sued. I don't wish to be cynical, though, as that's a useless thing. So maybe we should look at it as an opportunity to at least be heard. It's progress that they even thought about having a dialogue with developers, if you look at it that way.' If you can make it to Silicon Valley on February 12 or New York City on February 27, go and make your voice heard."
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USPTO Asks For Input On Software Patents

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  • Ban them! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eksith (2776419) on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:25PM (#42477035) Homepage

    A program/software/instructions for a computer, whatever you call them, should be covered under copyright, not a patent. Algorithms should be treated as works for art. Functional (or imperative or whatever) art, but creative works nonetheless.

    The end.

  • by RobertLTux (260313) <robert&laurencemartin,org> on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:39PM (#42477227)

    what i would suggest is pure software patents be BANNED (and all currently active software patents voided)

    now if software is some part of an actual physical product (ie something that would go THUD is dropped) and is an intergral part of said physical product then you can have a patent on the entire setup.

    also there should be a rule of "must infringe on all parts" for a patent to be violated (dropping out clauses that don't apply ie claim for water use when the infringement is land use if there is a land use clause)

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:43PM (#42477275)

    No software or algorithm patents.

    If you really want to keep something exclusive, keep it hidden, call it a trade secret, and sue anyone who leaks it.
    Unless you are Einstein, someone else will think of it fairly soon anyway, because it's obvious to those at the leading edge of whateever specialty, so keeping it a secret may be bad social form but is not really harmful.

  • by johntromp (565732) on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:48PM (#42477355)
    Has the USPTO presented specific examples of what they consider to be excellent software patents? That should help focus discussion...
  • by Hentes (2461350) on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:52PM (#42477397)

    now if software is some part of an actual physical product (ie something that would go THUD is dropped) and is an intergral part of said physical product then you can have a patent on the entire setup.

    I never understood this argument. If the software is purpose-built for your hardware, then there's no use in copying it without said hardware. Here in Europe a similar precedent gets misused to push all kinds of software patents. Getting a patent on the hardware part only should be enough.

  • Re:Ban them! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ikonoclasm (1139897) on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:53PM (#42477419)

    The code and algorithms are already copyrighted. Every creative work in the US is automatically copyrighted, so that concern is moot.

    Secondly, algorithms can't be patented. The law explicitly forbids the patenting of math. You can only patent an implementation of the math.

    Strictly speaking, software should be unpatentable. Software is, at its most fundamental level, pure math. However, much like gene patents, the US courts have decided to conveniently ignore the law where it states that Nature can't be patented (math and genes fall under Nature) in order to allow industry to prosper. Unfortunately, by granting individuals temporary monopolies, the USPTO has insured that those industries have become legal minefields that are stagnating out of fear of litigation.

  • Horse has bolted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:04PM (#42477581) Homepage

    they'd like to improve things...

    Too late for that, the damage is done. The patents they already issued are enough to destroy the software industry for the next 15 years at least.

  • Re:Ban them! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:14PM (#42477787) Journal

    Copyrights and trade secrets protected the software industry just fine before the USPTO opened the flood gates on software patents in the early 90's. They should stick to the original intent of the constitution, and protect the free flow of ideas by banning patents on mathematical algorithms (which includes software, IMO). They should not overturn the patents they've granted - that would harm the companies that filed them - but going forward, patents should cover something more than what can be executed in any mainstream computer language. If I can violate your patent simply by writing C code, it should not be patentable.

    Software patents have resulted in:
    The Open Invention Network [openinventionnetwork.com]
    Peer to Patent [peertopatent.org]
    Oracle suing Google over Java [engadget.com]
    37 Android related patent suits [fosspatents.com]
    Nearly killing RIM [webpronews.com]
    Linux patent suits [wikipedia.org] ...

    I'm afraid we're at the point where the anti-software-patent people warned we'd be. Small companies live in terror of being sued over any software they write. Big companies waste billions of dollars in court. Coders like me intentionally "code dumb", to avoid accidentally using a patented software idea. It's a terrible waste, and it makes me very sad to see America throwing away it's software innovation lead in this way. Thank God software patents weren't around when we wrote so much of the software that still powers the world. If they were, we'd all still be renting time on IBM mainframes. Just imagine a world where Donald Knuth patented all his ideas.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:19PM (#42477869) Journal
    If this were true,the entire American Populace could sue Congress for extending copyright on works ex post facto. Public domain status is payment for a limited monopoly. Once Congress changed the rules, WE THE PEOPLE lost a good chunk of the social bargain. The door swings both ways.
  • Re:Arrogance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fritsd (924429) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:50PM (#42478303) Journal

    I haven't heard a single valid argument for why software is any different than any other discipline.

    Really? Oh.

    Here are a whole bunch of them, each one carefully reasoned out and commented on:
    http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=Patents2 [groklaw.net]

    "Software Patents
    Here are some of the articles Groklaw has published on software patents, particularly in support of the claim that software is mathematics and hence unpatentable subject matter."

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