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The Courts Patents

Judges Debate Patents and If New Software Makes a Computer a "New Machine" 247

Posted by samzenpus
from the computer-transubstantiation dept.
First time accepted submitter ectoman writes "A third party steps into a financial transaction to make sure all parties exchange funds at the same time and as expected. Can you patent this process? What if the third party is a computer? Rob Tiller, vice president and general counsel for Red Hat, details a recent court ruling on this very matter—one that has critical implications for the future of software patents, and one that divided the judges involved. Tiller writes that: 'The judges mostly agreed that the idea of managing settlement risk with a third party was abstract such that by itself it could not be patented. They differed, though, on whether using a general purpose computer for managing settlement risk meant that the patents avoided invalidity based on abstraction.' Interestingly, some judges suggested that a computer becomes a 'new machine' every time it loads different software."
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Judges Debate Patents and If New Software Makes a Computer a "New Machine"

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  • Genius! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WillgasM (1646719) on Monday May 20, 2013 @04:56PM (#43776459) Homepage
    1.Make it so that every time you load a new piece of software you invalidate the license of every other piece of software in an endless recursive loop.
    2.????
    3.Profit
    4.goto 1
    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      The death knell of windows in 4 steps?

  • wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @04:59PM (#43776483)

    If we can slap 'on a computer' onto an old idea to patent it, can we slap on another 'on a computer' to patent it for virtual machines?

    • and on a mobile device, then on a virtual machine on a mobile device, then on the internet, then in the cloud(public cloud privet and hybrid) i wonder if we could modify the corporate buzzword bullshit generator to file patents applications... (this idea is patent pending)

    • If we can slap 'on a computer' onto an old idea to patent it, can we slap on another 'on a computer' to patent it for virtual machines?

      Yo dawg...

  • I dunno (Score:5, Funny)

    by marcello_dl (667940) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:00PM (#43776485) Homepage Journal

    As much as I hate trivial patents in any field, I must admit that when I wipe windows off a pc and put debian on it, it sure feels like a new machine...

    • haha yeah I know what you mean. Always thinking you need to defrag, clean out temp files etc to gain more speed because something didn't 'feel right'. Wiped Windows, Installed Xubuntu, realized absolutely nothing was wrong with my Computer except Windows. Makes me wonder if that's why some people buy a new machine, because of the dreaded Windows degrading performance over time. Well, that and along with having to run software they won't update anymore, AKA Forced Upgrade.

      After almost a year of extremely hea

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:01PM (#43776495)

    The computer is a new machine many times every picosecond as the data in the registers change, the data in ram changes, the data on the hard drive changes, the data flowing through network interfaces changes, etc...

    Since the computer is *new* billions, if not trillions of times a second, then software doesn't make it unique.

    Yet again, the clueless making decisions on things they cannot comprehend.

    • Since the computer is *new* billions, if not trillions of times a second, then software doesn't make it unique.

      billions a second == 1e9 per second == 1GHz

      trillions a second == 1e12 per second = 1THz

      I am pretty sure there are NO general purpose computers operating at anywhere near 1THz.

    • by Livius (318358)

      The human brain changes the same way, at a rate of probably thousands of time a second.

      If that mattered, think how it would affect things like acceptance of a contract or even criminal intent.

    • by gagol (583737)
      So, I have a new display 60 times a second? A new car engine 700-5000 time a second? The computer is a huge calculator. You don't have a different calculator every time you enter a new equation, its capability is the same.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I was thinking in another direction.

      If a different software makes a computer a new machine, doesn't that undermine general software patents? After all what one patents is not so much an idea, as it is an implementation of an idea. You're not able to patent "holding two piece of paper together", but you can patent (and it was patented) "a paper clip" - the piece of bent wire that allows one to easily and temporarily attach two pieces of paper together. For a patent, a paper clip is a machine.

      if someone inven

  • It does (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:04PM (#43776523)

    I know I'll be flamed for this because everyone here is against software patents, but...

    The distinction between a physical machine and a physical machine running software is somewhat pointless. Almost any software can be converted into a physical machine. Using a hardware H.264 encoder/decoder or a hardware crypto card is really no different from doing those things in software. If you want to make a distinction between physical objects and software for patent purposes, the logic part of computers needs to be considered software despite the fact that it's been manifested as a physical object. But general purpose computers running software aren't any different than purpose-built computers executing the same logic in hardware.

    • The distinction between a physical machine and a physical machine running software is somewhat pointless.

      That may be, but about the only thing can make a computer running program X novel enough to patent is the algorithms implemented by X. Hence you are essentially patenting an algorithm, which is not supposed to be allowed.

      Damn. Is this why they make engineers take Intro to Philosophy courses? What about a Platonic ideal of a computer?

    • by smartr (1035324)
      The physical machines you are discussing sound like non-useful hardware processor optimizations. You could of course, design a math or video card co-processor highly optimized to do specific processes, but this is nothing that your general purpose Turing machine isn't capable of with more or less efficiency. Creating a gigantic logic board to do just a specific process isn't really all that practical, as anything that was made for practical processor design would just use a general processor or a type of pr
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      This is often brought up but I don't see what the problem is. Sure you can implement an algorithm in hardware, and sure, you can patent that. But that patent doesn't stop anybody from implementing the same thing in software. Yes, these patents are pointless, but not harmful.

  • by stewsters (1406737) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:08PM (#43776541)
    As long as they run a different OS we can get around the patent? Time to add some ideas to the public domain.

    Someone want to make a website that scrapes through software patents on http://www.google.com/patents [google.com] and adds ' on a linux based computer' to the end of them, and then reposts them as public domain?
    • That would be nice but I think registering patents is a fairly costly process.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Don't register them as patent. Make sure you publish it somewhere, because the moment an idea is published, it can not be patented any more - with some exception for the original inventor I believe, but at least no-one else can patent this exact idea, as the publication is prior art.

  • A new machine?

    So my pencil becomes a new machine depending on what I do with it?

    Ho boy imagine how many patents I'm going to have!

  • software == machine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gnupun (752725) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:17PM (#43776593)
    The judges seem to echo what I posted on another slashdot post that software instructions and data structures create a machine -- very similar to an equivalent machine that could be created with off-the-shelf hardware, custom ASICs or FPGAs. Therefore software patents should enjoy same protection that hardware patents enjoy.

    They are both the same in functionality and somewhat in implementation, only hardware is faster, more parallel but limited in functionality. Whereas software is slower, less parallel but has vastly more functionality than hardware.

    • For the exact same reason that you mentioned, however, another dude higher in the comments argues that even if the complete software is implemented in hardware, it's still an algorithm, and thus shouldn't be patentable. I guess it really is a political decision in the end.

    • The judges seem to echo what I posted on another slashdot post that software instructions and data structures create a machine -- very similar to an equivalent machine that could be created with off-the-shelf hardware, custom ASICs or FPGAs. Therefore software patents should enjoy same protection that hardware patents enjoy.

      They are both the same in functionality and somewhat in implementation, only hardware is faster, more parallel but limited in functionality. Whereas software is slower, less parallel but has vastly more functionality than hardware.

      No. General purpose Hardware for implementing algorithms, be it ASIC or x86, should not be patentable. Your transistor assembly shouldn't be patentable if it just does the same shit I can do on a general purpose computer. Here's the test: Can I run the algorithm myself given a pencil and some graph paper? If No, then it's not implementable in a general purpose computer. If yes, then it shouldn't be patentable -- Didn't you watch Terminator or The Matrix?! You want to give humans immunity for thinkin

  • There are several requirements in the patent act, and they can be thought of as a set of thresholds that must be passed:

    35 USC 101 requires that a claimed invention be directed to patent eligible subject matter: a process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter (it also requires that the invention is useful). The courts have decided that these categories are very broad, but don't include "abstract ideas" (though that term is never defined), laws of nature, or natural phenomena.

    If the claimed invention passes that low threshold for 101, 35 USC 102 requires that the invention must be new or novel. That's a higher bar, but not a huge one - if I'm the first person to make a red car and claim that in a patent application, that's new, even if blue cars existed.

    If the claimed invention passes that threshold, then 35 USC 103 requires that the invention must be nonobvious. The red car is obvious if blue cars existed, even if no one has ever made a red car before.

    So, for example, if some piece of software causes a computer to paint the screen in red paisley and that's never been done before, it's new... but it's obvious and still patent ineligible.

    The problem is when these get confused or conflated into a single requirement, because obviousness and novelty require evidence, while subject matter eligibility does not. And so, you get cases like CLS or Bilski where the judges want to invalidate the patent because it's stupidly obvious, but they have no evidence on the record... so they declare it an abstract idea and invalid. In particular, here, the judges started carving out everything from the patent claim that made it non-abstract, declaring it irrelevant, until the only thing left was abstract. The outcome may be the right one, but it's for the wrong reason - it's like finding a murderer guilty because you hate his face. Maybe he was actually the murderer, but you're finding him guilty for the wrong reason.

    • by optikos (1187213)
      As a shape & color, red paisley would be a 14-year design patent, not a 20-year utility patent. The topic here is utility patents, which are for the "useful arts". Because they are outside the "useful arts", the recognizable shape & color in design patents are for trade-dress topics outside of what can be trademarked.
      • As a shape & color, red paisley would be a 14-year design patent, not a 20-year utility patent. The topic here is utility patents, which are for the "useful arts". Because they are outside the "useful arts", the recognizable shape & color in design patents are for trade-dress topics outside of what can be trademarked.

        Since I was citing and discussing the statutes involved, any reasonable person would assume that I was using an analogy to simplify the discussion, rather than discussing something unrelated having to do with design patents. And then there's you.

        Now, would you like to go back and add something to the discussion, rather than just trying to be condescending and failing?

  • It's not difficult. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:24PM (#43776663) Journal

    At the same time, a group of four judges strongly disagreed on the significance of the computer limitation. Chief Judge Rader, writing for this group, said that "a computer programmed to perform a specific function is a new machine with individualized circuitry created and used by the operation of the software." Similarly Judge Moore wrote for this same group of four judges that "a general purpose computer in effect becomes a special purpose computer once it is programmed to perform particular functions pursuant to instructions from program software," on the theory that software "effectively rewires a computer."

    Someone needs to slap the cowards in Congress to clarify this w.r.t. a "general-purpose machine".

    Merely shoving some algorithm that is done by hand onto a computer is nothing novel. This isn't to say a particularly clever and non-intuitive software implementation couldn't be patented. But just doing it in software is not novel; it is obvious.

    Software is indeed a virtual -- and specialized -- machine -- that is the idea behind computers as "generel-purpose machines". But not in the legal sense driving patents: novel and non-obvious innovation.

    I keep recommending these rules:

    1. If it's already being done in the real world, doing it on a computer is not patentable per se.

    2. Doing a simulation of a real-world item is similarly not patentable per se.

    3. Doing something wirelessly formerly done over a network, or remotely formerly done locally, or on a lil' phone or tablet or tricorder, is also not patentable per se.

    4. This is not to say particularly clever implementations (the "machine" part of "virtual machine") could not be patented.

    There, follow those rules, cowardly Congress, and you protect patentable innovation while eviscerating a ton of current patent problems.

    • Merely shoving some algorithm that is done by hand onto a computer is nothing novel. This isn't to say a particularly clever and non-intuitive software implementation couldn't be patented. But just doing it in software is not novel; it is obvious.

      Sure, if the algorithm is already done by hand. But what if you come up with some novel, nonobvious algorithm, like a way to calculate interstellar warp coordinates? Then doing it either by hand or on a computer is novel... The question is whether it would still be patent eligible or not.
      Under Bilski and CLS and current jurisprudence, a claim just to the algorithm would not be patentable... because someone could do it by hand. But if the claim had enough some additional limitations that specifically recite

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:29PM (#43776693) Journal

    Reading this story makes me feel like a new man. Those bills? You'll have to track down the old guy if you want them paid.

  • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:31PM (#43776703)
    I completely disagree that loading a computer with new software makes it a new machine. The machine "part" of the computer is the hardware not the software, the software is the operator. So reloading a computer with new software will change the operational purpose of the machine but not the machine itself. To put this another way, if I have a conveyor belt that just moves objects around, like a computer moves data around, then it doesn't matter who is operating the machine it will always be model xxy, I might change the operator many times in the life of the machine but that doesn't change the machine itself.

    Now lets be clear that I'm not talking about a FPGA! In a FPGA if you "reload" the software you will change the machine because in essence the "software" for a FPGA is like the internal gear system, you can configure it in 1000 different ways to do different tasks. One day it can be a conveyor build and the next it will be a bottle cap remover. So before someone comes in here and blows a gasket at me, I fully accept the fact that a FPGA is very different then a Computer.
    • In a FPGA if you "reload" the software you will change the machine ... One day it can be a conveyor build and the next it will be a bottle cap remover.

      Guess you haven't tried the latest Xilinx design software - it turns everything into a brick.

      • by Murdoch5 (1563847)
        Haha well I haven't used the "newest" release of the software, so fair. I'm currently running 13.0 of the suite.
    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Now lets be clear that I'm not talking about a FPGA! In a FPGA if you "reload" the software you will change the machine because in essence the "software" for a FPGA is like the internal gear system, you can configure it in 1000 different ways to do different tasks. One day it can be a conveyor build and the next it will be a bottle cap remover. So before someone comes in here and blows a gasket at me, I fully accept the fact that a FPGA is very different then a Computer.

      Ah, but an FPGA can be simulated in s

      • Now lets be clear that I'm not talking about a FPGA! In a FPGA if you "reload" the software you will change the machine because in essence the "software" for a FPGA is like the internal gear system, you can configure it in 1000 different ways to do different tasks. One day it can be a conveyor build and the next it will be a bottle cap remover. So before someone comes in here and blows a gasket at me, I fully accept the fact that a FPGA is very different then a Computer.

        Ah, but an FPGA can be simulated in software. Therefore, if you reload the software in the simulator, you change the virtual machine. How is the fact that one is emulated and the other is physical relevant?

        The way I look at it, software certainly adds a new state machine into the picture. Whether that qualifies as a machine for patent purposes is a separate question, and there are legitimate arguments on both sides, but whichever way you decide, an FPGA should play by the same rules as software.

        Bear in mind also that qualifying as a machine simply distinguishes it from being an abstract idea... it's not enough to make something patentable on its own: it still has to be new and nonobvious, but those are different questions, with different tests - the most revolutionary, novel, nonobvious abstract idea that's ever been invented is still unpatentable, not because it's not new, but because it's not tied to a machine. Software that's tied to a machine only meets that first hurdle - it still needs to ju

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Loading new software on a general purpose computer allows it to do something totally different, something it could not perform before. And from that point of view, it is a new machine. Hardware without software (and software without hardware) is useless; it's the combination of software and hardware that makes it perform a task.

      Mind that as we're talking about patents, a machine is not necessarily something with pullies and gears. A paper clip is a machine, too. As is a swing.

  • by meerling (1487879) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:32PM (#43776707)
    So then, since the Jacquard loom used a different set of cards to 'program' each different cloth pattern, it qualifies for millions of separate patents.
    We're talking about technology almost 300 years old. I'm thinking some of those judges are not only technically inept, but are in fact Luddites in black robes.
    • So then, since the Jacquard loom used a different set of cards to 'program' each different cloth pattern, it qualifies for millions of separate patents.

      No, because, after the first one, the others would likely be obvious in view of the first one. Nonobvious, however, is a separate requirement from whether something is drawn to patent eligible subject matter. And the judge's point here was that a programmed computer is a machine, and machines are patent eligible. They still have to be new and nonobvious and clearly described, but they're not immediately disqualified regardless of how new or nonobvious they are, the way pure software is.

      We're talking about technology almost 300 years old. I'm thinking some of those judges are not only technically inept, but are in fact Luddites in black robes.

      If you came up with a

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      The loom was still producing cloth. Different colour cloth maybe, still it was cloth. swapping out red for black thread is certainly "obvious" in patent lingo, as is changing a cross-pattern for a star-pattern. The fact that you can do this, would likely have been incorporated in the patent application (if it would have been patented - which 300 years ago was not possible as patents didn't exist), as I'm sure this programmability was key to the invention of that loom.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Oh, and I forgot: these patterns nowadays may very well be patentable, in the form of a design patent. But then you patent the pattern itself (getting close to the copyright realm, and if your patent is (part of) your trademark, it may even fall under trademark protection).

  • A different program DOES make it a different machine, and I'll explain why that must be true. That's not enough to defend an overly general patent, though.

    However, it seems to me that's the wrong question to ask in this case. It seems that someone wants to patent the concept of "a machine to do X" rather than patenting one SPECIFIC machine that does X. You can't patent "a machine to take people from place to place". You'd have to invent and patent some specific new transportation machine. So the patent would be invalid on that ground. The patentors claim that "a computer machine to do X" is specific enough to be patentable, and most people disagree - you've got to patent some specific new invention, and "on a computer" isn't new, or specific.

    As to the question in the summary, ANY electronic machine* can be implemented is software, and any software machine can be easily rendered as a hardware
    machine. Converting between hardware circuits and software instructions is a trivial bit of arithmetic, so the exact same machine can be flashed into memory and
    and we'd call it software, or it can be flashed into a gate array and we'd cal it hardware. Therefore, if any electronic device is a device, a software device must also be a device. (Because the exact same functions can be flashed as hardware or software, it's still a device or not either way.)

    Gate arrays show that one cannot really distinguish between hardware and software programs. With the original gate arrays, the factory would take some stock
    electronic logic parts and add layers of metal to implement a specific product. This isn't much different from soldering components together. It's definitely hardware. The cool thing was, the metal connections would be added based on a precise written description of of how the device should behave - a PROGRAM. In the next generation, the parts started out with fused connections between ALL of the parts and the factory would blow most of the fuses, leaving only the desired connections. Again, the list of which 10,000 fuses to blow was generated from written code, code that is pretty much a software program, a software definition of the hardware. Still, hardware produced according to a software program. In the third generation, the CUSTOMER could blow or reset fuses to reconfigure the electronics in the field, "re-wiring" the hardware. That generation is the FPGA, field PROGRAMMABLE gate array. Hmm, the customer can load different programs, that sure sounds like software programs. Those software programs are implemented as physical connections, so that sure sounds like hardware. It's both software and hardware, showing that in the end, codes that define how a machine operates really are both hardware and software - they can be implemented as either or as both at the same time.

    So yes, software can control the other parts of the machine to act differently, making it a different machine. But only specific, newly invented machines are supposed to be patentable, regardless of whether the newly invented machine is rendered as hardware or as software on any given day.
    • I forgot my footnote. When I say "ANY electronic machine* can be implemented is software" that's provably true for a certain definition of "electronic machine".
      Those who are very familiar with these concepts, like gnupun, might prefer that I be more specific, but the point is that it's strictly true for a huge class of electronic devices which are obviously machines, and obviously patentable.

      Those machines can be rendered directly as relays, groups of transistors, or larger groups of transistors. When th
    • only specific, newly invented machines are supposed to be patentable

      And if the machine is implemented in software, the only thing that makes it novel and different from a bazillion other machines with the same physical implementation is the algorithms. You're not supposed to be able to patent those. Logically this means that algorithms implemented in hardware logic are unpatentable, which is fine. They shouldn't be patentable. However algorithms are not the be all and end all of logic design, let alone electronics in general. You could still patent a new memory cell design

      • only specific, newly invented machines are supposed to be patentable

        And if the machine is implemented in software, the only thing that makes it novel and different from a bazillion other machines with the same physical implementation is the algorithms. You're not supposed to be able to patent those.

        Why not? And no, I'm not asking "which Supreme Court decision said that you can't patent algorithms," I'm asking why they said that. It's not an arbitrary rule - there was reasoning behind it, and it's the reasoning that you need to look at when determining whether a machine executing novel and nonobvious software is patentable or not, not the one sentence of dicta.

    • by ArcadeNut (85398)

      Sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree.

      New Software does not make a new machine. Software simply changes the state that the existing machine is in, and only does so while it's running. The machine itself doesn't change. You turn the machine off, then back on, you're back at a known state. Run some software, the state changes.

      • > New Software does not make a new machine. Software simply changes the state that the existing machine is in, and only does so while it's running.
        > The machine itself doesn't change. You turn the machine off, then back on, you're back at a known state

        ?!?!?!? I'm pretty sure that when I cold boot my DVR it does something completely different than when I boot my PBX system. Turning my DVR on and off doesn't turn it into a PBX, or vice versa. They are very different machines. They've run on the exac

    • by devent (1627873)

      If you are going to solder together logic gates to implement an algorithm, the end result you get a machine. Such machine you can patent, no arguments here. and if you are building a machine which sole purpose is to run software, then you can patent that machine. There would be from my side no problem if the MpegLA patents were hardware patents on chips that decode/encode videos.
      Like a refrigerator or a vending machine is a patent-able machine, and they will not become new machines if you put new groceries

      • > If you are going to solder together logic gates to implement an algorithm, the end result you get a machine. Such machine you can patent, no arguments here

        And if you put the parts together in a different way, joining different parts, you get a different machine, right?
        But if you hook the logic gates to relays which connect them, that doesn't make a machine? A computer is nothing more or less than a buttload of solid state relays.
        Setting the relays differently connects different parts in different ways
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The whole point of a turing complete machine (within the limits of finite amounts of memory) is that it isn't a different machine for a different program. The appeal is that one machine can run a variety of different programs; in theory, perform any calculation for which it has enough memory.

      So no, no matter what software you have loaded, you haven't made it a different machine. Not even if you load different microcode. Only if you are burning fuses or proms (real proms, or at least some kind you can't eras

      • > Only if you are burning fuses or proms (real proms, or at least some kind you can't erase for one reason or another) are you making it something in particular.

        So if you burn a prom to make it do something completely different, that's a different machine, you say. Unless you're able to later repeat the same process, making a different machine from the same parts. That's a rather arbritrary distinction, isn't it?
  • Mandatory car analogy: New software makes a computer a new machine the same way switching from Exxon gas to Shell gas gives you a new car.

  • by rollingcalf (605357) on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:27PM (#43777077)

    If loading software turns a general-purpose computer into a new machine, the patent for that "new machine" should include all the internal details to make it work, particlularly the source code. Then if somebody else implements the same concept with different source code and different algorithms, they made a different machine so it's not infringing.

  • by Gim Tom (716904) on Monday May 20, 2013 @07:01PM (#43777287)
    Uh, lets see. Computers are pretty much a practical implementation of a Universal Turing Machine which Turing proved could compute any computable problem. Therefore a computer is, in effect, a universal machine. Since changing the software on what is already a universal machine doesn't really change the fact that it is still a universal machine then it seems that no software for any computer should be patentable.
    • I agree. Another way of looking at it is that the only thing that can make a program novel enough to patent is a new algorithm, but algorithms are not patentable.
  • I guess nobody told them what a Von Neumann machine [wikipedia.org] is. Changing the software doesn't change the machine. There is over a hundred years worth of precedence regarding this class of ideas, from looms to player pianos. Software patents are just corporate interests trying to lock up much of the already invented technology so that they will have monopolies for the next 100 years.
  • I am a scientist. I call into question the assumption that, "Patents are Beneficial for Society as a Whole". This is an untested hypothesis. Until we have PROOF that patents are beneficial for our society, they should not be allowed. What if patents are irreparably harming the innovation of mankind?! You have NO PROOF to show whether they are or are not harmful or helpful. There is only conjecture and assumptions. Prove they are beneficial, until then abolish them.

    If I hand you a gun and tell you to put it to your head and pull the trigger, It's beneficial for you. Would you just assume I'm telling the truth? A rational being would examine the gun first to ensure it was not actually harmful... Some would test fire it to ensure it was not harmful. The most rational would require proof that it was beneficial before even touching the damn thing.

    We're slowly blowing our culture's brains out with the legal weapons called patent and copyright. I'm a scientist, so if you think otherwise, then I have two words for you: PROVE IT. As it stands my statement that patents are harmful is just as valid a hypothesis as that they are beneficial. It's unconscionably reckless to continue subjecting the world's economy and culture to this potential danger.

    Wait, I say there's no proof either way, but there is evidence that patents are not required at all. Neither the automotive or fashion industries are allowed copyright or patents for their designs yet look how innovative they are in design; Indeed often design is their core selling point. That's two real world data points indicating patents are not necessary. I've read many responses that say, "Without patents businesses wouldn't fund innovation." These statements are equally bogus because this statement: "Without patents ______," is bogus. We don't the-hell know what it would be like until we run the damn test. The potential risk associated with not performing the experiment should be enough for any rational being to give pause.

    Abolish patents. It's the only rational thing to do. The hypothesis must be tested. Only then will the argument for or against them have any leg to stand on. We can re-institute any laws we want once we're sure they're not harmful. If the scientific method is good enough to develop things that could be patentable, then why turn a blind eye and ignore the fact that no one has applied the scientific method to the patent system itself?

  • I know it is totally unfair and probably mean. But when I read the line

    Interestingly, some judges suggested that a computer becomes a 'new machine' every time it loads different software."

    I imagined a bunch of old fogeys who do not really understand technology, who have been poring over legal definitions and making finer and finer distinctions and abstractions for decades, delving into "how many microprocessors can dance on the head of a pin?"

  • Here's a practical instead of philosophical argument, or rather an appeal to fairness and reason (alien to lawyers, but perhaps not all Slashdotters). Software can already be copyrighted, but hardware (electronic or otherwise) cannot. Does it seem reasonable to provide software with two types of "intellectual property" protection? What else has that? Movies can also be copyrighted. Should we also allow a patent on all movies involving a boy and his dog?

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