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Patents Software

German Parliament Tells Government To Strictly Limit Patents On Software 75

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the can't-patent-this dept.
jrepin writes "On Friday the 7th of June the German Parliament decided upon a joint motion to limit software patents. The Parliament urges the German Government to take steps to limit the granting of patents on computer programs (PDF, German; English translation). Software should exclusively be covered by copyright, and the rights of the copyright holders should not be devalued by third parties' software patents. The only exception where patents should be allowed are computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component. In addition the Parliament made clear that governmental actions related to patents must never interfere with the legality of distributing Free Software."
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German Parliament Tells Government To Strictly Limit Patents On Software

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  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:21PM (#43986805)
    • by loufoque (1400831)

      And as we all know, all countries worldwide implement the same laws as the US, just a few years behind.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:15PM (#43987701) Homepage

        And as we all know, all countries worldwide implement the same laws as the US, just a few years behind.

        Sometimes, a little ahead since it's US trade policy to push these laws onto their partners before they adopt the laws themselves, under the guise of coming in line with the rest of the world.

        Other countries aren't pushing for more patents in software, but the US has been pushing them (and DRM, and ridiculous copyright extensions) on everyone else for years now.

        • by loufoque (1400831)

          It was sarcasm.
          Of course other countries don't implement the same laws as the US.

          • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @03:10PM (#43988353) Homepage

            Of course other countries don't implement the same laws as the US.

            Actually they do ... but usually because a US trade delegation foisted it on them after having had industry groups write the text.

            SOPA, software patents, most of the egregious copyright stuff ... all mostly written by industry with other countries heavily pressured to adopt them. Like the "301 watch list" -- it's written entirely by industry, lacking in any objective evidence, but is pushed by the USTR as official policy to browbeat other countries into doing what's in the best interests of US/multinational companies like Sony.

            So, sarcasm or no, it's not as far off the mark as you might think.

            • ...Like the "301 watch list" -- it's written entirely by industry, lacking in any objective evidence, but is pushed by the USTR as official policy to browbeat other countries into doing what's in the best interests of US/multinational companies...

              You mean the US government is the enforcer / bodyguard of the world's largest corporations? Say it ain't so!

            • by loufoque (1400831)

              Contrary to what you may think, countries are still sovereign, and they won't pass a law if the population (or their representatives) is against it even if their friend the USA ask them to.

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                Contrary to what you may think, countries are still sovereign, and they won't pass a law if the population (or their representatives) is against it even if their friend the USA ask them to.

                Contrary to what you may think, US bargaining tactics more or less amount to "sign this, or we will impose trade tariffs and punative fines until you comply."

                It's not so much an 'ask', as we're going to exert financial and trade pressure on you. Like I said, US foreign trade policies tend to get written by industry lobby

              • Replace "USA" with "Big Money" since they are the rightful owners.
              • by gl4ss (559668)

                Contrary to what you may think, countries are still sovereign, and they won't pass a law if the population (or their representatives) is against it even if their friend the USA ask them to.

                well.. thanks to the fucking douchebag industry lobbyists who negotiate the copyright extensions etc behind closed doors the populations are never asked - and the countries are threatened with trade embargoes etc shit.

                so yeah, maybe burma and and north korea don't implement the same copyright forever laws and haven't extended copyright without asking their citizens but the rest of the fucking world sure has.

    • I don't think that's likely.  There would be such an uproar if they tried it that most congresscritters would shrivel and refuse to vote in fear, as with SOPA.

      The outcry wouldn't be as loud, of course, but it would come from informed quarters.
  • computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component

    What would be realistic examples of this?

    • by White Flame (1074973) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:31PM (#43986993)

      Slide to unlock? That's a physical component that's existed for a long time.

      Maybe skeuomorphics will come back into style because of this.

      • by pepty (1976012) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:05PM (#43987517)

        4. to restrict patent law protection to software supportable teachings in which the co mputer program serves merely as a replaceable equivalent for a mechanical or electro - mechanical component, as is the case, for instance, when software - based washing machine controls can replace an electro - mechanical program control unit consisting of revol ving cylinders which activate the control circuits for the specific steps of the wash cycle;

        Maybe it is lost in translation, but I think they would have to rule out mechanical and electro-mechanical computers from eligibility as the component. If they don't, everyone would claim their spreadsheet program is replacing a spreadsheet run on a Babbage machine. Might spur development of some pretty cool Colossus type computers though - that way the patent writers could point to an existing electro mechanical component.

        • Like google search replacing the card catalog down at the library. Do you have the cash to argue it is not in court?
        • It looks like they cribbed that "washing machine" clause from the New Zealand software patent reforms that happened recently.

          There's some major appliance company in NZ that was big on protecting the patentability of their computerized washing machine features, and got that exception put into place. It's really, really lame seeing that almost verbatim in other countries' laws now. And yes, as written it's horribly game-able.

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:33PM (#43987021)
      IIRC, the first software patent in the US was for the UNIX SUID/SGID bits, and that patent was for the mechanical imlementation, with an "oh by the way, you could do this in software, too" clause, which was the first step down the slippery slope that got us to where we are today. As to a direct answer to your question, how about a software implementation of RSA, rather than dedicated hardware? (Yes, I know, I know, for those of you about to quibble).
    • Huge loophole. Babbage developed a design for a mechanical computer... We'll hear arguments that everything under the sun is a replacement for some mechanical device.

      • Seems well-intentioned, but misguided. The problem with software patents is not that they do not have physical analogs. The problem with software patents is that: 1) nearly all of them are immediately obvious to anyone with reasonable software skills and probably get independently re-invented dozens of times a year, and 2) the nature of algorithms and software design means that any given software patent tends to cover much more than what would normally be considered a single invention (e.g. like "inventi
      • Exactly where I was going with this.

        Step 1: Write a software emulator for a mechanical computer
        Step 2: Obtain a patent for said software
        Step 3: Use above to obtain patents on any other software patents you want
        Step 4: ???
        Step 5: Profit!!! (at society's expense)
      • by countach (534280)

        Not only that, but I would have thought that if software replaced something that already exists in mechanical form, it could hardly be innovative. Rather it would be obvious.

    • by Fubari (196373) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:39PM (#43987125)

      computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component

      What would be realistic examples of this?

      software based radio? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software-defined_radio [wikipedia.org]
      Excerpt:

      A software-defined radio system, or SDR, is a radio communication system where components that have been typically implemented in hardware (e.g. mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulators, detectors, etc.) are instead implemented by means of software on a personal computer or embedded system.[1] While the concept of SDR is not new, the rapidly evolving capabilities of digital electronics render practical many processes which used to be only theoretically possible.

      A basic SDR system may consist of a personal computer equipped with a sound card, or other analog-to-digital converter, preceded by some form of RF front end. Significant amounts of signal processing are handed over to the general-purpose processor, rather than being done in special-purpose hardware. Such a design produces a radio which can receive and transmit widely different radio protocols (sometimes referred to as waveforms) based solely on the software used.

      Software radios have significant utility for the military and cell phone services, both of which must serve a wide variety of changing radio protocols in real time.

      • by nashv (1479253)

        Kindle replaces a book?
        All the DVB-T software that replaces television?
        The VoIP software that replaces a telephone?
        Word processors replicate functionality of pen and paper ?
        Heck...pretty much everything that a computer does.

    • computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component

      What would be realistic examples of this?

      A clock.

    • computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component

      What would be realistic examples of this?

      Turing machines.

    • A clock?

  • Groan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:25PM (#43986867)

    The only exception where patents should be allowed are computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component.

    Congratulations. You have just created legislation which will create a mechanical algorithm implementation industry.

    • I keep saying that clever implementations should be patentable, but merely creating a virtual simulation or emulation of a real-world thing should not inherently be patentable.

      This decision does exactly the opposite.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Congratulations. You have just created legislation which will create a mechanical algorithm implementation industry.

      TIL steampunk is the future.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      You can patent such things already, this is just an excluding them from what is being banned.

      German patent law isn't as lax as in the US, so you can't just patent something obvious that replaces something mechanical. It still has to be novel and meet all the other qualifying rules.

  • by Fubari (196373) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:46PM (#43987239)
    Can copyright possibly be worse than patenting? Copyright seems better to me because
    A patent locks down the idea: "Story Patent: hero rescues the princess from evil knight".
    Copyright allows different versions of that story, e.g. Star Wars: Episode Four, A New Hope.

    There are lots of books, songs, plays, movies, games (console, pc, online); the creative side of the entertainment industry manages.
    Copyrighting software like we copyright books makes wayyy more sense to me than patenting software.
    There are plenty of books about mathematics; programs too.
    Patenting math seems... patently absurd?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You don't patent ideas, you patent implemenations of an idea to perform a useful function.

      You don't patent math, you patent uses of math to perform a useful function.

      The mods who modded this up are morons who don't actually know anything about patents, but will happily parrot any idiotic thing they see on the interwebs if it happens to line up with their own idiotic thinking.

      • by Fubari (196373) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @04:30PM (#43989203)

        You don't patent ideas, you patent implemenations of an idea to perform a useful function.

        You don't patent math, you patent uses of math to perform a useful function.

        I think I see what you're driving at, but does it matter?
        Example: Consider Amazon's One Click patent ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click [wikipedia.org] excerpts below ).

        So... Amazon patented an implementation instead of the idea of One Click.

        If that matters, help me understand why Apple licensed that patent (Wiki excerpt 2,below) instead of just creating their own implementation?

        ----
        Wiki Excerpt 1:

        1-Click, also called one-click or one-click buying, is the technique of allowing customers to make online purchases with a single click, with the payment information needed to complete the purchase already entered by the user previously. More particularly, it allows an online shopper using an internet marketplace to purchase an item without having to use shopping cart software. Instead of manually inputting billing and shipping information for a purchase, a user can use one-click buying to use a predefined address and credit card number to purchase one or more items.

        Wiki Excerpt 2:

        Amazon.com in 2000 licensed 1-Click ordering to Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) for use on its online store. Apple subsequently added 1-Click ordering to the iTunes Store and iPhoto.

        ----

        The mods who modded this up are morons who don't actually know anything about patents, but will happily parrot any idiotic thing they see on the interwebs if it happens to line up with their own idiotic thinking.

        So... are you saying all is well in the Land of Patents then? Perhaps for the lawyers & trolls.
        To my simple mind, it seems like a lot of headaches just go away if our society copyrighted software instead of trying to patent it.

      • In practice, ideas are patented every day. As an inventor on a few patents, I can tell you that if you can present the idea as a block diagram, you can get a patent.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bullshit! Why do you think even "software patents" are still forced to say "A device and method..." in front of it? Read the actual laws!
      Patents are, have been, and always will be about a specific implementation!

      Fact is that a shockingly small industry came up with several methods to do work once (come up with a device, algorithm, song, etc), but trick us into giving them real money every time, while they only give us a copy of the results of that work. Even though our money took real work *every* time, t

    • by Fjandr (66656) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @03:04PM (#43988279) Homepage Journal

      A big part of the copyright problem is that copyright is now functionally a forever monopoly. Nothing entered the US public domain this last year.

  • by intermodal (534361) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:19PM (#43987757) Homepage Journal

    Seems that while other countries are stuck in their backwards application of patent law on technologies for which it was never intended, Germany is recognizing the significant repercussions of allowing such actions. The German Parliament has taken positive steps here to declare that it should not be allowed to be abused in such ways. Bravo, Germany! Bravo. Keep up the good work.

    • by hweimer (709734)

      Bravo, Germany!

      Meh. This is basically a renewal of the declaration of 2004 [bundestag.de] and nothing has happened since then. Talk is cheap, especially with a federal election a few months down the road. Instead, the Bundestag as Germany's main legislative body could do its job and change the law and end the patenting madness right now, at least on German soil.

      • It's true, but at least they're talking about it. That's more than I'm seeing in most other countries.

        That said, it may not be as simple as just changing a law. Odds are, Germany is party to numerous intellectual property treaties that would prohibit them from simply changing the law as an easy solution, since in these treaties, they'd still have to meet the terms of the treaty in patent law and in enforcement of foreign patents.

  • More info on my wiki (Score:5, Informative)

    by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:47PM (#43988085) Homepage

    I've been documenting this and have all the background here:

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/German_parliament_petition_against_software_patents [swpat.org]

  • Proud to be a European. Proud to live in a German(-speaking) country. Proud to live in what is an economic province of Germany. Just fucking proud, as the engineer loving his trade that I, ultimately, am.
  • Why not just limit? What's the difference?

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @10:18PM (#43991865)

    An European convention from 1974 says software are not patentable. Member states included that in their laws. Many software patents have been granted anyway, but they cannot stand in court.

    The EU commission tried to pass a directive to make software patent legal, but it has been defeated in European parliament (a quite rare event). EU commission now plan to make the European Patent Office the juridiction for patent cases, instead of regular courts. That way software patent would still be illegal, but the EPO would rule as if they were.

    German parliament stance runs against that plan. But since 2008, we now the real masters in Europe are the German parliament and the German constitutional court. We can therefore trust them to prevail. If they managed to impose a suicidal economic policy for the whole continent, I guess they can impose something on the much more frivolous patent front.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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