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USPTO Asks For Input On Software Patents 209

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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  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:36PM (#42477185) Journal

    Input -----> Process -------> Output

    100000 applications for software patents -----------> USPTO ------------> All rejected.

    All software is, by definition, math. And all math, by definition, is not patentable.

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

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @01:38PM (#42477219) Homepage

    Computer programs are already treated as copyrightable works. So there would be no new unintended consequences.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:02PM (#42477563)

    How could they sue?

    They had the patent until the law changed, so nothing I see new there. Lots of things are one way until the law changes then another.

  • by Shetan ( 20885 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:48PM (#42478277)

    Doesn't the U.S. Federal Government have Sovereign Immunity?

  • Re:Ban them! (Score:4, Informative)

    by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:53PM (#42478325) Journal

    There are other problems besides the expense. EDA companies have patented lots of very obscure algorithms, rather than keep them trade secret. If you take away the patents, then their competitors will be free to use their ideas, which could be fatal to some companies.

    Unfortunately, it's a moot point. I went and read the poster's links, and the USPTO has no intention of considering any broad limits on software patents. They're just seeking feedback on nonsense like whether XML can be used in a claim. These meetings wont be worth anyone's time.

  • by steve79 ( 1368223 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @03:09PM (#42478487)

    You are incorrect, sir. You do not need to release the source code. This was true back in like the 1980s (or common practice then, anyway). Nobody release code for their software patents these days b/c it is simply not required. You must describe the general algorithm in sufficient detail to enable one of ordinary skill in the art, without undue experimentation.... this is a far cry from source code.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 04, 2013 @03:12PM (#42478523)

    from we the Peoples : hell yeah !

    from we the Corporations : hell no !

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

    by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @03:17PM (#42478607) Journal

    Requiring source code wouldn't do much to discourage software patents.

    I'm listed as an inventor on 22 patents so far. Several of them are software patents. I didn't file any originally, until a competitor patented a key software algorithm we'd used for years at a previous company - an algorithm we could not function without. Now I encourage that we patent all company-critical software ideas. Anyway, I've been filing them since the early '90s. My early patents all included full source code, and one has many thousands of lines from our commercial product - enough to actual run the algorithm on real designs. If you have a new logic optimization idea, have you fully disclosed how to implement it if you haven't included a netlist parser? Early software patents included full source code, which gradually was reduced until now a bit of pseudo code in the patent text is generally enough. The old requirement for source code didn't seem to slow patent applications.

    Every patent lawyer knows that you can't violate a patent in your head. The same is true if you write an idea down on paper. You also can't violate a patent by writing it down in Notepad on a computer, or even if you save it, and share it with friends. However, if your idea is a sequence of steps a computer could execute, and you "run" it, chance are high that you've just violated somebody's patent. Being a software developer in America is a bit like being an illegal immigrant. You just keep quite, keep your head down, and hope that nobody bothers looking at what you're doing too closely.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:52PM (#42479903)

    Having stuff enter the Public domain isn't a payment for copyright, it's the default state.

    You put it out into the world for other people to see, they get to use it as they see fit. Except this made it hard for authors to reap any benefits from their work. Thus, the government said, for a specified number of years, we will help you protect your investment by giving you, the author, the sole right to copy and distribute your ideas. After that period is gone, we will no longer provide you that protection. Without that protection, any writings/etc released to the public are, well, public again.

    Authors aren't putting material *into* the public domain; they are losing the protection of the government to limit who can copy and distribute their material. As soon as the material gets released, it's public. It's a subtle but important difference.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:35PM (#42480541) Homepage

    I understand how a software keyboard can emulate a physical keyboard, but how about a webcam, or a graphics card, or a mobile phone.

    Just like we've done many times with sound cards, old graphics cards, and serial devices. A piece of hardware is emulated, and it's connected to a non-infringing piece of real hardware. If the real value is in the software (as it would be in a software patent replaced by a patent on purpose-built hardware), then any similar hardware will do, and the "protected" software isn't really protected any more.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.