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The Courts Patents

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

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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  • 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.

  • by pollarda ( 632730 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:09PM (#43776545)

    What the judges need to understand is that fundamentally, people are general purpose machines. Without any training at all, people are not capable of solving many problems. However, people can solve all sorts of problems based on what you teach them. Sure, you aren't going to be able to get a bushman in the Serengeti to be able to build the Apollo but, the potential is there given enough training. If that same bushman were to go to school and eventually graduate from college, they would be just as capable as anybody else. So how is receiving training through college or a technical school any different than a computer receiving a new set of instructions on how to solve a particular problem?

    Computers only run algorithms (which aren't supposed to be patentable). They follow a set of instructions step by step and can't do anything that you and I can't do with a pencil and piece of paper. (They just can do it a lot faster.)

    Of course, the beauty of computers is that they only do what you tell them. When they don't do what you want, it is still your fault since you didn't provide the instructions you thought you did. ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:15PM (#43776579)

    They are, of course, right. An algorithm is conceptually the same as a description of a machine for executing that algorithm, whether you draw logic gates to execute your algorithm, or solder together transistors, or write Python.

    As a mathematician working on algorithms right now, I say they are right.


    Algorithms shouldn't be patentable, no matter how they are represented. But that's a political decision, not a technical one.

  • Re:Genius! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:51PM (#43776855) Homepage Journal
    Since the purpose of a computer is to run programs, asking us to accept that a computer is a new computer everytime it runs a new program seems like a bit of a stretch, and leads me to believe that some judges still don't quite get computers.
  • Re:Genius! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:58PM (#43776899)

    Apparently Plutarch already knew this little puzzle called the ship of Theseus [] problem.
    I'm highly confident that some US judges will finally put those those annoying logicians and philosophers to rest and give us the ultimate correct solution.

  • Re:Genius! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twistofsin ( 718250 ) on Monday May 20, 2013 @08:37PM (#43777741)
    I found their proposal interesting until I considered whether my television was a new machine every time the program changed. Computers are machines that host multiple other machines within them. I think it's more accurate to call a program a machine in itself.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!