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Patents Software

Open Source Initiative, Free Software Foundation Unite Against Software Patents 105

WebMink writes "In rare joint move, the OSI and FSF have joined with Eben Moglen's Software Freedom Law Center to file a U.S. Supreme Court briefing in the CLS vs Alice case. The brief asserts the basic arguments that processes are not patentable if they are implemented solely through computer software, and that the best test for whether a software-implemented invention is solely implemented through software is whether special apparatus or the transformation of matter have been presented as part of the claims (the 'machine or transformation' test). They assert that finding software-only inventions unpatentable will not imperil the pace of software innovation, citing the overwhelming success of open source in the software industry as proof."
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Open Source Initiative, Free Software Foundation Unite Against Software Patents

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  • I respect Stallman's accomplishments, and I can see the logic of his arguments, but I sometimes feel that he's too divisive within the F/LOSS community. Infighting - which is easy for outside forces to exploit - could weaken all sides of the movement. This lawsuit is a key example of a situation where by combining forces, they can achieve more than either those who take a pragmatic or a principled stand (what I see as the key differences between the OSI and FSF) could achieve alone. I hope to see more such efforts (and of course, I hope they prevail in this suit).

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:04PM (#46369503) Journal

    I believe that of you take an OLD idea and do it on a computer, doing it on a computer doesn't matter, it's still an old idea and not patentable.
    That implies that if you create a NEW idea, doing it on a computer still doesn't matter.

    If you decide that whether or not a computer is used affects patentability, it implies that adding "on a computer" could make something patentable just as easily as it could make something unpatentable. I believe that's a mistake. Old ideas shouldn't be patentable, while new inventions should be. Whether or not a computer is involved isn't really relevant.


  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:14PM (#46369581) Journal

    That's a common misconception. The actual wording is that you can't patent the LAWS of nature, including the laws of mathematics. In other words, you can't patent gravity, you can patent a new type of elevator. You can't patent mass, you can patent a new type if scale. You can't patent "x + y = y + x". You can patent a new method for ranking relevant web pages in search results.

    Also, "the first programmers were ..." is about as relevant as "the first humans were ...". Even what you said about that is wrong, too. The FIRST programmers re-arranged wooden gears to make the machine operate differently. Are you wanting to argue that a specific arrangement of gears designed to perform a specific task can never be a patentable invention?

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:19PM (#46369629)
    You either have the company who has no product, but a couple patents suing to make any money at all.

    You have a software giant with thousands of software patents who sues any little guy they perceive as a threat.

    The notion of protecting the little guy with an idea from the ravages of cloning competition is a joke. There is a very real negative force applied to anyone who tries to make something new in the software world.
  • I see nothing ad-hominem about pointing out that the leader of one of the organizations in question has frequently gone on the record attacking major projects supported by members of the other organization, and attacking those members' ethics in general. There was an article just a few days ago about Stallman denouncing LLVM/Clang, despite its technical merits and open-source nature, because it's not his preferred *flavor* of "free software". Never mind that just as anybody can fork it and make the fork proprietary, so can anybody fork it and make the fork copyleft. Also never mind that there are plenty of examples closing permissively-licensed software and having the open-source version (which may or may not have been relicensed copyleft) win anyhow.

    Zealotry can have it's uses, but that doesn't mean that the zealots are right. It doesn't mean they're wrong, either. Some of Stallman's predictions have come eerily accurate. Others have been way off the mark. I'm of the opinion that cooperation and technical excellence in open-source development, regardless of whether or not it's copyleft, is more important than dividing the community over licensing issues. Stallman disagrees. This is an issue between the OSI and the FSF. That's not ad-hominem, it's a statement of fact pertinent to the discussion at hand.

    But hey, if *you* want to have an argument about whether or not I'm making logically unsupported attacks.. well, you can go have one in the corner by yourself, while the rest of us discuss the actual topic. Try to keep it down, will you?

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @05:13PM (#46370669) Homepage

    > You can patent a new method for ranking relevant web pages in search results.

    Well, no. That's only the patent office's point of view. We don't know what the Supreme Court thinks about this, and that's what this case is going to decide.

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Saturday March 01, 2014 @12:46AM (#46373675)

    I agree. He points out that the only reason to use an Apache/MIT/public domain license is to allow it to be taken proprietary. In some cases, such as implementations of open standards, that can be a net benefit - in fact I'd be delighted if Libre-Office and others P.D.ed all ODF-related I/O libraries. And with Open Office having been donated to Apache we're getting that from at least one implementation. For other things, like the BSD kernel, it invites the appropriation by uncooperative commercial interests such as Apple. Whether that is a net benefit to human freedom is a far murkier question, and deserves to be highlighted by idealists.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva