Prior art db necessary, as _part_ of our response to SWPats
Posted Sep 19, 2006 20:20 UTC (Tue) by kenm
In reply to: Actually, he was offering an alternative ...
Parent article: Prior art won't solve the software patent problem (NewsForge)
I attended the recent OSDL meeting on this topic, as an interested
bystander. I attended, not because I like software patents, but
because I am Scared To Death of them. Attendance was free, the
subject matter is monumentally important. Why weren't you ALL
I use GPL and other OSS software. A lot. I create software for a
living. No conflict there.
Yet I could not hope to avoid conflict with the current SWPAT system,
because under the current system, things that I consider obvious,
trivial, and essential will be patented.
During the OSDL meeting, I had a chance to discuss this with a patent
attorney. In the current situation, the mere aggregation of two
well-known, non-patentable things, is patentable.
Think about that. The patent office will grant a patent, merely
because no existing patent covers it. Yes, that's crazy, and that's the
real world for you.
So a prior art database is essential; the difference is between A)
documenting prior art, so it can be used to fight "bad" patents, and B)
having no available database of prior art, and being unable to
The prior art database will need to be chock full of the painfully
obvious. It will need to cover things you and I take for granted.
So, if this prior art database backfires, it is only because we
didn't put enough into it.
Yes, we need to "fix" the law, but it won't happen overnight. Given
the capitalist incentive to use patents as a weapon, it may never
I'm glad large companies like IBM are promoting and defending OSS and
the GPL. I'm glad that IBM realizes they have as much to lose as I
And I'm glad that RMS is out there, fighting for my rights.
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