> nybble41 a user interface patent is almost always a software patent. I am not aware of any patents being placed on user interfaces which are not software based.
I agree that user interface patents are almost always about interfaces implemented in software. However, when I use the term "software patent", I am specifically referring to a patent on an algorithm, not the vague and likely over-broad "patent on an invention that is typically implemented with software" which was expressed elsewhere.
Something like "slide-to-unlock" can be said to contain a very simple algorithm ("if a slide gesture is recognized, unlock the device"), but the patent is really about a distinctive style (sliding vs. entering a code, or tapping a button, or any of the other means of unlocking touch-screen devices used before), not the algorithm, which ought to be rather too trivial and obvious to qualify for a patent on its own merits, even assuming patents on algorithms were generally acceptable.
> If there such a thing out there, then it's an abomination also.
> Either you're patenting the software code itself, in which case it's called a "copyright" and not a patent, ...
You don't "patent the software code". As you said, code is covered by copyrights, not patents. A software patent--a patent on an abstract algorithm--would cover *all possible implementations* of that algorithm in software code, including independent clean-room code written without knowledge of any other implementation or the patent itself, which is much broader than the copyright on specific code implementing the algorithm.
> ... or you're patenting what the thing does and and a series of steps involving abstract things, irrespective of the code that underlies it. This later case is what a software patent is.
I agree that this is what a software patent is, but user interface patents are something else entirely. The slide-to-unlock patent, for example, doesn't seek to monopolize the "algorithm" of sliding your finger along the screen to unlock the device (which, as an action performed directly by a human, would be rather dubious as the subject of a patent), but rather the "look and feel" of the interface presented by the device, the graphics drawn on the screen combined with the device's response to a particular input gesture, without reference to the algorithms for producing those graphics, recognizing that gesture, or actually unlocking the device.