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Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

Posted Nov 11, 2012 22:22 UTC (Sun) by SecretEuroPatentAgentMan (guest, #66656)
Parent article: Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

> Patents threaten every software developer, and the patent wars we have long feared have broken out.

That is quite an opening. So tell me, how many software developers have been convicted of patent infringement in this war? The claim that it relates to *every* software developer is a bit at odds with the US centric position in the rest of the article.

> Rather, each patent describes some practical idea, and says that anyone carrying out the idea can be sued.

You cannot patent an idea. You need to reduce it to practice. Protesting against patenting of ideas is like protesting against the sky being orange. Statements like this makes me wonder if he has asked a patent attorney first just to avoid barking up the wrong tree.
http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2138.html

> So it’s clearer to call them “computational idea patents.”
Why is this better than "Computer implemented inventions"?

> That same year, it was estimated that Linux was .25 percent of the whole GNU/Linux system. Multiplying 300 by 400 we get the order-of-magnitude estimate that the system as a whole was threatened by around 100,000 patents.

A recent estimate puts the number of US patents in force at 2.1 millions
http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2012/05/how-many-us-paten...
This includes arts such as pharmaceutics, mechanics and more. I find it hard to believe fully 5 percent of all patents should relate to Linux. Moreover, after KSR a lot of those patents will probably be invalid.

> I don’t know whether Apple’s patents are “good quality,” but the better the patent’s “quality,” the more dangerous its threat.

Dangerous, in what way? Number of programmers that will go to jail or how hard it is to work around these? Quality as meant by for instance EPO relates to how change the procedures to improve legal certainty.

> We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement.

The problem here is what constitutes "generally used computing hardware". Anyone who has worked on embedded systems would know that even embedded platforms are general in nature, the term used is COTS - commercial off the shelf. Much is implemented in FPGA which is also general. Cellphones, covered by a lot of patents, are also general platforms. What then is left?

The problem here is that Stallman brings up a lot of terms such as danger, quality, ideas, generally used computers and more, without providing a solid definition.

If Stallman is concerned about dangers to each and every programmer (as opposed to their employers) why not rather ask for an amendment that patents gives the right to exclude *commercial* use? Many European countries have this clause and allows for educational use of patented technology ( I am simplyfying a bit here).


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Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

Posted Nov 11, 2012 23:02 UTC (Sun) by jackb (guest, #41909) [Link]

So tell me, how many software developers have been convicted of patent infringement in this war?

This question betrays a misunderstanding of the fundamental principle of economics.

The damage caused by software patents is not developers convicted in courts, it's products that aren't released, innovation that is prevented from happening, and technology that is isn't developed.

You can't see the damage directly because it consists of the enormous absence of what would otherwise exist.

Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

Posted Nov 15, 2012 22:34 UTC (Thu) by SecretEuroPatentAgentMan (guest, #66656) [Link]

> This question betrays a misunderstanding of the fundamental principle of economics.

Really. This just sounds like an overly complicated way of saying you do not know. Of course, were you to really know the number of convicted software developers I would still appreciate this information.

> You can't see the damage directly because it consists of the enormous absence of what would otherwise exist.

Having done programming since the 70's I have not to date noticed this enormous absence myself. Of course the experiences from my own work and all of my colleagues I knew back then remain limited yet so far this enormous absence was never a topic. I am therefore intrigued by your statement here and again would appreciate more information. Your last line suggests at least there is a chance of indirectly seeing the enormous absence.

Now, since emotions do not always travel well across the net I would like to clarify that I am not being smug or poking fun with snide remarks, the questions are sincere and the issues you bring up are interesting to me.

Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

Posted Nov 12, 2012 12:12 UTC (Mon) by spaetz (subscriber, #32870) [Link]

> The claim that it relates to *every* software developer is a bit at odds with the US centric position in the rest of the article.

While there might be a US-centric view, each programmer that intends to sell software in the US will be concerned with US law. So it isn't as far fetched as it sounds.

>> Rather, each patent describes some practical idea, and says that anyone carrying out the idea can be sued.

> You cannot patent an idea. You need to reduce it to practice.

That is true in theory, but if you look at many US patents, it is de-facto possible to patent an idea.

> A recent estimate puts the number of US patents in force at 2.1 millions ...
> I find it hard to believe fully 5 percent of all patents should relate to Linux.

Well, Eric Schmidt estimates 200,000 patents covering "mobile", and he is in a better position to know than I am. (although he might be biased :-))

Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

Posted Nov 15, 2012 22:52 UTC (Thu) by SecretEuroPatentAgentMan (guest, #66656) [Link]

> While there might be a US-centric view, each programmer that intends to sell software in the US will be concerned with US law. So it isn't as far fetched as it sounds.

A lot of European companies have ended up in serious trouble on attempting to enter the US market and to comply with US laws, regulations and legal traditions that can be quite different from European systems. I know many have tried and failed seriously. At first glance the US market looks attractibe. On second glance it is not that rosy.

>> You cannot patent an idea. You need to reduce it to practice.

> That is true in theory, but if you look at many US patents, it is de-facto possible to patent an idea.

Patenting an idea would make life simpler if we just for the moment overlook issues like violations of national laws, regional conventions (such as EPC) and international agreements (such as TRIPS). Do you have a good example?

> Well, Eric Schmidt estimates 200,000 patents covering "mobile", and he is in a better position to know than I am. (although he might be biased :-))

I have prosecuted a fair number of broad mobile related patent applications. These cover far more than software, for instance mechanics for keyboards, RF designs (particularly antennas), all aspects of fabrications such as chip encapsulation and PCB coating (to withstand large environmental changes in humidity and temperature that mobile phone are exposed to), battery technology and more. If you count anything relating to mobile technology you will get far bigger numbers than for software alone.


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