22 Jul

The Word of Notch – On Patents

But there is no way in hell you can convince me that it’s beneficial for society to not share ideas. Ideas are free. They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve.

via The Word of Notch – On Patents. Notch (the guy who started Minecraft) has a really good piece on why patents are a bad idea. My opinion on patents has slowly changed from thinking that just software and business process patents to getting more convinced that patents in general are a bad idea.

24 Sep

The White House – Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents

The patent office’s original interpretation of software as language and therefor patentable is much closer to reality and more productive for innovation than it’s current practice of issuing software patents with no understanding of the patents being issued.

Under the patent office’s current activity, patents have been come a way to stifle innovation and prevent competition rather than supporting innovation and competitive markets. They’ve become a tool of antitrust employed by large companies against small ones.

To return sanity to the software industry – one of the few industries still going strong in America – direct the patent office to cease issuing software patents and to void all previously issued software patents.

via The White House – Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents. Why haven’t you signed this petition?

19 Aug

Ars Technica – Does not compute: court says only hard math is patentable

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected a patent on a method of detecting credit card fraud. The result was unsurprising, but the court broke new ground with its reasoning. Citing the Supreme Court’s famous rulings against software patents from the 1970s, the court ruled that you can’t patent mental processes—even if they are carried out by a computer program.

Of course, all computer programs implement mathematical algorithms that could, in principle, be implemented with a pencil and paper. So is this the end of software patents? Unfortunately not. The court ruled that the no-patenting-math rule doesn’t apply if the math in question complicated enough that "as a practical matter, the use of a computer is required" to perform the calculations.

In order to justify this result, the court gives the most thorough defense of software patents that we’ve ever seen from the judiciary. We don’t think the line they draw—between ordinary math and math that requires a computer—makes much sense from either a legal or policy perspective. But the ruling at least signals that, for the first time in over a decade, the courts are thinking hard about how to apply the Supreme Court’s old software patent cases in the modern world. We’re hopeful that as the confusion in this week’s decision becomes more obvious, we’ll see further progress.

via Ars Technica – Does not compute: court says only hard math is patentable. It’s nice to see the courts limit patents somewhat, but the logic still has a real problem which is that practically speaking all math can be performed by a human being it may just either be tedious or time-consuming. The other question becomes raised if the math is complicated enough that a computer becomes required does that mean that the math itself is patentable (which the courts have said no math isn’t patentable)? The court seems to be trying to not rule against all software patents while acknowledging they are broken and need to be reformed.

The core of the legal problem with software patents is that they are just algorithms, logic and math, neither of which is patentable. Combine the two and describe a possible computer program and bam, that logic and math is now patentable. Ignoring all practical aspects of patents and software patents in particular, legally speaking software patents seem to me to be indefensible.

18 Aug

Groklaw – Google Reexam Requests Devastating to Lodsys

On Friday, August 12, Google filed inter partes reexamination requests with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the two patents asserted in patent infringement claims by Lodsys against, among others, several Android developers. The patents subject to these requests are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,222,078 and 7,620,565.

We have had a chance to review the reexamination requests, and after that review we believe Lodsys is in for a rough time. We have seen reexam requests before, but when we saw these, the above quote came to mind. Lodsys, you shouldn’t have brought a knife to a gunfight.

And for all of those naysayers who have shouted Google is not doing enough to protect Android app developers and that Android app developers should cave to the Lodsys demands, you need to reconsider your position.

via Groklaw – Google Reexam Requests Devastating to Lodsys. What’s interesting about this story is the suspicion that Google and Apple had not previously filed re-examination requests because their agreements with Lodsys prevented such an action, apparently not so at least for Google.

18 Aug

Freedom to Tinker – Google+Motorola = Software Patent Indictment

Wouldn’t we all be better off skipping those patent threats and cross-licensing transaction costs? As Google’s pre-Motorola travails showed, it’s almost* impossible to opt-out of the patent system by choosing to publish and not patent your own inventions. Unlike in copyright, where you can share under Creative Commons, for example, and just have to prove you never accessed another’s work if accused of infringement, you can only save yourself from patent claims by assuring that every bit of technology you use was published more than 17-20 years ago! (*Rare but not impossible: Richard Hipp of SQLite says he only uses 17-year old, published algorithms to keep his code free of patent clouds.)

In a work-in-progress, I argue that patent’s incentives aren’t working right for software, because they come at too early a stage in development. Patents for software motivate lawsuits more than they induce or reward product development. Google+Motorola may prove to have non-patent benefits too, but its early indications shine a spotlight on the thorny thickets of the patent landscape.

via Freedom to Tinker – Google+Motorola = Software Patent Indictment. That point is the reason patents are a blight on the software industry, you can’t just stop being a part of the system. Patents are a field of hidden landmines for any person/company that does software of any sort.