Linked by Evert Mouw on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:32 UTC
Editorial When Pythagoras invented a new way to make calculations with triangles, there was not yet an European Patent Organization. Bad luck, because everybody knows that patents stimulate innovation. Pythagoras invested much time in contemplation. Now, anyone could use this new mathemathical method for free. How could others be stimulated to make the same investment for no financial benefit?
Order by: Score:
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by poundsmack on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:37 UTC

well said

Patents dont last forever
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:39 UTC

Patents dont last forever

bravo!
by joe on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:43 UTC

excellent!

EU Showing its True Colors
by Ryan on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:43 UTC

Lets face it the EU is a kinder US but it is still driven by large multi-national corporations.

Multi-nationals hate competition and they will continue to do what they can to stifle it through the law or other means.

RE:Patents dont last forever
by End_of_Eternity on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:45 UTC

In the modern world where technology is developing at such a rapid pace, patents don't have to last forever do considerable damage to innovation. This would be especially true for the software industry.

solution is easy
by AlienSoldier on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:46 UTC

civil disobedience.

Human rights...
by Kindaian on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:50 UTC

Patents are agains human rights.

nuf said

Get real
by David on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:54 UTC

The author needs a dose of reality. While software patents are a bad thing, they haven't led to a death of innovation. They haven't killed off Open Source. They haven't ushered in the Antichrist.

Software patents aren't new. They've been around in several nations for quite some time. If you want to know what their effect will be in Europe, there is no need to resort to science fiction. Just look at the US. Where, by the way, there is still innovation. Would there be more innovation in the US without software patents. Maybe so, it's hard to say. But one thing is for sure, and that is that innovation hasn't died and Open Source hasn't been driven underground.

grammar?
by matt on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:55 UTC

I get the impression that English is not Evert's first language. There is certianly nothing wrong with that, and I felt his article was well written. But where is the editing? Erroneous verb conjugation is very distracting!

Needed, but misused.
by brad on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:58 UTC

The idea of patents themselves is a good thing, however the current system seems somewhat lacking. Corporations are not using them responsibly. That's more of an ethics issue in the end, really.

I do think that patents last for far too long. They should reduce the amount of time they are protected by about 50% in my opinion.

Business and competition
by Will on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 18:59 UTC

I'd like some examples of ANY business, not just large businesses, that LIKE competition. Show me a businessman that likes having their market share reduced, and their prices undercut.

Show me a small bookstore that welcomes the WalMart next door with open arms because they enjoy the competition.

From the other point of view, show me a potential employee that like walking into the office for an interview and sees 10 other folks lined up in front of them for the same position.

I'm looking for the folks that don't leverage their advantages in a competetive space in order to ensure they keep their spot, whether technology advantages, market share advantages, or, yes, even legislative advantages.


the problem with patents as we delve into the future.
by scythekain on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:11 UTC

http://wearcam.org/seatsale/

nuff said.

"The idea of patents themselves is a good thing"

disagree, Brad. The wright brothers patented their airplane and instead of innovating the idea over the next several years, they spent it in litigation trying to stop other people from innovating the idea.

Amazon patented the "one-click" buy interface. Because no one else in the industry would've thought of that idea.

Patents and Copyrights (especially new copyright law in the states.) stifle USE and INNOVATION.

re:the problem with patents as we delve into the future.
by Renaldo on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:16 UTC

http://wearcam.org/seatsale/

nuff said.


Even if somebody did patent that, nobody would buy it. So what is your point?

Re: Business and competition
by nxt on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:33 UTC

Depends on the point of view. As a customer, I prefer choice. Where I lived before, two grocery stores (both from big shop chains) stood opposite each-other, only cca. 30 meters apart. Both had open 8:00 - 20:00, 7 days a week. Queues were rather short in each. You could pay by card at each counter (still not default over here). After I moved, there's only one grocery shop near-by (belonging to one of the chains mentioned previously). The opening hours are shorter on weekends. It is not unusual for a large queue to build up. The cashiers are visibly slower. They only have one card terminal for the whole shop (which is often the reason for the queue). They have goods around, for which the EAN codes are not in their database. All this just due to no competition being around.

As an employer, I'd rather choose 1 person from 10 candidates then from 2 or even 1.

If you look correctly, competition is good. However, there used to be a thing called "fair-play". If you played footbal (european style), you won by having control of the ball, not by holding your opponent by his t-shirt. As a technology company, you won by having a better product, faster R&D, not by stoping everyone else in their movement by pulling legal tricks.

patents serve a purpose
by will on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:37 UTC

Don't forget that that a very good case can be made for the claim that patents make more innovation possible. The reason for this is that the main factor to ensure innovation is funding for research and product development. We would very likely not be better off innovationwise today without the patent system.

I think the main point must be that this is not true specifically for software patents. If you want to be taken seriously you must present a clear and cogent argument for why this should be so.

Patents are the lifeblood of innovation
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:42 UTC

Without the patent system, the world would still be in the dark ages. Just look at the number of amazing and world-changing inventions that occurred during the brief time that the patent system has existed. Compare this to the snail's pace of innovation that occurred during the thousands of years when there were no patents.

In response to competition
by David Mendoza on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:43 UTC

I'm afraid I disagree with the author and the first eight posts, specifically with regards to their argument about competition. From what I understand, Evert believes that software patents stifle innovation, in effect eliminating competition between firms, and gives an analogy using Pythagoras. But there are three problems.

First, he makes the implicit assumption that Pythagoras and, say Suse, produce products for the same reason, which is clearly not true. Although one may benefit from the other, their end goals are completely distinct in most cases. A similar situation exists between academia and industry; although occasionally their interests may coincide and industry makes liberal use of the work of academia, over the long term they remain committed to two different goals.

Secondly, the author assumes that free-flowing and unhindered access to information is both necessary and sufficient for innovation to occur. Yet examples can be found where important innovation has happened despite obstacles and road blocks. An example: the GNU utitlities were written out of a perceived necessity but were completed without access to perfect and complete information. This is not to say that having all possible tools will not lead to innovation, it is only to say that they are not necessary and do not further the author's argument.

Thirdly, Evert assumes that competition arises only from innovation, which again is wrong in the general case. Innovation may produce new arenas for competition but it is not necessary for it to occur. An obvious counterexample is that of generic PC hardware. For better or worse, it is an extremely cut-throat industry, yet innovation (in the sense that Evert uses) has tapered somewhat.

I'm not an EU patent lawyer, but the moral of the story is this: innovation is not necessarily anhilated parents and that innovation doesn't necessarily portend competition.

Re: Patents are the lifeblood of innovation
by tails92 on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:56 UTC

@(IP: ---.argenserver.com)
Patents are the killers of innovation
think if anyone patented a coffee cup...

re: patents serve a purpose
by Renaldo on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:56 UTC

"Don't forget that that a very good case can be made for the claim that patents make more innovation possible. The reason for this is that the main factor to ensure innovation is funding for research and product development. We would very likely not be better off innovationwise today without the patent system. "

I think this is an excellent point. Unless we are dealing with a product that nobody is going to buy anyway, the brief advantage that a patent grants does present some guarantee of a return on investment that might not be there if there was no patent system in place. I suspect that many companies would be more reluctant to invest as much money into developing new products if they knew their research could be cheaply copied the minute the product came to market with no patent protection.

v Well...
by b on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 19:56 UTC
Patenting software is stupid
by Felipe B. on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:03 UTC

Patent is just plain wrong in software industry because it is a abstraction, not a "thing" like a new Monitor or a new Cellphone... patenting software is much like patenting a mathematical formula. (Just see the amout of companies trying to patent even the 'mouse click' event... that will be like pateting the 1+1)

@ Anonymous (IP: ---.argenserver.com)
by Finalzone on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:03 UTC

Without the patent system, the world would still be in the dark ages. Just look at the number of amazing and world-changing inventions that occurred during the brief time that the patent system has existed. Compare this to the snail's pace of innovation that occurred during the thousands of years when there were no patents.
I have to disagree with that statement because it shows a lack of knowledge of other cultures. Historically, most of innovations came with the sharing of technologies between different cultures. Most of western european technogoies came from different cultures(continent of America, Africa, Asisa and Ocenian) on which they simply improved them.

Patent system is fundamentally flawed when a greedy corporation attempt to patent vital thing such as human genomes.

I won't comment about first part of the editorial because it would bring more controversy than it solves.

v Whiners
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:10 UTC
RE:Patents are the lifeblood of innovation
by hkl8324 on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:16 UTC

you exclude all other variables leading to fast innovation, be it Renaissance or Industrial revolution.

Patent do somehow give incentive to ppl to innovate, but now the system no longer works, it is exploited by BIG company.

RE: Get real
by J.F. on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:17 UTC

You're the one not being realistic. Since patents were extended to software in the US, many big areas of software development have moved to europe. Look at video and audio compression - all work in this area has left the US. US linux distros cannot even distribute common video and audio codecs because of patent issues, and it's only getting worse.

The one area of software not completely saturated with patents left in the US were games, and now lawyers are urging major game distributors to begin patenting every aspect of games to drive even more development out of the US.

If you REALLY examine the US software industry, you can come to NO OTHER CONCLUSION than patents are destroying the industry. Small companies are going under, leaving large companies with little innovation or choice and high prices.

@Finalzone (IP: ---.bchsia.telus.net)
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:18 UTC

I read your whole reply to my post and it seems like you were replying to someone else. There is absolutely no mention of the historical rate of technological progress at all.

@ hkl8324 (IP: ---.ctinets.com)
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:26 UTC

you exclude all other variables leading to fast innovation, be it Renaissance or Industrial revolution.

Let me get this straight. You're saying that the cause of an explosion in innovation is an explosion in innovation (the renaissance and industrial revolution). That does not make any sense.

Nonsensical posts
by Captain Jean Luc Picard on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:32 UTC

"Bad luck, because anybody know that patents to stimulate innovation."

What does this EVEN MEAN??

That said, it makes more sense than most of the other articles I read here.

v Doth not matter.
by Pervert Meow on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:33 UTC
If the EPO and Pythagoras co-existed...
by TJ on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:39 UTC

Although the Pythagoras theorem is a wonderful mathematic discovery, it wouldn't be patentable under the current EPO practice. For an invention to be patentable it must be a tangible "thing" or cause a functional difference in a "thing". Pythagoras has a mathematical formula...even if it was embodied in a computer, running off of memory with a processor and computer readable code, it doesn't change the nature of what has been discovered.

The same goes for software, it must have an unobvious "technical effect" that causes a functional difference to the machine for it to be patentable.

RE: Doth not matter.
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:39 UTC

once peak oil arrives, there will be a total economic collapse. no one will have the free time needed for inventions as they'll barely have enough money for food.


We'll all drown from the melting ice caps long before that happens.

Do pro patent people even pay attention?
by peragrin on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:45 UTC

Eolas patented plugins. Now go pay Eolas for every program you have that uses plugins, from winamp, to your browser, to photoshop, etc.

Apple is being sued over the interface of iTunes. That's like patenting the internal layout of a car. you have two to three foot pedals to control various functions, a wheel slightly to control bearing, above the wheel some instruments to verifying engine conditions, and a dash that can control other environmental features(sound, temp, navigation,etc).

That is how stupid and broken the patent system is. Patents are meant for physical devices that cost money to develop, and then cost money to produce. Software costs money to develop but production is basically free.

Pythagoras didn't need to spend time maintaining his code
by Kevin on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:48 UTC

Your example just doesn't scale to the complexity of software.

The MAIN problem
by J.F. on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 20:48 UTC

The number one problem with software patents is that the USPTO has no idea what constitutes "obvious" or "novel" as regards ANYTHING related to computers or software. Suppose you were a carpenter and the USPTO started issuing patents for screws and nails, or cutting wood with a saw. That is EXACTLY what the USPTO is doing with software.

spelling?
by JB on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:00 UTC

Umm, you might want to run the article through a spell checker first before posting.

Re: Melting ice caps
by Chris on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:04 UTC

Guess what? Even that won't bring about the end of the world. Ever watch ice melt in a glass of water? Does the water spill out over the top of the glass?

(I couldn't resist ;) )

some remarks
by Evert on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:04 UTC

Excuser-moi for my bad English. Next time, I will try to do better. Matt is right, my first language is Dutch, but that is not an excuse.

I believe software patents are not very useful for innovation, but maybe if we follow the reasoning of Brad, we can make them useful by expiring them after one or two years. That will give the innovator a good reason to keep running.

David, some parts of software development are nearly driven underground. Encryption software and codecs are such examples. They are driven to "safe" countries, but when there is nowhere to hide, what will the developers do?

OK, David, I admit: patents are not the end of innovation, but the speed of innovation could be slowed and software patents are not very compatible with open standards. A vendor lock-in is easier to accomplish with patents.

I have to chuckle about the comment by Anonymous about the dark ages. Maybe he is not aware of the impressive knowledge of many ancient peoples. And like many others, he assumes that the Dark Ages were terrible. They were not that bad, and not all innovation halted during that age.

David Mendoza: I do not completely understand your first objection. If goals are different, why do patents add value? Your second objection is a good one, in my opinion. I think your GNU example showed how innovation can be slower and harder because of the patents. It will not stop it, but surely it does not speed it up in your example. To your third objection I must surrender :-) (however, the speed of CPU development is good enough, I would not call that "tapered")

I'm glad to see many good arguments here. My own opinion about patents benefits from the critique, and of course I also like the nice comments that do not favor software patents. But just remember, one of my main points is not against patents in general, but against software patents because software is already protected by copyright and most of the effort and investment goes to writing code, testing code, and improving code.

TJ, I fear that any software, and it's underlying idea, has a technical, funcional effect, that does not make it less worse - it makes it much more worse, because so many trivial things can be patented. And today's innovation is tomorrow's triviality.

French
by LimoWreck on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:07 UTC

Excuser-moi for my bad English.

Your French could be a little better too... like in "Excusez-moi" ;-)

@Anonymous
by Chris on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:12 UTC

In software, forever is 2 years.

@Will (IP: ---.ded.pacbell.net)
by Chris on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:13 UTC

Show me a person that likes working; I'll show you 50 who hate it.
What's your point?

If you want patents, you should cut copyrights for software. Patents lose their purpose when copyrights exist in place as well....

the dark ages
by sam on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:29 UTC

If the greeks and the romans were able to patent a lot of their inventions --- we wouldn't have like a 1000 years + of dark ages.

There were no advances in math and science from 200 AD to the 1450's (the beginning of the renaissance period).

Ancient romans made their big public buildings using concrete --- we lost that concrete recipe for a 1000 years.

patents or copyright
by Evert on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:34 UTC

@ Limo: Yes, even my French is ... But you are from Belgium, so you hear much more French!

Chris wrote:
"If you want patents, you should cut copyrights for software. Patents lose their purpose when copyrights exist in place as well.."

That is very true, I think. (it was one of my main arguments) Imagine we allow patents and get rid of copyright? That would mean that after the patent expires, anyone could use the code. And should not each invention be described by the patent? The best description is the code itself... It's not "fair" to have double protection (both patent and copyright).

Re: the dark ages
by bleyz on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:40 UTC

If the greeks and the romans were able to patent a lot of their inventions --- we wouldn't have like a 1000 years + of dark ages.

There were no advances in math and science from 200 AD to the 1450's (the beginning of the renaissance period).

Ancient romans made their big public buildings using concrete --- we lost that concrete recipe for a 1000 years.


Nothing of this is true at all.
The 'dark ages' were a time of political and demographic turmoil in the areas in which the classic civilisations had developed. Farther north, there was an immensely long process of building - cities, institutions, societies - which didn't exist before.
By the 13th century things had stabilised enough to permit a first industrial revolution - but the black death, killing as much as 50% of the people, cut that short. In 200 years, the demography had recovered, but the overseas expansion at once promoted scientific experimentation and thwarted industrial development, both by sapping Europe of manpower and introducing slavery. It was another 250 years till industrial development returned.

@ Anonymous (IP: ---.argenserver.com)
by Finalzone on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:40 UTC

There is absolutely no mention of the historical rate of technological progress at all.

You deluded yourself with that statement. that is your point of view of history but you must not neglect other cultures that impacted others.

@ sam (dark ages) (offtopic)
by Evert on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:42 UTC

[offtopic]

sam, you obviuously are interested in culture and history. have a look at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Ages

The rise of archaeology and other specialities in the 20th century has shed much light on the period and offered a more nuanced understanding of its positive developments.

RE: Finalzone (IP: ---.bchsia.telus.net)
by BR on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:55 UTC

"Patent system is fundamentally flawed when a greedy corporation attempt to patent vital thing such as human genomes. "

So are you telling us is that you've read and understood the patents in question; and they said "we're patenting all of humanities genome"? Or maybe perhaps they were saying "We've modified this particular human gene and taking out a patent on the modification."*

*http://www.srtp.org.uk/scsunpat.shtml

Problem solving and innovation...
by Saem on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 21:55 UTC

I think if one understands problem solving, then they understand that a lot of it involves not only being creative but utilizing what you have. ie. there is an underlying acceptance of inheritance.

Take Newton's attribution of credit in his works, he clearly stated that he would not have made it without others. Patents, are the sign of a strong leading to individualism, sort of. They are there to restrict information flow, but if information was restricted we wouldn't get anywhere. Thanks to Newton's formalization, this led to a huge explosion in our ability to build and do things. These are true innovations, in fact, Newton's work was disruptive technology. Something that will likely not be matched with anything short of String theory being proven right.

The point is he required access to information. This information was used to create tools to then address further problems. Mind you, innovation is a far greater thing than mere invention, invention is merely implementation, we're talking paradigm shifts.

It is nothing short of stupid to compartmentalize innovation, one cannot, save entirely arbitrarily, differentiate, in any formal manner, innovation. Why do we extend this to invention then?

One has quaint ideas of patents helping the little guy, keep inventing. Yes, one could hark back to the Bell and Franklin, but that would not prove anything. In those days device complexity was low, education was scarce, social funding for research minimal and thus on needed to allow innovation to fund itself. But that doesn't scale well, that solution is limited.

Assessing our current situations. We have the ability to manufacturer products and distribute products and services, efficiently and on a large scale. A simple invention can pay for itself, millions of times over. So why is it that we haven't scaled back the number of years that a patent is granted for?

Not to mention a lot of research is carried out mostly by large companies, not the proverbial, "little guy" that's trying to make a buck. Then there is the fact that patents block public non-profit work and often research into the work can have public funds mixed in. Especially, when you count the amount of money universities get from public coffers and then make a killing from it from various means. Yes, it helps the market, but the market is not the same as the public that helped to fund it.

Also, the idea was that with patents one would go forward and find new ways of doing the same thing when one way was already discovered, borrowed from the, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Well that's a nice notion, but it doesn't work as soon as you get closer and closer to constrained systems, like computers, often there is only one efficient way of doing things, then doesn't that imply that all those one efficient way cases are basically obvious, mind you, obvious doesn't equate to easy. That would nullify patents on them, would it not?

History
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:06 UTC

Not that I believe patents were the cause, but the rate of "innovation" in the modern era, I believe, is unprecedented. A two-year turnaround for computer technology, for example, has no analogy in pre-modern societies. Ever-increasing population growth only begins late 18th century; there is not even an increase in per capita income until late Middle Ages to early Modern Netherlands (see North and Thomas "Rise of the Western World" et al). Knowledge is abundant in all societies, including Pythagoras' and more "primitive" ones (see Levi-Strauss "Savage Mind"), but today's "innovation" is a much different beast. I think it is important to acknowledge that our modern society is in many ways unique -- there is something peculiar about the relentless growth and innovation, and it is not comparable to developments in previous epochs.

ha
by Anonymous on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:06 UTC

Let's see them try controling thoughts and prevent the use of IP. It's doomed from day #1.

Re: the dark ages
by sam on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:15 UTC

>>>The 'dark ages' were a time of political and demographic turmoil in the areas in which the classic civilisations had developed.

Of course, I was doing a very general characterization of "patents" in the "ancient roman and greek empires". Evil emperors like Caligula would have never shared a single cent with anyone.

Caligula would just kill the inventor and declared the invention the property of the roman empire ---- anyone who used the patented technology would have to pay a patent licensing fee to the emperor.

Since most of our everyday 20th century invention comes from the war technologies --- it would be the same in the ancient world also. If Caligula had patents --- maybe they would have invented the crossbow and conquered the whole world. No wars afterward, and no dark ages.

>>>Take Newton's attribution of credit in his works, he clearly stated that he would not have made it without others.
>>>The point is he required access to information.

Don't use Pythagoras or Newton to illustrate this issue.

If the ancient greek and roman world had some kind of central patent library and that library survived all those wars --- then everything that Newton invented would have already been invented in the year 700's, not 1700's. Newton rediscovered many of the science that were already 90% discovered in the ancient world. The last 10% would have been invented in the middle ages, not the 1700's.

I'll think I'll apply for a patent...
by A nun, he moos on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:36 UTC

...for a method to protect private interests, such as a corporation. It involves using employees of the corporation posing as ordinary citizens and posting comments on news sites where they praise the corporation and condemn any criticism of it, giving the appearance of grassroots support.

Once I get my patent I'll sue MS and make billions!! Mwahaha!

Software patents might work if frivolous patents were never granted. I suggest changing the rules a bit: if a USPTO clerk files a patent that later proves to be invalid, then he should immediately be fired. Out of a cannon. Into a wall.

I think that would put a damper on frivolous patents such as one-click shopping and the like...

v OT: Eugenia resignes as editor of osnews.com
by newuser on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:38 UTC
Patents give rise to monopolies, not innovation
by Magic8 on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:45 UTC

Those who defend patents defend monopolies. Those who defend monopolies are antagonistic towards society. Those who defend antagonism towards society not deserve the protections that society affords; society ought not support patents, nor monopolies nor those who would defend either.

I think it a shame that this is a world where those who attempt to suggest action based on ethical (and practical) principles are accused and slandered by those who have fought so hard to garner power over others for there sole benefit. Its not that everyone is evil -- but we do seem to lack any appreciable perspective which, it would seem, permits all sorts of greedy and selfish behaviour.

Oh well. No one said it would be easy.

@Patents dont last forever
by Beryllium on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:57 UTC

Patents may not last forever, but Disney copyrights sure do!

hmm
by speel on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 22:59 UTC

some patants are good and some are bad simply put

Bring back the barter system: oh wait, Pythagoras helped defeat that one
by Marc Driftmeyer on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:00 UTC

Pythagoras spent countless hours contemplating on innovation and he also introduced the use of coin as the medium of exchange into Southern Italy (c. 500 B.C).

So he simultaneously expanded mathematical thinking and the birth place of future economic systems.

He assumed we would be fiscally prudent about what we do with these new areas of human development but you can no more assure that if he were alive today that his "innovations" yet to come wouldn't be structured to garner him the most Return on his Investment.

Either way, what needs to be done is to overhaul Patents and the companies with the most to lose will lobby the hardest to preserve the current system, broken to their liking.

Re:I'll think I'll apply for a patent...
by sam on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:02 UTC

>>>...for a method to protect private interests, such as a corporation. It involves using employees of the corporation posing as ordinary citizens and posting comments on news sites where they praise the corporation and condemn any criticism of it, giving the appearance of grassroots support.

It cuts both ways, my friend. Oh my god, IBM is so wonderful about giving away 500 patents to linux users. The sad part is that IBM is the biggest backer of the push for software patents in Europe.

There are no "grassroots support" for linux --- it's an invention by IBM and RedHat.

albert einstein
by sam on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:18 UTC

>>>I suggest changing the rules a bit: if a USPTO clerk files a patent that later proves to be invalid, then he should immediately be fired. Out of a cannon. Into a wall.

I can imagine a little known swiss patent clerk named Albert Einstein ---- gets fired out of a cannon into a wall.

@Patents dont last forever
by peragrin on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:18 UTC

Yes but in software a 20 year patent is 4 life times of a OS.

Think how much tech has changed in the past two decades.

20 years ago the apple Mac was just being released. MSFT didn't have a GUI, most people learned a form a basic.

yea Just what I want to do for the next twenty years.

Blingin' on mah cellie
by Beryllium on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:22 UTC

Regarding Albert Einstein,

1. SWISS patent clerk.
2. Imagine where we'd be if he patented nuclear energy ... that would be pretty amusing, actually. I can almost hear an alternate rendition of John Lennon's 'Imagine' ...

The only argument against Patents
by QuantumG on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:27 UTC

Look at any argument against patents and you will see it boils down to: introducing a patent system will change the status quo. Well, duh! We wouldn't introduce it if it wasn't going to have any effect. Justifications for not changing the status quo range from pointing at copyright and claiming that's all we need, to pointing out flaws in the patent system. The biggest flaw of the patent system is that obvious patents are allowed by the patent office, because it is expected that anyone who tries to enforce an obvious patent will be wasting their money as the accused will easily be able to point out that the patent is obvious and therefore invalid. Of course, people who have obvious patents often threaten people who can't even afford to defend themselves. In which case a weak patent is just as good as a strong one. Then the argument for maintaining the status quo is to claim that fly-by-night companies that can't even defend themselves from patent infringement claims are a good thing to have in our industry. We get told that these two-bit companies are great because they come up with all sorts of groovy ideas that the rest of us can copy. That is, they have no patent protection, so they are a good thing to have around.

History...
by dkarn on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:28 UTC

Patents may have helped bring Europe out of the dark ages, but what does that mean now? All the ideas that came out of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were to solve the problems that existed at that time. Now we have a new set of problems, and new technologies, and we need to come up with new solutions.

You can't base you're argument off of what patents have already done, you have to think about what they will do now and in the future. Tell me why not patenting software is going to hurt society.

Re: History...
by sam on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:37 UTC

>>>Patents may have helped bring Europe out of the dark ages, but what does that mean now?

Europe wouldn't have been in the dark ages --- if they had access to the ancient roman and greek technologies in the first place.

>>>You can't base you're argument off of what patents have already done, you have to think about what they will do now and in the future. Tell me why not patenting software is going to hurt society.

Maybe they would have invented the computer 1000 years earlier. Maybe we would not need "software" anymore --- TODAY. Maybe we are all "human batteries" in the movie "The Matrix".

My point is that --- DON'T bring ancient history into this discussion. Maybe some evil chinese businessman would have weaponized gunpowder 2000 year ago and we are all typing chinese into a computer now, instead of english.

I agree
by dkarn on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:43 UTC

>My point is that --- DON'T bring ancient history into this discussion.

Good, that was my point too. Now, what do patents mean now?

just my two cents
by aziza on Wed 22nd Jun 2005 23:57 UTC

It's not totally true that pythagoras did not recieve any payment for the contributions he made to society. He was a consultant and teacher and was compensated generously for these services.

Posts like this have the underlying philosophy that only multinational corporations are the ones that demand to be compenstated for their efforts. This simply is not true, would you go to work every day if you weren't paid? People have a right to get paid for what they do and that includes the ideas that they come up with.

I don't believe that these rights should go on into perpetuaity but software patents do have a valid place in society that is not evil. If you develop something and you want to give it away for free that's great and I'll gladly accept your generosity but don't get mad at me when I want to be paid for the technologies that I come up with because I would like to feed my wife and kids and that in my opinion is not an evil desire.

Just to be pedantic
by Anonymous on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 00:06 UTC

The Pythagorean Theorem wasn't discovered by Pythagoras, and it's not clear where the first proof originated.

@QuantumG
by Chris on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 00:14 UTC

Wow, thanks for not reading anything people have written. You're probably citing the argument that people believe tacking patents over copyrights is a bit silly and will only help the lawyers.

Since you've utterly failed to argue against anything anyone has actually said; I'll do the same to you but I'm gonna try and be funny so that we can all burn a few extra calories, release some hormones, and generally feel good.

Note, sarcasm and humor follow:

Surely more overhead in our system will save us all!

Copyrights were just too elegant a solution, not nearly enough litigation to protect the wallets of the lawyers!


Here's a list of former "fly-by-night companies:"
Amazon.com
Microsoft
Apple
eBay.com
Yahoo.com
Dell Computers
Google

Thank God for those tiny companies entering a new or existing market! Some of those weren't even companies when they started!

@aziza
by Chris on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 00:16 UTC

Consultation is pay for a service done at this time.
Patent royalties are pay for a service done once and not for this time.

To will:
by None on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 01:01 UTC

>Don't forget that that a very good case can be made for the claim that patents make more innovation possible.

I agree. In the US, patents and copyrights originate from the Constitution which has an express purpose of stimulating the useful arts and sciences.

I think the author of the article made a blunder when saying that copyrights already protect code. In the US at least, copyrights are inappropriate for something utilitarian in nature. They (at least originally) protect creative expression. Not raw facts or algorithms. The author's point seems to be that code is artistic. The problem is, people don't buy code for its artistic attributes. They buy it for utilitarian purposes (unless you count the UI as artistic).

One irony of software companies using copyright is that the intent of our (US) constitutional copyright and patent protection is to facilitate intellectual property markets. We (societally) limit what would otherwise be a contractual transfer of property. We do this to give creative people an incentive to create. In return society receives those properties in the national treasure chest known as Public Domain.

One will immediatdley ask what benefit soceity will receive from Windows 3.1 in 2067. We wouldn't have any benefit from it now in 2005!

There's something definitely wrong with using society's amelioration of property transfer, and at the same time short-changing society. Pushing software creativity into copyright isn't the answer.

re: the problem with patents as we delve into the future.
by Brad on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 01:26 UTC

" disagree, Brad. The wright brothers patented their airplane and instead of innovating the idea over the next several years, they spent it in litigation trying to stop other people from innovating the idea.
"

First, I'm not the same Brad, should be some means to hold your name to stop confusion, been here since Eugenia relaunched OSnews and every now and then a new brad pops up.

Anyways.

Your statement about the right brothers is incorrect. They spent years in litigation to get their patent. The patent office kept holding them up, and questioning if they had flown and so forth. The patent process also restricted them and would not let them show their plane to the public so people cast doubt on if they had flown. They did work on their planes though in the background. They even sold some to the military, which was another headache for them.

The patent office screwed them, they did not go about trying to stop others.


-----

Anyways, just because someone patents something, does not mean it will be restricted or all together blocked from others. Nearly all the time the person who patented it will be more then happy to license it to you. Often extremely cheap, or one time fee. They want to get their money back. Othertimes they just want to have the patent to stack their claim that they invented it, they arn't even interested in money from it. And then their is also those who patent it so others can't and then let anyone use it.

The only people who truly bitch about them are those who want everything for free, or are upset cause they didn't get the patent first. I guarantee that most of the people who bitch about them the most would feel very different about them if they held a patent on something very valuable. They may tell you how they would give it for free, but odds are if they really did have it, they would be protecting it with all they got to make the money off it.

re: the problem with patents as we delve into the future.
by Marcus Sundman on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 02:10 UTC

Brad wrote:
> I guarantee that most of the people who bitch about them
> the most would feel very different about them if they held
> a patent on something very valuable.

Of course they would, because they are greedy bastards, and they don't care if everyone else in the world suffers, as long as they get more money.


> The only people who truly bitch about them are those who
> want everything for free, or are upset cause they didn't
> get the patent first.

That's utter BS! You are so full of crap that I'm starting to think you are just a troll. Well, here comes trollfeeding time..

The problem with SW patents is that no matter what I program I will violate a lot of patents that I have no idea that I have violated. While nobody is interested in my programs before they start to gain market share, once they do various blood sucking patent holders can ruin me by keeping me in court as long as they want. I would totally be their bitch.

You see, while it is fairly easy to come up with something new, it is impossible to make something of which every part is new.

As a professional programmer I would happily give up my right to patent software for the right to be able to write whatever software I come up with. It's not even remotely about stealing ideas. If someone "steals" one of my ideas I would still have a huge head start before they have implemented it and had it debugged, and meanwhile I would gain market share, get more money, and still get the glory as the inventor of the idea and loads of karma. And I could even get to keep the other half of my profits, which would otherwise go to a bunch of lawyers.

Hmm.. maybe you're not a troll, but just a greedy little patent lawyer.

Re: Melting ice caps
by Marcus Sundman on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 02:26 UTC

Chris wrote:
> Ever watch ice melt in a glass of water? Does the water
> spill out over the top of the glass?

Of course it does. When the ice (which of course stands on the bottom of the glass so that the experiment is valid in this case) melts, the added volume of liquid water will be more than the volume that was accupied by the lower part of the ice that was below the water line (which is at the edge of the glass).

RE:Marcus Sundman (IP: ---.kotikaista.weppi.fi)
by BR on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 02:45 UTC

"The problem with SW patents is that no matter what I program I will violate a lot of patents that I have no idea that I have violated. "

Sounds like someone should provide an internet service were you can go and look up patents.

"While nobody is interested in my programs before they start to gain market share, once they do various blood sucking patent holders can ruin me by keeping me in court as long as they want. I would totally be their bitch. "

And how's that any different from any other legal case? Or are you saying that other legal cases don't have that problem, and it's just patent cases suffering from that problem?

"You see, while it is fairly easy to come up with something new, it is impossible to make something of which every part is new. "

"Upon the shoulders..." Now how's software patents any different than any other kind of patents if the above is the criteria?

"If someone "steals" one of my ideas I would still have a huge head start before they have implemented it and had it debugged, and meanwhile I would gain market share, get more money, and still get the glory as the inventor of the idea and loads of karma."

The digital age has changed things, plus I'm certain people can give historical examples of the inventor not getting recognition, or glory.

"Hmm.. maybe you're not a troll, but just a greedy little patent lawyer."

Or maybe he just has a difference of opinion. Can't imagine why though. We all should be on the same page.

@ BR (IP: ---.225.110.20.Dial1.Cincinnati1.Level3.net) -
by Finalzone on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 03:06 UTC

So are you telling us is that you've read and understood the patents in question; and they said "we're patenting all of humanities genome"? Or maybe perhaps they were saying "We've modified this particular human gene and taking out a patent on the modification."*
I apologize to not be clear on my argument as I was on rush. However, you illustrate how patents are flawed when it comes to biology (human genome in this example). The danger is there are too many unknown and the violation of ethics.

@ sam
by David Pastern on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 03:56 UTC

Quote: "There were no advances in math and science from 200 AD to the 1450's (the beginning of the renaissance period)."

That's right. Have a look when Christianism and the Roman Catholic Church started to come into power. Corresponds about with what you're saying. It is very well known that Science was a evil to the church. Everything was God's will. To explain something that didn't include it as being God's will was sacrilege. And religious heresy. That resulted in a lot of people being tortured and murdured.

It has nothing to do with the non-existence of patents. That's just utter rubbish.

Patents are good, if they are for limited terms, and they are equal. At the moment, only large corporate interests, with lots of money behind them can consider patents. Anyone else forget it. That's not equal.

Get rid of software patents, reduce copyright to a maximum of 10 years for software related ideas and watch the industry blossom. Don't do it, and you'll end up with 4 or 5 big companies and no small players. No competition.

Dave

re: marcus
by Brad on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 03:59 UTC

"The problem with SW patents is that no matter what I program I will violate a lot of patents that I have no idea that I have violated."


Hello, McFly! this is how it is for everyone else now. I'm a mechanical engineer, I can sit down and start designing something and guess what, I'm probably stepping on a dozen patents, and I have no idea. You know what you do? You start going through and seeing if your stepping on any patents. Ignorance is not an excuse.

Pretty much anyone building something they want to market they have to go and check out the patent office and see if they are in the way of anything. For mechanical stuff, most the basic stuff was patented long ago, thus is not an issue. But even today seemingly simple things get patented. One has to check if there is something their in the way. If their is, they track down the patent holder and make a deal. Companies do this non stop everyday. Even simple things can trip me up, like a certain way a whole bunch of nuts/bolts/washers are hooked together, or an arrangement of gears. Very simple things.

Software patents bring no new issues to the table, it's just software is new compared to nuts and bolts. And there is a bunch of people complaining because they don't want to do as everyone else has since the dawn of patents.

Re: Re: Marcus
by Anonymous on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 04:46 UTC


For the mechanical engineer who commented that others have had to research patents in other relms:

I would simply state that if you, as a practitioner of field X, in the course of solving a problem inadvertently violate a patent then I would claim the patent is inherently BAD because anyone practicing the skill in question would do the same thing and thus there is nothing inherently novel/unique in the BAD patent.

That is the trouble with patents, they are very rarely unique and novel in any way; a professional of the field in question would probably solve the problem in the exact same, or basically same, way.

In reference to what others have said about lengths of patents, I would add that they should be no longer than 5 years and ideally 2 or less; if you can't make a killing on a monopolized idea in 2 years in a modern industrial society you probably never will...

@Brad
by Chris on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 04:59 UTC

You're either:
a.) Someone who hasn't read many software patents.
b.) Someone who doesn't know much about software.

People are irritated about overly broad patents enabling idiotic lawsuits like the one currently filed against Apple over some very obvious ideas. It's not a "we got there first" problem; it's a "everyone was already there because it's not an innovation it is intuitive design."
But it looks like you can patent what interfaces most easily with the modern man; gee I hope I don't have to pay a patent fee for being an average person who interface normally? Ok, that went off on a tangent.

How about that time on button click patent? Come on! No one is angry that "Microsoft came up with it first." The suggestion is pure ignorance; it's been used in palms and other devices for ages. People are angry because the patent is stupid, far-reaching, and isn't about an innovation it's about intuitive design!

Seeing a pattern yet?

We don't want things for free. We want things to be Free. Have any of you anti-OSS zealouts read OSS writings yet? Sometimes I start to wonder...

Small verses Large
by Luederde on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 05:03 UTC

The author wrote:

"Patents will protect big companies, who have enough staff and many to scare away smaller companies with patent wars. The big companies know thet violate each other's patents, which is unavoidable, but resorts to gentleman's agreements. The smaller companies and the open source movement have no defence againt them because they do not have the means to make such gentleman's agreements. Even governments who like to use open source are likely to suffer, and will become more dependant on big companies."

I am not sure this statement is supported by the reality of the market place. While it is true that large companies like Apple, Microsoft, and IBM have lots of patents and lot of lawyers to protect them, you don't see a lot of news headlines talking about Large companies killing small ones with patent infringement suites. Most of the patent related news I have seen have been small companies suing larger ones over patents. For example Apple is being sued by at least two companies over patent issues related to iTunes.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/06/21/apple_sued_over_itunes/

This would indicate that patents are being used often by small companies to protect themselves from larger ones. If this is the case then the author's premise that patents are bad because they only work for large companies is incorrect.

@Brad
by Chris on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 05:07 UTC

And you wish this waste of time upon the rest of us? Surely you are a sadist. I'm not trying to be insulting, I just can't understand how you asking to put extra headaches on the rest of the world can be construed as anything but sadism.
Today software, tomorrow novels, and next week law! Yes, law patents!

What you do, and what we do are two different things. I know a lot of computer scientists like to call themselves engineers, but the fact is we aren't. We're scientists; and there is a critical difference: Peer review and Newtonian style building. Patents work to destroy the latter entirely and as for the former it just kicks its knees out from under it.
I'd love to see the engineering world embrace this sort of ideal; but unfortunately most business types wouldn't have that.... Imagine Ford and Chevrolet working together...on a consistent basis without excluding their best secrets! Our cars might actually work right and the computer chips wouldn't cost us $400! Ok, that's a pretty heavy prediction, but it was fun to imagine!
Of course, the scientific worlds don't exactly live up to the ideal; but they come a whole lot closer than trade secrets + patents + swearing employees to secrecy.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong but. When you all patent something you have to put up a design of some form detailing it? Not necessarily a final plan, but a prototype design that'd theoretically function?

Software patents don't do that. If they did, it'd be like forcing the proprietary world open source; after a 20 year (read eternity * 10) delay!


@Luederde
by Chris on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 05:11 UTC

That's true, sort of. One of the guys isn't exactly a little guy; he showed his first design at 1995 COMDEX. Little guys aren't showing at COMDEX; that takes some recognition...

Nice try.

The little guy is the one whose barely living in the black, but going into the red is an expense he could pay off with a $8 an hour job. They're the guys like Jobs and Wozniak (right guys?) as Apple running from a garage; not the 1.5Million dollar startups. They're what patent law is romanticized to protect; but never seems to end up protecting: And the Wright brothers are a decent example of that.

You are killing me
by Anonymous on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 05:49 UTC

I hate patents, they are killing me.

I'm sure that you want to patent the air I breath so that you can maker an additional profit.

Give me a break. No everything is meant to have a price tag!

Some things are free because they belong to Humanity and not to you selfish bastard!

@Chris
by Luederde on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 05:58 UTC

Terms like large and small are relative terms. The in his article, author gave no definition of the terms. Therefore his argument should be testable within the reasonable range of values that might be applied. So from that standpoint a feel my argument is still valid.

Examining your definition of small

The little guy is the one whose barely living in the black, but going into the red is an expense he could pay off with a $8 an hour job. They're the guys like Jobs and Wozniak

It could be argued that protection from patent litigation is not the biggest issue facing a company this small. Capital is what they lack. Jobs and Wozniak would still be in the garage (or working at HP) if it weren't for Mike Markkula (the third co-funder) who arrange capital funding to fund Apple.


Actually our hypothetical company might be in much better position if they developed a patentable product. The patent would be inducement for potential capital investors, who would see the patent as a tangible item to invest in.

Dumb obvious patents aren't new
by Brad on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 06:46 UTC

To say software is different and that people are patenting obvious things and to broad of things is not true, this to has always happened.

The car was patented, and Henry Ford spend years to get it thrown out, and the patent was filed after cars had been around for a while. This kind of thing is not new.

Patents get abused, that doesn't make all patents bad. In time they tend to work out. If some company got to the idea first, why shouldn't they enjoy some benefit. If I come up with a good simple idea, and find out someone else has already patented it, it doesn't make me mad, just tends to validate someone else was thinking like me, so I must have been on to something, and overall good for them, they beat me, they win that round.

Software is a new thing in a relative sense, things like the automotive age when through similar phase in it's early days, everyone had to think different for a bit which caused lots of ideas to come out, but soon enough everyone patents ended, and the now big base of ideas was available to everyone.

Chris, I'm glad you say Comp Sci people aren't engineers, that really irks engineers. I don't think that changes anything. Engineers still exchange ideas, thus why there are so many organizations, ASME, SAE, IEEE etc. Also there is nothing wrong with exchanging ideas for a price. The biggest snag I see with software is that it's not a actual product, so the idea of making ti for free is tempting, which then makes Patents a pain, but I don't think patents should change because of what some want to do with software.


No process is perfect, but thats no reason to scrap it. Patents allow companies to get someplace, their is no way around that. Some people in the world enjoy making money, so they hold this close to them. And the idea of making patents 2 years, thats just plane crazy. Most products don't even get to production in that time.

ROFL...
by kors on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 08:49 UTC

----
If the greeks and the romans were able to patent a lot of their inventions --- we wouldn't have like a 1000 years + of dark ages.

There were no advances in math and science from 200 AD to the 1450's (the beginning of the renaissance period).
----
Please, learn some history.
The intellectual heritage of greeks and romans prospered during the specified time in Byzantine Empire, and was passed on to the east.
Examples:

modern algebra invented in 830 AD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Khwarizmi)

decimal fractions, decimal numbers with zeros in modern notion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorism)

major advances in medical science (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Kindi) first medical academy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jondishapour)

intoroduction of chemistry as systematical science (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabir_ibn_Hayyan)

All of that has absolutely nothing to do with presence or absence of patent law, just the cultural and polytical situation in western europe (barbarism + christian zealots), opposed to asia.

@kors
by geri on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 09:47 UTC

There were the dark ages because climate changed in Europe (it became colder). This had the crops dwindle, people had to eat, so the main energy form (horses and donkeys) at that time could no longer get fed. The roman empire failed because they were much more dependant on trade and horsepower than the independant and partly nomadic barbarian tribes in the north who were pressed south from harsher winters.

Additionally, there WERE advances in engineering at all those times (watermill with vertical wheel -> watermill with horizontal wheel, better horse-harnesses), waterpower replaced the horsemills, digging for coal and iron also had many advancements.

All this had nothing to do with patents whatsoever. Patents are useful where there exists a huge investment in doing research, and an easy reproduction once the research is completed. This is the case in pharmacy, and partly in engineering disciplines.
But it is NOT the case in IT. In IT, you can have an idea today, have a patent pending tomorrow, but implementing this idea would probably take months.
So companies who just do the first two steps can get a leverage over companies who do the real work. Which happened already lots of times (Microsoft got sued several times by patent litigation companies)!
The main problem I see for OSS however are not even these litigation companies, because they target wealthy companies, sueing some empty-pocketed OSS Programmer would not be worth the trouble.
The main problem for OSS are companies like MS, IBM, SONY and the likes. They can stop INTEROPERABILITY which is a key feature for OSS. Microsoft already tries to do that with that lousy license contract for their new MS Office XML schemas they want everyone to agree to.

RE: mistakes
by justyn on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 10:34 UTC

I don't agree with:

Quote: "When Pythagoras invented a new way to make calculations with triangles"

Pythagoras was best known for working out what we know as 'Pythagoras' Theorem'. Although, this was already known to the Egyptians and Babylonians, Pythagoras was probably the first to provide a rigorous proof.

Therefore how could he invent something that was already in use? I think patents are bad, but then we mustn't give up Opensource is a good movement, we can lead by example if we produce good code, although I feel we could invent our own patent system that protects our code from being exploited by the big companies.

I definitely agree with:

The question remains: why software patents? Obviously, the big companies have made up a good story. But software patents don't add much to the already existing copyright restrictions. They limit the widespread implementation of new ideas. They threatens small companies, governments and open source. And pirating will be stimulated.

About ice caps...
by Anonymous on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 10:53 UTC

I know I'm feeding an off-topic, but I can't resist, sorry...

Chris wrote:
> Ever watch ice melt in a glass of water? Does the water
> spill out over the top of the glass?

Ok, it's true... and so the melting of north pole ice caps does not contribute to sea level rising. And this leave only the ice on the Antartic, Greenland, various glaciers and so on. More than enough, if all melted, to rise sea level nearly 70 m.

RE:Marcus Sundman (IP: ---.kotikaista.weppi.fi)
by Marcus Sundman on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 11:12 UTC

BR wrote:
> > The problem with SW patents is that no matter what I program I
> > will violate a lot of patents that I have no idea that I have
> > violated.
>
> Sounds like someone should provide an internet service were you
> can go and look up patents.

First: You actually think that software patents are described to be found? Heck no! Patent holders don't want you find out about their patents. Not until you have your product on the market. Then you are dependent on it, and they can start sucking your blood until you're dry.

Second: Are you out of your mind? If I don't look at any patents I can be sure that I haven't willfully violated anything. If I casually scan through any little fraction of the hundred thousand SW patents then the party suing me can say that I must have read their patent and got the idea from there.


> > While nobody is interested in my programs before they start
> > to gain market share, once they do various blood sucking patent
> > holders can ruin me by keeping me in court as long as they
> > want. I would totally be their bitch.
>
> And how's that any different from any other legal case? Or are
> you saying that other legal cases don't have that problem, and
> it's just patent cases suffering from that problem?

The latter one. Since I have violated so many (bad) patents it doesn't matter if I show the first patent to be invalid. They can just come after me again and again.


> > You see, while it is fairly easy to come up with something new,
> > it is impossible to make something of which every part is new. "
>
> "Upon the shoulders..." Now how's software patents any different
> than any other kind of patents if the above is the criteria?

If it isn't then the above is enough to show how patents make it impossible to innovate legally.


> > If someone "steals" one of my ideas I would still have a huge
> > head start before they have implemented it and had it debugged,
> > and meanwhile I would gain market share, get more money, and
> > still get the glory as the inventor of the idea and loads of
> > karma."
>
> The digital age has changed things,

What do you mean? Do you think that since the result of what I do is in digital form it can be freely copied if there are no patents?


> plus I'm certain people can give historical examples of the
> inventor not getting recognition, or glory.

You mean like when the USPTO threw away Tesla's patents on radio and gave Marconi a patent for the invention of radio, making the world believe it was Marconi who invented radio?


> > Hmm.. maybe you're not a troll, but just a greedy little patent lawyer.
>
> Or maybe he just has a difference of opinion.

No, he was clearly either lying or very stupid and ignorant, since it has been shown time and again that what he claimed is not true.

Dangerous to all software development
by Uno Engborg on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 11:20 UTC

Microsoft and other big companies that like software patents seam to have made a very good PR job. Nowdays, when somebody writes about software patents the message usually is, that software patents are dangerous to FOSS. They are, but what they don't want you to know is the fact that they are dangerous to the major part of the softwae industry as well.

As long as gentlemans agreements, of cross licensing can be made everything is OK. But what if the patent holder is a law firm with no intention of developing software ever. They would never make such agrements. Unless you have a lot of money to fight them in court you would just have to pay the extortion fee or stop using the patented stuff, and even if you stop you may have to pay for your use of the patent before you was made aware it was patented.

This makes software patents dangerous even to quite large companies. Just think about it, if you was a patent extortionist who would you rather sue, a poor FOSS project where you have little money to gain even if you win, or a medium sized or even large compay thay you can make pay through their nose.

re: marcus
by Marcus Sundman on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 11:32 UTC

Brad wrote:
> > The problem with SW patents is that no matter what I program I will
> > violate a lot of patents that I have no idea that I have violated.
>
> Hello, McFly! this is how it is for everyone else now. I'm a mechanical
> engineer, I can sit down and start designing something and guess what,
> I'm probably stepping on a dozen patents, and I have no idea. You
> know what you do? You start going through and seeing if your stepping
> on any patents. Ignorance is not an excuse.

So tell me, what good are those patents that you're stepping on? They are keeping you from innovating, since you have to spend so much time finding them and going around them, instead of being able to build on them.

Doesn't it lead to more innovation if the top players have to keep inventing new things again and again to remain at the top? I would think that better than a situation where one is the first to patent some crucial detail that he then lives off of for twenty years while spending most of his time keeping the others busy in court. I would much, much rather give the money to the R&D department than to the lawyers.

@sam
by Anonymous on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 11:41 UTC

You really need to improve your knowledge. The sudden burst of progress with the renaisance was helped by something, from a region of the world you seem to be totally ignoring saying there was no progress. It came from China, the printing press. While Europe was in it's dark ages science, mathematics, astronomy were all flurishing in asia / the middle east. Much of what was new to Europe during the renaisance was knowledge which came from there, knowledge which wasn't lost at all. You also claim that most things were already discovered. Incorrect. The other major advance was in the scientific method, observations, instead of just following supersticious nonsense perpetuated by religions. It is no coincidence that the great artists were also great inventors. Here it is that we find out why technologies are advancing faster now than ever before, it is because we are building upon other works. Techonological advance is inherantly exponential. Storing of knowledge helps yes, but a patent store? Ever heard of a thing called a library, which infact did exist for the knowledge of the greeks, but as with many things was destroyed.

Has anyone patented the roling of the wheel yet? I wana do so... So every wheel owner will have to pay me a billionth of a cent each full roll. Half rolls are free...

RE: what to patent... what to patent....
by element on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 12:32 UTC

I read once, don't know if it's really true, that the wheel was patented in 2000 by some company.
And MS has patented the doubleclick. Patents are stupid.

can't go back in time
by sam on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 12:44 UTC

>>>The sudden burst of progress with the renaisance was helped by something, from a region of the world you seem to be totally ignoring saying there was no progress. It came from China, the printing press.

All I am saying is that you can't go back in time and say that patents didn't exist 2000 years ago and look at how well it turned out.

It didn't turn out that well because of many lost opportunities. Crucial scientific knowledge were lost for 1500 years. Crucial technologies were not commercialized nor weaponized.

You are right that China invented the printing press in 1041 and Gutenburg made similar advances 400 years later. But what if the chinese patented the technology and commercialized it in 1041 --- then instead of marco polo bringing back chinese noodles in the 1200's, he would have brought back the printing press to europe (200 years before Gutenburg's invention).


Gotta have a patent system. Otherwise there is no incentive to invent anything since others will just rip-off your work, and all that R&D is down the toilet.

On the other hand, there is a problem with our present *deeply flawed* system.

Msft patents all kinds of stuff they didn't invent. The patent office doesn't do any sort of meaning checking. Msft can use their arsenal of bogo patents to intimidate smaller companies with the threat of nuisance lawsuits. Msft can say: "hand over your technology, and stop competing with msft, or spend the next ten years in court, and pay $100MM in legal fees." That's not fair, and it was not the intent of the patent system.

RE: Patent
by justyn on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 14:00 UTC

Patents are only valid in this western capitalist driven society, once it breaks down then patents are pretty worthless.

I wonder whether patents are a red herring?

@Luederde
by Chris on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 14:16 UTC

The facts stand:
1.) The Software Industry does have a monopoly problem. It tends to form monopolies in areas:
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Office
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Pagemaker (sorta competes with Word, but usually is treated very differently)
Quicken
etc. etc. etc.
2.) Patents are an extremely effective tool to prevent entry.

Lots of words are relative buddy; that doesn't mean you get to throw them out as meaningless if not given an exact range; there is something called reading in context.

You didn't respond to my point anyway. I was simply pointing out that the guy suing Apple is not small; he's backed with capital and has been for a decade (more likely more than that).

You go on to talk about investors. As if software entry requires heavy capital; I'd think you'd have figured this out now: Software is a place where you can enter with almost no capital and still become the leader (of course you end up forming capital through your first sales).
Investors are great, but most of them are still smart enough to say "put up or shut up." And as I've said about 10 times now, software patents do not require so much as a prototype or prototype design...



Competition
by Winston Ewert on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 14:41 UTC

Businesses are generally in favour of competition, except in their field.

...
by Morin on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 14:51 UTC

It is a commonly heard phrase that "patents are needed to encourage innovation". Does anyone of the supporters care to back this up with hard facts? (I didn't read the whole 90 comments, so sorry if this was already answered).

Not exactly
by Vincenzo on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 15:19 UTC

I agree with you when you speek about free ideas stimulates innovation but it's not true the comparison with Pitagorian. Their discoveries was totaly closed to others infact many matematical and philosofical innovations was lost because they confused mathematical discovery with religious beliefs and misticism. When Pitagora was killed on Sibari-Kroton war most knowledgies was scattered. Today we knows only some discoveries just becouse some follower was reveal the secrets of pitagorian school.

Pythagoras
by Anonymous on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 16:24 UTC


Pythagoras did not invent the pythagorean theorum, he was given credit for something someone else figured out. Kind of like people applying for patents for something they didnt create...

Re: ROFL...
by Anonymous on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 17:31 UTC

> modern algebra invented in 830 AD
> (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Khwarizmi)

Modern Algebra was primarily developed in Europe much later. Classical Algebra has its foundations somewhere in Babylon about 3700 years ago. Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi's book was responsible for the word "algebra," not for creating the subject.

> decimal fractions, decimal numbers with zeros in modern
> notion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorism)

These were Hindu in origin and not developed during the Byzantine Empire, either. The Arabs certainly maintained knowledge developed in Europe (as well as elsewhere) that might have otherwise been lost to history in the Dark Ages, but your knowledge of this history is pretty superficial and incorrect.

> Please, learn some history.

Given that comment, I can only suggest to you that you do the same.

Pythagoras
by Yxhuvud on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 18:31 UTC

The really ironic thing with this article is that (as Vincesnzo said) the Pythagorean society was a closed one. Yes they were brilliant for their time (except for not allowing reals, only rationals and integers. Some member that proposed introducing them is known to have been killed cause it would have made the beautiful math they had ugly, or something like that). Also, it was punishable by death for revealing the society's secrets (ie the math) to outsiders.

Doesn't really sound like OSS principles does it? ;)

RE: The end of free innovation
by Stav on Thu 23rd Jun 2005 21:42 UTC

Only an idiot would make such an assertion and use an analogy with mathematics to make it.
Everyone knows that mathematical concepts cannot be patented and the argument that a patent stimulates innovation is even more rediculous. What about all the mathematicians that deidicate entire lifetimes to solving mathematical problems without any reward. Solving Fermat's last theorm hardly made millions did it?

Every patent out there is based on the 100,000s of hours of totally unrewarded work. The patenting itself is just putting 2&2 together, finding an application for concepts that have already been developed.

What about all the patent that surroud AV compression, did Dolby, Fraunhoffer etc. develop FFT, Wavelets, psycho accoustic models etc. No unrewarded academics probably. The corporations simply found applications and marketed these ideas.

If you think patents are the result of hard work look at some of the US patents for compression algorithms. There are even some that claim inovations that were mathematically proven impossible long before the patent was filed.

In short patents are just a cheap form of monopolization.

@walterbyrd
by Magic8 on Fri 24th Jun 2005 02:02 UTC

"Gotta have a patent system. Otherwise there is no incentive to invent anything since others will just rip-off your work, and all that R&D is down the toilet."

Prove it. I say it might stop YOU but it would stop you, but not stop people who actually go about inventing things.

The reason to invent is to remain competitive.

The justification for patents is to stop secret guilds from divulging information. Fine. So let's say we grant the need for such a system even though with modern universities, the liklihood of secret guilds and cabals is fairly much 0. No, it *is* zero for anything of appreciable interest.

Never-the-less, let us allow a temporary monopoly (patent) so long as: 1) the full invention is disclosed; 2) the inventor can actually produce such a thing that is claimed; 3) the invention is not trivial or obvious; 4) the patent is limited to precisely the thing that is produced by the inventor so as to not allow for "broad language" patents that cover far more than they ought; 5) the patent does not merely state an idea but actually represents the manipulation of real-world physical properties.

Unfortunately, patents on software and so-called business process patents tend to fail on *all* of the above counts but failing on even a single count is sufficient to deny patent applicability; however, they *ALWAYS* fail on the last count.

Software patents are an afront to intelligence and society.

@Chris
by Luederde on Fri 24th Jun 2005 05:36 UTC

The facts stand:
1.) The Software Industry does have a monopoly problem. It tends to form monopolies in areas:
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Office
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Pagemaker (sorta competes with Word, but usually is treated very differently)
Quicken
etc. etc. etc.


Actually the technology industry has had a serious problem with monopolies for a very long time. In fact this problems predates the rise of software as stand alone commercial products. Witness the domination of IBM, DEC and Xerox in various niches of the industry before the rise of PCs. This was driven almost exclusively by hardware innovation and sales, software was barely even a secondary issue. Therefore discussing this in the context of software patents may not be relevant.

2.) Patents are an extremely effective tool to prevent entry.

Actually I would have no argument with that, if software patents where issued in a fair, equitable, and rational manner. I am the first to admit that fair, equitable and rational is not the case today. That is why I believe the rules around software patents should be revised. However I do not advocate scrapping them all together.

Lots of words are relative buddy; that doesn't mean you get to throw them out as meaningless if not given an exact range; there is something called reading in context.

You didn't respond to my point anyway. I was simply pointing out that the guy suing Apple is not small; he's backed with capital and has been for a decade (more likely more than that).


The original article had no context or magnitude applied to the terms large and small. In my example with companies suing Apple over iTunes based technologies both companies are smaller than Apple. You may want to examine other magnitudes of large and small. That is OK. But my argument still stands within my describe context.


You go on to talk about investors. As if software entry requires heavy capital; I'd think you'd have figured this out now: Software is a place where you can enter with almost no capital and still become the leader (of course you end up forming capital through your first sales).
Investors are great, but most of them are still smart enough to say "put up or shut up." And as I've said about 10 times now, software patents do not require so much as a prototype or prototype design...



The statement on capital investment was simply to complete the example you gave of Jobs and Wazniak garage startup history.

Addressing your small business example. I have a very good friend that made an attempt to make a living as a low capital startup software developer. †In order of impact on his livelihood here are some of the problems he encountered; cash flow during longer projects, unscrupulous partners, development tools that didnít work as advertised, a market place that changed its requirements too fast and too often, and yes software patents. However by the time software patents became an issue, all of these other problems had driven him to bankruptcy and functionally forced him out of the business. †I do not offer his experiences as common to all small developers. I also know some small developers that have done quite well. What I contending is that software patents, IF PROPERLY ADMINISTERED, may not be the boogymen many people make them out to be.

Patents don't stimulate innovation
by glide on Fri 24th Jun 2005 14:44 UTC

Why would I try to innovate on something if I think I might get my butt sued off by some big, greedy company? Patents restrict innovation. Abolish patents and intellectual property rights. If you can make a better mouse trap, go for it.

Math (and knowledge) is free.
by Mike on Fri 24th Jun 2005 15:00 UTC

Math is free.

I don't care what the patent office says. I will never obey crap like this. I will not support politicians, administrators, or companies. Don't make any arguements to me. Patents are stupid and patent people are idiots.

we need patents for software
by gabriel on Fri 24th Jun 2005 18:05 UTC

screw that talk!

everyone saying that microsoft can go and sue everyone that uses a radio button. there's prior art to a radio button, a button, links and icons on "physical" world and design so that's BS.

now, why would i use a linux workstation if EVERY program and envyroment is a copy from windows and such? i only have more trouble getting my video driver working correctly.

with some patents on those broader issues, we'd have inovation for a change.

and with inovation, we could came up with something that big corporations would want to copy for a change.

then OS would have the patent for the inovation stuff and we would be in a position to bargain.

now, fearing the M$ patents on buttons, come on.

@ gabriel (IP: ---.catho.com.br)
by Finalzone on Fri 24th Jun 2005 23:08 UTC

Icons, button are not Microsoft ideas let alone innovations. They existed on system like Apple way before Windows. Software are abstracts, they are tools for hardwares. Without hardwares, softwares are useless.
Some posters pointed out how flawed are patents when two people from different countries came with the same ideas without copying each other.

RE: we need patents for software
by Marcus Sundman on Sat 25th Jun 2005 14:00 UTC

gabriel wrote:
> with some patents on those broader issues, we'd have inovation
> for a change.

That's utter BS! You seem to be confused and clueless. Do you actually think that it would be a good thing if everything one does has to be new, instead of being able to build upon existing ideas? That would lead to virtually no innovation at all. At best you'd have thousands of guys, each with a badly designed part (why would they make a better design when they already have a government-guaranteed monopoly in their niche?), but no one could legally build anything from those parts. That is, unless there is heavy cross-licensing, at least between the big players. And even then it would only result in very bad products and no competition since it would be impossible to enter the market. What a great idea! Let's do that!