Linked by David Adams on Tue 4th Apr 2006 15:19 UTC, submitted by anonymous
Legal A company called eSoft was recently granted a patent for "systems and methods for selecting, ordering, installing, managing, updating, and if necessary, uninstalling software applications." Their first step has been to sue their major competitors, but it appears that online software update systems of all kinds could be covered by this patent, which would mean that Windows Update, OS X Software Update, Redhat's up2date, and YUM, among others, would be infringing.
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Paul Graham's take
by Shane on Tue 4th Apr 2006 15:41 UTC
Shane
Member since:
2005-07-06

Paul Graham has a nice essay about software patents:

http://www.paulgraham.com/softwarepatents.html

One of the best writeups on the subject that I've read so far.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Paul Graham's take
by TheBadger on Tue 4th Apr 2006 16:37 in reply to "Paul Graham's take"
TheBadger Member since:
2005-11-14

Whilst Mr Graham presumably has experience in advising businesses operating within the ridiculous US patent regime, and whilst his essay gives a reasonable insight into the forces at work around patents and patenting, his experience apparently only compels him to verbosely and patronisingly sit on the fence (he knows so much on the subject, apparently, but can't be bothered to do the additional "several weeks of research" to tell the other "99.9% of the people who express opinions on the subject" why we're so ignorant), absurdly claiming that software development would be a secret society without patents. Clearly, Mr Graham chooses to ignore the growth of large parts of the software industry without everyone licensing everyone else's patents, the "ideas density" that you get in software, mathematics and business processes where it's inevitable that people frequently discover the same concepts independently and where new works almost always build on old ones, and the scientific tradition for the free exchange of ideas.

His remark that people who are against software patents must also be against patents in general, presumably formulated to make opponents of software patents seem like anti-capitalist idealogues in light of his "pragmatic" "can we fix the system?" ruminations, accidentally stumbles across a point worth considering: as large corporations such as those in the pharmaceutical industry slap patents on everything, including publicly-funded research, and as patents cause scarcity, price inflation and (especially in the case of "big pharma") hurt people in the developing world, can we live with such an archaic monopoly-granting system and have a clear conscience?

Yes, Mr Graham, the matter is somewhat more important than whether your "1998-style with Web 2.0 gloss" start-up goes public or gets bought out, presumably with champagne and cabriolets all round.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: Paul Graham's take
by Hands on Tue 4th Apr 2006 16:41 in reply to "Paul Graham's take"
Hands Member since:
2005-06-30

It is long, but as with many good articles/essays, Paul Graham's words are best when taken as a whole rather than just a few good points here and there. It certainly puts the term "pirated software" in a different light when you think of the historical and current relationship between merchants and pirates.

eSoft seems to be one of the patent trolls that was mentioned. Are they suing because they truly have something to protect, or are they suing simply because they would like to extort money from real products?

Paul Graham also makes a good point that the patent system was originally established to foster innovation through the sharing of ideas while protecting the creator's interests. Software patents don't have to be inherently bad. The rub lies in their implementation.

The USPTO has granted far too many bogus patents, and with software the difference between obvious and non-obvious can be quite difficult to define making the situation worse. Computer-related technology also moves at a much more rapid pace than the technologies that the patent system was originally designed to protect.

I don't think that the patent system should be abolished (it seems to have served the purpose for which it was created and should be allowed to continue). I think the patent system is in serious need of reform though. The issue of patent trolls should be solved as well as making it possible for computer-related technologies to progress at a natural pace instead of being locked into a pace that seemed appropriate for the first combustion engines.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Paul Graham's take
by Soulbender on Wed 5th Apr 2006 02:51 in reply to "RE: Paul Graham's take"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

"eSoft seems to be one of the patent trolls that was mentioned. Are they suing because they truly have something to protect, or are they suing simply because they would like to extort money from real products?"

The latter, no doubt. I work in the networking and security field and I havent ever heard of eSoft as a provider of anything. Actually, until today I hadn't heard of them at all.
They're just another worthless company without a sustainable business model that tries to cash in on the flaws of the U.S patent office.

Reply Parent Score: 2