Linked by jrincayc on Fri 15th Jul 2011 17:14 UTC
Legal Patent term calculation is complicated in the US because there are essentially two different systems and quite a few corner cases. Even with a list of patents, it can be tricky to determine when the patents are all expired. Since I am a computer programmer (and not a lawyer), I created a program to try and automate this. This paper discusses how patent term calculation works, and some results from a combination of hand and automatic term calculation for MP3, MPEG-2 and H.264.
Thread beginning with comment 481126
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[2]: Ouch
by jrincayc on Fri 15th Jul 2011 22:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Ouch"
Member since:

I agree that it was way too much work. Here are some of my opinions:

I have never seen a decent justification of why software patents should last 20+ years. I can see why things like medications should last 20 years, since FDA testing lasts so long, but software is quick to think up and quick to test (and quick for someone else to think up as well). I also think that software could get along fine without patents. If we are going to have software patents, they should last less than 5 years.

Software patents should have pseudo code or source code. Lack of this makes it far to hard to figure out what the patent actually covers.

There were far too many ways to game the system before 1995, allowing patents to last much longer than 20 years. If that wasn't the case, MP3 would be patent free by the end of 2012 at the latest.

The US patent office should calculate a maximum patent term and put it in with the other patent information. Having to parse through English to figure out how long a patent lasts is ridiculous (My program uses several regular expressions to try and find out some of the information needed, and it fails for some of the more weird ways it is done).

There should be some way to mandate that patents that are essential for a standard are discovered. Right now, it is over 20 years since the MPEG-1 draft standard was created, and there is still enough uncertainty about MPEG-1 video to keep ppmtompeg out of distributions like OpenSUSE and Fedora. If something has been an ISO standard for five years, and you haven't added your patent to the ISO patent database, it should be too late to sue.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[3]: Ouch
by ourcomputerbloke on Sat 16th Jul 2011 00:24 in reply to "RE[2]: Ouch"
ourcomputerbloke Member since:

If we are going to have software patents, they should last less than 5 years. Software patents should have pseudo code or source code. Lack of this makes it far to hard to figure out what the patent actually covers.

IMHO all patents, hardware, software, medical, whatever, should have an automatic expiry five years after their first commercial application irrespective of what other timeframes are imposed, and none of this extending BS. If the new additions are significant enough to warranty an extension they should be patented separately.

I do believe the notion that software patents shouldn't exist is misguided, but each to his / her own.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Ouch
by Luminair on Sat 16th Jul 2011 19:26 in reply to "RE[2]: Ouch"
Luminair Member since:

I'm not sure patents make sense. I don't understand the logic of restricting ideas to a certain organization for an arbitrary time period. The whole thing seems kind of arbitrary.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[4]: Ouch
by FishB8 on Sun 17th Jul 2011 05:48 in reply to "RE[3]: Ouch"
FishB8 Member since:

The purpose of patents is to ensure that companies / individuals get a return on investment in research and development. Without patents, there is no motivation to invest in research and development if somebody else can take the results (without contributing to the cost of the R&D) and beat you to market with a competing product.

This makes sense when applied to physical products. When applied to things like software, genetics, business methods, etc. like it has been, it is no longer beneficial to the community as a whole, and simply turns into government sanctioned thuggery. I have no doubt that there should be protections in these areas as well, but they need to be separate from patent law, with different rules, limitations and means of litigation that are tailored to the specific fields and result in a the best positive and balanced outcome for both the companies and communities as a whole.

Or, to be more direct for the sake of brevity: patent trolls should strung up by their nuts.

Reply Parent Score: 4