Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Oct 2012 09:24 UTC
Legal The failing US patent system is getting ever more mainstream - The New York Times is running a long and details piece on the failings of the system, especially in relation to the technology industry most of us hold so dearly. Most of the stuff in there isn't new to us - but there's two things in the article I want to highlight.
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Thom_Holwerda
Member since:
2005-06-29

The question I would pose is that if one accepts the current legal framework for IP is broken what do you replace it with? That's a very serious and big question and I would interested to see what people suggest.


There's a lot of different suggestions out there, most better than what we have now. Here's mine:

http://www.osnews.com/story/26157/How_to_fix_the_patent_mess

Reply Parent Score: 3

silix Member since:
2006-03-01

There's a lot of different suggestions out there, most better than what we have now. Here's mine:

http://www.osnews.com/story/26157/How_to_fix_the_patent_mess

in the previous piece you're advocating for the interim abolition of sw patents, thus for engineers in the sw field to become 2nd class citizens when it comes to intellectual property protection...

but suppose that you are intent on developing a product that you hope to sell, based on novel techniques and the application of interesting "new" mathematical theory - and that investigating the involved maths (eg, wavelets) and coming up with a working algorithm (ie inventing the solution for your chosen problem domain) takes you much more time and effort than making a prototype implementation..
now, think you'll agree it would be fair to get a bit of advantage for having done research and design on your own and for being the first to do so...
but copyright protects only the implementation's form and does nothing to stop anyone with a primer in the same maths from reimplementing the same techniques in another product (saving on research time, since you've done most of the job for him)

saying that copyright is enough for sw, you basically say that all research and design effort that goes into a sw product is worth nothing from an IP protection perspective, that it doesnt deserve protection being essentially a "free for everyone" thing, like maths, and that people working for sw houses on innovative solutions (notice, not innovative products) are wasting their time...
this has an interesting implication... now, if i'm working on something i deem innovative and that would be qualified for a patent (dont make the mistake to believe that all patenst are trivial ... there's VERY advanced stuff inside, just it's not newsworthy enough) but i know that what i'm working on won't gain me a competitive lead and won't allow me to control (at least to a certain extent) what my competitor put in their products...
what incentive do i have to come up with it first? what incentive do i have to come up with it at all?
to make significant design effort that my competitors can (and will) exploit to undercut my very product?
why dont i (say) ally with my competitor and agree to each sell owr own version of the same, uninnovative, commoditized algorithms?

Reply Parent Score: 0

benir0 Member since:
2006-07-26

I can understand your objections to the abolition of software patents. The rest of the suggestions he makes about patents in general could be applied to software patents, meaning: no software patents on trivial things and they only last a couple/few years. This as opposed to granting a patent on "selecting elements from a dynamically generated array" that lasts for 20 years. WTF? (The previous example is just that, not an actual case, though it is similar to patents I've seen referenced)

Reply Parent Score: 2

stimut Member since:
2012-10-08

I'm going to guess you aren't a software engineer.

Software innovation generally comes down to one thing: algorithms. The thing is, when you release a product, the algorithms are hidden. It's not like an engine, or a drug, where it can (fairly easily) be broken into its component parts to see how it's made.

Think of Google. When it came out, it was successful because of the algorithm development they did. It isn't protected by patents though. It's protected because only Google employees know the exact parameters (despite the overall idea of the algorithm being common knowledge).

What people call software patents have always been either trivial and obvious (such as forwarding packets in a router), or really design patents. That is, the outcome of the program and the way it works and interacts with the user. Think of the example of using a mapping program on a smartphone. Apple has patented the idea of searching for a contact within the mapping program so that the contact's address is shown. That's design and interaction. It's not an innovative algorithm that someone can develop a competing algorithm for. Now, no other company is allowed to search for users in their mapping program. At all. Ever. Or at least until the patent expires in a few decades.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that genuine software innovation is already protected by the fact that it is secret, and all the other "software patents" that exist today, should probably fall into a different area (like design patents) and the idea of software patents be thrown out.

Reply Parent Score: 6

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

in the previous piece you're advocating for the interim abolition of sw patents, thus for engineers in the sw field to become 2nd class citizens when it comes to intellectual property protection...

So are all artists, singers, writers and performers. You know... the people that have copyright protection and not patent protection.

Oh wait... but they're not second class citizens!!!

investigating the involved maths

Yep. Patenting the application of maths... What's next? Patents on using the plus sign to add two values of cash deposit value and account value in the bank? Brillant! You should become a patent lawyer.

what incentive do i have to come up with it first? what incentive do i have to come up with it at all?

Being first to market?
On the other hand, what incentive does an artist have creating a new genre? I meran, someone will take it an just copy it!!! Oh the horror!!!

Reply Parent Score: 3