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

Your code is protected by copyright. What's good enough for an author is good enough for you.

Reply Parent Score: 3

silix Member since:
2006-03-01

Your code is protected by copyright. What's good enough for an author is good enough for you.
except that i'm not an author, and a sw is an industrial product resulting from a development process and containing technical and design features, more like a car than a book...

now, the car as an industrial object is patentable at all levels (from the suspension strut arrangement to materials - eg pvc laminated steel, or new more efficient noise aborbers - in the product itself, but also the part stamping / welding / mounting process itself - eg friction for welding different metals like steel and aluminum.. and so on and so forth) wherever something novel was adopted
and i doubt you'd call an automotive engineer "a line drawer" based on the fact that blueprints result from the design process...

but then why only those working on sw shall be degraded to second class industrial world citizen and deserve lesser consideration than their colleagues from other fields, just because they happeen to use a keyboard?

Reply Parent Score: 3

_txf_ Member since:
2008-03-17

except that i'm not an author, and a sw is an industrial product resulting from a development process and containing technical and design features, more like a car than a book...

now, the car as an industrial object is patentable at all levels (from the suspension strut arrangement to materials


The concept of the steering wheel is not patented. Specific implementations of struts or suspension systems are patented.

Unfortunately sw patents are not patents on implementations. They're patents on the concept.

Reply Parent Score: 6

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

but then why only those working on sw shall be degraded to second class industrial world citizen and deserve lesser consideration than their colleagues from other fields, just because they happeen to use a keyboard?


FYI: SW engineers enjoy the broadest level of protections of all engineering fields. Today it's both copyright and patents. In addition to being able to apply for patents for concepts and vague descriptions of "inventions". In addition to application of the laws of nature. Imagine if BMW would hold a patent on fuel burn rate calculation(direct application of laws of physics) in the internal combustion engine? Yet, you were implying in your other comment that you should be able to get a patent on a similar thing by being a software engineer.

I'm sorry to say, but you are an overpriveledged ****.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

silix,

Most indy developers hate software patents because it's alot of pain with virtually no gain for most of us. We simply don't have the resources to hire legal teams to file patents and assert them, and even if we did that's not the direction we want for our businesses. Now maybe patent trolling/suing can be profitable for those who specialise in it, but I'd be ashamed of anyone whose freshman CS/SE dream job was becoming a patent troll. Maybe it's just a fact of life that we have to live with, but do we? Software development flourished prior to being patentable. All this patent overhead (20% of R&D from the article) is a significant burden on the tech sector and there's little doubt that the product of this is wasted human endeavour.

We prefer copyrights to protect our work since a copyright don't exclude multiple developers from working independently with the same ideas - that's how writing code is similar to writing literature, and that's were patents fundamentally break down. There just aren't enough good & unique solutions available to go around to all developers working on the same problems, this implies overlap. For instance, if you develop a video/voice over IP solution, you will necessarily step over the work over others before you. If you write an email client, same deal. If you write a game, there again you'll infringe someone else's algorithms. Mind you it's not that you "copied" them, no not at all. It's that the best solution you derived for yourself has already been derived by someone before you. This is my biggest gripe with software patents, they are being used as weapons against other competitors who are solving the same problems, rather than as a means of recouping development costs.


We may disagree on ideology, but I hope we can agree on one fact, a patent system that is faithfully adhered to by every software developer (corp & indy) is fundamentally unscalable. Or more succinctly, it requires ever more resources year by year to be committed to cross checking claims such that development eventually becomes economically non-viable for an increasing number of software developers due to patent system overhead.

Edited 2012-10-09 03:42 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

jamboarder Member since:
2009-02-16

This is a minor aside but, you are an author. You see this is half the problem with software engineering today. Software is a low-level specification that it just so happens that, when compiled, the hardware can directly act upon. Software is not analogous to hardware. It never has been and it is tiresome that it continues to be taught adn communicated as such. The correct analogy for software is a requirements document in which ideas are expressed about the way the system should operate.

Does a great deal of engineering work go into capturing the ideas for a requirements document? Sure it does. Are you entitled to ownership of ideas expressed in that document? No. Unlike physical items, you cannot naturally maintain exclusive possession of an idea once it is communicated.

We the people decided that it is, on the whole, beneficial for our progress to encourage invention and creativity. To support that we grant a temporary monopoly on the sale of products based on idea or the specific expression of an idea. For the latter, copyright was created and enforced by the people. For the former, patents were created and enforced by the people. Without them you have no natural right or capacity to maintain exclusive possession of either an idea or the expression of an idea.

You want a monopoly on an idea despite the fact that, at least in the case of software, such a monopoly is demonstrably counterproductive to the ends for which they're created? No. This isn't about treating software engineers differently. This is about ensuring that the patent and copyright system - a system that effectively deprives others of their natural right and capacity to assimilate and act on new ideas - serves its intended purpose.

Whine all you want about being treated differently. You'd be treated differently because what you produce - software - is different.

Reply Parent Score: 2