Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Jun 2014 23:59 UTC
Legal

The US Supreme Court has made it ever so slightly harder to patent software.

The patent claimed a method of hedging against counter-party risk, which is a fancy word for the risk that you make a deal with someone and later he doesn't uphold his end of the bargain. The Supreme Court unanimously held that you can't patent an abstract concept like this merely by stating that the hedging should be done on a computer. This kind of abstract patent is depressingly common in the software industry, and the CLS ruling will cause lower courts to take a harder look at them.

It's a small victory, but hey, I take whatever I can. Sadly, the SCOTUS also states that "many computer-implemented claims" are still eligible for patent protection, without actually explaining which claims. So, while appending "on a computer" to an obvious abstract concept does not make it patentable, the actual concept of patenting software is still very much allowed.

Even if the SCOTUS had completely abolished software patents, however, we still would have to deal with them for more than a decade - existing software patents would not magically vanish, and would still require lengthy and expensive court cases to be invalidated. Something bullies like Microsoft and Apple can afford easily, while many others cannot.

Sorry for not putting a smile on your face, but reality is reality. Sadly.

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RE: Well ...
by Fergy on Fri 20th Jun 2014 07:08 UTC in reply to "Well ..."
Fergy
Member since:
2006-04-10

But if somebody, for example, comes up with a compression algorithm that allows streaming of 4k video on a 3mbps connection, I do think they should be able to patent that. Not necessarily the idea, but the specific implementation.

So if somebody would use code that looks 99% like his code you would say that he has stolen it from the first guy? Copyright.

In other words, if I spend hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars to develop such a thing, and then you come along, reverse engineer the protocol, and give it away for free, that ain't right. I wanna get paid, dammit ;)

How can you see the difference between reverse engineering and just coming up with the same idea? I always thought that reverse engineering is legal because of this problem. And how did the new guy write the same 'program' as you did but _you_ want to get paid _and_ you want to get paid for his work?

Edited 2014-06-20 07:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: Well ...
by WorknMan on Fri 20th Jun 2014 08:35 in reply to "RE: Well ..."
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

How can you see the difference between reverse engineering and just coming up with the same idea?


You mean, how can I tell whether the product you came out with 6 months later that works the exact same way as mine is either reverse engineered or just a different implementation of the same idea? I guess sometimes you can't tell. Other times, it would be quite obvious.

It's like proprietary devs who use open source code in violation of the license; sometimes they get caught red-handed doing so, which I'm guessing happens because of some quirk in the way the software works:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigma_Designs#Xvid_controversy

Obviously, some cases will be harder to prove than others. For example, if it is a particular file format that's patented, and you release a piece of software that can open and save to that exact format, then I think we have a pretty open and shut case.

Edited 2014-06-20 08:39 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[3]: Well ...
by Alfman on Fri 20th Jun 2014 14:42 in reply to "RE[2]: Well ..."
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

WorknMan,

Obviously, some cases will be harder to prove than others. For example, if it is a particular file format that's patented, and you release a piece of software that can open and save to that exact format, then I think we have a pretty open and shut case.


I assume you mean ruling in favor of patenting the file format. That is one of the worst kinds of uses of patents in my opinion. Consider all these operating systems which re-implement microsoft's VFAT patents, they're not doing it because engineering alternatives is too difficult, they're doing it because most external consumer media uses microsoft's format as a defacto standard. The same applies to file formats, which one should always be legally free to re-implement for interoperability sake.

I know there are some people who feel like it is their god given right to have the fruits of somebody else's hard labor for nothing, but I'm not one of those people.


Well, this actually happens as a result of software patents too. With patents, one person is granted the right to their work, but everyone else who implements a similar construct is denied the right to theirs. Generally the victim in software patent lawsuits is the party who, in the course of solving their own problems, implemented code that happens to infringe that of a patent holder. Given the sheer number of software developers and software patents, it should not be a surprise that this is the norm rather than the exception. Thus, it's often the "infringing" party who is being denied the fruits of their labor and the patent holder who's collecting royalties for someone else's hard work.

It's good to protect software with copyrights because that doesn't deprave other developers of the right to create their own implementations through their own efforts.

Edited 2014-06-20 14:51 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6