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[3]: Well ...
by Alfman on Fri 20th Jun 2014 14:42 UTC 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

RE[4]: Well ...
by WorknMan on Fri 20th Jun 2014 17:07 in reply to "RE[3]: Well ..."
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

The same applies to file formats, which one should always be legally free to re-implement for interoperability sake.


Why? If I go through the trouble of creating a format that is used by millions of people, and you come along and piggyback off my hard work, then I want a small cut of whatever you're making (royalties). If you're doing it for non-commercial purposes, I might let you use it for $0. Otherwise? Pay up, bitch... or build your own damn format. There ain't no free lunch ;)

Edited 2014-06-20 17:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[5]: Well ...
by JLF65 on Fri 20th Jun 2014 18:27 in reply to "RE[4]: Well ..."
JLF65 Member since:
2005-07-06

If you don't understand why standards are important, you have no right to call yourself an engineer/programmer. Go back to school and reenter the conversation when you've learned something, you ignorant schmuck! ;)

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[5]: Well ...
by Alfman on Fri 20th Jun 2014 18:45 in reply to "RE[4]: Well ..."
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

WorknMan,

Why? If I go through the trouble of creating a format that is used by millions of people, and you come along and piggyback off my hard work, then I want a small cut of whatever you're making (royalties). If you're doing it for non-commercial purposes, I might let you use it for $0. Otherwise? Pay up, bitch... or build your own damn format. There ain't no free lunch ;)



This is non-sequitur, it's not piggybacking of your hard work at all. Third party developers still need to dedicate their own hard work to achieve compatibility with popular formats. All developers should be free to access whatever file formats they want to using their own code implementations to read/write the format. It doesn't make logical sense to deny us this right.

You may object to third parties piggybacking off of your popularity, but nobody should feel entitled to a legal monopoly on popularity. And frankly if a defacto standard is going to exist, you should be so lucky that it's yours and not someone else's ;)


You did not respond to this paragraph, so did you agree that the patent system can deprave some developers of their own hard work?

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.


Edited 2014-06-20 18:52 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3