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

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 CaptainN- on Fri 20th Jun 2014 15:08 UTC in reply to "Well ..."
Member since:

Software is written, so copyright applies. People who write software should be called software writers, instead of engineers - that alone would clear up a lot of this mess. The dynamics of writing software are much more like writing a book than building a bridge.

Also, patents in general suck, even for physical things. It was always just a gambit - an trick meant to promote the power of corporate owners (economic royalists), and dressed up in some inventor protection propaganda. Patents were never meant to protect individual inventor's rights, and they never have.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Well ...
by Alfman on Fri 20th Jun 2014 16:31 in reply to "RE: Well ..."
Alfman Member since:


There may be some industries where patents work. Though I'm not in the pharmaceutical business (and therefor I could be way off), I understand conceptually how lab costs are prohibitively expensive and without patents the risk is high that knockoffs come along and sell an identical product leaving the inventors with no way to recoup their investment. I don't know to what extent this applies to other various industries, but with software it's outrageous that companies spend thousands and millions of dollars for patent protection against what amounts to a week's worth of work, if even that. It's absolutely ludicrous.

The patent system would be far less harmful if patent holders were only entitled to enough compensation to recoup reasonable development costs and that's it. But, honestly, most software patent holders never cared about recouping their development expenses, their intention was always to use the patent system as a legal weapon to sue competitors over in court.

Today's patent system is a huge burden on the software industry. While some people feel that the patent system can be fixed for the software industry, I don't think they were ever necessary to begin with and I'm curious if anyone can point to an instance where it's done more good than harm? For all the overhead that it necessarily imposes, what have really gotten out of it?

Edited 2014-06-20 16:46 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[3]: Well ...
by CaptainN- on Fri 20th Jun 2014 18:16 in reply to "RE[2]: Well ..."
CaptainN- Member since:

In medicine, the kinds of life saving research that lead to improved living standards are done at universities (even though big pharma can claim they owned it thanks to the deals universities make with them for funding). Bit pharma mostly only does research into fat pills and sex pills - things they can sell at a profit.

Patents are just a way for large companies to get a 30 year monopoly on a thing. Most of the things that improve lives don't actually need patent protection, because the people who invent these things didn't do it to earn a patent.

Reply Parent Score: 2