Home > Linux > Software Patents Threaten LinuxSoftware Patents Threaten Linux Eugenia Loli 2004-01-23 Linux 71 CommentsOpen source advocate Bruce Perens tells BBC technology correspondent Clark Boyd why the real threat to Linux and the open source movement is not from the SCO lawsuits, but from software patents.About The Author Eugenia LoliEx-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker.Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 71 Comments 2004-01-23 8:46 pm Well, I developed a application that no one else had. I want a patent on it to get my money from it, because after all NO one works for free. I know I don’t and I want to be paid for my work. 2004-01-23 8:59 pm Allowing patents to exist for software is equivalent to allowing mathematicians to patent methods forsolving algebraic equations. 2004-01-23 9:07 pm TAKE THIS EXAMPLE:Your employer decides that it would benefit him greatly to donate your pay to a big pool in the Corporation. Thus, you would not be compensated your yearly salary, wages ect. But, instead others would get your direct deposit, NOT you. How would this make you feel? Would you like others take your hard earned money and walking away laughing about it?This is only common sense and good business judgment; I am in favor of software patents. Look for example at Adobe Acrobat Reader, when it loads up look at all the patents they have it…It is just good business sense and it is the only way a Corporation can afford to keep the employees employed and keeping the doors open. By leveraging their skills and promoting their ideas! 2004-01-23 9:14 pm Software Patents are a necessity of this world. I dont believe all software should be open. Software is an invention and the inventors do deserve to be compensated as they wish, software is also property and if it is stolen or missapropriated then yes the offender deserves to be punished. If you wish to have Open Software then we have the BSD License of the GPL. For commercial purposes tho, I wouldnt use the GPL. I would use the BSD License or follow a scheme such as the Apple Public License. 2004-01-23 9:20 pm First. Software (and hence your application) is protected by copyright. You can not and will never be able to patent a specific implementation. Patents protects ideas and inventions not specific implementations.Second. You have obviously not read any of the arguments against software-patents since you completely ignore them in your claims. Please go to http://swpat.ffii.org/ 2004-01-23 9:29 pm Software patents are insane!!>…software is also property and if it is stolen or missapropriated then yes the offender deserves to be punishedThis is why we have copyright! It is a BIG difference!>Software is an invention and the inventors do deserve to be compensated as they wishCompensated by blocking others to code whatever they’d like! Insanity!>Software Patents are a necessity of this world. I dont believe all software should be open.Software patents are NOT a necessity for further software development! It has nothing to do with OSS. 2004-01-23 9:33 pm @Roberto J. Dohnert : Software patents are *not* software copyrights. Software copyrights are absolutely necessary. Its the same copyright laws that protect Adobe Photoshop from being copied that protect the GPL from being abused. Software patents are something else entirely.@Anonymous : Math has everything to do with this. Software programs are mathematical descriptions of algorithms. Any program written in a Turing-complete language can be expressed in the lambda calculus. The lambda calculus was designed to describe general computations in the 1930s — decades before we had digital computers. Just as it would be foolish to allow mathematicians to patent mathematical algorithms it is foolish to allow computer scientists to patent computational algorithms. Consider what happened to calculus. Newton invented it slightly earlier than Liebniz, but Liebniz publiscized it first. Consider what would have happened if Leibniz had gotten a patent on calculus (or most likely, several, for different processes), and had prevented Newton from using it to derive classical mechanics! It would have been disasterous! You might say that there is a big difference between calculus and “one-click shopping.” Mathematically, there isn’t. You can’t draw a line between the two, and use some technical argument for why one should be patentable and the other should not. Should be base our laws on a distinction, that in reality, does not exist??? 2004-01-23 9:37 pm > Software Patents are a necessity of this world.No. We did very fine without them until now. They slow down innovation and destroys competition.> I dont believe all software should be open.Neither do I. But thas has nothing to do with patents. That’s copyright.> Software is an invention and the inventors do deserve to> be compensated as they wish,No. The human rights declaration only speaks of “a right to protection”. It doesn’t say anything about “as they wish” or how that protection should be. IMNSHO copyright serves perfectly well.> software is also propertyNo. Software is immaterial non-rivalrous goods, information.> and if it is stolen or missapropriated then yes the> offender deserves to be punished.Of course people who violate your copyright should be punished. But this has nothing to do with patents.> If you wish to have Open Software then we have the BSD> License of the GPL. For commercial purposes tho, I wouldnt> use the GPL. I would use the BSD License or follow a> scheme such as the Apple Public License.Again… this is copyright. Which has nothing to do with patents. Copyright does not stiffen competition. Patents do. … actually patents are state-granted monopolies. 2004-01-23 9:42 pm Software patents do NOT stifle competition amongst competitors. It creates and promotes creativity, new ideas and a different solution to the same problem. Hence, it will allow more vendors to enter the market with NEW and fresh ideas. Not the same old rehash of old programs/applications.The current state of computing is the fact that software is just polished up and nothing new is being created. It is time to use the mind and develop and push the limits on technology.Just like in the Bible, it states that stealing is wrong, so we need patents… 2004-01-23 9:43 pm 1. If you come up with an algorithm for storing and retrieving data would it fall under copyright or patent laws?2. If you would consider this something to be patented, why then would a person or company not be allowed to patent something that gives them a competative edge? It would after all be no different than other patents that involve the processing of something rather than a patent of a good. 2004-01-23 9:48 pm 1. It would be up to the legal team at a Corporation to discuss this topic.2. I think software patents are an excellent idea to keep a thief from stealing your ideas you came up with.Lastly, it is time for being creative and breaking out of the ‘Tech Slump’ and get some fresh new ideas.Software patents will cause others to create a new solution, thus causing some competition. 2004-01-23 9:49 pm Say you have an algorithm for compressing data for video. Could you not patent your algorithm? Just as Alcoa has patents on the process of making aluminum they do not have a patent on aluminum. Your data stream would be the equivilant of aluminum, but your algorithm would be equal to the process. 2004-01-23 9:50 pm the mac turned 20 years old this month, and the patents in it should expire right about now as well.otoh, copyright has been expanded into look and feel and the term for corporate ownership is about 100 years.i think the look and feel stuf will be a longer term block on innovation. 2004-01-23 9:52 pm “Software Patents are a necessity of this world”Bullshit. Intelectual Property is a weapon employed by those who have run out of ideas. I think that whoever writes a program has the right to do whatever the hell they want with it (despite my preference for free, open source code), and the story that patents are needed to enable a company to pay their programmers is complete hogwash, as anyone programming professionally in the US, Europe, Canada etc. before the whole silly notion came along will tell you.If you act on these particular beliefs, you will only be perpetuating yet another needless system for controling the lives of those around you, as well as your own. You’re trapped in a cage, and you’re helping to maintain it. 2004-01-23 9:53 pm They can expire, but new ones can be issued.It is time for software patents, I know of several companies that are moving that direction. The Legal Teams will assure that their ideas are protected from thiefs… 2004-01-23 9:54 pm In the long run software patents won’t be a problem. I ask a retorical question: How can somebody patent logic? To me this statement/question is the total refutation of software patents but for the less logically able I will elucidate futher.We are all born with logic to a lessor or greater degree. And, what we are born with is greatly enhanced thru education. So if a college programer who has had his logic enhanced thru 10-20 years of education patents a program what does he owe those who taught him his logic. And it follows that what do those that taught him logic owe those that taught them logic, ad infinum.It is infeasible to patent logic because it is innate to all of us. Can you patent happiness? Joy? If we go down this road it will only cause great WARS. I for one would fight and if necessary die for the right to put down my logic in a computer program or where ever I want to express it. Freedom of thought is the first freedom. Why are we even discussing this?WHAT! Are you going to tell me I’m not allowed to think??????????????? 2004-01-23 9:55 pm I’m in favor of Software Patents.I’m against Stupid Software Patents, and most software patents seems to be pretty darn trvial and silly.But there are some business processes, typically implemented in software, that I think can be considered patentable.Many patents cover the mechanism of something, the “how it works” part. Historically, the process was realized in mechanical form. Now, many of those processes are no longer manifested in mechanical form, but that doesn’t make the process any less unique or innovative.If someone had taken, say, the Lempel-Ziv compression algorithm and implemented it with cogs and gears, there would be no question that the machine would be patentable. There would also be no question that variations of the machine wouldt be covered under the same patent. Just because someone replaced 2 gears with one wouldn’t necessarily break the patent. But truth is while there is a mechanical manifestation of a “Compression Machine”, the patent covered the actual process involved, not the actual machine itself. That’s why someone could not make a similar machine.For example, the patent everyone loves to hate is the infamous “one click” Amazon patent. But what is wrong with this patent? How is this one click patent different from, say, a Door Bell patent? (e.g. Patent #6324261)At the Mobil Gas stations here in the U.S., they have this thing called a “Fast Pass”. It let’s you quickly purchase gasoline at their pumps. You can, in fact, mount the Fast Pass to your car, so that when you drive in the pump identifies you. At that point, you need only put the hose in the tank and select the grade.Now, that’s pretty darn close to a “one click” shopping experience. Mobil uses the Fast Pass as its “cookie”, whereas Amazon uses the browser.So, the argument seems to be that what Mobil does seems to be patentable, whereas what Amazon does is not. How is that reconciled?Bad patents are simply bad patents, in any domain. Patents with prior art or overly broad patents, etc. But there are still a lot of innovative processes out there, both mechanical and electronic, and they deserve to be protected. 2004-01-23 9:55 pm >”Like the BIBLE states, ‘THOU SHALL NOT STEAL’….”Why ain’t I surprised…? That’s a really stupid argument for patents…Software patents steals my right to code!>Hence, be CREATIVE AND USE YOUR OWN IDEAS…..So, you mean we can’t be creative without patents? H o h o.. stupid…… I’d argue the opposite.> Instead of COPYING AND STEALING someone’s hard work!Again, you’re talking about copyright. 2004-01-23 9:58 pm “But there are some business processes, typically implemented in software, that I think can be considered patentable”Yuck. Business process patents are every bit as despicable as software and biotechnology patents. Like I said above, “a weapon employed by those who have run out of ideas.” 2004-01-23 10:00 pm and i am supposed to take my brothers wife as my own if he ever dies. 2004-01-23 10:03 pm “Yuck. Business process patents are every bit as despicable as software and biotechnology patents. Like I said above, “a weapon employed by those who have run out of ideas.””IBM issued another 3600 patents this year, that hardly sounds like a company that is running out of ideas. 2004-01-23 10:06 pm 1) The algorithm would fall under patent law, and the code for it would fall under copyright law.2) The Constitution does not guarantee that everything you do that gains you a competitive edge must be protected. Instead, it grants authors a limited monopoly to encourage innovation. It makes a balance between the ultimate goal of having all knowledge in the public domain, and spurring creation of new knowledge. It makes two distinctions:a) Copyright law is for intellectual works. It makes little sense to patent a book, for example. To encourage authors to write books, they are granted a limited copyright.b) Patents are for inventions. It makes little sense to copyright a manufacturing process, for example. To encourage inventors to invent new processes, they are granted a limited patent on the process.Software falls into category (a). It is a mathematical description of truth, so the truth cannot be controlled, but the expression of that truth, in the form of computer code, can be placed under copyright. For the same reason, software should not be patentable. Software algorithms are completely different from inventions. They are *precise* formulations of mathematical transformations. In languages based on the lambda calculus, you can run formal mathematical proofs on the computer code! Inventions are, instead, imprecise descriptions.In more concrete terms: patenting software is like the creators of Titanic patenting the storytelling technique of having the hero die saving the heroine! No other movie could use that technique without violating their patents!And software patents do not encourage competition. In many people from writing software because of patents stifles competition. Quite often, there is only one way to do something, especially given how broadly software patents are applied in practice. Consider the Eolas patent. It basically protects the mechanism of searching for plug-ins based on the type of unknown content on a page, then dynamically loading that plug-in into the browser. Not only is that procedure immediately obvious to any programmer, but can you think of any other way to accomplish dynamic loading of plug-ins without searching based on content type? Any potential alternative ultimately degenerates into the same algorithm! 2004-01-23 10:10 pm If I remember correctly, IBM recently patented a method of identify the order that people could use a bathroom. Not quite what I would call being creative or inovative. 2004-01-23 10:13 pm 1. The implementation would fall under copyright. At least be European law. I know that in the US you can get patents on swinging on a swing, so I would dare guess about that.http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d…‘6,368,227’.WKU.&OS=PN/6,368,227&RS=PN/6,368,2272. It’s not a question. It’s a postulate and you can’t document it. 2004-01-23 10:14 pm Yeah… after 20 years.Compare that to the life-cycle of most software. 2004-01-23 10:18 pm At least for non gui, simple encrypt your application and use the DCMA to prevent anyone from looking at the code. 2004-01-23 10:19 pm Maybe I am just being thick here, but if you cannot patent an algorithm becasue it is a “*precise* formulations of mathematical transformations”, then how could you patent things like glue or rubber compounds? After all they to would fall under this same definition since mathematic equations are used to derive the formulas, would they not? 2004-01-23 10:22 pm > The algorithm would fall under patent law, and the code for it would fall under copyright law.Not in Europe.The European Patent Convention explicitly states:“(2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:(a) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;(b) aesthetic creations;(c) schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;…”http://www.european-patent-office.org/legal/epc/e/ar52.html#A52 2004-01-23 10:33 pm about the glue:Good question.You must remember that patents are not a law of nature. Patents are only granted to benefit society.Basic economical theory says that monopolies are bad. A monopoly-marked is not a free marked. Patents are state-granted monopolies. You should only grant patents in an area if it will spawn more innovation for the benefit of society. For software – they do not. For glue – they might. For medicine… well.. ask the 3rd world.Also… The European parliament said some wise things about patents. To be patentable your idea most have a new technical contribution of industrial value – that is, in the production of material goods.You can patent a new way of washing cloth with a machine implemented using computers and software, but you cannot patent protocols, document-formats, algorithms, interfaces and business methods. 2004-01-23 10:36 pm > Bad patents are simply bad patents, in any domain. Patents> with prior art or overly broad patents, etc.That is of course correct, but it is of fundamental importance for democracy that someone cannot own our digital infrastructure and ways of communication.Therefore you should not be able to patent protocols, document-formats, algorithms, interfaces and business methods. 2004-01-23 10:42 pm @Peter Morgensen – Good for them @oicGracchus – The recipies for glue and rubber compounds are not derived directly from mathematical theory. Mathematical formulas are used to *guide* researchers in finding a good recipie, but it is not a precise mathematical description. A great deal of emperical evidence and experimentation is used to arrive at the final numbers. The distinction between precise and imprecise makes a world of difference. A computer program is like such:k = a + b;Its mathematical truth. The value ‘k’ is equal to the binary operator ‘+’ (whatever that means in the problem domain) applied to the objects ‘a’ and ‘b’. Larger programs may be different in the level of complexity, but are *not* different in character.Consider another example: what would have happened if Schrodinger had patented his wave equation? Much of modern chemistry is derived from the wave equation. If he had patented it, he would have legally been able to block your glue and rubber researchers from doing anything other than mixing random compounds together in the hopes of getting something sticky or bouncy! 2004-01-23 10:50 pm > @Peter Morgensen – Good for them Well… unfortunately it hasn’t stopped the European Patent Office (EPO) from illegally granting 30.000 software-patents.Now the European commision tries to get a directive passed written by BSA, which legalizes the EPO pratice. – Strongly backed by US lobbying efforts. 2004-01-23 10:58 pm Since I am not an attorney and you make some valid points, I will have to cede the discussion to you. 2004-01-23 11:19 pm Economists, academics, SMEs and independent and even some big businesses (say, Intel, Cisco) are talking that software patents are harmful. Patent lawyers, pro-corporate polititians and corporations known for using anticompetitive methods (eg. Microsoft) are interested in software patents. Software patentability limits ‘right’ of software creation to few biggest corporations.The problem is that average application contains hundreds if not thousands ideas and each of those ideas can be potentially patentable. See how primitive ideas have been patented by UPSTO. See how silly court cases are in progress just because of software patents. See how US software business is slowing down because of it. See how patent-happy pharmacological industry is progressing (or rather stalling and fighting with generic drug producers saving people lives in countries, where people can’t afford their hiked prices – see Africa/AIDS).If you like software patentability, stick to ligitation-happy US, but please, don’t bring it to Europe.And stop behaving like corporate marketroid. 2004-01-23 11:21 pm Back in the 1600’s in England lived a man called Robert Hooke. He was a ‘natural philosopher’ as scientists were called at that time. He was the first person to advocate the experimental method of science, and the collation and free sharing of scientific discoveries.He discovered an incredible number of the theorys we now take for granted, the inverse square law of gravitation (later incorrectly attributed to Newton), that fossils are the remains of extinct animals (heresy at the time), the laws of springs, and many more. People after his death took credit for many of his inventions and discoverys, and only now, 300 years later, is his name starting to reappear.Soon, those like Boyle, Newton, Harrison, Wren who benefited from his work will also no loger be remembered.Goverments fall, wars go on, people are forgotten, and in the end the only worth of a patent of a fundmental method is to gain it’s owner a little cash in their short lifetime.To copy a work of art is steal from one person, to patent a logical method is to steal from us all. 2004-01-23 11:36 pm I’m a little confused on this topic. Namely because as I’ve seen it, patents have always been about new logic and ideas, in the form of new inventions and processes. And even then, patents themselves just grant control of that process, and do not demand that no one else reproduce that invention or process. The owner of a patent that is able to decide how that patent be used, aren’t they? That owner must charge that another individual or company has infringed on their patent for action to be taken. It is my understanding that governments don’t go around inspecting whether or not new products infringe on other people’s patents.That said, I would think that the patent itself is rather harmless, and that it is actually those who wield the patents that are to blame or praise for its usage.Couldn’t innovative open source software also use patents to further its cause, by stating that only those who follow the software’s license may legally use that patented technology?Now I agree that patents in Europe have been abused, as they have been in the US and almost everywhere else where they exist, but at the same time, it seems very much like convicting a gun for a murder to make such a fuss about the patent itself.Let’s continue changing how people think about open source development. We’re already making a huge splash, and it’s pretty pansy to act so weakly in response to patents. We must realize the long term truth that open source is the future of software development. 2004-01-23 11:37 pm > To copy a work of art is steal from one person, to patent a logical method is to steal from us all.How poetic Actually… Science has evolved through sharing of discoveries through thousands of years…apart from a egoistic few which has later been corrected by history (like Newton/Leibnietz).The only thing which really has held science back is not lack of patents, it’s the church – remember Galileo Galilei ?? 2004-01-23 11:50 pm > The owner of a patent that is able to decide how that patent be used, aren’t they?Yes. The patent is a state granted monopoly, which allows the owner to prevent/control other use of the technology in exchange for it’s public disclosure.A patent in it self does not ensure for the society that a product will be made from this patent. Look a Eolas. They don’t make any products. The only hold patents in order to sue other companies.Unfortunately the public disclosure is of little worth to software developers. Have you ever read a patent? They are of absolutely no use to a developer since they are written in a unnecessary complicated legal language being vague about technical details in order to make the patent as broad as possible and to seem as complex as possible to the person processing the patent-application.What a developer needs is a technical specification from, say, IETF – not a patent.> That owner must charge that another individual or company> has infringed on their patent for action to be taken. It> is my understanding that governments don’t go around> inspecting whether or not new products infringe on other> people’s patents.Correct, but as long as there are huge companies with big legal departments and the habit of suing small competitors, you are at risc.> Couldn’t innovative open source software also use patents> to further its cause, by stating that only those who> follow the software’s license may legally use that> patented technology?They could, but patents are expensive to get and expensive to maintain. You cannot have every Open Source developer having his own legal department and paying the maintenance cost of his patents.The same applies to small and medium sizes companies. Having a large part of most companies ressources devoted to legal patent affairs is not going to increase innovation. 2004-01-24 12:24 am > Bad patents are simply bad patents, in any domain. Patents> with prior art or overly broad patents, etc.That is of course correct, but it is of fundamental importance for democracy that someone cannot own our digital infrastructure and ways of communication.Therefore you should not be able to patent protocols, document-formats, algorithms, interfaces and business methods.I agree completely, for interoperability sake.One can support Software patents and open/free infrastructure without being inconsistent. In fact, it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to patent a novel infrastructure concept and then “free” the patent in order to ensure that the infrastructure remains free.Patents are particularly powerful right now because MS is going to start throwing them around in its new operating system to prevent “unlicensed” interoperation.This bad for the community not because they are patented, but because how the patents are used. MS will use these patents to thwart the heterogenous nature of the systems that we have today, and it’s a powerful threat because of their dominance in the industry. But, it may well hold them back as well and gain them no traction. We shall see. 2004-01-24 12:29 am Yep.. its the context within which patents are expressed, that’s the part of the problem – it is possible to find areas where patents might be seen as “fair” and useful – however, when patents are used by monopolists to effectively lock competitors out – then there’s clearly a problem. 2004-01-24 3:46 am An open source organisation would never be able to pool enough patents to go against the megacorps. Patents exist these days to suppress individuals and start-ups which could pose a threat to ridiculously large salaries. A patent is a weapon, if you pull one out against a large corporation who used your patented idea, no doubt they have ten patents which they can use against you. So you have no choice but to back down and let them continue the violation.I would like to ask all of you here who seem to agree with software patents, have you ever written a computer program before, and if so, are you a troll? 😉 2004-01-24 8:21 am ”In 2003, IBM received 3,415 U.S. patents from the USPTO. This is the eleventh consecutive year that IBM has received more U.S. patents than any other company in the world.”http://www.ibm.com/ibm/licensing/If IBM is serious about promoting linux, they can use their huge patent portfolio to crush M$ 2004-01-24 9:02 am In the heat of the discussion about the desirability of patenting software and business processes, I started to wonder – did the person Zippy encountered at the U.S. Patent Office ever manage to patent his invention ot stimulate a desire in mice for creative financing? That’s obviously a business process that’s unique.And of course, Zippy’s own invention, a method of inserting human replicas in vats of nutritional yeast in order for it to talk to Johnny Carson is an algorithm of total and utter uniqueness! And, he’s tested it on nuns!With any luck, we can extend this process of inserting human replicas into vats of nutritional yeast in order to talk to Johnny Carson, into a method of talking to the Patent Office officials, since they don’t seem to be receiving communications from anyone on Earth besides Big Business. 2004-01-24 11:20 am “”In 2003, IBM received 3,415 U.S. patents from the USPTO. This is the eleventh consecutive year that IBM has received more U.S. patents than any other company in the world.””Something to remember when some troll says that IBM needed to buy MS-DOS from Brother Bill because they didn’t know how to do it themselves.“If IBM is serious about promoting linux, they can use their huge patent portfolio to crush M$”If IBM was serious about crushing M$ they could open source a bunch of those patents and let the rest of the world do it for them. Keep in mind that IBM and General Motors are only about 10-20 years ahead of M$ in terms of basic R&D and the applied sciences. 2004-01-24 12:14 pm > Well, I developed a application that no one else had. I want a patent on it to get my money from it, because after all NO one works for free. I know I don’t and I want to be paid for my work.And it most probably wasn’t a real invention. In most cases patents are abused. They are used to stop competition by smaller companies. And more importantly they make progress slower by denying the use of obvious methods. Also, stopping Free / Open Source software would make software costs higher for the industry.I have yet to see only a couple of real inventions in software. They are a few algorithms on graph theory, sorting and signal processing. Fortunately most of them can be used without fear of suits. We would be much worse of if those famous algorithms were patented. 2004-01-24 12:26 pm I have it!!!The problem is big companies misusing patents (and copyright for that matter) to control the market. The solution is simple: make it impossible for corporate entities (ie companies) to own patents and hold copyright. Make it so that only the person who wrote the program may hold a copyright, or the person who created the invention to hold a patent. This would do two things:1) Break the power corporations have over development.2) Make POEPLE valuable to a company (and I don’t mean lawers and accountants!)You can now accuse me of being a dreamer 2004-01-24 3:37 pm I would add to say that if a company goes bust or taken over etc, their patents should not be transferable to the new company. The company-owned patent should die in these cases as the company no longer exists. That would open the market to competition.A patent owned by an individual should be protected and also be made very cheap to get and keep. 2004-01-24 4:06 pm Great article/interview. Thanks.From the article:I’m leading a project called User Linux. The project aims to make a zero-cost Linux distribution, where people, if they want service, will pay for service on a services rendered basis. And we’re establishing a global support network made of small companies, more than large ones, to make that work.Wow. That sounds like a really good solution. By the way, to the folks out there that say something like, “I prefer BSD to GPL ’cause it’s more free” — one major difference is in how software patents are handled.From the preamble of the GPL: Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by softwarepatents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a freeprogram will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making theprogram proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that anypatent must be licensed for everyone’s free use or not licensed at all.BSD- and MIT-style licenses don’t protect us at all in this regard. This is the main reason why I complain about OBOS’s license (primarily because I like the folks and the project and want to see it succeed). 2004-01-24 4:39 pm I am against software patents because Richard Stallman is.And he is smarter than anyone who is for them.Quite elementary.Wanting to get paid for an idea is noble, but since IBM, MS,Adobe etc., etc. own all the patents, there will essentiallybe no new ideas.Even logic carried to an extreme is illogical. 2004-01-24 8:02 pm just to protect it, then tehy can fight to get software patents done away with. 2004-01-24 8:51 pm Is there a point to software patents?There are so many ways to do the same thing, how could you prove they violated patent laws? 2004-01-24 9:05 pm There are so many ways to do the same thing, how could you prove they violated patent laws?Good question. However, in order to prove that someone violated a patent, you would need to take them to court. And that highlites one of the reasons that software patents are bad. Corporations will go and obtain patents just about every software method, algorithm, file format, etc. that they can come up with. In doing so they can build up an “arsenal” if you will, of intellectual property ammo which can be used later to battle another company in court (think IBM countersuit against SCO) or to prevent a competitve startup company from establishing any marketshare. Rather than rewarding creativity, it entrenches the positions of already established companies. 2004-01-24 10:25 pm I won’t repeat what have already be written above.I just want to point a site which shows very well the problem with software patents and its cost.http://www.dotmon.com/ 2004-01-24 11:37 pm Allowing patents to exist for software is equivalent to allowing mathematicians to patent methods forsolving algebraic equations.Wrong. Its like allowing mathematicians to patent the use of methods for solving algebraic equations in a calculator. Patents can only be applied to expressions of ideas, not ideas, themselves. Very few people seem to be aware of (or care about) this distinction. It matters. 2004-01-24 11:43 pm First. Software (and hence your application) is protected by copyright.True.You can not and will never be able to patent a specific implementation.False. You can patent any and all expressions of your demonstrably novel inventions. Patents protects ideas and inventions not specific implementations.You’re blending the terms ideas and inventions. An invention is an expression of an idea. Part of a software patent filing is identifying implementation dates.Second. You have obviously not read any of the arguments against software-patents since you completely ignore them in your claims. Please go to 2004-01-24 11:45 pm Software patents are insane!!What do you expect? You’re from Sweden. 2004-01-24 11:51 pm No. We did very fine without them until now. They slow down innovation and destroys competition. Of course. Patents are, by their very nature, anti-competitive. The U.S. Constitution grants the holder a guaranteed monopoly on all expressions of the invention.But arguing about whether they are needed or useful is moot. They exist. The U.S. Constitution isn’t going to be amended in this regard anytime soon. Probably ever. So deal with it. 2004-01-24 11:54 pm Good question. However, in order to prove that someone violated a patent, you would need to take them to court. And that highlites one of the reasons that software patents are bad. Corporations will go and obtain patents just about every software method, algorithm, file format, etc. that they can come up with. In doing so they can build up an “arsenal” if you will, of intellectual property ammo which can be used later to battle another company in court (think IBM countersuit against SCO) or to prevent a competitve startup company from establishing any marketshare. Rather than rewarding creativity, it entrenches the positions of already established companies.True. But since those same “established companies” are the ones who make the bulk of the R&D investment in cutting edge technologies, it’s only fair that they do so. 2004-01-25 12:00 am The problem is big companies misusing patents (and copyright for that matter) to control the market. The solution is simple: make it impossible for corporate entities (ie companies) to own patents and hold copyright. Make it so that only the person who wrote the program may hold a copyright, or the person who created the invention to hold a patent.This wouldn’t do anything. Even if you prevented patent ownership from being transferred from inventors to corporations, the patent has some intrinsic value. There would be nothing stopping an inventor from acting as a thinly veiled proxy for the corporation in return for some compensation. 2004-01-25 12:32 am [[The problem is big companies misusing patents (and copyright for that matter) to control the market. The solution is simple: make it impossible for corporate entities (ie companies) to own patents and hold copyright. Make it so that only the person who wrote the program may hold a copyright, or the person who created the invention to hold a patent.]This wouldn’t do anything. Even if you prevented patent ownership from being transferred from inventors to corporations, the patent has some intrinsic value. There would be nothing stopping an inventor from acting as a thinly veiled proxy for the corporation in return for some compensation.]On the face of it I aggree. But, how many patents does M$ and IBM have? Will they be able to employ and control the thousands of people they need to keep just to control the patents? No accountant or lawer will be able to own a tech patent and technical people are not all that amenable to control from above unless they get lots of money. Does even M$ have enough money in the long run? My ideal would be to make owning a patent cheap for the inventor but EXPENSIVE for a company. 2004-01-25 6:53 am > But arguing about whether they are needed or useful is moot.> They exist. The U.S. Constitution isn’t going to be amended> in this regard anytime soon. Probably ever. So deal with it.I (fortunatly) do not live in the US. Read my quote from the European Patent Convention. Software is not patentable in Europe. Unfortuntatly the US government has a hard time dealing with that ! 2004-01-25 7:33 am On the face of it I aggree. But, how many patents does M$ and IBM have? Will they be able to employ and control the thousands of people they need to keep just to control the patents? No accountant or lawer will be able to own a tech patent and technical people are not all that amenable to control from above unless they get lots of money. Does even M$ have enough money in the long run? My ideal would be to make owning a patent cheap for the inventor but EXPENSIVE for a company.IBM and Microsoft have hundreds, if not thousands of patents. And they already DO employ the folks who create the patents. So, really, you’re not proposing anything that couldn’t be worked around. With $50B in the bank, MS has plenty of money to buy whatever it needs. 2004-01-25 7:35 am (fortunatly) do not live in the US. Read my quote from the European Patent Convention. Software is not patentable in Europe. Unfortuntatly the US government has a hard time dealing with that !Well, considering that the overwhelming majority of innovation in software occurs in the United States, that’s hardly surprising. 2004-01-25 7:38 am Bullshit. Intelectual Property is a weapon employed by those who have run out of ideas.<SARCASM>Yeah, right. They’ve “run out of ideas” so much that they have nothing to do but submit inventions — inventions that “do nothing”, right? — to the patent office, while the “real inventors” hide out in their parents’ basements. </SARCASM> 2004-01-25 3:19 pm Well, considering that the overwhelming majority of innovation in software occurs in the United States, that’s hardly surprising.How do you meassure that? By the amount of software patents granted ?Anyway… if you plan go degenerate this to a pissing contest about who are more “innovative” (the word has nearly lost meaning these days so much has it been abused)…. then your of of luck.I don’t care how you think is the most “innovative”. The people in Europe just don’t want the US plutocracy exported to them – that’s all. 2004-01-25 6:04 pm The U.S. Constitution mandates neither patents nor copyrights. Article I, Section 8, clearly states that“The Congress shall have Power [to] promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries[.]” Note that only “the Progress of Science and useful Arts” can justify exclusive rights like patents and copyrights. Empirical evidence  suggests that software patents retard Progress and thus are unconstitutional in the U.S. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/article01/ http://www.researchoninnovation.org/ 2004-01-25 7:05 pm Idiot. They’re patenting things that have existed for a while, proior art everywhere, and yet still they patent them. Try again.“<SARCASM>Yeah, right. They’ve “run out of ideas” so much that they have nothing to do but submit inventions — inventions that “do nothing”, right? — to the patent office, while the “real inventors” hide out in their parents’ basements. </SARCASM>” 2004-01-25 8:50 pm Note that only “the Progress of Science and useful Arts” can justify exclusive rights like patents and copyrights.[i]Almost true.The UN human rights declaration says:[i]Article 27 1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. 2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.It doesn’t speak of what that “protection” should be, but copyright is one way of doing it. I see absolutely NO reason that copyright (as defined in the Berne Convention) should not be a fulfillment of Art. 27.2The UNHR declaration does NOT mandate patents. It does however mandate some form of copyright.Implementing copyright is generally a task of implementing the Berne Convention and using the choice it gives to fulfill Art. 27.1Monopolies are generally bad. Patents are state granted monopolies ony granted for a limited time (20 years) with the purpose of – as you say – encouraging the Progress of Science and useful Arts. If granting patents in an area of technology does NOT promote progress but – as with software – inhibits it, then there’s absolutely NO reason to grant patents, except to allow large cooperatins to tighten its grip on society in a plutocratic world. 2004-01-25 8:55 pm name one other area where patents are granted in a field where the productes them self are immaterial!Can you patent a plot for a novel? – no.Can you patent a sequence of chords in music? – no.There’s good reasons for not allowing patents in areas where products are immaterial.Most immaterial products (music, litterature) allow for very small productions units. This let’s the entire world population contribute to the state of art and culture. If you allow allow patents here only productions units large enough to afford playing the legal system of patents will be allow to produce immaterial products.Copyright is all we need. 2004-01-26 3:25 am “Copyright is all we need”I’m not convinced that Copyright is needed at all. It’s certainly the least offensive form of IP we have, but it’s needlessly restictive nonetheless. Giving credit for having produced a work is certainly important should the author wish it, but IP in any form is a straitjacket that we wear because we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that it’s a safety blanket. 2004-01-26 3:32 am “Wrong. Its like allowing mathematicians to patent the use of methods for solving algebraic equations in a calculator. Patents can only be applied to expressions of ideas, not ideas, themselves. Very few people seem to be aware of (or care about) this distinction. It matters.”All the possible expressions of an idea in software are the same in the eyes of patent law … so for software patents the difference is rather academic.For a practical example, I would call the following an idea :FIR filtering of a timesequence by cascading multiple FFT based convolution filters of decreasing size together with a short FIR filter in order to get 0 latency filtering.This idea has been independently reinvented many times (it is rather obvious) and has been patented.AFAICS in software the only difference between an idea and its implementation is compilation.