Home > Linux > Torvalds Slams EU Patent ProposalTorvalds Slams EU Patent Proposal Eugenia Loli 2004-11-23 Linux 42 CommentsLinus Torvalds and two other European software luminaries have thrown their weight behind a campaign to block software patents from being legitimized in Europe, ahead of a critical European Competitiveness Council decision later this week. About The Author Eugenia LoliEx-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker.Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 42 Comments 2004-11-23 7:37 pm “For the sake of innovation and a competitive software market, we sincerely hope that the European Union will seize this opportunity to exclude software from patentability.”Does anybody have at least one concrete, real world example of where patents have prevented someone from creating something innovative? 2004-11-23 7:55 pm You go girl friends! 2004-11-23 8:00 pm “Does anybody have at least one concrete, real world example of where patents have prevented someone from creating something innovative?”Probably not so much. You don’t really hear a lot in the news about things that *didn’t* happen. (idiot.) 2004-11-23 8:08 pm Probably not so much. You don’t really hear a lot in the news about things that *didn’t* happen. (idiot.)Right, so nothing truly innovative has ever been created, and then squashed by a software patent? 2004-11-23 8:16 pm Does anybody have at least one concrete, real world example of where patents have prevented someone from creating something innovative?Darius are you again playing some ignorant fool or is it that after more than 1 year of raising awareness you still haven’t found that out? Geez. Here, have a look at http://webshop.ffii.org its much more fun than trolling! 2004-11-23 8:35 pm i really do not want to code with a lawyer in my back, i also do not want to cook with some silly shark taking care of how i make my meal…silly things from some selfish peoples.like patents done by pharma corps and needed by third world countriesif you cannot have them do it otherwise or go to dust 2004-11-23 9:02 pm Here, have a look at http://webshop.ffii.org its much more fun than trolling!Ok, couple of questions:1. Has anyone been sued for violating any of these patents?2. If so, what’s that got to do with innovation? 2004-11-23 9:06 pm I’m looking for a real example of something innovative that got killed because of an existing patent. So, even if you were to get sued for putting a shopping cart on your website, you still have not innovated anything. 2004-11-23 9:08 pm “1. Has anyone been sued for violating any of these patents? ”yes and the others have the potential liability“2. If so, what’s that got to do with innovation?”because the patent office gives away patents almost to everyone who applies for one and the smaller software companies or invidual have to fight it out spending money before its invalidated by a court thus losing out an oppurtunity to actually innovate or build upon the work done by authorsImagine a world where spellcheckers or tcp/ip protocols get patented 2004-11-23 9:09 pm “. So, even if you were to get sued for putting a shopping cart on your website, you still have not innovated anything.”if you cant even get a shopping cart on your website how the hell are you going to even think about innovating 2004-11-23 9:19 pm Translation: Microsoft has a patent on completion ports and linux aio (which is a piece of crap btw) infringes it. 2004-11-23 9:26 pm “Microsoft has a patent on completion ports and linux aio (which is a piece of crap btw) infringes it. :where is the reference to back up your claim? 2004-11-23 9:29 pm First of all ‘innovation’ is a very subjective word. ‘Invention’ is less so. Now, if i’d search on some website with an example then you’d say its not innovative given your manners so i’m not gonna try that. Search for youself and you’ll find horrible stuff. If you’d have just followed the news a bit you’d already found that out. What you mostly hear about in the news regarding patents is settlements by large corps. Anyway, it seems you’re still playing some critical thinker. If you want to be such a critic how about giving it a go on that database of US and EU patents or by searching a bit for OSnews, Slashdot, Advogato, and all those other websites which report and discuss this. Its been so much in the news already. Heck, if you just actually _read_ the example page i linked to earlier then you see how ridiculous ””innovations”” got patented obstructing innovation. It doesn’t get much simpler than 1 + 1 = 2 that when you program an application which uses ‘networking’, that you’ll have to pay for a license then already, that that’s quite ridiculous. What if you’ll have to pay for that plus a number of other basic, commonly accepted methods (standards!). Suddenly you have to pay e.g. 1000 EUR for royalties just because you programmed an application. You haven’t earned anything from that from that point. No, that really does help the small fellow who’s starting up a company, or an open source hacker, programmed a nifty utility, or whatever.“1. Has anyone been sued for violating any of these patents?”1) Yes. Heck, for multiple of these. Never heard of Amazon?2) Because that doesn’t happen Now doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen Soon.3) Because that doesn’t happen doesn’t mean innovation got stiffled because it doesn’t proof people evaded the use of patents.But sure if you want my recent example, go to ‘topics’, click on ‘Sun’ and read how Sun lost a lawsuit on Java and read what patent was infringed… 2004-11-23 9:36 pm because the patent office gives away patents almost to everyone who applies for oneand the smaller software companies or invidual have to fight it out spending money before its invalidated by a court thus losing out an oppurtunity to actually innovate or build upon the work done by authorsRight, so I’m asking you to point out to me an example where an small company or individual has actually made something innovative and gotten sued for it. If you haven’t built anything, how are they going to take you to court?Imagine a world where spellcheckers or tcp/ip protocols get patentedRight, so you implement a spellchecker or the TCP/IP protocol in your own apps and get sued, but you still haven’t made anything innovative. True innovation would mean that you invented a protocol that was better than TCP/IP.if you cant even get a shopping cart on your website how the hell are you going to even think about innovatingYeah, that is exactly the problem. Nobody thinks about innovating – they’d rather bitch and whine about how many patents Microsoft has. But if you were to actually build something that totally rocked the house and got sued because you violated some patent somewhere along the way, then you would have a real-world case where you could say ‘this is why patents are bad[/i] instead of a bunch of theoretical bullshit that nobody wants to listen to. 2004-11-23 9:37 pm “where is the reference to back up your claim?”Two words: goo glehttp://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d…‘6223207’.WKU.&OS=PN/6223207&RS=PN/6223207Read the description part, it’s actually very interesting. 2004-11-23 9:40 pm Microsoft was sued for using “a method to automatically install software on a clients machine” or something similarly vague.Now everyone who comes up with a new way (or just wants to use an existing one) to install software automatically, is out of luck – one avenue of innovation down the drain.Plus, just think about the Due Diligence costs of creating software if patents are legal. These costs can be more than the annual budget of groups of small businesses, just to find out that they can’t use a text input box, because it is patented, or they can’t anti-alias a font on a low res screen (like a computer screen) because that is patented as well.Companies who get involved with this crap, (either to protect their own stuff or because they got sued) stop innovating, and often go out of business. 2004-11-23 9:42 pm If you use a wheel to invent a car, is that not innovation, just because you didn’t come up with a better wheel?Use your noggin’ 😉 2004-11-23 9:43 pm Ok, the php parser here won’t that link, just google for “U.S. patent #06223207” 2004-11-23 9:48 pm First of all ‘innovation’ is a very subjective word. ‘Invention’ is less so. Now, if i’d search on some website with an example then you’d say its not innovative given your manners so i’m not gonna try that.My definition of innovative is doing something that nobody has ever done before, hence you could never get sued for doing something innovative because there would be no existing patent for it.But sure if you want my recent example, go to ‘topics’, click on ‘Sun’ and read how Sun lost a lawsuit on Java and read what patent was infringed…Which one specifically? There’s like 9,000 Sun topics 2004-11-23 9:49 pm thats just a patent claim. its your burden to prove in court that the claim is valid and that it infringes on whatever that linux implements without any prior art@dariusthink MS and EOLASthink sun and kodak 2004-11-23 9:57 pm “hence you could never get sued for doing something innovative because there would be no existing patent for it.”ok. so you want people to build everything from scratch instead of building on the work of others and you are going to support Amazon single click shopping patents and other such ridiculous stuff. ok go ahead 2004-11-23 10:12 pm ok. so you want people to build everything from scratch instead of building on the work of othersNo, I’m simply saying that if you want to argue against software patents, you should say:Software patents are bad because overly broad patents hinder our ability to build off the work of others. That is a much more valid statement than software patents are bad because they stiffle innovation.In other words, your heart is in the right place, but your argument is flawed. Patents don’t need to be killed outright, but just need to be reworked so that when a patent is given, it is speciic enough so that a company can do business without accidentally tripping over somebody else’s patents. But, IMHO, that doesn’t really have anything directly to do with being innovative. For example, if you developed a flying car and got sued because of the door handles you used, it wasn’t the innovating that came back to bite you in the ass. 2004-11-23 10:15 pm How about when Apple sued DR over their Gem gui :“However, GEM/1 looked too much like the Macintosh for Apple’s liking. It had a trashcan and disk drives on the desktop, and a menu bar across the top of the screen with a ‘Desk’ menu at the left, and supported moveable, resizable, overlapping windows. So Apple took Digital Research to court and make them remove the bin and so on. The desktop now consisted of two fixed windows. GEM/2 was born. It was supplied with the AMSTRAD 1512/1640.”This effectively destroyed the product holding back the market for dos-based gui’s and leaving it to microsoft, which at that time (windows 1) was still inferior enough not to bother Apple (I assume that later on their relationship with IBM protected them from Apple dirty tricks)You can argue about what’s ‘innovative’ here, but the fact is a lot of products were and are being stopped by the mere threat of a lawsuit not allowing them to reach their full potential and innovate. After all the greatest innovators have humble beginnings : think of MacOS itself, or Picasso learning to paint first ‘reimplementing’ the paintings of other masters. 2004-11-23 10:17 pm “In other words, your heart is in the right place, but your argument is flawed”i never argued that it stiffles innovation but if you dont allow others to build upon on the work already done then it *does* stiffle innovation. if tcp/ip protocol was patented, all the innovation that happens over the internet would have been lost“Patents don’t need to be killed outright, but just need to be reworked so that when a patent is given, it is speciic enough so that a company can do business without accidentally tripping over somebody else’s patents”doubtful if this would ever actually happen.“For example, if you developed a flying car and got sued because of the door handles you used, it wasn’t the innovating that came back to bite you in the ass.” bad analogy 2004-11-23 10:21 pm “My definition of innovative is doing something that nobody has ever done before, hence you could never get sued for doing something innovative because there would be no existing patent for it.”Please dont go about redefining terms already there in English in the way you want tohttp://www.iteawww.org/TAA/Glossary.htm An improvement of an existing technological product, system, or method of doing something.—thats a valid definition too 2004-11-23 10:22 pm “Does anybody have at least one concrete, real world example of where patents have prevented someone from creating something innovative?”For one thing, it is the reason why US based Linux distros are not multimedia enabled. Not that this all that innovative though.The real problem with software patents is that things that are not all that innovative tends to get patents. One example. If I have a couple items e.g. newspapers and make one pile containing “Wall Street Journal” and one other pile containing only “Financial Times” nobody in their right mind would try to patent this procedure. Sorting things like that is part of everyday life and known to people in the newspaper trade as well as you and me.But if a programmer sorts icons representing various types of open documents in piles on the taskbar it is all of a sudden worthy of a patent, even though it is quite obvious that this can be done, even to none programmers. Now, that a patent will certainly be turned over by a court. However, most upstarts can’t afford to go to court over this, even if they know that they will win in the end. If I was to fund a project I would prefer one where I didn’t have to go to court to be profitable as courts always introduce an element of uncertainty.The problem with software patents is that the level of originality for granted patents are so low that average developer have no idea weather his ideas is patentable, or perhaps allready are patented by somebody else. Again this creates uncertainty that will make financeing harder.Today it is almost impossible to write any major pease of software without unintentionally violating some patents.even if you only use knowledge from your beginners course in computer science.Now, you could argue that companies spending lots and lots of money on development deserve to have some kind of protection. That may be true, but then why shouldn’t we grant patents to people that use normal human to express themselves instead of the rather limitid language of “if”, “then”, “else” and “repeat”.As far as I know there one or two poor authers with even less money to spend than Sam Palmisano or Bill Gates. Just like software companies, many authers spend a lot of time to reasearch before they write their books too.If you can patent piling of windows in a computer taskbar, why shouldn’t you be able to patent the description of murder using a gun. However to make a bestseller the auther would probably have to use some other ideas that might be covered by other peoples patents. I assume they could licence them so that the person holding the patent on describing traveling by car if the murderor or sombody else used a car in the book could get some licence fee, and the person holding the patent on describing living in a house could go court claiming that the described imprisonment of the murderor violated the living in a house description patent.Now, if this poor auther ever get a bestseller, most of the money will go to other people than the auther with the original murder idea. So, why write a book in the first place. After all, it is hard work. Why not just file a patent on the description of love, sex or some other basic human thing. Sooner or later it is bound to show up in a bestseller and you could claim some cash without much work.The situation is quite similar in the software industry. Its quite easy to get ideas that could be patented, the hard work that requires money and research is to turn them into a product you can sell. 2004-11-23 11:09 pm Didn’t an Apple software patent kill the inclusion of spring loaded folders in Nautilus around the GNOME 2.6 timeframe? (When they went spatial).It was ok for Apple to rip-off Xerox PARC, and ok for Microsoft to rip-off Apple, but hey, try to include a feature like spring-loaded folders in Nautilus and watch the Apple lawyers start sharpening their teeth.The hypocrisy of software patents (he who has the best lawyer wins) makes me sick. 2004-11-23 11:47 pm To my knowledge, Apple gave some royalties to Xerox for their idea… I am not sure if Microsoft gave money to Apple but they probably negociated some patents or something like that. 2004-11-24 12:00 am Did you hear the recent lawsuit wherein someone who was granted a ludicrously vague patent covering 3D rendering is suing just about every game developer and graphics card manufacturer in existence? 2004-11-24 12:09 am And that’s another problem with patents; they tend to disadvantage OSS development. OSS projects are set up to deal with patents and they go against the grain of free software anyway. However, the standard way to settle a patent lawsuit is cross-licensing – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. There are plenty of trivial innovations in free software projects that could potentially be patented, but to my knowledge most of them aren’t because neither the framework nor the motivation is there. Trivial example – GNOME’s nautilus / nautilus-cd-burner CD burning framework, currently being cheerfully ripped off by Apple. 2004-11-24 12:10 am Should have read ‘are NOT set up to deal with patents’. 2004-11-24 12:22 am Patents generally don’t stop rival inventions completely. The history of the ball point pen is an example. It was so overwhelmingly popular that it was worth the while to violate the patent and risk legal action.Software patents are more of a philosophical connundrum. That anything I write can be effectively censored by a considerable number of patent holders is ridiculous. I not only directly infringe patents by writing my own code, but also by using code written by others. If the linux kernel infringes 250 patents, then I too infringe that many just by using Linux. The potential for legal remedies far outweighs the legal resources available in entire world.It’s a bit like making making laws such that every single citizen is guilty of breaking at least one law, statute or regulation. It potentially gives the government the right to arrest you whenever they want. Most people don’t accept that sort of thing even if it’s not regularly used. 2004-11-24 12:56 am “There are plenty of trivial innovations in free software projects that could potentially be patented, but to my knowledge most of them aren’t because neither the framework nor the motivation is there. Trivial example – GNOME’s nautilus / nautilus-cd-burner CD burning framework, currently being cheerfully ripped off by Apple.”Don’t worry. When Microsoft invents this feature, patents it and put it into longhorn they will put end to this terrible missuse. 2004-11-24 4:48 am The article left me to wonder if anyone on the European Competitiveness Council has the slightest clue who any of these three guys are? Not as if any of those names are exactly household use outside of a really geeky circle.Not exactly a lot of weight behind it if nobody knows who the heck they are. Linux and open source NEED a really good spokesperson, and the more colorful, outrageous, and witty the better. Someone other than a pasty looking geeky programmer without a suntan, preferably with nice teeth. 2004-11-24 4:57 am As other have said, it depends what you define as innovation. Depending on the context, this can mean a lot of things. In the corporate world, particularly, “innovation” can be a meaningless buzzword, or simply mean “slightly improving an existing product”…rarely does it refer to the actual invention of new things.True invention of course is unburdened by patents, however not all creative development deals with invention of new things. Often it means finding better ways of doing things, or combining things that exist together. Because of the nature of software development, it is quite possible that people independently come across the same way of doing things – unaware that they may be infringing on patents.So far, there have been relatively few cases of software patent infringement. However, it remains a powerful weapon in the hand of a corporation with a large patent portfolio. The threat of litigation is nearly always sufficient to discourage all but those who can afford a costly lawsuit (despite the fact that, ironically, a lot of patents are tossed out of courts when challenged).The more programmers are aware of litigation risks (without the resources or time to research whether or not their work infringes on some patent), the less likely they are to create new software, or feel at ease doing so (and thus decrease their creativity).The fault in your argument rests on the fact that you draw a direct line between the number of patent-related lawsuits for completely original products and the level at which innovation might be stifled by patents. In fact, they are not really related. If software developers are in fact nervous about infringing on patents they can’t easily know about, then one can say that patents stifle the creative process, and thus innovation.In the end, the only people that win, and win big, are the lawyers. Patents were not designed with software development in mind (as nothing like it existed back then). The bottomline is that copyrights and trademarks are IMO sufficient to protect this kind of IP, and that software patents should be banned, or at best that their lifetimes be as short as befits the computer industry, i.e. 1 to 2 years, max. 2004-11-24 5:16 am The article left me to wonder if anyone on the European Competitiveness Council has the slightest clue who any of these three guys are? Not as if any of those names are exactly household use outside of a really geeky circle.Linus Torvalds may not be as well-known as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two of the few household names in the industry, but he’s certainly as well-known as other important players such as Steve Ballmer, Scott McNealy and Sam Palmisano – if not more.Not exactly a lot of weight behind it if nobody knows who the heck they are.Reputation isn’t everything. The strength of arguments matter. They’ll be given a fair hearing and it’s safe to say that the council members will know more who they are after their testimony than before.Linux and open source NEED a really good spokesperson, and the more colorful, outrageous, and witty the better.No need for that, we got a killer mascot.Someone other than a pasty looking geeky programmer without a suntan, preferably with nice teeth.Uh, we’re talking about software, here? Do you think coders at proprietary software company are any more tanned that those who develop open-source?Seriously, you’re just trolling, right? That’s a pretty stupid thing to say on a web site about OSes – not to mention very stereotypical and superficial.Do you think the council members will all be beautiful people as well? This isn’t Hollywood we’re talking about, but a bunch of bureaucrats. 2004-11-24 6:59 am Right, so you implement a spellchecker or the TCP/IP protocol in your own apps and get sued, but you still haven’t made anything innovative. True innovation would mean that you invented a protocol that was better than TCP/IP.Darius this is such a stupid remark… its laughable, seriously. Innovation means ‘new’ (look that up in your dictionary). Patents should be about ‘invention’ instead, but more often than not, they’re not. Which is why the system is broken in the first place!Now, since we got that premise straight for once and for all, please explain me how in Your World, someone would program an application which is _exactly_ the same as a previous one? Its so stupid to start with. But hey, indeed, it happens sometimes because of the various platforms. Now when you were to call a new release of a program ‘an ‘innovation’, that could be accurate, because its indeed new, but not by definition an ‘invention’.If you’d look at science you’d notice how science is build up on previous science. Its a knowledge vault. But if there’s this legal minefield, especially for the most simple things like in the USA…Which one specifically? There’s like 9,000 Sun topics I said Sun and Java and patent as keyword. OSnews -> Click on Sun or Java symbol, and its one of the recent ones. Else, Google.com and fill in site:osnews.com Java Sun patent. There are so many more examples… 2004-11-24 7:26 am The shareware/freeware community sure felt the impact of that software patent, since it impacted any software that created GIF images. 2004-11-24 12:24 pm “Do you think the council members will all be beautiful people as well? This isn’t Hollywood we’re talking about, but a bunch of bureaucrats.”Yes, they are bureaucrats but that does not mean that they disregard appearance. Appearance and first impression counts. You don’t have to be beautiful (look at some of our politicians) but you have to project the notion that you take matters seriously by your appearance.For example: When I went to the protests in Bruxelles against SW-Patents I donned my suit. One that fit, shirt, tie and all. One of the organizers just had a t-shirt with a slogan on it and a jacket. Upon entering the European Parliament Building for a press conference they had organized he had to remove his t-shirt (I don’t really understood why, something about the slogan I suppose.). So he had to enter with just his jacket and a bare breast. Even if he had been Bill Gates is such an appearance a little emarrassing. 2004-11-24 2:01 pm The OP wasn’t referring to how they were dressed, but how they were tannedand how their teeth looked, referring to an age-old nerd stereotype. I’m sure Linus and the others will dress suitably for the occasion. 2004-11-24 2:36 pm I wonder if one could patent math algorithms, because basically programming is some sort of “formal” mathematics.I don’t think that math is patentable, so why should programs (or parts thereof) be patentable?I fear, that if the software patents were used in the same way they are being used in the US (where it is being used to stifle competition), it will end up killing the whole innovation (in whatever way or description) of software. 2004-11-24 2:44 pm I didn’t mean Linus, I have seen pictures of him on some occasions, he knows how to “represent”. It was just a general statement that if you confront polititians that there are some things you should look out for. Politics and business are a different kind of stage than CS. Linus and others seem to understand that, some unfortunately don’t.