Shorten the patent term

Problem

A patent lasts for 20 years, beginning from the application's filing date. Often, the term is extended even longer to reflect the years it can take to obtain a patent. While 20 years might make sense when talking about inventions that take substantial investment—building factories and laboratories, for instance—software takes coders and computers. Hard work to be sure, but of a different type.

Solution

A patent covering software should survive for a term of five years, beginning from the date the application is filed. Even though international agreements could be read to require a 20-year term, we think there are ways around this. For example, it’s not clear those agreements even apply to software. Also, the proposal could be limited to U.S. inventors only.

Steven Irrgang
Australia
Posted Sep 8, 2012 1:40 am
  • Patent owner
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Patents currently take about five years to get granted. This would create a situation where patents would expire before they're granted. How does anyone avoid infringement then? Applications are published earlier but the granted claims are rarely as broad as those in the applications.

It's not creating new problems though, more highlighting the ridiculousness of the situation.
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393 thumbs up.
NO NO
Pakistan
Posted Jun 21, 2012 5:33 am
  • Software developer / engineer
NO to this. 5 years is way too short. Just because something is written in computer code doesn't mean it doesn't take effort and as you admit yourself, it does take hard work. Why should computer programmers be screwed over just because their work is not physical? If you remove this and #7 I'm in favor of everything else.
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390 thumbs up.
Nick Polimeni
free lance
Reno
NV
United States
Posted Jun 30, 2012 12:41 am
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
No patents should be issued on software, except new low level languages. (This is tentative, as I've not thoroughly examined the concept to prove extensive hard work, research, and truly new discoveries.)
To patent software is like patenting lego constructions, wherein, a new configuration of existing parts were to be patentable. A language is a tool to create software. Would you patent a new way of using a hammer? or a drill? Come on!

When I first started to code programming, it was a very interesting toy, and game. All I had to do is know how to use the tool to make it do what I wanted. Even if I took one year to create an application, I would be barring another from using the same language to create a similar application, but using the same language in a more clever way than I did.
We all know that you can do almost anything with programming...

Bill Gates, after re-naming CPM with minor variations, created DOS, and with the use of C language monopolized the field, doesn't make it proper. I Created my own version of a shell program to access underlying features that the untrained couldn't. Mind you, Microsoft's Windows patents prevent other from improving or providing options to users, they might otherwise be able to include, were it not for MS's patents. I've heard much complaints (as well as some praise) of Windows 7... but the point is not the good it might provide, but the good that cannot be provided by allowing developers to use existing code, and offer improvements.
The old Norton Utilities was case in point. It did all the other things a user wanted to do, that Window didn't allow him to do. Norton gave up, and little by Little MS bastardized Norton's features, and the imitations were never as good as the real McCoy.
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365 thumbs up.
Adrian S
United States
Posted Sep 5, 2012 7:42 am
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
I read about this petition on Groklaw, and quickly clicked over to sign it...then I read the first item on the list and had a facepalm moment. I cannot in good conscience sign this petition.

Shortening the period of protection for non-patentable subject matter from 20 years to 5 causes the actual problem to remain. Someone needs to make the argument (loudly and effectively) that software is not patentable because it's math. Always.

The people who make software will be unable to continue to do so without a crack legal team, their own (invalid, inappropriate) software patents, or deep pockets unless this change in understanding occurs.

Carried back in time, today's attitude towards patenting software being OK would have made most of the software created 30 years ago impossible.
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363 thumbs up.
Ansis Māliņš
Pirate Party Latvia
Riga
Latvia
Posted Aug 2, 2012 7:26 am
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Patents (including software patents) fail to accomplish their intended purpose - to protect the lone inventor from the big, bad corporation. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to obtain a patent (for each jurisdiction) - money that could have been spent on implementing the invention, money that many people don't have in the first place. On top of that, all startups risk being sued frivolously by large corporations for patent infringement, and it costs millions to defend. Again, money most people don't have. Thus a no patent system at all is better than the current situation. Inventions that take long time and a ton of money (e.g. fusion power, cure for AIDS) are funded by governments and don't need to be protected by patents.
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363 thumbs up.
Gavin Stokes
Los Angeles
CA
United States
Posted Sep 4, 2012 7:00 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Read Gottschalk v. Benson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottschalk_v._Benson

Software patents are supposed to be prohibited, but a ludicrous workaround has been allowed to stand for decades and must be abolished. The fact that you can patent the act of putting songs in a list tells everyone that our patent system is disgracefully broken.

The USPTO has become a tool for what it's supposed to prevent: the theft of people's work. Entities with money can bully innovators out of business with patents that should never have been issued. Until we unequivocally eliminate software, algorithm, and "business method" patents, hopes for innovation and entrepreneurship are dead.

Furthermore, the continued extortion of one company by another on the basis of these illegitimate patents has turned our already hollow economy into an even bigger and more-difficult-to-assess house of cards.
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359 thumbs up.
John M.
San Diego
CA
United States
Posted Aug 29, 2012 10:44 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
We must eliminate software patents. Period. They infringe on our liberty. We should be free as Americans to dream and then sit down and create anything we can imagine. Too many Americans have given their lives to provide our liberty, for an artificial monopoly to then limit that liberty to one person. In a world of 7 billion people, the chance of more than one person creating a similar software solution is absolutely certain, and even required at times to provide a consistent user experience that meets the expectations of software users. Absolutely no software developer wants software patents. We simply want the freedom to succeed on our own merits without the legalized extortion schemes being perpetrated by patent trolls who create nothing. Software is math, therefore software should be unpatentable. The whole scheme of when software installed on a hard drive changes the physical nature of the hard drive is absolute nonsense that defies all common sense, and the judges who accepted this absurdity should lose their jobs. Software patents make a mockery of real invention.
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349 thumbs up.
Marcel Kolaja
Czech Pirate Party
Brno
Czech Republic
Posted Aug 2, 2012 6:21 am
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
  • Victim of patent troll
This initiative is apparently US centric, where this proposal is for shortening the patent term. However, there's not just the US. And in jurisdictions where software patents are not valid this proposal is a step in a very wrong direction.

Software patents have to be abolished. Please, ask for that and then we can sign it. This is unfortunately no way for us. Thanks!
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348 thumbs up.
Ofer Inbar
Cambridge
MA
United States
Posted Jul 7, 2012 3:29 pm
Reading through the comments, I see a couple of people suggest that if we didn't have software patents, software makers would keep their trade secrets. Now think about how software patents actually apply in the real world. What innovations in software do you think would've been kept secret if it weren't for the monopoly granted by patents?

By its nature, software is not vulnerable to the kind of trade secretiveness that patents were designed to unlock. Patents aren't the thing that encourages software innovations to be revealed to the world; basic economic forces and the desire of software writers for recognition are more than enough. Patents are simply unnecessary here.

Patents and software are just not a valid combination.
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348 thumbs up.
Michael Lile
Fort Worth
TX
United States
Posted Jul 3, 2012 11:44 am
  • Internet user
Since usually most code is obsolete after about 5 years from its inception, how about changing the wording to 5 years after the application approval date? That would cover the amount of time a company has to reap the benefits of the code, and either innovate, or drop it to the public domain.
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348 thumbs up.

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Eric Blake
Red Hat
Salt Lake City
UT
United States
Posted Jul 26, 2012 1:27 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
I understand why you are proposing shortening things to 5 years, in an attempt to achieve something that might gain political consensus, but I personally would prefer a position that advocate the outright abolishment of software patents as abstract mathematical processes rather than tangible products.
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322 thumbs up.
Nuno Cruces
Lisbon
Portugal
Posted Jul 18, 2012 7:12 am
  • Patent owner
  • Software developer / engineer
Reducing the term for software patents specifically is the wrong way of approaching the problem. Either software is worthy of both patent protection and copyright protection, or it isn't. As a software developer who has been compelled into drafting a number of patent applications, I'd argue that it is not worthy of patent protection (IMHO).

But if we do consider software to be worthy of patent protection, we have to bring the system into a state where software patents are minimally valuable for society as whole (and not just patent holders).

The benefit for society should be in the dissemination of knowledge. As such, patents must teach something of value. They must teach a particular solution to a given problem, not claim the problem itself. Independent invention by anyone ordinarily skilled in the art, should mean the solution is obvious and not worthy of protection.

For the knowledge to be useful, patents must not be riddled with legalese, designed to appease lawyers and courts. The target for a patent application is anyone ordinarily skilled in the art, not a lawyer or a judge. Such knowledge must be well organized, discoverable and manageable. It's no coincidence that software developers look at journals, papers and Wikipedia - not patents - as useful bodies of knowledge. The Patent Office by issuing tens of thousands of ill-reviewed patents every year is making matters worse.

The loss for society of not awarding patent protection for such trivial inventions is minimal. Software developers are welcome to keep their inventions a well kept trade secret if they are so easy to reinvent. They have the first mover advantage in a fast paced market, that should be enough.
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345 thumbs up.
Wayne Niddery
Richmond Hill
Canada
Posted Jul 16, 2012 11:15 am
  • Software developer / engineer
Personally I have no problem with software patent periods being the same as any other (I am open to a shorter term, but 5 seems too short to me especially if it includes the application/pending time, 10 seems more reasonable). What matters is that the patent be truly valid. Making a patent period too short makes the entire idea of patents useless - not enough time for the patent holder to really profit and thus a disincentive to use the patent system and keeping ideas private instead.

It is absolutely true that MOST current software patents are wrong and should be repealed. However I also disagree with those that say there should be no software patents at all. I believe that software patents CAN be valid. The example I most frequently use is encryption algorithms. I think it is perfectly proper to be able to obtain a patent on a specific encryption algorithm, such as AES. That does not stop anyone from implementing encryption, but only from using that particular algorithm without permission. Likewise nobody should be able to obtain a patent based on particular use, e.g. using encryption specifically while communicating with a smart phone for example.
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346 thumbs up.
Joe Feely
Treorchy
United Kingdom
Posted Jul 10, 2012 2:42 am
  • Internet user
The reason for issuing a patent is to stimulate innovation being made available to the benefit of all, even thought this suffers the ill of affording the patentee a monopoly for a period of time. If many patents (I guess a large proportion of them, maybe even the vast majority of them) are almost simultaneously, and independently (of each other), invented, the standard for patentability should be extremely high (which is practically impossible with software). Without patent protection it would seem likely that one of the several inventors of anything is likely to reveal their invention, even if others would choose to take it to their grave. In the absence of very strong clear evidence there would appear to be absolutely no justification to afford the clearly very ill effects of, especially software, patent like protection.
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346 thumbs up.
Ofer Inbar
Cambridge
MA
United States
Posted Jul 7, 2012 3:29 pm
Reading through the comments, I see a couple of people suggest that if we didn't have software patents, software makers would keep their trade secrets. Now think about how software patents actually apply in the real world. What innovations in software do you think would've been kept secret if it weren't for the monopoly granted by patents?

By its nature, software is not vulnerable to the kind of trade secretiveness that patents were designed to unlock. Patents aren't the thing that encourages software innovations to be revealed to the world; basic economic forces and the desire of software writers for recognition are more than enough. Patents are simply unnecessary here.

Patents and software are just not a valid combination.
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348 thumbs up.
Ofer Inbar
Cambridge
MA
United States
Posted Jul 7, 2012 3:25 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Software is much like music. Patents have no more of a useful role to play in software than they would in music. Picking the right "shorter" time period for software patents misses the point: they need to be eliminated altogether.

Can anyone make an honest case for the claim that if software were not patentable, people or companies would be less motivated to create more software or spend money on software innovation? It's a ridiculous claim. We know it's absurd. So why do we have patents on software? What is the positive role that they're supposedly playing?
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347 thumbs up.
Sean Tite
Hammock Beach
FL
United States
Posted Jul 7, 2012 8:23 am
  • Victim of patent troll
THERE SHOULD BE NO SOFTWARE PATENTS PERIOD. Any and all efforts to make Apple play fair are appropriate, stop making excuses and obfuscating the truth, you weak poser frauds you. Stop trying to route legitimate outrage into /dev/null. It is not a question of either/or, it is a matter of all and often.

Apple is straight up Evil, their Apple Logo itself is proof of where their heart lies. I pray they reap what they have sown, and they will, just as MICRO$OFT has and will continue to until they are ALL gone. http://goo.gl/LYnt

They could use real robots but are too barbaric to do so and insist on turning real humans into fake robots!
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Yet, this is just a blip in the grand scheme, all will stabilize sooner when everyone is/does what they are supposed to be/do.

The Troika from AO-Hell: CrApple®™℠©, MICRO$OFT®™℠© & FACEPLANT®™℠© are.

#boycottapple
#boycottmicrosoft
#facebooksucks

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FACEBOOT destined to AOHELL: SERGEY BRIN SPEAKS OUT
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312 thumbs up.
Michael Lile
Fort Worth
TX
United States
Posted Jul 3, 2012 11:44 am
  • Internet user
Since usually most code is obsolete after about 5 years from its inception, how about changing the wording to 5 years after the application approval date? That would cover the amount of time a company has to reap the benefits of the code, and either innovate, or drop it to the public domain.
up
348 thumbs up.
Joshua Barta
DelvingWare
Austin
TX
United States
Posted Jul 2, 2012 2:32 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
  • Victim of patent troll
5 years is too long, and the degree by which it is "too long" will only increase as the rate at which technology progresses continues to accelerate.

Quite frankly, I believe software patents should be abolished altogether. At the very least, ALL software patents should implicitly fall under FRAND rules.
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347 thumbs up.
Jeff H
United States
Posted Jul 2, 2012 12:36 pm
  • Patent owner
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Software is not patentable - only a process or algorithm. The writers of this petition need to be clear on this point, otherwise no legal counsel or member of the legislature will listen to the valid points.
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345 thumbs up.

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