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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nick F
United States
Posted Jul 1, 2012 8:51 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Technology moves fast. The stuff we had in 1992 is vastly inferior to what exists today. A patent lasting that long would seriously damage the exponentially increasing power of technology and software is a big part of that.
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328 thumbs up.
James Baron
United States
Posted Jun 22, 2012 2:58 pm
  • Venture capitalist / investor
  • Internet user
If patents are indeed "of value" to society, then the patent holder should immediately put the patent to work or forfeit it to the public domain where presumably someone else with the talent can get it into a product and delivered to the consumer. Basically I propose a use it or lose it policy. The first successful implementer of a patent gets the short term protection. If the patent holder's version of the product fails in the market place, the patent holder loses the short term protection, it expires. Once a short term patent expires, it can never be renewed by anyone. Of equal concern I believe is how external (to the USA) organizations can invent intellectual property law that violates US law and get onerous laws enforced based on our self imposed understanding of the enforcement of Treaties that violate our sovereignty.
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328 thumbs up.
Al L
Thailand
Posted Jun 22, 2012 11:53 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Venture capitalist / investor
Shortening protection reduces the incentive to create (why should I create something that will not be covered long enough to get me a return on investment?).
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327 thumbs up.
John Grange
Hayward
CA
United States
Posted Jun 27, 2012 10:38 am
  • Software developer / engineer
To those who say "Why should I event if i won't be protected for a really long time," sorry keep inventing and actually make a product that is better than the rest not try and sue others to make yours the only product of type X.
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326 thumbs up.

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Nick F
United States
Posted Jul 1, 2012 8:51 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Technology moves fast. The stuff we had in 1992 is vastly inferior to what exists today. A patent lasting that long would seriously damage the exponentially increasing power of technology and software is a big part of that.
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328 thumbs up.
Lasse Kärkkäinen
SingOn Oy
Finland
United States
Posted Jun 30, 2012 9:28 am
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Venture capitalist / investor
  • Internet user
Shortening the patent coverage mostly reduces any reason for genuine innovation to be patented but it still won't solve the big problem: you need patent lawyers for software development. The only real solution is to entirely abolish software patents (while we still can), and for very similar reasons, abolish the entire patent system (we need to keep our ideals even if they are currently not politically realistic).
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323 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.
John Grange
Hayward
CA
United States
Posted Jun 27, 2012 10:38 am
  • Software developer / engineer
To those who say "Why should I event if i won't be protected for a really long time," sorry keep inventing and actually make a product that is better than the rest not try and sue others to make yours the only product of type X.
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326 thumbs up.
G Patent
General Patent Corp.
United States
Posted Jun 26, 2012 10:11 am
I have long argued in favor of reducing the term for software patents. Although a 20-year term makes sense when applied to, for instance, pharmaceutical patents (which need at least a couple of decades in order to recoup R&D expenses), it makes very little sense for software patents. The patent system needs more flexibility so that such a multi-tiered arrangement could be pun in place; the one-size-fits-all approach is no longer the most effective model.
http://www.aminn.org/patent-legislation
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326 thumbs up.
Al L
Thailand
Posted Jun 22, 2012 11:53 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Venture capitalist / investor
Shortening protection reduces the incentive to create (why should I create something that will not be covered long enough to get me a return on investment?).
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327 thumbs up.
Austin D
CA
United States
Posted Jun 22, 2012 11:39 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
Too short
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325 thumbs up.
James Baron
United States
Posted Jun 22, 2012 2:58 pm
  • Venture capitalist / investor
  • Internet user
If patents are indeed "of value" to society, then the patent holder should immediately put the patent to work or forfeit it to the public domain where presumably someone else with the talent can get it into a product and delivered to the consumer. Basically I propose a use it or lose it policy. The first successful implementer of a patent gets the short term protection. If the patent holder's version of the product fails in the market place, the patent holder loses the short term protection, it expires. Once a short term patent expires, it can never be renewed by anyone. Of equal concern I believe is how external (to the USA) organizations can invent intellectual property law that violates US law and get onerous laws enforced based on our self imposed understanding of the enforcement of Treaties that violate our sovereignty.
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328 thumbs up.
John Risley
United States
Posted Jun 21, 2012 12:18 pm
  • Lawyer
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
These measures seem to be punitive towards software developers, as if their work is somehow less deserving of protection compared to others. There is no reason why someone who works in software should only receive five years of protection, while others get 20. Considering it can take 3-4 years to get a patent, five years is too short.

Patents are necessary to protect software. Copyright is insufficient. Any developer knows that two pieces of software can perform essentially the same functionality while having drastically different code. As long as the two code bases were independently written there is no copyright infringement, even if one work is intentionally designed to replicate the functionality of another.

The system is broken in many respects, but performing a scorched earth policy on the protections available to legitimate users of the patent system is not the way to go. Instead, I would focus on:
- stricter standards in issuing patents, particularly with respect to overcoming obviousness-type rejections
- not limiting the sale or assignability of patents, but instead requiring proof of actual use of the invention by the plaintiff prior to the cause of action, thereby preventing someone from acquiring a patent for the purpose of suing
- simpler channels and reduced standards for invalidating a patent

These are a few ways in which the frivolous suits, overlapping patents, and patent trolls can be kept out of the system, while still allowing legitimate uses of the patent system
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400 thumbs up.
Bill Jackson
United States
Posted Jun 21, 2012 12:16 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Software patents make no sense given the facts of personal computing and the Internet. Someone can make a piece of software, using his/her own coding techniques, to do a job s/he needs it to do, and be unaware of a patented piece of software doing a similar job which uses similar code. This should not be possible.

For software that can ONLY run on a specific piece of hardware and no other, this makes sense. It does NOT make sense in an environment where code can run on different hardware configurations.

End software patents now.
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394 thumbs up.

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