Software patents - what are they good for?

Problem

It’s safe to say that there is much disagreement among engineers, lawyers, and policy makers over whether software patents even make sense, that is, whether the ability to patent software actually does more harm than good to our innovation society and economy.

Solution

Congress should hold hearings and provide a study examining the issue. The study should include a review of relevant economic data and should take into account viewpoints from all parties affected by the patent system, particularly those who oftentimes do not practice before the Patent Office and who do not deal with litigation and licensing until they are facing the threat of a suit themselves.

Mark Finch
Phoenix
AZ
United States
Posted Jun 19, 2012 5:49 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
I believe that Software Patents only serve to harm innovation. Whats more nearly every book on the subject states it is best to not even search for a patent due to the extra punishment for knowingly violating a patent. So every company ignores the patent system because there are so many garbage patents out there that it is impossible to write software without violating someones patent.

I own a company developing software. I do not want software covered by patents. We have a perfectly acceptable way to protect software it is called a Copyright. I Copyright all my code and choose if I will License the code with an Open or Proprietary License. Nobody needs the patent system clogging up the path for innovation.

When someone invented a carburetor another person wasn't prevented from developing a competing carburetor. Where as software patents prevent you from developing a competing software procedure. Take Amazon's infamous 1-Click. At it's surface it is blindingly obvious. So should have been prevented from receiving patent protection. Further if it was patented then it goes to reason other parties should be able to invent their own form of 1-click. But the way software works there is no way to not violate Amazon's Patent.
up
530 thumbs up.
Bill Applet
VK Engineering
Los Angeles
CA
United States
Posted Jun 20, 2012 2:26 am
  • Software developer / engineer
For an invention to be useful to society, it needs to be duplicated. When physical objects are duplicated, jobs are created. Raw materials are collected and transported. Labor is required, etc. The inventor's profit is limited.

But when software inventions are duplicated, they are duplicated at virtual zero cost. Thus no jobs are created or other normal benefits to society. The inventor's profit is unlimited.
up
471 thumbs up.
Glen Peterson
United States
Posted Jun 21, 2012 8:51 am
This is a great idea to study the impact of software patents. But your other 6 points are policy ideas (proposed legislation) and this one is not. I would split this off into separate proposal from the others ideas.
up
460 thumbs up.
Thorsten Rapp
Boston
MA
United States
Posted Jun 20, 2012 4:30 pm
  • Academic
  • Internet user
As someone who follows news on patents because of my opinion that they shouldn't exist, I am of the opinion that this proposal be the most heavily backed, although I believe the statement should be reworded strongly indicate the general opinion among the people well informed about the damages caused by software patents. A good link to read for those not well informed about these damages is this article. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/09/study-patent-trolls-have-cost-innovators-half-a-trillion-bucks/
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448 thumbs up.
Arthur Gleckler
Sunnyvale
CA
United States
Posted Jun 21, 2012 8:14 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
The purpose of patents is "... to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts...." We have strong evidence that software patents are not needed to motivate people and organizations to produce amazing, useful innovation: software patents were not granted for the first few decades of the field's history, and a huge fraction of the great discoveries and inventions in software come from that time. Since we can see that great progress happens quickly without patents, and since software is already protected by copyright, there's simply no need for software patents. Furthermore, we have ample evidence that they hinder progress rather than promote it.

Please work to eliminate software products entirely.
up
435 thumbs up.
David Burry
Walla Walla
OR
United States
Posted Aug 29, 2012 1:30 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
I've seen a lot of proposals, and I consider myself a thinker and puzzle-solver... but here's the problem:

I keep seeing the word "billion" thrown about so many times... between court cases and patent buyouts... so many times in fact, that it's hard for me to believe it hasn't added up into the trillions yet. I saw one place that said software patents have cost innovators half a trillion?

Ok, so if patents have become that big of a business, and have become that much of a part of the value of all large companies... do you think any part of them can be repealed? Seriously? Honestly? Wouldn't the result be an economic crash bigger than anyone has ever seen in history? Wouldn't every lobbyist in existence make certain it could never happen by any means necessary, to keep their respective companies afloat?

So if no meaningful reform is possible, what is left? Move out of the USA?

Does that logical conclusion sound chilling and stifling enough?
up
407 thumbs up.
Benjamin Mako Hill
Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University
Somerville
MA
United States
Posted Jul 8, 2012 4:07 am
  • Academic
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
I am disappointed to see that the EFF has decided not join the FSF, the SFLC, the Public Patent Foundation, FFII, and long list of its peer organizations in calling for the abolition of software patents.

The EFF has earned a reputation for taking strong and unambiguous positions in support of communities of innovators and technologists. As a result, it is surprising to see EFF so wishy-washy on an important issue that its peers have been working on for years and on which they earned a series of important successes (e.g., the European software patents directive). Why, only after detailing a a six-step program designed to preserve software patents in a weakened state, does the EFF suggest that congress should consider getting rid of them all together? The message is uncharacteristically confused and equivocal.

It seems clear that software patents, even in weakened form, pose a threat to the large part of EFF's constituency and membership that includes free and open source software communities who have neither incentives nor resources to compete in a world with software patents. On the up side, research by Jim Bessen and others, which I'm sure the EFF is aware of, has shown that software patents do very little good for anyone outside large companies who use them to limit entry into markets and patent trolls who bring very little good.

Clearly, a compromise like the one that that the EFF lays out would be an improvement over the current state. But the EFF's reputation was not built on asking for these types of marginal improvements. From a strategic perspective, it makes sense for the EFF to join with its peers, to argue a strong position, and to let other organizations better positioned to organize compromises cut the deals. But at stake is more than tactics: EFF has has succeeded for fight for principles -- even when doing so was an uphill battle. In that sense, I expect more than the campaign in its current form.
up
399 thumbs up.
Camilo Martin
Freelance
Ourinhos, SP
Brazil
Posted Jun 25, 2012 3:41 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
My work involves code. Better code is better because it runs better. I want to create better code and that's what I try to do.

I do not care about patents, and just a bit about copyright - those things won't really bring food to my table. I just want to code.

For whoever patents and copyright were created for, it is not for content creators or developers, I do not see them meant to help me.
up
396 thumbs up.
2Pac Killuminati
Your mama
Tetovo
Macedonia
Posted Jun 24, 2012 10:27 am
  • Venture capitalist / investor
  • Internet user
Fuckk off all you bitches illuminaties fuck off ypu barac obama i know your really name is Barry Soetoro i read old books about you bitch fuck off all off you ...soon as i gett more information im gonna writte a book against you
up
396 thumbs up.
sqrgoaut sqrgoaut
sqrgoaut
New York
United States
Posted Feb 5, 2013 5:50 am
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up
395 thumbs up.

Pages

Daniel Dobkin
R2 Semiconductor (but this suggestion is not endorsed thereby!)
Sunnyvale
CA
United States
Posted Oct 23, 2013 8:12 pm
  • Patent owner
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
Folks: In view of the tremendous and astonishing influence of the open-source movement in software, please consider the following suggestion. At least for individual inventors, it should be possible at the time of grant to lay a patent open to the public, forgoing all rights to litigation for that grant and any continuations (and being forgiven the issue fee). In return, the USPTO will examine the art covered by the patent 5 and/or 10 years after grant and determine if the patented invention is used commercially. If so, the inventor(s) will receive a cash payment from the PTO appropriate to the impact of the invention, the latter to be funded from increased fees on late-year annuities for large organizations (which, of course, has other benefits). This addresses the complaint that some individual inventors have that exclusion of non-practicing entities will leave them in the lurch.

Patents are government-administered monopoly grants and have little or nothing to do with the free market; substitution of cash grants for grants of rights does not increase or decrease intrusion of government in the marketplace, but does encourage support of the community and discourage litigation.

Thanks for your consideration.
up
353 thumbs up.
Bob Hernon
Bellevue
WA
United States
Posted Apr 12, 2013 2:19 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Venture capitalist / investor
  • Internet user
Please revise #7 to use "PROMOTE THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE AND USEFUL ARTS" instead of "BENEFIT OUR ECONOMY". Property rights should be an inherent aspect of the individual (whether intellectual or physical property), not a monetary asset of the population at large for the legislature to toss in the trash if it doesn't benefit someone financially. "Benefit the economy" is how courts abuse eminent domain and stomp on my tangible property rights, and how lawyers will confuse simple-minded congress members.
up
358 thumbs up.
sqrgoaut sqrgoaut
sqrgoaut
New York
United States
Posted Feb 5, 2013 5:50 am
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up
395 thumbs up.
David Burry
Walla Walla
OR
United States
Posted Aug 29, 2012 1:30 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
I've seen a lot of proposals, and I consider myself a thinker and puzzle-solver... but here's the problem:

I keep seeing the word "billion" thrown about so many times... between court cases and patent buyouts... so many times in fact, that it's hard for me to believe it hasn't added up into the trillions yet. I saw one place that said software patents have cost innovators half a trillion?

Ok, so if patents have become that big of a business, and have become that much of a part of the value of all large companies... do you think any part of them can be repealed? Seriously? Honestly? Wouldn't the result be an economic crash bigger than anyone has ever seen in history? Wouldn't every lobbyist in existence make certain it could never happen by any means necessary, to keep their respective companies afloat?

So if no meaningful reform is possible, what is left? Move out of the USA?

Does that logical conclusion sound chilling and stifling enough?
up
407 thumbs up.
David Lee
United States
Posted Jul 14, 2012 9:09 am
  • Internet user
Slide to unlock and universal search are pretty obvious. A smartphone is pretty useless if you can't unlock it. It lets you access your phone at the swipe of a finger, nothing more. Without this, it defeats the purpose of touchscreen phone. Similarly, with universal search, it's a really efficient way to find what you need on your phone without having to dig through menus or confusing lists.

What should happen during these hearings, as the solution suggests, is that people with technological fluency (such as computer programmers, smartphone app developers, etc.) should work together with Congress to analyze any software patent that Apple has filed and used against companies to sue them.

I strongly agree with the fact that the patent system needs reform and with Samsung's arguments. However, Apple should not be filing petty, obvious patents and then suing other companies for infringing on those obvious, common-sense features of smartphone operating systems. It hurts innovation and competition, which will ultimately limit consumer choice.
up
387 thumbs up.
David Rosnick
Center for Economic and Policy Research
Washington
DC
United States
Posted Jul 9, 2012 6:04 pm
  • Academic
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
It's not just software. It's the whole deal. Patents. Copyrights. Software. Music. Pharmaceuticals.

http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/the-artistic-freedom-voucher-internet-age-alternative-to-copyrights/

http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/the-benefits-and-savings-of-publicly-funded-clinical-trials-of-prescription-drugs
up
395 thumbs up.
Benjamin Mako Hill
Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University
Somerville
MA
United States
Posted Jul 8, 2012 4:07 am
  • Academic
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
I am disappointed to see that the EFF has decided not join the FSF, the SFLC, the Public Patent Foundation, FFII, and long list of its peer organizations in calling for the abolition of software patents.

The EFF has earned a reputation for taking strong and unambiguous positions in support of communities of innovators and technologists. As a result, it is surprising to see EFF so wishy-washy on an important issue that its peers have been working on for years and on which they earned a series of important successes (e.g., the European software patents directive). Why, only after detailing a a six-step program designed to preserve software patents in a weakened state, does the EFF suggest that congress should consider getting rid of them all together? The message is uncharacteristically confused and equivocal.

It seems clear that software patents, even in weakened form, pose a threat to the large part of EFF's constituency and membership that includes free and open source software communities who have neither incentives nor resources to compete in a world with software patents. On the up side, research by Jim Bessen and others, which I'm sure the EFF is aware of, has shown that software patents do very little good for anyone outside large companies who use them to limit entry into markets and patent trolls who bring very little good.

Clearly, a compromise like the one that that the EFF lays out would be an improvement over the current state. But the EFF's reputation was not built on asking for these types of marginal improvements. From a strategic perspective, it makes sense for the EFF to join with its peers, to argue a strong position, and to let other organizations better positioned to organize compromises cut the deals. But at stake is more than tactics: EFF has has succeeded for fight for principles -- even when doing so was an uphill battle. In that sense, I expect more than the campaign in its current form.
up
399 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.
up
395 thumbs up.
Camilo Martin
Freelance
Ourinhos, SP
Brazil
Posted Jun 25, 2012 3:41 pm
  • Software developer / engineer
  • Internet user
My work involves code. Better code is better because it runs better. I want to create better code and that's what I try to do.

I do not care about patents, and just a bit about copyright - those things won't really bring food to my table. I just want to code.

For whoever patents and copyright were created for, it is not for content creators or developers, I do not see them meant to help me.
up
396 thumbs up.
2Pac Killuminati
Your mama
Tetovo
Macedonia
Posted Jun 24, 2012 10:27 am
  • Venture capitalist / investor
  • Internet user
Fuckk off all you bitches illuminaties fuck off ypu barac obama i know your really name is Barry Soetoro i read old books about you bitch fuck off all off you ...soon as i gett more information im gonna writte a book against you
up
396 thumbs up.

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