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Forum Post: End Software Patents

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 9, 2012, 6:51 p.m. EST by blinxwang (25) from Johns Creek, GA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

26 Comments

26 Comments


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[-] 2 points by tr19 (4) 2 years ago

Le'ts be clear. A patent is different than intellectual property protection. IP protection is automatically extended to all software, just as it is all writing. No one can (legally) copy your code and sell it without your permission.

This is different from patent protection for software which is highly destructive of value.

Software patents grant a monopoly on software ideas, not specific implementations. So for example only one company can read this kind of information from a database at this time and do this with that information.

If you think that's not true, then you should know that what I cited above is exactly the software patent that was used against Blackberry, cost them 1/4 billion dollars, took out blackberry service and threatened to destroy the entire company.

Software patents are patents not on software code but on the "idea" the software code "embodies". These "ideas" are by design highly abstract and universally applicable and at the same time, mundane in the extreme- all programmers can have ideas just like them every day and use them in their code.

Why isn't everyone getting sued then? They are. Recently, developers have begun to pull their apps out of US markets because of a fear of software patent lawsuit. Mark Cuban recently said he doesn't know any start up that's not being sued over software patents and we should just scrap the whole system.

Since they cost over 1 million US to defend against, software patents are essentially the 1%'s way of making sure that the 99% can't participate in the business of software except perhaps as a serf, who lives only at the pleasure of the Lord.

All software gets IP protection. That's not the issue. The issue is the patenting of a mere idea - not the implementation of an idea in code, but the idea itself, irrespective of how it's realized in code.

Software patents will destroy software innovation in the US and any other jurisdiction which permits them. For 40 years, developers developed code without patent "protection" These were the most fecund years of software development and included the creation of the operating system, databases, word processors the internet and nearly everything else you use today.

To put it in perspective, software patents are a way for IP lawyers - the 1% - to inject themselves as non-value-producing entities into a field of invention and commerce that they have no natural right to participate in. Their presence is simultaneously applying a tax to everyone and limiting innovation. They are an wealth extraction virus on the software ecology- they suck from the host's body, even as they multiply. Eventually they will kill the host, and are doing just that even as we speak.

[-] -1 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

My understanding was that basic or obvious ideas could not be patented. For example, one could not have patented the idea of the wheel. Aren't patents attributed to specific types of ideas, i.e. more complex and not necessarily obvious? Ideas that are deemed as being inventions.

Personally, I think these types of patents are very important. Especially for the smaller firms or startups. For example, were I to spend two years developing a system of my own design that brought about a new and innovative way of teaching a language online, I would need the assurance that it wouldn't simply be copied upon its release by much bigger companies, or else it would not be worth it for me to spend two years working on this project and financing myself with my own savings. The idea of such a system is what takes time to develop and program. Once released, it would only be a matter of weeks or months for a big company to copy and sell it with much more aggressive marketing than I ever could. My startup would be killed in an instant if there were no software patents. Instead, what happens is that companies like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, etc... buy startups because they want to own the patents. This is a very good thing.

Patents don't last forever. They are there to give the originator of the idea some time to benefit from his idea before it gets copied by everyone else. What's the point in investing in RND (research and development) if it's not possible to patent ideas? It would be much more profitable to just wait for other companies to come up with stuff then simply copy them.

From what Iv'e read and seen, it's not the big boys who profit from software patents, it's the small indie developers like myself. I'm thinking of small firms like the one who developed Siri and sold it to Apple, or the guys that developed the Delicious Library.

[-] 1 points by tr19 (4) 2 years ago

"My understanding was that basic or obvious ideas could not be patented. "

Well ideas ought not be able to be patented whether they're obvious or not. Supposedly ideas or purely abstract things and laws of nature cannot be patented.

. However, if your "idea" can be implemented in any way in a computer and cause that computer to behave, then it CAN be patented. Remember, we're talking an idea here, not specific code.

This effectively cuts off any implementation of any similar idea.

As to the obviousness question you raise, the test for obviousness centers absurdly enough around whether or not anything like it has been published.

There are literally millions of ideas no one has "published" because software developers don't "publish" their "ideas" in "journals" as a matter of course ; they write code. If it doesn't appear in the "literature" then it's deemed not obvious.

No seriously, obviousness hinges on the concept of prior art. In the Blackberry example above, even though the patent revolves around an obvious use of databases- let's put this information about a phone call into the database at time one then take it out at time two and use it in this obvious way for this purpose, because there was no prior art, it passed the obviousness test.

Basically, it's a free for all as far as patenting goes and nothing is deemed obvious and everything is useful no matter how ridiculous.

Do a Google search on "software patents" and the adjective of your choice - absurd, disgusting, crazy, obvious, one-click (Amazon) - and you'll see what I mean.

"For example, one could not have patented the idea of the wheel. "

Well this is exactly wrong. You could have patented the wheel. Definitely. Same thing with knife fork and spoon. You see where this goes. Society needs to not slap a "private property, do not enter" sign on its ideas because those ideas are the stuff of progress and culture. Every society "steals" ideas from every other society. This is how societies learned from each other and ideas spread and changed. This is always how societies flourish.

"Personally, I think these types of patents are very important. .... financing myself with my own savings. "

We don't have to wonder about anything or be hypothetical in any way when we discuss this topic. We know for a fact that software exploded when there were no patents. that settles the argument over whether software patents are needed for software developers to write software and invent.

I am actually living the life you say you would not want to live. No one is going to rip me off anytime soon and if they do feature copy, I will of course continue to innovate and they can play catch up.

There are a million reasons why two companies can appear to have identical offerings, yet one is successful the other is not. All of those reasons have to do with quality of service and goodness of product. Patents are a disincentive to innovate since they stifle competition.

But more to the point, you're directly avoiding the fact that we know that software doesn't need patent protection in order to be created, sold and used.

You also fail to address the fact that patents are 40 k per. A software program can have hundreds of patents. Where do you propose to get your financing from and why should you be forced to supplicate yourself as a creator to that 1% who have all the money merely for the privilege of creating? Do we do this to novelists? Play rights? Are their ideas less "novel"? No it's just a quirk of tradition that in these areas we don't have patents because clearly the idea of a plot twist and the idea for a " specific response to a user gesture ... " exist at about the same level of detail and in fact the novel plot twist is probably more innovative if audiences didn't see it coming.

"The idea of such a system is what takes time to develop and program. ...than I ever could. "

This is just an idea you have and in fact it doesn't work out this way for a lot of reasons. You can't just paint a picture of a hypothetical and then cite it as a reason for software patents. We know for a fact that software in a non-patent regime is created and sold by a large number of players of all sizes and it is NOT the case that without patents there is no competition.

Case in point - Linux. Microsoft's one big threat against Linux is patents. They will sue Linux over patent infringement. This is how big companies ACTUALLY use patents against smaller developers. I can give you a million cases where free / hobbyist software developers were forced to quit developing because they were threatened with patent infringement from a larger commercial company. If being big is such an advantage then why bother? Why not do as you imagine they could and simply crush them?

The reason is, there is no real advantage to being big in software. You're slower, You have committees. Large teams don't write faster than small teams, they write code more poorly and more slowly (see The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks for details)

The fact is, software is a great field for entrepreneurs because there is not the financial barrier to entrance. However, with patents, there's a multimillion dollar barrier to entry. It's called "getting sued". You can't even afford to defend yourself against a patent lawsuit, even if you're right. Neither can you afford to acquire them in the first place.

My startup would be killed in an instant if there were no software patents. Instead, what happens is that companies like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, etc... buy startups because they want to own the patents. This is a very good thing.

Yeah this is not a good thing. This means that only IBM and APPLE have product and everyone else is trying to make a patent hoping IBM will buy it. Essentially you're suggesting that ambitious developers be content with trying to live as software patent trolls (Google it) .

But truly creative people don't aspire to be trolls in the way you describe. They want to create a useful product .. they want to change things. If they can't create, if that becomes the perception, then truly creative people will do something else with their lives.

The rest of your post is just more of the same I'm afraid. You're hypothesizing in a way that is counter-factual and contrary to both the motivations of real software developers and to the real tale of the historical record regarding software development.

[-] -1 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

There are literally millions of ideas no one has "published" because software developers don't "publish" their "ideas" in "journals" as a matter of course ; they write code. If it doesn't appear in the "literature" then it's deemed not obvious.

I don't buy that. We're not talking about a few lines of code here and there, we're talking about an idea worth patenting because it is considered an important innovation or invention. If I program something very interesting, I patent it. I have done so before.

Do a Google search on "software patents" and the adjective of your choice - absurd, disgusting, crazy, obvious, one-click (Amazon) - and you'll see what I mean.

This is a weak argument. Almost anybody can patent anything, the point is it doesn't mean it will hold in court. What's important is the decision of a judge, not the clerk at the patenting office who's always more than happy to take your few bucks to file a new patent. More than 50% of filed patents are worthless in terms of the law.

Well this is exactly wrong. You could have patented the wheel. Definitely. Same thing with knife fork and spoon.

OK. I just realized you have no idea what patents mean or how they work.

A software program can have hundreds of patents. Where do you propose to get your financing from and why should you be forced to supplicate yourself as a creator to that 1% who have all the money merely for the privilege of creating? Do we do this to novelists? Play rights? Are their ideas less "novel"? No it's just a quirk of tradition that in these areas we don't have patents because clearly the idea of a plot twist and the idea for a " specific response to a user gesture ... "

OK. You really have no idea what software patents are and I assume you are not a programmer.

[-] 1 points by tr19 (4) 2 years ago

OK I didn't know you were a troll on this board.

Let's take care of you now then.

Troll said: "I don't buy that. We're not talking about a few lines of code here and there, we're talking about an idea worth patenting because it is considered an important innovation or invention. If I program something very interesting, I patent it. I have done so before."

You're a liar. You have never patented anything, ever.

You have no idea what constitutes a software patent or you wouldn't be talking about "a few lines of code" since code is not what's patented , whether a few lines or a lot of lines.

Almost anybody can patent anything, the point is it doesn't mean it will hold in court.

You are avoiding your opponents argument in true troll style. You cannot afford to show up in court and sustain a defense, irrespective of how worthy the patents are

No I really am a programmer. I think I've established that pretty well to this audience. You're a liar a poseur an antagonistic personality on a wide number of boards and a troll. All done wasting my time with you, just like everyone else.

[-] 0 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

If you were a programmer, you would use MarkDown to format your comments.

People who call others trolls and liars just because they disagree with them are the only trolls around here. Your last comment reads like it's coming from the pen of a 10 year old child.

[-] 2 points by turak (-812) 2 years ago

Don't you ever shut up?

You've been identified as a troll all over this forum on nearly every thread

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 2 years ago

And I thought you only like to beat up and abuse women? Oh thats right, you verbally harass and attack everyone on this board. You save the physical abuse for women.

http://occupywallst.org/forum/perfect-nearly-communism-in-america-exists/#comment-567173

[-] 2 points by turak (-812) 2 years ago

Another disgusting thing trolls like you do is operating under multiple false handles and false persona's. Your sick body houses a soul so putrid and filled with mental disease: it overflows onto your multiple-personality disorder psychosis.

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 2 years ago

Good God turak, you are too funny! Just stop physically abusing women ok. It's not a fair fight. Men have more muscular bodies than women.

[-] 2 points by turak (-812) 2 years ago

Who are you trying to fool? Jesus puke: trying for an Oscar makes you even more obvious. You multiple-handle trolls should all be kicked off this forum

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 2 years ago

Oh such drama! turak, you clearly are the more deserving of an Oscar! Really, please, I can't take it. I wouldn't feel right about it. You are the far superior drama queen than me!

[-] 1 points by turak (-812) 2 years ago

The point is: BOTH OF YOU ARE TROLLS Both of you are well-known trolls and are the same person The purpose of your posts is to destroy all discussion on this forum . You're naked. Exposed. My job is done here Goodbye

[-] 1 points by April (3196) 2 years ago

How can we "both" be trolls if we are the "same" person? I don't understand you????

Now how did you know I'm naked? It's true, I like typing in the nude. It feels really good. I'm very comfortable with my body. But how could you know this? You have some strange French massage therapist drama queen powers!

[-] 0 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

How much clap-trap does old disgruntled turak pack?

[-] 1 points by turak (-812) 2 years ago

The point is: BOTH OF YOU ARE TROLLS Both of you are well-known trolls and are the same person The purpose of your posts is to destroy all discussion on this forum . You're naked. Exposed. My job is done here Goodbye

[-] 1 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

Great, thanks for exposing us. Now that your job is done, can I expect that you'll throw your assumptions in another direction? There must be another case that your little MatLock brain is eager to solve? No? What's next on your plate? The theory of the Giza Pyramid? Is it a big battery, or an alien landing site?

[-] 1 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

Are we the same person? Did you verify this with the moderators, or are you simply making assumptions like any old over the hill and disgruntled conspiracy theorist who bent his mind all out of shape from his basement investigations during the JFK years?

I'm not sure who'd the troll. You seem like a pretty major jackass on this forum. You can't publish a comment without slanderous and gratuitous statements. I guess you find this clever, I just find it boring and predictable. Your old... hopelessly dépassé... you should go back to playing bridge with the other old folks in your home.

[-] 1 points by turak (-812) 2 years ago

The more you over-ACT the more obviously GUILTY you are. You have been identified and tagged. This whole forum knows you are a troll The only people who respond your trolling crap are innocent newcomers, and they soon find out what you are and they leave you alone also... That leaves you with only other trolls to babble with:
My job is done here. You have been exposed.

[-] 1 points by TheGreedyCapitalist (47) from Long Beach, CA 2 years ago

There are good and bad arguements to it, but in my oppinion you should be allowed to patent branded software, but once the company sells it to you they cannot limit the use.

Ex: You buy an antivirus software. They have the right to patent that software, but cannot limit it to use on one computer. However the resale of patented software still be unlawful.

[-] 0 points by SteveKJR (-497) 2 years ago

When a person buys a "antivirus software" as you mentioned, they buy a "users license" meaning that they can use that software on that one computer but cannot install it on another computer. The license agreement covers this in detail and it's illegal to do othewise.

[-] 1 points by TheGreedyCapitalist (47) from Long Beach, CA 2 years ago

Yeah I mixed some information up, that is my fault. Thanks for clearing that up.

[-] 0 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

You're confusing patents and licenses.

[-] 0 points by ronimacarroni (1089) 2 years ago

It sounds like a bad idea. Some people are probably upset because they have to pay for their software to use popular file formats/codecs that somebody else came up with and patented.

[-] 1 points by jimmycrackerson (940) from Blackfoot, ID 2 years ago

Why patent shit anyways? If I create something useful I'd like to share my ideas with as many people as possible, and encourage others add and incorporate their own creativity to improve what I had made even more useful than it was to begin with. There are nearly 7 billion wonderful minds on this planet. Instead of being so arrogant and greedy as to keep others in the dark, we should be striving to teach and better each other in every way possible. I'm tired of this childish mentality of no one being able to share. We're like a bunch of babies holding toys over each others heads, shouting "nah nah! look what I haaave! aand youuuu dooooon't!" Grow the fuck up America.

[-] 0 points by turak (-812) 2 years ago

Unfortunately, as you can see by their silence... they have no answer to common sense. You should know that the people who are posting here on this thread: all of them are trolls. None of them belong here.