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posted by janrinok on Thursday June 07 2018, @01:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the EU-got-something-right dept.

Gervase Markham has a thorough blog post about a case for the total abolition of software patents. He makes his case based on their complete lack of promotion of innovation and aims at identifying the principles involved. The feasibility of eliminating them may be a ways off due to the heavy politics involved so the idea may seem like a very distant policy possibility.

One immediate question is: how does one define a software patent? Where is the boundary? Various suggestions have been made, but actually, this question is not as important as it appears, for two reasons. Firstly, if we can demonstrate that there is a group of clearly identifiable patents which are harmful, or harmful when enforced in particular situations, then we can adopt the principle that such patents should not be granted or should not be enforceable, and where one draws the exact line between them and other patents becomes a secondary, practical, definitional issue beyond the initial principle. Secondly, some methods proposed for dealing with the problem of software patents do not actually require one to define what a software patent is. For example, one proposal is that one could change the law such that no program written to run on a general purpose computer could ever be said to be infringing a patent. In this case, you need a definition of "general purpose computer", but you don't need one for "software patent". Given these two points, I don't intend to spend time on definitional issues.

Currently software patents are a problem affecting the US and prohibited in the EU due to Article 52 of the European Patent Convention in 1973 (EPC). However, they are currently being pushed by the European Patent Office (EPO) in the name of "harmonization" despite being invalid. Many consider the fact that Europe remains unafflicted by software patents to be a moderating influence on the US market, holding back a free for all.


Original Submission

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Deadly Blow to the Pox of Software Patents in the EU 11 comments

The Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court of Germany (FCC) has delivered a decisive win for software users and developers around Europe. In a recently-published court decision, 2 BvR 739/17 (in German) from February, it has declared that the Act of Approval to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) is void. The Unified Patent Court has been widely considered to be a shell for bringing software patents into Europe through the side door, in violation of international treaties which prohibit by name patents on programs for computers.

The Act of Approval to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court ("the Act of Approval") to confer sovereign powers on the Unified Patent Court is void. In its outcome, it amends the Constitution in substantive terms, though it has not been approved by the Bundestag with the required two-thirds majority. This is what the Second Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court decided on a constitutional complaint in an order published today. In its reasoning, the Senate stated that, in order to safeguard their right to influence the process of European integration by democratic means, this, in principle, also entails the right of citizens that sovereign powers be conferred only in the ways provided for by the Basic Law. An act of approval to an international treaty that has been adopted in violation thereof cannot provide democratic legitimation for the exercise of public authority by the EU or any other international institution supplementary to or otherwise closely tied to the EU.

Once more for emphasis, software is protected by copyright law and that governs distribution. Patents govern usage and function, regardless of origin. So had the EPC gone through and forced software patents into Europe, neither clean room nor independent implementations would have protected either end-users, software-using businesses, or developers.

FFII Calls for Donations Against Unitary Software Patent Trolls After a Disastrous Bundestag Vote 53 comments

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure has a call for donations against the Unitary Software Patent Trolls after Thursday's disastrous Bundestag vote. On Thursday in Germany, the Bundestag voted on ratification of a proposal for a Unified Patent Court, largely seen as purely a vehicle for introducing software patents into Europe. As software patents in the US were on the way out, introducing them into Europe would bring them back into the US after further "harmonization". Thursday's vote is the result of the software patent lobby changing its strategy in Europe by creating a central patent court outside of the control of the individual member states under which it would make its own rules and avoid democratically elected legislators.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @01:48PM (15 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @01:48PM (#689851)

    If patents fail to promote innovation, as the author claims, and can even be harmful, then should not Europe outstrip America in terms of computational innovation? Do we observe that consequence in reality? If not, then the author's reasoning may be flawed.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:07PM (6 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:07PM (#689858)

      If Botswana was the only country in the world to abolish software patents, would it become the world leader in software?

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by loonycyborg on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:48PM (4 children)

        by loonycyborg (6905) on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:48PM (#689870)

        If Botswana would have the strongest patent laws in the world would it become the world leader in software?

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:05PM (3 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:05PM (#689898)

          The Botswanian Prince sure is raking in spam profits.

          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Thursday June 07 2018, @07:50PM (2 children)

            by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 07 2018, @07:50PM (#690041)

            Why are you blaming Botswana for the activities of Nigerians a couple thousand miles away?

            --
            The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
            • (Score: 2) by RandomFactor on Friday June 08 2018, @02:07AM

              by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 08 2018, @02:07AM (#690159) Journal

              I heard they were only 419 miles away.

              --
              В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:24AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:24AM (#690166)

              Yes. They are at fault for fixing a problem well within their reach. Screw those guys and their turkeys, I'm going home.

      • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:31PM

        by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:31PM (#690057) Journal

        If Botswana was the only country in the world to abolish software patents, would it become the world leader in software?

        If Botswana would have the strongest patent laws in the world would it become the world leader in software?

        In either case it would prove there's something Botswana with you [youtube.com].

        --
        This sig for rent.
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by canopic jug on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:17PM (6 children)

      by canopic jug (3949) on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:17PM (#689862) Journal

      No. It is your time scale that may be flawed. Software was ignored by copyright law at first and then during the growth decades was under copyright. It was only in recent years that it has also been encumbered by patents and the data is in on that. Software patents have hindered "innovation" [phys.org].

      --
      Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by exaeta on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:18PM (1 child)

        by exaeta (6957) on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:18PM (#689961) Homepage Journal

        I would like to see software patents disappear. They're a huge pain to deal with.

        --
        The Government is a Bird
        • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Friday June 08 2018, @12:55PM

          by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 08 2018, @12:55PM (#690291) Journal

          I like what Thomas Jefferson said on this subject. It's chiseled in stone on his monument:

          "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

          Software patents are a form of tyranny over the mind.

      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Friday June 08 2018, @08:36AM (3 children)

        by anubi (2828) on Friday June 08 2018, @08:36AM (#690243) Journal

        How would it restrict even paper-printed book authorship if every phrase used was subject to copyright, and even worse, submarine patent, and all sorts of attribution had to be applied to use the phrase.

        All this copyright crap has done is result in a bunch of stuff where no-one knows what's under the hood. The law intended to "protect" rightsholders is also providing a fertile breeding ground for malware writers, who use those same protections to keep people unaware of what they are doing while appearing to do something else.

        To me, this is like giving contract writers rights to use invisible ink, making it so I can't see what I am agreeing to, yet finding Congressmen to pen the law that will hold me to it.

        Personally, I feel my Congressmen sure dropped the ball on this one, signing the DMCA into law, without requiring those who use these laws to protect their interests be also held liable for what their "protected content" does. Much like a restaurant. We, the public, don't go into the kitchen to see how our food is prepared, but if we all come down with ptomaine poisoning, salmonella, whatever, some chef has a bit of explaining to do, and if it was found out he gave a bellyache to everyone so as to help out his friend who was selling bellyache remedy, all hell's gonna break loose.

        But no, our Congressmen rolled right over and gave 'em what they wanted not asking anything in return for us, the people who pulled the lever under their name, at the polls.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @08:45AM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @08:45AM (#690247)

          At least copyright is for the specific work.

          Patents on books would be something like "method of writing a love story".

          • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Friday June 08 2018, @09:48AM

            by canopic jug (3949) on Friday June 08 2018, @09:48AM (#690257) Journal

            Yep. Furthermore there are only a few basic plots in literature [ipl.org]. It would be within reach economically to patent them, since the US now allows software and business methods to be patented. Some corporation or individual could go out and file a patent on each one and then go after the small authors first, gather a war chest to take on progressively bigger authors or script writers or broadcasters. Since the patents apply to use, there's no need to limit the attacks to just the producers, the distrubutors, and audience are just as culpable economically.

            As someone else pointed out here "innovation" is often defined by the number of patents granted in a field. If you eliminate that tautology is is clear that not only do they harm software severely their benefit can be called into question in many other fields as well.

            --
            Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
          • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Friday June 08 2018, @01:40PM

            by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Friday June 08 2018, @01:40PM (#690304) Homepage
            Oh you cynic - patents are way more complex than that.
            Claim 1) Method for having a boy meet a girl
            Claim 2) Method for having a boy fall in love with a girl
            Claim 3) Method and aparatus for having a girl fall in love with a boy
            Claim 4) ...
            --
            Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by goodie on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:33PM

      by goodie (1877) on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:33PM (#689915) Journal

      Funny thing is that most papers will measure innovation by counting the number of patents :D

  • (Score: 4, Disagree) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:51PM (15 children)

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:51PM (#689872) Homepage Journal

    Without the MP3 patents - there were I think three dozen of them - we wouldn't have Ogg Vorbis.

    The problems I see with many patents are found among most kinds of patents, not just software: patents must be "novel and unobvious". Many patents fail that test and so should be voided by the courts.

    There is also the procedure for making the patented invention. I don't remember the exact words but more or less that procedure must enable someone skilled in the required trade to make that invention themselves. That requirement is often not met because those instructions are often incredibly complex and obfuscated. I'd like to see some patents - not just software patents but others - voided.

    I invented an algorithm and a file format for lossless compression of bitmap imagtes. My particular invention is extremely fast for decompression. There's quite a lot of money-making applications, for example weather satellite imagery.

    I invented and "brought to practice" my compressor in 1995. Under the patent law of the time I had just one year to file my application once I brought it to practice. So my original invention cannot be patented.

    Get This: It's A Trade Secret! That's why I support software patents: they eventually expire. Patents enable us to use products that would otherwise be kept secret forever.

    One can patent improvements. I've thought of numerous improvements to my original compressor. I'm going to patent those improvements.

    Nolo Press' "Patent It Yourself" gets an 11 Thumbs Up review at Amazon. After I think my application is ready, I'll pay a patent attorney to critique it. The usual advise is that if you read Patent It Yourself you only need to pay your lawyer $300 to approve your application.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:54PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:54PM (#689873)
      Without software patents we wouldn’t NEED Ogg Vorbis! Without patents the algorithm would have been free for anyone to study and improve upon, and we would likely have had better compression algorithms thanks to that. Shoulders of giants and all.
      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Friday June 08 2018, @08:42AM

        by anubi (2828) on Friday June 08 2018, @08:42AM (#690244) Journal

        Standards should not be patentable. Dammit, the whole purpose of standards is interoperability.

        Employers would be furious if workmen took to using unique languages to communicate with each other on the job, even if they communicated with their supervisor in English.

        I've seen employers here in Southern California go around hiring Mexicans, but insist that all communication in the workplace be in English. Even if they were just talking amongst themselves. The employer likely thinks they may be planning something that they don't want the boss privy to???

        Well, a lot of us feel that same way about all these "rightsholders" that coin cryptic protocols and have already demonstrated being sneaky.

        And it bugs me a lot to see our Congress backing them up.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @03:20PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @03:20PM (#689882)

      Your post is awesome. An obvious cutting acidic sourmander sarcastic slice into the current patent stupidity affecting legal systems across the globe while avoiding being an obvious troll. Well done you. I'll pay this

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by loonycyborg on Thursday June 07 2018, @03:21PM (1 child)

      by loonycyborg (6905) on Thursday June 07 2018, @03:21PM (#689883)

      What's the advantage of this patent red tape compared to defensive publication? You'd have to act like patent troll to monetize it in any way. Otherwise your patent will be just a part of some patent "war chest" that is cross-licensed to everyone anyway. In practice this only prevents new entrants on the market because they can be easily killed off with those patent portfolios, unless they play ball. So patents are basically tool of control, for existing corps to only allow their inbred relatives to make new businesses, basically to make barrier to entry high enough.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:27AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:27AM (#690167)

        Don't feed the sarcasm

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Nerdfest on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:45PM (4 children)

      by Nerdfest (80) on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:45PM (#689931)

      There are *exceedingly* few bits of software where I think to myself "I have no Idea how that's done". That's me. I do business software, scientific, database stuff, web stuff, a bit of hardware, etc. Someone who does video processing, pattern recognition, etc would cover another *huge* swath of software. How many things could truly not be replicated by a person truly "skilled in the art"?

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DannyB on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:26PM (3 children)

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:26PM (#689966) Journal

        That is a very important argument.

        Many of the things patented ARE in fact obvious. It's just that for the longest time, nobody thought they should race to the patent office to prevent other people from using obvious techniques.

        Some argue, it is only obvious in hindsight. if it were so obvious, why weren't others doing it? Maybe they were. Maybe the entire industry was on the brink of doing the same thing. Example: Amazon's 1-click patent. If Amazon hadn't done that on its website first, someone else would have within six months. It's an idea that would come to anyone in a similar business. What if I made it as easy as possible for people to buy stuff on my site? Is there anything easier than one click to purchase?

        --
        In the name of the lollipop guild, we wish to welcome you to munchkin land!
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JNCF on Thursday June 07 2018, @10:21PM (1 child)

          by JNCF (4317) on Thursday June 07 2018, @10:21PM (#690092) Journal

          What if I made it as easy as possible for people to buy stuff on my site? Is there anything easier than one click to purchase?

          *files patent for no-click purchasing*

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:33AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:33AM (#690169)

            Denied!
            I walked into the cafe today for my usual. The lady looked at me but did not stop7 taking to a customer at the counter. The barista guy made myusual and put it in front of me. He took my cash and gave me change. The Cafe llady said to me that they guessed my coffee so no need to ask.

            Patent denied! Not innovative just because it is on the Internet".

            In other news, the bacon and egg combo special looked good today. I missed breakfast on the way out. Would have been nice. They never asked me what I wanted to order. Just put it in front of me.

        • (Score: 1) by anubi on Friday June 08 2018, @08:59AM

          by anubi (2828) on Friday June 08 2018, @08:59AM (#690251) Journal

          To me, "one click purchase" isn't much different from the HTML checkbox.

          Click it once, its not ticked. Click it again, off.

          As far as I am concerned, a pure "one click purchase" can be deadly, as one can mistakenly click when attempting to scroll the page or the like, especially on touch tablets.

          Gotta be at least a confirmation step.

          I would hate to find myself ordering two dozen adult diapers when what I was trying to do was get the ad off my screen.

          Gee, can I patent using a screwdriver to pry open a can of paint? Isn't it kinda obvious? All that patent will do is make it so any painter using the tool that way has got to pay me.

          Isn't "extortion" or "theft" a more fitting descriptor for an act of Congress codifying my business model into statute?

          --
          "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:57PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @04:57PM (#689940)

      Without the MP3 patents - there were I think three dozen of them - we wouldn't have Ogg Vorbis.

      Let's test your logic on another topic:

      Without Hitler, there would not have been a victory over Hitler. The victory over Hitler was good. Therefore Hitler was good.

      I'm not sure many people would agree with this argumentation …

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by stormreaver on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:13PM (1 child)

      by stormreaver (5101) on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:13PM (#690047)

      Without the MP3 patents - there were I think three dozen of them - we wouldn't have Ogg Vorbis.

      Without the MP3 patents, Ogg Vorbis wouldn't have been necessary. The MP3 codec would have been built upon, its deficiencies reduced or eliminated, and an improved (and mostly likely compatible) version of the codec would have been in popular use. The MP3 patent retarded innovation.

      Many patents fail that test and so should be voided by the courts.

      You just made a great argument for abolishing ALL patents. The courts spend WAY too much time on patent cases, taking away precious resources from real issues. Then there's the billions of dollars being drained from the economy to fight about who gets the exclusive right to sell and use specific large numbers. Software patents are harmful to the country.

      I invented and "brought to practice" my compressor in 1995.

      First, I can guarantee that your compressor is insignificant when compared to the existing body of NEVER PATENTED work. Second, I can also guarantee that you would have come nowhere close to ANY type of reasonable compressor without relying on the huge body of NEVER PATENTED work. If the sum knowledge of compressor algorithms was tied up in patents, we wouldn't have a software industry. Only a few rich corporations would have the money to pay the licensing fees.

      Get This: It's A Trade Secret!

      That's no different from what we have now. Patent expiration is largely irrelevant, as most patents are written so that someone skilled in the art could not reproduce the patented subject matter after the patent expires. What we have now is a trade secret system with legally enforced exclusivity. These patents are extremely wordy without actually telling us anything useful, and so generic as to avoiding actually stating any specific claims that would satisfy the basic patent requirements.

      • (Score: 2) by melikamp on Friday June 08 2018, @04:24AM

        by melikamp (1886) on Friday June 08 2018, @04:24AM (#690197) Journal

        To add to this lucid analysis, we could as well start from a different position entirely, if we want to be fair, that is, and if we accept that the only useful patent law is the one which actually benefits the public, as opposed to a very small percentage of individual inventors and a few patent-hoarding companies.

        The patent law, regardless of its stated purpose (here in US, to "promote the progress of science and useful arts" and yadda yadda) can in fact only be directly applied to stop the sharing and implementation of useful ideas, which is painfully apparent in every single court case involving patents. A patent is a state-granted monopoly on manufacturing and selling certain kinds of products, and as such, it is antithetical to both the free market philosophy, whereas manufacturers of consumer goods compete on level ground, and the notion that the cultural/scientific heritage should be communally owned and freely shared. The burden of proving that patents do anything at all for progress/innovation of any kind should be on the patent proponents. Ideally, we need to abolish patents immediately (though it's OK letting the existing ones to expire normally) and have these clowns run a test in one particular state, say, Texas. Enforce patents in Texas and nowhere else, and wait till it surges ahead in innovation.

        If this idea sounds laughable, it's because it obviously won't work, and will almost certainly have dismal consequences for both the state of R&D and the consumer goods prices in that state. And in fact, judging by all the economics research I ever came across, patents seem to change the kinds of innovations (think industry focusing on symptom relief instead of cancer treatments, and in general on things which maximize profits via patents), but not the quantity of innovations. Whatever studies have been done, they seem to indicate no effect or slight negative effect (read: patents are slightly bad for innovation). So the only sensible course of action is it take them to the curb as soon as politically feasible.

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Friday June 08 2018, @01:48PM

      by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Friday June 08 2018, @01:48PM (#690311) Homepage
      > Without the MP3 patents - there were I think three dozen of them - we wouldn't have Ogg Vorbis.

      Unfounded assertion. You seem to be implying that in a field which isn't hamstrung by patents innovation would halt, but there's absolutely no reason why that should be the case at all.
      --
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:59PM (10 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:59PM (#689874)

    I think that most of the suggestions this author has would push people back into using trade secrets to protect their software. It's not like development is cheap, so a company would have a strong incentive to not to publish source or disclose how they did something. As a company in that market, your best choices would be to be incredibly lazy about what you implement (keep your R&D costs low), or to keep everything secret (keep competitor R&D costs high). Neither helps the public.

    The hard/lucky part is almost never the code, but the idea. It might take a half hour to solve something, but it might take several days or weeks to brute force it if you don't have that spark immediately. Getting that idea to the public at some point was always the goal of patents. It's not quite as good as unencumbered source code of the thing, but having the idea be unencumbered after some years is pretty close.

    Reducing the length of time would help tremendously though. Something on the order of a year or two is probably enough to protect the investment made unless you're bad at spending money. 20 years is absolutely absurd - we aren't sinking billions into some factory to implement this stuff. If you do have a huge up front cost (e.g. AWS), it encourages you to patent novel features every year or two to keep ahead of your other competitors, rather than just squatting on some core patents forever.

    You'd also need to cut down on the idiocy that is the "... but on a computer!" patent, or the trivial software patent. Those shouldn't exist in the first place, but the patent office will always make mistakes. It just needs to be easier to get them invalidated without a massive legal fight.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:00PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:00PM (#689941)

      Well, if you believe others won't figure it out, keeping it secret is still the better strategy. Software patents are exactly used for stuff of the sort that others might figure out independently. Because, face it, if you don't expect anyone to figure it out, it is a waste of money to protect against it (not to mention the loss you incur by making the idea public when you could have kept it for yourself even longer).

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @06:50PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @06:50PM (#690013)

        If you're absolutely sure they won't figure it out, it's good to keep it secret. You're right.

        But if you suspect that they MIGHT figure it out, because you decided to research how to skin a cat one day and found only one way to do it, you need to defensively file. The first-to-file nonsense we have now means that someone can sue you for infringing on their cat skinning patent even if you've got a old pelt sitting behind you.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:40AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:40AM (#690172)

        But but but my swipe to unlock dohacky is pure innovation the result of years of research millions of dollars so many test cases and lots and lots of alcohol
        WHAT ABOUT MY INVESTMENT???

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @09:04AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @09:04AM (#690252)

          Sure would like to backbill that swipe to unlock rightsholder for all my butt-dialed calls.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by exaeta on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:21PM (3 children)

      by exaeta (6957) on Thursday June 07 2018, @05:21PM (#689964) Homepage Journal

      Ok speaking as a software developer... you're wrong. The idea is the EASY part. The code is the HARD part.

      Because this is the way software works, patents are terrible.

      I think you're a patent troll, own any patents yourself? Eh?

      --
      The Government is a Bird
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:15PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:15PM (#690048)

        I also do software, though I tend towards the lower level side of things. If the code is the easy part, you shouldn't have any patents on it. I agree with that.

        However, there's still software out there that requires getting a bunch of people in a room for several days to figure out how the thing can even work rather than arguing about what libraries to use. If you have to invent an algorithm to make it work, and that algorithm is generically useful, I'd rather see that patented with a relatively short duration than stay stuck in closed-source hell for eternity. It's really sad to see happen.

        And no, I don't own any patents. My name is on a few garbage ones that I don't own, because when I was still working for corporations it wasn't uncommon to slap the name of everyone who was in said meetings on the patent. I don't know if they troll with them or not.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:16PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:16PM (#690051)

        You're both wrong! And you're both right. I think you two are in disagreement about what "idea" and what "code" is.

        GP: The "idea" is the algorithm or process to approach to a problem (e.g. things like "to render determine collisions in 3d engines more efficiently, invert the problem to describe what is not colliding as that's a much smaller problem space.") The "code" is implementing that idea. Anybody can write code, but it takes a smart person to figure out the correct approach to take to a complicated problem.

        Parent: The "idea" is an nebulous thing which everybody wants (e.g. things like "let's make an app which lets people see all the dresses which is their size on sale in a 5-minute walking radius"). The "code" is the actual program which runs. Anybody can think of something they'd like to have, but it takes a dedicated person to actually write the code to do it.

        I think both of them are correct statements.

        • (Score: 1) by exaeta on Saturday June 09 2018, @01:30PM

          by exaeta (6957) on Saturday June 09 2018, @01:30PM (#690785) Homepage Journal

          Well, I kind of agree with you. There are complicated data structures and algorithms that might be patent worthy. The problem is, in practice, software patents almost always apply to the latter case, the stupidly obvious things that get patented astound me.

          Part of the problem, I suppose, it's that it's impossible for a layperson to judge how difficult or complex a software concept is. They don't have the mathematical or computational background to understand these things.
          There's also the issue that a problem can appear complex when viewed from one perspective but simple from another perspective.

          Consider a "hash-radix table" (hadix table) which is rougly speaking a hash table indexed by a varying subset of the hash and key value where the buckets are AVL-trees that can be split and merged using AVL-tree split/merge operations and stored in a deque/monoque container yielding O(1) average for lookup, insert, and delete but O(log n) in the worst case, but with some bucket grouping optimizations for cache line efficiency.

          Describing the intricacies of how it works, though doable, would be complicated. That doesn't make the structure non-obvious from my perspective though, as most of the aspects of the structure are just obvious design choices to satisfy a really niche use case (getting O(1) average case performance while maintaining O(log N) worst case everything, at the cost of bad constant factor to performance in typical workloads).

          But given that it is complicated, I could patent it, because complicated must mean it's novel right? Nobody thought of it before me right? Well the thing is, turns out, nobody actually needs the thing, so that explains why nobody developed it first. But what would happen if I patented it and then in the future some new tech creates a need for a structure with O(1) average unordered lookup/delete/insert and O(log N) worst case lookup/insert/delete? Now all of a sudden even though this structure was obvious from the goal, you can argue it wasn't obvious because nobody figured it out for so long! It also sounds complicated, and a "programmer of ordinary skill" probably couldn't come up with this structure, to be quite honest. That being said, not only could most highly skilled data structure developers create this structure, given the design constraints, they'd probably come up with something extremely similar. And that's a problem.

          The software patent system, even when not used to patent obvious and stupid shit, encourages developing niche algorithms with no practical use case, because no corporation is going to invest money to create a data structure that has properties that aren't currently needed. There's also the problem that there will only be a very small number of abstract methods to accomplish the same goal that are actually efficient at that goal. When necessity comes around there's a submarine patent, and innovation stops since the gain of the invention is usually trivial in comparison to the cost of patent litigation or patent licensing.

          Unfortunately, the costs of software patents go beyond the direct economic costs, which are actually quite minimal when the patents are licensed at a reasonable rate. The real problem, is that even when royalty costs are minimal, the flexibility costs remain burdensome. When software is patentable, you can't just say "I wrote this software from scratch, so it's okay to sell", I have to worry about what patents my software might possibly infringe. There are many different ways to describe the same set of actions using jargon from various programming subfields, and I can't know them all. Software patents can be used not just to extract money as a return for investment, but to shut down competition, source code sharing, and non-profit programming.

          The MP3 patents didn't just provide royalties for MP3 code, they shut non-profits developers out of working with high speed audio. Yes, we ended up with OGG Vorbis thanks to that, but that was wasted development effort that could have went into improving upon the ideas in MP3 instead of creating a completely new audio compression algorithm.

          Non-profits and open source are forced into working on "let's figure out a new way to do X that isn't patented!" instead of "lets improve how society does X!". The end results?

          First, fragmentation. Instead of "audio can be stored in MP3", companies say "well MP3 is great, but we don't want to pay for the patent license, so we'll develop our own audio codec". Hence we got a bazillion audio codecs until OGG Vorbis+FLAC came along (and thus largely eliminated the need to develop a new audio codec to avoid paying patent royalties). We have the same thing going on with video. Instead of improving the same ideas (which mind you, is much more efficient) we have a bunch of programming "redoing" the same thing in a different way so that they don't have to pay patents.

          And lets be honest, the real reason big companies adopt patented video/audio codecs/file formats is to lock out competition with less deep pockets, not because the advantages are super compelling. That's sad. Compatibility breaks are a huge issue that crushes competition. People wont switch products when all their video files wont open in the new product, because the video format is patented and the other competitor doesn't have a license (you might consider this problem trivial, but to people without much technical knowledge, this is the sort of thing that keeps them locked-in to a vendor with terrible products). What about open source, where getting a patent license is basically impossible? Software patents lock people out of industries because they don't have the capability to do "X" and the way software is bundled with hardware now-a-days makes the situation pretty terrible.

          Software Patents are a solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist. This is why they should be eliminated. Unfortunately, it's hard to convey to laypeople that if we just got rid of software patents most technical problems they experience would evaporate within a decade and that they'd have the option of choosing whatever software they want to use instead of being locked into choosing between a couple large corps. A lot of people only understand patents from the innovation side, and don't see or understand the socio-economic harm that occurs due to indirect effects. While software patents do encourage innovation, they also discourage it under different circumstances, and the amount of innovation discouraged is larger than the amount spurred by software patents.

          While I am open to the idea that some sort of software patent might make sense, the way they are now functioning makes me think that the best solution is to eliminate them entirely and figure out if the are areas where copyright and necessity-of-function provide insufficient incentives for the development of new algorithms and systems. But I seriously doubt that such a thing would ever happen, after all history has shown us that even when algorithms are patented, if they are important, free alternatives are usually developed long before the patent expires.

          --
          The Government is a Bird
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Snotnose on Thursday June 07 2018, @06:39PM (1 child)

      by Snotnose (1623) on Thursday June 07 2018, @06:39PM (#690003)

      I think that most of the suggestions this author has would push people back into using trade secrets to protect their software.

      I'd rather have that than what we have now, where basically 2 lawyers go into a room, drop their stacks of patents on the table, and whoever has the tallest stack wins.

      Not to mention submarine patents, where the owner does nothing until they notice someone else "infringing", then call the lawyers.

      Software patents, like business patents, are bullshit pure and simple.

      --
      Why is tamales pronounced tamales but females is pronounced females instead of females?
      • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:19PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:19PM (#690052)

        I'd rather have that than what we have now, where basically 2 lawyers go into a room, drop their stacks of patents on the table, and whoever has the tallest stack wins.

        Do they even drop the patents anymore? I thought they just dropped stacks of money until one side flinched.

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