05.17.08

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Patent Sanity in the United States: A Lost Cause?

Posted in America, Asia, Europe, Patents at 7:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Confirming what was already known (to an extent), the government refuses to put its weight behind a big push that some say could weaken or eliminate software patents, which are anticompetitive by nature. Here is an analysis.

Predictably, this has led to a flood of new patent applications. Microsoft held about 600 patents the day State Street was decided. Today it holds nearly 9,000 patents. Amazon’s much-derided one-click patent was approved the year after the decision. Patent litigation in the software industry has exploded with firms facing lawsuits over patents covering extremely broad software concepts such as wireless e-mail, web embedding, and converting IP addresses to phone numbers. Technically, these patents cover general purpose computers executing the algorithms described in the patent rather than the algorithms themselves. But because no one executes such algorithms with pen and paper, the net result has been to give the patent holders effective monopolies on the algorithms themselves.

[...]

Several parties submitted briefs urging the Federal Circuit to reject software patents outright, but none of them were invited to participate in the oral arguments.

Dana Blankenhorn already heralds the death of this patent reform.

The death of the Patent Reform Act in the Senate spells hard times for open source.

That’s because one of the act’s main aims was to end “forum shopping,” the practice of filing lawsuits in, say, the Eastern District of Texas, which never saw a patent plaintiff it didn’t like.

The act would have also streamlined reviews of patent claims and made some other important reforms. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing.

[...]

To me, the most effective form of patent reform was not on the table. That is, eliminate software patentability entirely. Copyright provides plenty of protection, and what you’re patenting, in the end, is math.

It truly is about mathematics and it turns out that an entire book was published around this theme. [via Digital Majority]

Unlike Tim Lee, I haven’t read Ben Clemens’ book Math You Can’t Use. Indeed, I just now heard of it for the first time. But good title! And it’s a good subject for a book — the case against software patents.

As the failed (or still failing) reform comes to show, heavy politics continue to reign while legalised bribery (sometimes known as “lobbying” [1, 2, 3, 4]), such as this new massive disclosure just comes to show. [via Digital Majority]

Cephalon spent $512,000 on lobbying in first quarter

[...]

The Frazer, Pa.-based company lobbied Congress on a bill aimed at updating the U.S. patent system. Software and computer companies supported the bill that passed the House last year, saying it would cut down on frivolous patent-infringement lawsuits. But the pharmaceutical industry argued it would weaken patent protections on drugs by reducing infringement penalties. The bill has stalled in the Senate.

Those who have the money make the rules, in order to ensure they carry on receiving more money. Attempts are being made at the moment to force software patent upon India and upon the EU, using dirty politics as a back door that dodges science. It’s not too late to respond. It’s not programmers who are voluntarily writing code that are “zealots” and “communists”; in fact, some of the world’s biggest criminals happen to be wearing suits and shades… of hypocrisy.

“Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.”

Richard Stallman

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