Summary: A look at some new articles about software patents in the United States
THERE ARE some new comparisons out there which show the difference between the European and United States-based patent systems. Great risk remains however because these two might be combined in a sense [1, 2]; that’s the plan of proponents of software patents anyway. From Science Business: [via Digital Majority]
One of the fears – particularly in the software community – is that globalization of patents will mean dumbing down to the system in the US, where the bar for what can be patented is set lower than in Europe.
In the EU the system not only sets tougher standards for applicants, it’s also much more expensive to litigate here than stateside, partly because you have to fight it out in several different national patent courts, rather than in just one in the US.
IAM Magazine, which is pro-patents and litigation, shows that the US system is more patent-happy and trigger-happy when it comes to litigation (that’s where lawyers like the IAM crowd make money). Here is why, based on the experience of SAS:
Even in Europe’s most expensive jurisdiction, the UK, it is very unlikely to cost more than £1 million ($1.5 million) to litigate a case. In Germany, France and Italy you are looking at perhaps $200,000 to $300,000 at the most. In the US, the latest I saw was that on average getting a first instance decision in a big case will give you little change from $5million. In other words, SAS could litigate a case in the UK, France, Germany and Italy, probably throw in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands, and still spend less than it would cost to litigate in the United States. But even were it to cost $10 million and you won, it would be money well spent if you ended up fighting off a competitor and protecting or establishing a revenue stream.
If legal action is discouraged, how it that a bad thing? Was the introduction of patents intended to spur lawyers rather than scientists?
Watch what type of redundant software patents IBM is filing for:
IBM Wants Patent For Regex SSN Validation?
“What do you get when you combine IBM contributors with the Dojo Foundation? A patent for Real-Time Validation of Text Input Fields Using Regular Expression Evaluation During Text Entry, assuming the newly-disclosed Big Blue patent application passes muster with the USPTO. IBM explains that the invention of four IBMers addresses a ‘persistent problem that plagues Web form fields’ — e.g., ‘a social security number can be entered with or without dashes.’ A non-legalese description of IBM’s patent-pending invention can be found in The Official Dojo Documentation. While IBM has formed a Strategic Partnership With the Dojo Foundation which may protect one from a patent infringement lawsuit over validating phone numbers, concerns have been voiced over an exception clause in IBM’s open source pledge.”
Wired Magazine has this short new article about the genesis of software patents (some time before I was born). Here is where we stand today:
In 2007 alone, nearly 39,000 software patents were issued in the United States.