EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

11.10.09

Bilski Hearing Starts Well for Abolishers of Software Patents

Posted in Courtroom, Law, Patents at 3:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bill ski

Summary: Early reports suggest that judges are hostile towards abstract patents like Bilski’s

Bilski can end software patents, as we last noted yesterday. In fact, Biz Journals has just published an article with an ambitious headline:

Supreme Court may invalidate software patents

Acquiring, using and defending software patents has become big business — sometimes playing a vital role in a company’s success — but that could all change if the Supreme Court decides software can no longer be patented.

The first word from the Bilski hearing can be found in SCOTUS Blog.

It took less than two minutes Monday for the high-stakes patent case in the Supreme Court to descend to the level of questioning whether “Lorenzo Jones” could get a patent on one of his hare-brained inventions, if Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw could get one on their theory about managing business risk. “Jones,” an old-time radio figure who thought his creations in a garage would bring him fame and fortune, made an appearance in the first question, by Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Legal Times argues that “Justices overall seemed hostile to a broad view of patent eligibility that would include intangible business processes.” To quote more broadly:

The long-awaited Supreme Court patent law showdown in Bilski v. Kappos is over, and it not looking good for business method patents — or at least the one at issue in the case. Justices overall seemed hostile to a broad view of patent eligibility that would include intangible business processes.

A big fan of software patents was actually there, and he independently indicates that the SCOTUS disliked the Bilski patent. This is good. There were also many people in there. To quote: “Now as I was ushered into the courtroom with other members of the press I was surprised to see that myself, and about ten others, were given limited view seating, sitting behind Romanesque columns adorned with velvet maroon drapes with gold braided strands touching the floor.

“US Supreme Court openly takes the piss out of Bilski’s lawyer,” asserts our reader David Gerard, who read some of the above. Here is the transcript [PDF] and another analysis of the Bilski v. Kappos hearing, courtesy of Patently-O. Thanks to Geza Giedke for the links.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

2 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    November 10, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Gravatar

    In fairness, subjecting an arguing lawyer to that sort of thing is standard in the Supreme Court. They are, after all, there to beat the crap out of your arguments. If you don’t leave feeling like they’re going to have you hanged for the sake of it, they’re arguably not doing their job.

    We’ll see if they subject the defendants to similar.

  2. Jose_X said,

    November 10, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Gravatar

    Just posted here http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2009/11/supreme-court-hears-bilski-v-kappos.html . [There were interesting comments there.]

    *******
    Part of the problem is that we are ignoring “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.”

    When trying to answer this question, you have to take context into account, context that includes things like who are the parties being affected negatively and what are the costs involved to the players (and by extension, to society).

    Software enables a much larger group of players to participate than is the case in many other types of fields of engineering/science/manufacturing, and all but one of which who would be affected very negatively by patent monopoly grants. The cost structure for software is very different. The essence of software is very different: you can’t clone physical objects, modify them, and redistribute them at costs of zero time and money.

    Why is this context important? Because in some cases, the gains from monopolies might help to promote the progress — if the costs of the monopolies are in practice not that large; however, when many’s hands are bound, every second that thus passes is a loss. Few have access to steel manufacturing plants independent of patents, for example. Conversely, many have access to software. The worlds best software can be created tomorrow in 10 garages around the world in cooperation through the Internet. And almost surely, they will have to reuse many many ideas from others, ideas that perhaps they derived themselves but which likely could have been the subject of patents within the last few years.

    There are motivations for creating software beyond to make a buck. While true for most items, software can be distributed and consumed at virtually zero marginal cost. This is a characteristic of a “product” unheard of in the past (and enabled by the Internet). If this applied to cogs, we’d find many people creating great new cogs for new uses and giving them away (building a business in some other way.. or as charity) because this would cost nothing except their time. Of course, in practice this is not possible and patents on cogs do get in the way. Yes, software is different. It’s literature and math no matter how many computers it helps drive. Patenting software stifles and hurts many that would otherwise contribute much to society.

    If there are a few special cases deemed worthy, then the government can give prizes or other forms of incentives that don’t curtail the rights of others. Unlike with free public electromagnetic spectrum or with water or land, the use of software can be done virtually by anyone to any degree without negatively impacting anyone else. And where this isn’t the case, exceptions can be made on a case by case basis (eg, yelling “fire” in a crowded location).

    Also, we are ignoring things like the ridiculous broad scope of patents or the fact that with many more inventors participating, even impressive inventions get rediscovered fairly routinely.

    In fact, the patent system (broad scope == more power) rewards those that know the details less well over those that take the time to learn more details. The initial hare to hop along to the USPTO gets dominance over the careful tortoise. And the dominance is very very significant and is over many many unforeseen future inventions over many many years.

    Those not patenting, and there are real costs in time and money to patent, especially if you want it for defensive purposes, are getting a very very short end of the stick against those with patents. A broad patent lets you stop the world. A much more brilliant prior art (without patent) means next to zilch as you aren’t even guaranteed to be able to develop your invention further if patent holders come and get in your way. So they leveraged your brilliance and extra time and effort for $0 and virtually no restrictions while their mediocrity and rush catapults them into monopolies over your progress and over the progress of many other inventors and their unforeseen inventions.

    Getting back to context, the Internet allows collaboration that did not exist before. Patents before made a little more sense. Today, the costs (from monopolies) to impede the otherwise gains from the Internet are that much greater than in the past. Progress is not promoted as frequently as it might have in the past (no matter the invention).

    Today’s patent rules encourage individuals to optimize being first no matter if 1000 similar inventions would occur that year. Even unobvious inventions can get reinvented in spades over the course of a single year, much less over 20 years. And because of the broad scope, that patented vague idea can stop many amazing inventions that would otherwise follow, inventions related only because someone was able to use English to express in concise form the commonalities among that potentially very broad class of inventions. The general terms require much less knowledge than the intricate details. In short, today’s rules encourage patent writers to look at what others are doing (easier to do today because so much gets created and posted on the Internet) and then generalize and beat them all to the USPTO to gain their supermonopolies.

    Finally, I do believe that much new hardware should not be patentable is there is no new technology at play (if there is, then that aspect can get a patent). Merely the expression in hardware (as in software) of ideas without leveraging any new physical transformation is but a rewriting of the same physical storyline. Many people daily add creative actions to their jobs. Should they all get patents (as many of the justices pointed out)? Merely moving circuits around into a new configuration is a new use of an existing technology: the configuration is novel (as is math and literature and many things in life that many people create every minute) but the machine has no novel transformations, etc.. However, we may still allow a limited form of monopoly in the cases of material goods in order to help offset manufacturing costs. Then again, there is first to market and trade secret protections (and copyright protections) already at play. These are motivation to in fact innovate and create new products (even if we only look at monetary motivations). This inventor/manufacturer did not have to invest in new technology but merely produced a new flavor using existing technology.

    Note that software (and eg hardware designed through verilog using existing models and technological processes) works off a fixed abstract machine. There is however some unavoidable degree of engineering around imperfections when new processes are developed. This latter does support that some degree of monopoly protection might help. Otherwise, it’s a trivial step to convert the ideal software creation into a product or into a use. There are no surprises and extra engineering needed when we attach the physical machine.

    Summary: don’t curtail the mind or hand-cuff inventors. Software on a PC and even in new gadgets (depending on circumstances) is a very low barrier playing field. This means monopolies will have huge costs. Gain 10 monopolies (things you could still do without a patent system) but lose many many times that number in things you can’t do but otherwise could were it not for the patents others took out. With a low barrier playing field, patents remove/abridge many many rights; they exact a huge cost.

    All monopolies not justified by the Constitution (eg, if they don’t promote the progress of science and useful arts) abridge individual’s rights and hence violate the 1st, 9th, and/or 10th Amendments.

    I am not a lawyer. A flaw in the above argument should not condemn the rest. I also rushed this post. There is so much to be said over this tragedy that is software patents.

    Thanks for taking the time to hear me out.

    PS: FOSS is a proof of concept of the costs involved and injustices that would occur (to society and to individual’s rights) if we allow software monopolies. While some painstakingly build, others summarize those inventions and hence gain supermonopoly rights. And the bias is clearly towards the wealthy, discriminating against not just those that prefer to develop inventions instead of patents but against those with lower monetary resources.
    *******

What Else is New


  1. Leaked: Boards of Appeal Face 'Exile' or 'Extradition' in Haar After Standing up to Battistelli

    A look at some of the latest moves at the European Patent Office (EPO), following Battistelli's successful coup d’état which brought the EPO into a perpetual state of emergency that perpetuates Battistelli's totalitarian powers



  2. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comes Across as Against Software Patents, Relates to the EPO as Well

    Some analysis of the input from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with focus on the EPO and software patents



  3. In the US, Patent Trolls Engage in Patent Wars and Shakedowns, Whereas in China/Korea Large Android OEMs Sue One Another

    Highlighting some of the differences between the US patent system and other patent systems



  4. Links 24/7/2016: Elive 2.7.1 Beta, New Flatpaks and Snaps

    Links for the day



  5. Links 23/7/2016: Leo Laporte on GNU/Linux, Dolphin Emulator’s Vulkan Completion

    Links for the day



  6. Links 22/7/2016: Wine 1.9.15, KaOS 2016.07 ISO

    Links for the day



  7. Haar Mentioned as Likely Site of Appeal Boards as Their Eradication or Marginalisation Envisioned by UPC Proponent Benoît Battistelli

    Not only the Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO) is under severe attack and possibly in mortal danger; the increasingly understaffed Boards of Appeal too are coming under attack and may (according to rumours) be sent to Haar, a good distance away from Munich and the airport (half an hour drive), not to mention lack of facilities for visitors from overseas



  8. EPO Attaché Albert Keyack Viewed as Somewhat of a Mole, Reporting From the US Embassy in Brazil Until Shortly Before the Temer Coup

    Public responses to the role played by Albert Keyack on behalf of the United States inside the European [sic] Patent Office



  9. EPO Insiders Explain Why the EPO's Examination Quality Rapidly Declines and Will Get Even Worse Because of Willy Minnoye

    Public comments from anonymous insiders serve to highlight a growing crisis inside the European Patent Office (EPO), where experienced/senior examiners are walking away and leaving an irreplaceable bunch of seats (due to high experience demands)



  10. Patents Roundup: BlackBerry, Huawei, PTAB, GAO, Aggressive Universities With Patents, and Software Patents in Europe

    Various bits and pieces of news regarding patents and their fast-changing nature in the United States nowadays



  11. Glimpse at Patent Systems Across the World: Better Quality Control at the USPTO Post-America Invents Act (2011), Unlike the EPO Post-Battistelli (2010)

    While the EPO reportedly strives to eliminate pendency and appeal windows altogether (rubberstamping being optimal performance as per the yardstick du jour), the USPTO introduces changes that would strengthen the system and shield innovation, not protect the business model of serial litigants



  12. Blockstream Has No Patents, But Pledges Not to Sue Using Patents

    Blockstream says that it comes in peace when it comes to software patents, which triggers speculations about coming Blockchain patent wars



  13. Links 21/7/2016: Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS, Linux Mint 18 “Sarah” Xfce Beta

    Links for the day



  14. Links 21/7/2016: An Honorary Degree for Alan Cox, Looks Back at DebConf16

    Links for the day



  15. EPO USA: Under Battistelli, the 'European' Patent Office Emulates All the Mistakes of the USPTO

    Conservative Benoît Battistelli is trying to impose on the European Patent Office various truly misguided policies and he viciously attacks anyone or anything that stands in his way, including his formal overseers



  16. Links 19/7/2016: ARM and Opera Buyout

    Links for the day



  17. Large Corporations' Software Patenting Pursuits Carry on in Spite of Patent Trolls That Threaten Small Companies the Most

    With unconvincing excuses such as OIN, large corporations including IBM continue to promote software patents in the United States, even when public officials and USPTO officials work towards ending those



  18. Battistelli Has Implemented De Facto EPO Coup to Remove Oversight, Give Himself Total Power, and Allegedly Give UPC Gifts (Loot) to French Officials

    Benoît Battistelli's agenda at the EPO is anything but beneficial to the EPO and suspicions that Battistelli's overall agenda is transitioning to the UPC to further his goals grow feet



  19. EPO Social [sic] Report is a Big Pile of Lies That Responsible Journalists Must Ignore

    A reminder of where the EPO stands on social issues and why the latest so-called 'social' report is nothing but paid-for propaganda for Battistelli's political ambitions



  20. Links 18/7/2016: Vista 10 a Failure, FreeType 2.7

    Links for the day



  21. Exploiting Perceived Emergencies/Disasters, Suspending the Rule of Law, and Suspending Judges: How Erdoğan is Like Battistelli, Except the Coup

    Pretexts for crackdown on law-abiding people or figureheads who are remote and independent the hallmark not only of Erdoğan but also the EPO's President, Benoit Battistelli



  22. The Impotence of Gene Quinn

    Attacking the enforcer of Alice v CLS because it's doing harm to his source of income, which makes him angry



  23. After the FTI Consulting-EPO Reputation Laundering Deal's Expansion in Germany Süddeutsche Zeitung 'Forgets' That the EPO Even Exists

    Relative apathy if not complete silence regarding the EPO at Süddeutsche Zeitung following reports of FTI Consulting's deal expansion (media positioning in Germany), with hundreds of thousands of Euros (EPO budget) thrown at the controversial task



  24. Benoît Battistelli and Persistratos

    Reminds you of someone?



  25. Whistleblower Protection Desperately Needed at the European Patent Office

    EPO scandals are not publicly accessible or known to many people and not many such scandals are known at all because people are afraid of Battistelli's Fabius Maximus strategies



  26. Microsoft and Its Patent Minions at Nokia Still Have Patent Stacking Ambitions Against Android/Linux OEMs

    Weaponisation of European companies for the sake of artificial elevation of prices (patent taxes) a growing issue for Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and those behind it are circulating money among themselves not for betterment of products but for the crippling of FOSS contenders



  27. [ES] ¿Que si la EPO Bajo Battistelli Se Arruina Sin Posibilidad de Reparación Como la UPC?

    La última evidencia alrededor del hundimiénto de la reputación de la Epo y su calidad de trabajo, así como la caída del sistema que Battistelli trata forzadamente de imponer (una carrera al fondo)



  28. [ES] La EPO de Battistelli, Quién Quiebra la Ley, Subvierte el Curso de la Justicia y Rechaza Obedecer las Ordenes de la Corte Dice lo Impensable en Medio de los Actos de Terror

    Los terribles ataques hace un dia en Francia están siéndo explotados por el caradura de Benoît Battistelli para comedia negra o un verdaderamente absurda afirmación en la sección de “noticias” de la EPO



  29. [ES] La EPO de Battistelli Continúa Cortejando a Officiales de Países Pequeños y su Propaganda de Beneficiar a las “PYMEs de Aquellos Países”

    El caradura de Benoît Battistelli prosigue desfilando en los países pequeños que tienen delegados al Consejo Administrativo (CA) y los explota para propaganda barata, no sólo para que lo apoyen en las reuniónes del CA



  30. Links 17/7/2016: Lithuanian Police Switches to GNU/Linux, Blockchain on LinuxONE

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts