07.06.11

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Software Patent Holders Who Wish to Kiss Goodbye to Software Patents

Posted in Patents at 1:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Model

Summary: The push against software patents spreads wider than generally imagined

SOME weeks/months ago Techrights was approached by a patent holder who felt he had been mistreated and exploited by Microsoft and Apple. In the FFII’s mailing lists we have just seen a similar story, which goes as follows:

I am no fan of software patents and would like them to be abolished.
However, my name is on a software patent issued to a former employer
many years ago! The work which was patented was very technical and
was the result of considerable numbers of man-hours of discussion of
how best to solve a technical problem. Although the patent is not
frivolous, I do not believe that the work was sufficiently innovative
that a patent is reasonable — any of our competitors at the time who
had been willing to invest resources in solving this problem would
have come up with essentially the same solution.

I have been approached by a lawyer for the current owner of the patent
who is using it in litigation. I have no desire to support that
litigation. On the other hand, all they are asking me for (for the
moment, at least) is to be willing to confirm certain facts.

I would be interested in the view of the list on what action I should
take. Some actions I am considering include:

1) Answer their questions. I have respect for the law and feel a duty
to co-operate with the legal process. I am not an expert and it is
for others to argue whether the patent is valid.

2) Decline to answer their questions (possibly on the basis that it
was a long time ago and I can’t remember). But take no further
action.

3) Tell them my view, as a listed inventor, that the patent should not
have been granted and the litigation is unreasonable.

4) Track down and tell their opponents my view, as a listed inventor,
that the patent should not have been granted.

Also, should I tell my current employer? The patent and the case are
nothing to do with them, but they might have a view on whether they
wish to see me potentially called as a witness or even on which of the
actions above I should take. My current thought is that it is nothing
to do with them.

[...]

It appears I have not been clear. I am NOT looking for any legal
advice, thanks. I am confident that I understand my legal obligations
and if that changes I will seek professional legal advice, in my own
jurisdiction.

I am, however, interested in the views of the list on the ethical
issues involved. As someone who does not support software patents, do
you feel there is a moral obligation (not commenting on whether there
is a legal one) to the (successors to the) former employer who bought
out my rights for token sum many years ago? Or, at the opposite
extreme, should a campaigner against software patents actively
campaign to have their own patents invalidated?

And do you feel there is any moral obligation to give my current
employer (who also holds many software patents, although none in which
I am involved) a say in my actions in this area (again, without
commenting on any legal agreements I may have with my employer).

I realize that asking a list full of lawyers for ethical advice may be
foolish but there must be some non-lawyers on the list :-)

Any ideas on this would be appreciated.

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