06.22.12

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Abolishing Software Patents

Posted in EFF, Oracle, Patents at 10:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hand idea

Summary: A recommendation to the EFF and to Oracle

A FEW DAYS ago we wrote about an initiative from the EFF which strives to cause change (revision) in patent policies. Timothy B. Lee urges the EFF to call for “elimination of software patents”, making it a lot more explicit (not without resistance from Luddites):

Opinion: EFF should call for the elimination of software patents

The Electronic Frontier Foundation announced a new initiative on Tuesday to seek reform of the United States patent system. Under the banner of Defend Innovation, the civil liberties organization suggested seven ways Congress could make the patent system less harmful to progress in software.

Techrights has been very consistent with its view that software patents deserve no room in industry or society. See for example older posts such as:

  1. Patent Defence Cartels Versus Abolishing Software Patents
  2. President Obama Ignores the US Population’s Plea to Abolish Software Patents (Updated)
  3. Larry Page Should Start by Abolishing Software Patents
  4. Dear Google: Please Abolish Software Patents, Don’t ‘Donate’ Patent ‘Protection’
  5. Why Europe Must Prepare to Abolish and Block All Software Patents

Speaking as a software engineer, they make my life worse, not better, and people who buy software also suffer. The “patent lords” are monopolists, trolls, and their lawyers. Oracle is an example of one major giant challenging and rattling a platform I develop for (Android); having suffered a loss in the case against Google it will get not even a dime. All the money just went to lawyers. To quote a new article:

In a hearing in the US District Court today, it was determined that Google will pay a net total of nothing for Oracle’s patent claims against them. In fact, Google is given 14 days to file an application for Oracle to pay legal fees to Google(in a similar manner to how things are done for frivolous lawsuits). However, it is not quite peaches and roses for Google, as Oracle is planning on appealing the decision in the case.

If Oracle wants to earn back respect from its seemingly-diminishing Linux staff it will just simply give up on this pointless and baseless case. It helps illustrate the harms of software patents.

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5 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    June 22, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Gravatar

    It is a great idea – if only you could offer an alternate way to prevent plagiarism and the like.

    Can you?

    So far you have failed to every time I ask.

    saulgoode Reply:

    It is a great idea – if only you could offer an alternate way to prevent plagiarism …

    You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it means.

    …and the like.

    Do you mean that if I come up with an idea and then minutes later you conceive the same idea, that I can enjoin you from implementing your idea? Because that is what the current patent regime mandates.

    Can you?

    So far you have failed to every time I ask.

    Perhaps that is because you ask the wrong question. If the purpose of patents is to “incentivize” invention then the question to ask is whether it succeeds at its goal, not the “prevention of plagiarism” or somesuch misguided notion. Or in more direct lines to your query: what alternatives are available to promote and reward invention?

    Well, rather than granting me the exclusive rights to exploiting an idea merely because I “beat you to the punch” in conceiving it — thus stifling your own inventiveness and its ensuing benefit to society — perhaps the government could expend some taxpayer resources by offering grants to businesses and educational institutions for the efforts in research and development. … OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT. The U.S. government spends over 300 billion dollars of the taxpayer money each year providing such grants.

    Well, perhaps the government could provide corporations with a tax deduction for the expenditures they make on research and development? OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT. The U.S. government offers a tax credit of up to 65% to corporations for their R&D expenditures with no quid pro quo back to the public on any patents resulting from that research — wouldn’t it be logical to at a minimum reduce the term of the patent by 65%, say, from 20 years to 13?

    Perhaps we could enact strong trade secret laws that punish competitors who engage in industrial espionage and attempt to misappropriate innovation that a business has chosen not to divulge. OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT.

    Perhaps we could offer corporations strong legislation that lets them provide customers with reliable means of associating a particular product with that corporation, such that their products’ branding and goodwill is protected from usurpation. OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT.

  2. Michael said,

    June 24, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Gravatar

    It is a great idea – if only you could offer an alternate way to prevent plagiarism …

    You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it means.

    …and the like.

    Do you mean that if I come up with an idea and then minutes later you conceive the same idea, that I can enjoin you from implementing your idea? Because that is what the current patent regime mandates.

    Can you?
    So far you have failed to every time I ask.

    Perhaps that is because you ask the wrong question.

    No, I am asking the question I want to ask. What an odd idea of yours to think I would want a deflection.

    If the purpose of patents is to “incentivize” invention then the question to ask is whether it succeeds at its goal, not the “prevention of plagiarism” or somesuch misguided notion. Or in more direct lines to your query: what alternatives are available to promote and reward invention?

    One way to "incentivize" invention is to protect it – minimize plagiairsm. So far Roy goes on and on and on about how companies are evil to defend their IP, but when asked about how they should defend it he either ignores the question or denies that the building of the IP is something that takes time and effort and money. And with companies such as Apple who are really good at making devices that seem obvious once you have seen them he gets even more confused. Anything is easy once you know how – one of Apple’s biggest strenghts is making complex tools and tasks easier… and once you see what they come up with there is an "aha" moment where you wonder why nobody else did it that way. They understand innovation is not just about adding features and buzzwords and tech checkmarks but just as much about what to leave out and how to integrate things.

    Well, rather than granting me the exclusive rights to exploiting an idea merely because I “beat you to the punch” in conceiving it — thus stifling your own inventiveness and its ensuing benefit to society — perhaps the government could expend some taxpayer resources by offering grants to businesses and educational institutions for the efforts in research and development. … OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT. The U.S. government spends over 300 billion dollars of the taxpayer money each year providing such grants.

    I am not talking about government funded inventions.

    Well, perhaps the government could provide corporations with a tax deduction for the expenditures they make on research and development? OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT. The U.S. government offers a tax credit of up to 65% to corporations for their R&D expenditures with no quid pro quo back to the public on any patents resulting from that research — wouldn’t it be logical to at a minimum reduce the term of the patent by 65%, say, from 20 years to 13?

    I am not talking about the tax code. All sorts of things about the tax code is absurd: including the way Apple and MS and Google and so many other large companies pay so little in taxes.

    Perhaps we could enact strong trade secret laws that punish competitors who engage in industrial espionage and attempt to misappropriate innovation that a business has chosen not to divulge. OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT.

    Irrelevant to the topic. It does not take "espionage" to buy a competitors product and tear it down (literally or figuratively) and work to copy it. Samsung, for example, does that a lot with Apple. The case against Android and iOS is less clear – I would love to see Apple or others make that case well… assuming there is a good case to be made.

    Perhaps we could offer corporations strong legislation that lets them provide customers with reliable means of associating a particular product with that corporation, such that their products’ branding and goodwill is protected from usurpation. OH, WAIT! WE ALREADY DO THAT.

    I do not doubt you can think of many things we do that are irrelevant to my question.

  3. saulgoode said,

    June 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Gravatar

    No, I am asking the question I want to ask. What an odd idea of yours to think I would want a deflection.

    Your desire to ask the question does nothing to address that it is the wrong question.

    One way to “incentivize” invention is to protect it – minimize plagiairsm.

    And this speaks to your asking “the wrong question”. One way to minimize shoplifting is to strip search customers as they leave the store — just because it is “one way” does not predicate that it is the “only way”, or even a “good way”. Indeed, it is likely an extremely “bad way” of benefiting the store actual goals (of profitability and service to the community).

    This is because “how do we minimize shoplifting” is the wrong question, just as “how do we minimize plagiarism” is the wrong question. You have set the wrong goal and thus arrive at a solution that is counterproductive to achievement of the right goal; the right goal being to foster innovation and benefit society.

    Your ready dismissal of alternative solutions as being “irrelevant” to your question belies that your interest lies not in fostering innovation and benefiting society, but in perpetuating your “one way” regardless of whether or not it is effective.

    Michael Reply:

    I am asking the question I mean to ask. You have no answer for it.

    No big deal. It is a hard question – nobody really seems to know how to deal with the plagiarism in the market other than to use the existing tools, even though pretty much everyone agrees the current tools are not good at it.

    As far as your claim I am perpetuating some “one way” that is “mine”, I truly have no clue what you are even referencing. I suspect you are thinking of someone else… I certainly have not been advocating for “one way” or even claiming to have a good answer to the problem.

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