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A Stacked Software Patents Panel/Debate

Posted in Patents, Videos at 8:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An ‘IP’ business versus an engineering professor (yet again)

Direct link: Software Patent Debate

Notice how the panel is stacked. The latter guy speaks about “bad” patents and does not oppose software patents as a whole. So neither side (of the two) is against software patents, certainly not the moderator (who is in the ‘law’ sector). Where are the programmers?

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  1. Michael said,

    November 28, 2012 at 9:52 am


    Would you want extremists on such a panel?

    Jose_X Reply:

    We want sane people. Obviously most software by far has been created without looking at patents and without enforcing patents or taking out patents. Patent law is broken horribly and made obvious in fields like software. The Supreme Court has rejected pure software patents (ie, software on machine that doesn’t create new matter or transform) 9-0 in I think all occasions in the last few years where the topic has gone to them.

    It’s so sad that someone would write software and think a software patent even comes close to the detail and work required to build real software that works in real life and does interesting things usable by others.

    Michael Reply:

    Oh, do not get me wrong, I would not want “insane” people either. But the idea of just getting rid of all current protection (as broken as the system is – and I think we all agree it is) without having a replacement is, well, insane.

    What type of protection would you suggest be available to those who create new products?

    Jose_X Reply:

    Limited to patents on software, we have had many years where most development if not all was done without patents. What is insane about that?

    You seem to be ignoring copyrights, which already are overbearing themselves but at least respect independent creation and are of much more limited scope. Never mind that a great many software developers even yield all or most copyright AND trade secret protections, without seeking patent protection.

    The motivations to write software are vast. The cost of being hindered by patents (which are broad by design) is very large. And the highest court in the US is rather skeptical that anything but at most a very small number of “software patents” should have protection. So for all the many people getting monopolies without merit we are exacting a high cost on potentially millions of software developers.

    It is insane to handcuff so many talented developers, especially since these are the people actually writing the intricate software rather than the broad software patents that it takes merely a person of ordinary skill who found something merely non-obvious.

    The people complaining about software needing patent incentives, for the most part, I suspect, hardly write software, at least not quality software. Look around. You even have lawyers and execs who couldn’t code their way out of a closet and have no more clever ideas than a person of ordinary skill in the art coming up with broad software patents. That is insane. These people are handcuffing the real developers, .. and who come up with so much patentable material yearly (it’s a low bar to meet), they would have no time to write up all the patents (or money to pay for them) much less code and solve the actual customer problems.

    Michael Reply:

    I merely said there should be protections. I did not say what kind. Does not matter to me – as long as developers can have their IP protected in a reasonable way.

  2. NotZed said,

    November 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm


    Lawyers don’t care what programmers think? They probably don’t even realise why they would even be interested …

    Michael Reply:

    Lawyers understand the value of the laws programers might not.

    Jose_X Reply:

    The laws, the more of them and the more convoluted and costly they are to litigate, the more they help lawyers make more money.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    And the lawyers’ clients, usually large corporations (see how Lessig explains it in his recent talks) keep competition off their yard (niche monopolies).

    Michael Reply:

    No doubt the system as it is leaves a *lot* to be desired. A whole lot.

    But there has to be some way to protect innovations… otherwise the incentive to create such innovations is reduced. But their should be time limits and a more stringent process to determine what should be protected (while making the process cheap… good luck with that!)

    Jose_X Reply:

    There are plenty of incentives to innovate software. There always have been. So much so that many write software and share all the hard work with others.

    And we don’t give patents to write novels, do we? Please don’t tell me there aren’t many “innovative” novels as we find “innovative” software.

    We also don’t give patents to write crucial mathematics.

    We grant patents (or should, if we were applying SCOTUS instructions and cared about promoting the progress) at most where something big and expensive is needed to bring a product to market.

    The problem with broad monopolies on cheap inventions (like writing) is that although they may incentivize a few a little more, they disincentivize a great many a great lot because a great many are otherwise able and already incentivized to participate yet there is a high likelihood you will be violating someone else’s broad monopoly accidentally and have many years of hard work be thrown down some proverbial drain, including many cases where the work and accomplishments you achieved were far greater than those of the patent writer.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Software developers, one might argue, need copyrights to incentivise development, not patents.

  3. Jose_X said,

    December 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm


    Patents are the antithesis of the “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Maybe one can argue that when we have to invest loads of capital to build the invention that a patent is necessary, but on pure writing and thought??? That takes a real time cooperative effort and turns it into something much less efficient and restrictive and completely perverts the reward process.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Patents are a monopoly (or set of monopolies) on ideas that act as fences. We know that fences make as much sense as national borders — leading mostly to wars. An harmonious industry spends less effort on war and more effort on communal, collective benefit. Innovation comes through reuse.

    Michael Reply:

    Fences lead to wars? Borders lead to wars? Do you want to get rid of those, too?

    As far as innovation coming from reuse, what is the incentive to spend millions of dollars making a widget if you cannot get your money back for doing so?

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