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05.18.13

The Reality Distortion Field of Patent Lawyers Helps Impede Abolition of Software Patents

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 7:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Warped perspective

Shopping street

Summary: How widespread coverage and talking points from the tiny minority which is patent lawyers have contributed to biased and at times utterly distorted reporting on the subject of software patents around the world

Skewed coverage is not so exceptional. Depending on one’s background and peers one shapes his or her views of the world. A programmer likes to develop software. A patent lawyer loves turning ideas into a formalised description of a process, sometimes acquiring a state-imposed monopoly on these ideas. In certain states (or continents) the patent lawyer may have to cheat a little in order to bypass limitations on the scope of monopoly. Not many places grant a monopoly on the process of computation for instance. It is about as concrete as one’s brain, where the brain is the equivalent of computation machine and the programming the equivalent of neural signals. In recent years patent lawyers have sought to solidify a loophole whereby all programming ‘recipes’ get accompanied by a computation device, even though a computer program can be run in one’s brain, perhaps with the aid of pen and paper. When the law on patenting excludes patents on software “as such” it generally means that patent lawyers just need to disguise software patents as something which they are not. This leaves plenty of room for battle over interpretation and therefore there is a multitude of views, where nobody quite agrees if software is patentable or not. It is the role of real journalists to distinguish between the views of patent lawyers (or their clients who are often managers of large corporations) and the views of software professionals. Since most judges are former solicitors it is expected that the former group will appeal to them, so where does it leave the press? Who is left to listen to the latter group? Certainly not the business press, whose interests are more closely aligned with those of large corporations. This post is a complete (not selective) summary of all the articles we saw generated by key events in 3 continents, showing that: 1) patent lawyers dominate the media on these matters and 2) the views of patent lawyers are very consistently in favour of software patent, as one ought to expect. This reduces certainty over the impact of rulings, bills, and parliamentary actions which clearly limit or altogether ban software patents.

“It is about as concrete as one’s brain, where the brain is the equivalent of computation machine and the programming the equivalent of neural signals.”The EU has much greater problems than patents at the moment, so not many people pay attention to software patents in Europe. These defy the law and they increasingly hurt software developers who are based in Europe. Interestingly, many of these patents are not even granted to European entities.

The government in Germany recently took steps against defiance of common patent law, so patent lawyers’ sites like IAM tried to portray those who reform/uphold the system as “pirates”. This type of characterisation continues, demonstrating to us just how venomous an element patent lawyers can be. They can be rude, not just deceitful for an agenda. Some of IAM’s stuff, as we covered it before, percolates onto other lawyers’ sites, helping to portray NZ’s exclusion [1, 2] of software patents in the relatively small island as some kind of illegitimate move. Other law-themed sites like Lexology asked about the NZ Patents Bill, “how will it effect software patents in NZ?”

The Bill is clear about it. It is not equivocal about it, the loophole that remains in the law set aside. Another article from the same site of patent lawyers helps shed doubt about the CAFC’s criticism of software patents in the US [1, 2, 3].

“The bottom line is, in the EU, NZ, and the US the patent lawyers continue to be instrumental in reality distortion field.”The headline says “Federal Circuit fails to clarify software patent eligibility” and this influences the business press which goes with headlines like “Patent Court Torn on Whether Software Deserve Patents”. Another pro-’IP’ site asks, “How CLS v Alice affects software patents” (the content deviates from the openness of the question).

Other lawyers who lobby for software patents say in their headline that “Federal Circuit deals blow to software patents, but fails to provide cohesive rationale” (criticism for expressing such a view).

A site that calls itself “Law Review” goes further than all the above by rushing ahead with the pretentious, poorly-thought out headline “Massive Growth in Software Usage the Real Reason for More Software Patents, Not Abuse” (very illogical statement of course, something along the lines of “many cockroaches give reason for breeding them,” as if quantity implies desirability).

The bottom line is, in the EU, NZ, and the US the patent lawyers continue to be instrumental in reality distortion field. We should take with a grain of salt what’s the result of seeding disinformation; think afresh based on the actual evidence. Software patents have been dealt a large blow and if this trend continues, patent lawyers’ spin aside, we might see them going away some time in the foreseeable future. Popular view is strongly against them, suggest polls even in the US.

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