Bonum Certa Men Certa

Software Patents Debate Manipulated by Spin



Summary: Recent examples from the news show disparity between what patent lawyers are saying and what others have to say

Jon Potter believes that "Software patent trolls can be stopped by U.S. Patent Office and Congress" as he writes about mobile app developers (small businesses or even indie) who fall prey to software patents and trolls (which are seemingly a rising phenomenon). He says that "[w]hile app developers are angry with the trolls, they are also frustrated, rightly, with their government. The patent system was created to promote innovation and protect entrepreneurs. But in the trenches of the app development industry, people are intimidated and angered. App developers and entrepreneurs, the very people whom the patent system should protect, now consider software patents as inhibiting -- rather than promoting -- innovation."



Another writer from the same area writes about expansion of USPTO regime to another place:

As the US Patent and Trademark Office prepares to open a Silicon Valley office, intellectual property stakeholders gathered at Stanford to tackle a big reason for USPTO’s enhanced regional presence: Software patents.


For shame. Google has been working against software patents recently. Over at Wired, yet another lawyer, Christal Sheppard, keeps the rigged 'debate' going. Those rigged debates almost always exclude the most important component: developers.

Patents are often misunderstood and badly explained by propagandists. In an article by Mike Masnick he says: "Despite plenty of research showing that patents do not, in fact, lead to increased innovation (but rather increased patenting), many still assume that there's a direct linkage. Of course, it is true that many successful industries see high rates of patents, but there is evidence that patents tend to lag the actual innovation, rather than predate it. That is, once an area or industry is innovative and successful then everyone rushes in to get patents and try to extract their piece of the pie, often slowing down the pace of innovation.

"So it's fairly disappointing that the Brookings Institution, which normally does pretty good work on these kinds of things has put out a study about patents and innovation, and appears to be confusing correlation and causation in saying that patents lead to innovation and even (more ridiculously) that areas that aren't doing enough patenting need to beef up their patents to increase innovation:"

Dennis Crouch gives his 50 cents, but he too is a law person, who in his post "Of Smart Phone Wars and Software Patents" helps justify the spread of software patents:

Stuart Graham (USPTO's Chief Economist) and Saurabh Vishnubhakat recently published an interesting short paper entitled Of Smart Phone Wars and Software Patents. The paper largely defends the USPTO's examination of software patenting by showing that its approach in the software arts is essentially the same as in other fields.

The two charts below come from the article. The first shows the percentage of first office actions that are first-action allowances. This is calculated for each fiscal year as the (# of first action allowances) / (# of first actions). The second chart looks at the first "final" action in a case. For their study, a final action is either (1) a final rejection or (2) an allowance. And, the first final is whichever one of those came first.


So basically, for lawyers and by extension the legal sphere it is okay to have mobile patent wars. Apple is meanwhile retrying a ban of leading Android devices:

Apple has now filed a normal appeal, after being turned down for en banc review by the entire Federal Circuit, regarding Judge Lucy Koh's refusal to order an injunction against Samsung in the first Apple v. Samsung case, no. 11-CV-1846. That's the one where Apple got a jury to order a billion plus in damages. Although I doubt that figure will stand. Anyway, Apple wants an injunction too, and here's the brief [PDF] asking for it. The order [PDF] it's appealing is found here as text. And I'll work on a text version for you of this appeal brief next.


A lawyers-run blog speaks of a mobile patents thicket and CAFC, another lawyers-run institute, may soon get to legitmise software patents again. Reuters articles about it [1, 2] say:

Lawyers squared off on Friday over U.S. rules for granting patents for software, or if software should be patented at all, in arguments in a case closely watched by Google Inc, Facebook Inc and other technology companies.


The lawyers' sites, unlike some news site, have a bias which is expected. Even the press in New Zealand covered it as follows:

Lawyers have squared off over US rules for granting patents for software, or if software should be patented at all, in arguments in a case closely watched by Google, Facebook and other technology companies.

The full US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard arguments in the case, which involves whether patents for a computerised system for exchanging financial obligations are valid. The case has drawn wide interest because it could help determine parameters for software patent protection.

Disagreement was apparent among the 10 judges on the panel, and experts said they expected a divided decision, which could land the case before the US Supreme Court.


The lawyers, as expected, try to interject themselves into analysis of this news, vying to marginalise more proper news sites. Developers, sadly, are quiet, which leaves them vulnerable.

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