08.11.08

Regrets Over USPTO’s Decision to Permit Software Patents

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Law, Patents at 7:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Implicit ‘decisions’ the road loophole to Hell

This new nugget of information is quotable and it will prove invaluable for future reference.

Digital Majority has found a variety of recent articles where regret is expressed by the very same man who can be held ‘responsible’ for opening a door to software patents. That man is a senior judge, S. Jay Plager. Here are some articles that explain this quite clearly: (with selectively highlights in red)

1. CAFC Judge Regrets Decisions That Resulted In Software Patents

As the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) is considering the Bilski case, where it may finally push back on software and business model patents, it’s interesting to hear one of CAFC’s judges admit that he was “troubled by the unintended consequences” of the lawsuits (State Street and AT&T) that resulted in software and business model patents being effectively allowed.

2. Patents as property II: Rethinking SW patents?

Patents as property was also front and center in the thoughts of one judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the main appellate court for patent disputes in the US. Senior Judge S. Jay Plager, speaking at a symposium at George Mason University, called for a “rethinking” of several aspects of patent law by returning to its origins in property law.

According to the BNA, Plager “called for a renewed focus on setting recognizable patent ownership boundaries and on strengthening the notice function that patents are intended to serve. Such a reevaluation might require a reassessment of whether software and business methods are patentable subject matter, Plager said.

3. Rethinking patent law

Judge Plager writes that as a former law professor who taught property law for twenty-five years, he found our general thesis about analyzing patent law from a property law perspective “quite comfortable.” The book argues that many of the key institutional features and much of the economic performance (and many of the problems) of the patent system can be analyzed by treating patents as a property system. In his speech, Judge Plager suggested that this approach might require rethinking the patentability of software and business methods, doctrines of claim construction, patent scope and the doctrine of equivalents.

4. FFIP Recommends: Research on Innovation and TIIP

The block quote alone is amazing and extremely important due to the subject matter and the authority of US. Senior Judge S. Jay Plager. This is the type of thing that should be promoted by End Software Patents, rethinking subject matter for software patents and business methods is essential if we are to save the patent system.

5. Judge Plager: Regrets ‘Unintended Consequences’ of State Street

It might lead to limiting a patent’s scope to what was known at the time of the application filing, and to an abandonment the doctrine of equivalents as a basis for patent infringement liability.

This sounds promising, but both sides continue to fight. One typically fights for science and freedom, whereas the other fights to keep its cash machines Ka-chinging! Patents were made to promote science, not to make and protect billionaires. Sanity and freedom need be restored.

“I think that “innovation” is a four-letter word in the industry. It should never be used in polite company. It’s become a PR thing to sell new versions with.”

“It was Edison who said “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. That may have been true a hundred years ago. These days it’s “0.01% inspiration, 99.99% perspiration”, and the inspiration is the easy part. As a project manager, I have never had trouble finding people with crazy ideas. I have trouble finding people who can execute. IOW, “innovation” is way oversold. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be applied to products like MS Word or Open office.”

Linus Torvalds

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A Single Comment

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    August 11, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Gravatar

    European Commissioner for Competition Policy, Neelie Kroes, made the point indirectly. Her statement that filing of patents “makes it easier to innovate around the patent” indicates not just an acknowledgment that {software} patents harm innovation, but also that it is a problem inherent in the current patent system.

    However, it also indicates a blatant misunderstanding of the problem. Patents do not apply to expression like copyright does, but to activities. Thus it’s not possible to “innovate around” vague patents if it is the patented activity or method that is required.

    http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/08/317&source=boycottnovell.com

    The European Patent Office has been granting junk patents, which are not valid. The treaty, the 1974 European Patent Convention, specifically declares that software, algorithms, formulas and business methods are not patentable. So, the EPO, and many member states like Sweden for example, needs to get incompliance with EU law and “harmonize” with the treaty under which they are obligated to comply.

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