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President Obama Ignores the US Population’s Plea to Abolish Software Patents (Updated)

Posted in America, Patents at 3:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Parliament protects the “special interests”, ignores the 99%


Summary: Inaction in the face of popular demand to abolish software patents, but it’s not over yet

THE other month someone initiated a petition against software patents. We did not have high hopes, but whatever the outcome, we said it would probably help prove and validate a corrupt status quo.

President Obama, a lawyer, did what we expected all along. Stefane Fermigier writes:

Obama administration responds to our petition to reform software patents wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/re… Me = not impressed.

Nobody is impressed. Here is the response from the FFII’s president (who can be more honest than the US president):

Obama ignores the Petition against software patents, issues a pro patent answer, I was expecting such answer

Here is the link to the response. It ironic that in a Drupal/GNU/Linux-powered site they just let software patents be. Shows their hypocrisy really…

Here is the massive Slashdot discussion about it. Timothy B. Lee wrote an excellent article about it:

The Obama administration has started an official petition website called “We the People,” in which Americans can propose and vote on petitions for consideration by the White House. Petitions that cross a popularity threshold (originally 5,000 signatures within 30 days) get an official response from the White House.

This being the Internet, one of the first petitions focused on software patents, asking President Obama to “direct the patent office to cease issuing software patents and to void all previously issued software patents.”

Also see the comments. It seems widely accepted that software patents must go. Consider signing the new petition if you are a US resident. The success of Free software may very well depend on this issue.

“Today many people are switching to free software for purely practical reasons. That is good, as far as it goes, but that isn’t all we need to do! Attracting users to free software is not the whole job, just the first step.”

Richard Stallman

Update: Here is a direct link to the new petition, which has started quite slowly. Well, after they spit on the population they can just claim that this population has no respect for those petitions. The patent lawyers crowd watches from a distance and the FFII’s president writes:

White House answer to the software patent petition was so bad that a new one is created, 20K signs needed in 30 days

We still find it difficult to believe that an administration run by lawyers will make the necessary amendment. But it helps show just who is really being served.

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  1. Michael said,

    November 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm



    THE other month someone initiated a petition against software patents. We did not have high hopes, but whatever the outcome, we said it would probably help prove and validate a corrupt status quo.

    No doubt, the status quo is in serious need of help. But the White House did not "validate" it. To the contrary, they acknowledge the need for reform and even spoke of the value of open source software:

    We are committed to reforming the patent system in a way that puts patent quality first and promotes innovation and competitive markets.
    It will help companies and inventors avoid costly delays and unnecessary litigation, and let them focus instead on innovation and job creation. … We will tackle a number of important questions in the coming months, and we invite you to work with us to implement the new law in the most effective way possible.
    We understand that the concern about software patents stems, in part, from concerns that overly broad patents on software-based inventions may stifle the very innovative and creative open source software development community. As an Administration, we recognize the tremendous value of open source innovation and rely on it to accomplish key missions.
    The tremendous growth of the open source and open data communities over the years, for delivery of both commercial and non-commercial services, shows that innovation can flourish in both the proprietary and open source software environments.

    If you want them to do more you need to suggest better solutions – not just whine about theirs. So what your solution – one that is more fair to up and comers while still protecting the work of the established parties. I would love to hear it – and I agree the current system sorta sucks.

    if you are a US resident. The success of Free software may very well depend on this issue.

    While open source software is important it is not the same as Free software. The FSF works to reduce choice; the open source movement does not.

  2. mcinsand said,

    November 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm


    If we want this changed in the US, then all of us in the US need to write our senators and congressmen. All the president can do is to cheerlead, since he only has power to approve a law, not to write/change one. Just one of the many problems is that our congress works overtime to shift blame, whether to the president or the SCOTUS. For Obama to make the change, congress needs to provide something for him to sign. As for the SCOTUS, they only interpret the laws, even though they make a convenient punching bag. Judicial ideology, left or right, can only play a role when a law is not clearly defined to leave gray areas. If we don’t like how the SCOTUS has interpreted a law, then, again, we need to be writing congressmen and senators, and we have no business whining if we haven’t written that first letter. Granted, congress wavers between incompetence and prostituting themselves to the highest bidder, so the odds are not as great as we like, but doing nothing guarantees failure.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Groklaw has a new article about this subject:

    The White House has launched a new citizen input process that allows citizens to propose and post petitions to the White House suggesting government action on issues of interest. One such petition calls for the Administration to direct the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cease issuing software patents. The White House has issued a response to the petition, and you will note that it barely responds to what the petitioners are requesting. Why? Because the White House has no direct power to do what the petition asks.

    So what has the public reaction to that response been? Why, another petition screaming even louder for the White House to do something. Right idea; wrong forum.

    We have software patents in the U.S. because Congress has essentially said that “anything under the sun made by man” is patentable. This well worn quote was provided during testimony in the consideration and adoption of the Patent Reform Act of 1952, and since then the U.S. court system has done its best to embrace that concept, giving us patents on software, business method, and the human genome. The administrative branch of our federal government had no hand in either legislating or interpreting legislation. Those activities are the purview of Congress and the Courts. The Administration can only enforce the law of the land (and on occasion, influence legislation or file an amicus brief in a court case), so our right-headed petitioners who want to rid the U.S. of software patents need to shift targets. They need to focus on Congress and the Courts.

    So what are the odds that Congress will actually ever act to revoke software patents? Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, etc., would all probably peg those odds at less than one in a googol, since Congress appears to only answer to those who fund their campaigns with massive contributions beyond the reach of average voters. It is no secret that the largest players in the information technology sector all hold large patent portfolios, and it’s a bit hard to imagine them walking away from the investment in patents willingly.

    This is pretty much why, IMHO, we need to focus very strongly on preventing software patents from spreading to other countries while the US descends into major debt (partly causes by patent trolls) that can have nations without software patents rise. In order to persuade other nations not to accept software patents we need to show them what a sordid mess the USPTO became.

    Michael Reply:

    Given the global nature of so many of these products, having rules which are at least largely the same across countries would be a big step forward.

    What those rules should be… well, here you and I both share a level of ignorance: neither of us has presented a good idea of what should be done.

    Anyone else? I am open to ideas.

    Michael Reply:

    Absolutely correct. To make a bigger impact, though, we should not just complain about the current system, as bad as it is (does anyone think otherwise)? We need to have an idea of how to make things better.

    Roy has a great platform for doing so… but he makes no comment about how to make things better. I do not fault him for that – I admit I am also at a bit of a loss on this one. The current system sucks… it protects things that should not be protected and does not protect some that should. Apple and others use the current system to try to protect that which they have innovated, but they end up focusing on minutia and not the overall system.

    It is like patenting each letter of a language and not patenting the language itself. Just silly.

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