What's wrong with software patents

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Peter, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. Peter

    Peter Guest

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=5&ObjectID=10115247
    "Patent 525484 says Microsoft invented and owns the process whereby a
    word-processing document stored in a single XML file may be manipulated by
    applications that understand XML. ...
    There is no novelty there. The whole idea of XML was to allow
    interoperability. The patent should be rejected for obviousness, if not
    for other criteria such as prior art. ...
    Politicians still talk of a free trade agreement as benefiting this country.
    The reality is intellectual property rights will be high on the US agenda
    and it won?t be to this country?s benefit."

    Hmmm - NZ patent office issuing a patent to a foreign company for a obvious
    application of existing technology. Where have I heard that before? Oh
    yes - http://www.fightthepatent.co.nz where a Canadian firm tried to rip
    off some honest NZ companies.

    Software patents only benefit the big corporates and their lawyers.


    Peter
     
    Peter, Mar 15, 2005
    #1
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  2. Peter

    Allistar Guest

    Peter wrote:

    >
    >
    > http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=5&ObjectID=10115247
    > "Patent 525484 says Microsoft invented and owns the process whereby a
    > word-processing document stored in a single XML file may be manipulated by
    > applications that understand XML. ...


    Like OpenOffice.org does?

    > There is no novelty there. The whole idea of XML was to allow
    > interoperability. The patent should be rejected for obviousness, if not
    > for other criteria such as prior art. ...
    > Politicians still talk of a free trade agreement as benefiting this
    > country. The reality is intellectual property rights will be high on the
    > US agenda and it won?t be to this country?s benefit."


    Indeed. It appears that the patent people don't even check for prior art.

    I did read somewhere that they used to be rewarded for the most patents they
    could push through the system - now they are rewarded for the most patents
    they can reject. It would be nice if it were true - can anyone back it up?

    > Hmmm - NZ patent office issuing a patent to a foreign company for a
    > obvious
    > application of existing technology. Where have I heard that before? Oh
    > yes - http://www.fightthepatent.co.nz where a Canadian firm tried to rip
    > off some honest NZ companies.
    >
    > Software patents only benefit the big corporates and their lawyers.


    Indeed. Patent mechanical things, by all means. Ideas though should not be
    patentable. Copyright the implementation of those ideas, if desired. But
    don't patent the ideas themselves.

    > Peter


    Alistar.
     
    Allistar, Mar 15, 2005
    #2
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  3. In <> Peter wrote:
    >
    > http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=5&ObjectID=10115247
    > "Patent 525484 says Microsoft invented and owns the process whereby a
    > word-processing document stored in a single XML file may be
    > manipulated by applications that understand XML. ... There is no
    > novelty there. The whole idea of XML was to allow interoperability.
    > The patent should be rejected for obviousness, if not for other
    > criteria such as prior art. ... Politicians still talk of a free trade
    > agreement as benefiting this country. The reality is intellectual
    > property rights will be high on the US agenda and it won?t be to this
    > country?s benefit."
    >
    > Hmmm - NZ patent office issuing a patent to a foreign company for a
    > obvious application of existing technology. Where have I heard that
    > before? Oh yes - http://www.fightthepatent.co.nz where a Canadian
    > firm tried to rip off some honest NZ companies.
    >
    > Software patents only benefit the big corporates and their lawyers.


    Hah! I've just patented a process whereby a word-processing document _
    not_ stored in a single XML file may be manipulated by applications that
    understand XML. That means every program that understands XML and trys
    to manipulate _any_ type of word-processing document now owes me
    royalties.

    I'm just waiting for the money from the patent licensing to start
    rolling in...

    --
    Roger Johnstone, Invercargill, New Zealand
    http://vintageware.orcon.net.nz/
    ________________________________________________________________________
    No Silicon Heaven? Preposterous! Where would all the calculators go?

    Kryten, from the Red Dwarf episode "The Last Day"
     
    Roger Johnstone, Mar 15, 2005
    #3
  4. Peter

    Peter Guest

    Roger Johnstone wrote:
    > Hah! I've just patented a process whereby a word-processing document _
    > not_ stored in a single XML file may be manipulated by applications that
    > understand XML. That means every program that understands XML and trys
    > to manipulate _any_ type of word-processing document now owes me
    > royalties.
    >
    > I'm just waiting for the money from the patent licensing to start
    > rolling in...


    You haven't played this game before, have you?
    A patent is just a licence to sue. It is of little value unless you have a
    legal budget bigger than the other guy, and in this case, the other guy
    will be someone like Microsoft or IBM or Sun or ...


    Peter
     
    Peter, Mar 15, 2005
    #4
  5. Peter

    steve Guest

    Peter wrote:

    > Software patents only benefit the big corporates and their lawyers.


    This is why real innovation is being driven into the homes and
    after-hours offices of programmers / hackers who then give it away for
    free.

    Anything that earns money will be sued.

    So don't earn any money to avoid being sued into oblivion, but through
    Open Source you / we still derive the benefit of the innovation and
    satisfaction of doing it.

    Guerilla computing in the battle against corporate imperialism of ideas.

    They run on money and will seek to feed on any significant concentration
    of it......so use some OTHER mode of creating and deriving
    value.....(and a little money - but not enough to make it worth their
    while).
     
    steve, Mar 15, 2005
    #5
  6. Peter

    Rob J Guest

    In article <>, says...
    >
    >
    > http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=5&ObjectID=10115247
    > "Patent 525484 says Microsoft invented and owns the process whereby a
    > word-processing document stored in a single XML file may be manipulated by
    > applications that understand XML. ...
    > There is no novelty there. The whole idea of XML was to allow
    > interoperability. The patent should be rejected for obviousness, if not
    > for other criteria such as prior art. ...
    > Politicians still talk of a free trade agreement as benefiting this country.
    > The reality is intellectual property rights will be high on the US agenda
    > and it won?t be to this country?s benefit."
    >
    > Hmmm - NZ patent office issuing a patent to a foreign company for a obvious
    > application of existing technology. Where have I heard that before? Oh
    > yes - http://www.fightthepatent.co.nz where a Canadian firm tried to rip
    > off some honest NZ companies.
    >
    > Software patents only benefit the big corporates and their lawyers.


    There is nothing inherently wrong with software patents any more than
    hardware patents and the like. Software can be just as much an invention
    as hardware.

    Much of what the open source community produces these days is clones of
    or piggybacks off commercial products. Copyright is not sufficient
    protection. Why buy the commercial product when a rip off clone can be
    had for next to nothing?

    The article talks about the internet protocols being developed by a
    software commons. However, it is a fact that mass access to the internet
    has happened because it was opened up to commercial development. Before
    that time the internet was limited to academics in universities.
     
    Rob J, Mar 16, 2005
    #6
  7. Peter

    Nik Coughin Guest

    Rob J wrote:

    8< snip >8

    > Much of what the open source community produces these days is clones
    > of or piggybacks off commercial products. Copyright is not sufficient
    > protection. Why buy the commercial product when a rip off clone can be
    > had for next to nothing?


    What kind of argument is that? I guess ignorance is bliss huh.

    Can you give any actual examples of open source programs that are a straight
    up clone of a commercial product?

    By piggybacking, do you mean the ability to open another product's file
    format? Is this a bad thing? Ever had to shift data between different
    application before? If you meant something else, then what?

    Most of what the commercial software industry produces these days is clones
    of or piggybacks off other commercial software products as well.

    Microsoft Word was a rip off of WordPerfect for example.

    Surely you can't be trying to say that software patents are a good thing as
    no-one should be allowed to produce a product that competes with an existing
    product, whether it be open source or commercial? Because without further
    clarification, that's what your statement implies, as it stands.

    Your statement that open source software is mostly clones of or piggybacks
    off commercial products is also laughable. The underlying architecture is
    usually fundamentally different, so how that is cloning is beyond me.
    Compare Apache and IIS, Photoshop and the Gimp, IE and Firefox.
     
    Nik Coughin, Mar 16, 2005
    #7
  8. Peter

    AD. Guest

    On Wed, 16 Mar 2005 13:01:39 +1300, Rob J wrote:

    > There is nothing inherently wrong with software patents any more than
    > hardware patents and the like. Software can be just as much an invention
    > as hardware.


    Software patents aren't granted to inventions, they are granted to methods
    of doing something. Companies aren't patenting an application, they are
    patenting methods of doing something in those applications.

    Software algorithms (ie Computer Science) are basically just written
    expressions of mathematical ideas. Should maths be patentable? Should
    written work be patentable? Should science be patentable?

    There are only so many ways of doing moving data from one location to
    another, or adding numbers together which is generally what software boils
    down to.

    Software is more like Lego where there are a limited number of basic
    building blocks that get arranged in different ways to create something
    bigger.

    This means that software patents are way broader than patents on physical
    objects which usually only apply to the specific domain they operate in.

    >
    > Much of what the open source community produces these days is clones of or
    > piggybacks off commercial products. Copyright is not sufficient
    > protection. Why buy the commercial product when a rip off clone can be had
    > for next to nothing?


    As I said before, patents aren't given for applications they are broadly
    given for methods. Completely unrelated original software will still fall
    foul of them.

    You can't write any non trivial software these days without infringing
    some soft of patent.

    Its not just the open source community that are worried about software
    patents. Small to medium commercial software developers are worried too.
    The patent portfolios of large companies leave them very vulnerable to be
    being driven out of business.

    The large companies are stocking up on massive arsenals of the things so
    that other companies won't sue them. How is that promoting innovation?

    Now what you are seeing is that lawyer only companies with no products of
    their own will acquire a few patents and go round suing the entire
    industry. These guys are immune to the cold war like mutually assured
    destruction that keeps the big guys from suing each other because they
    don't have any products of their own. How is that a good situation for
    the software industry?

    Software patents are turning into a sort of defensive tax of doing
    business that only lawyers make money off. Small companies can't afford to
    apply for, defend patents, or defend against patents. How does that help
    innovation or promote the industry? The whole situation is an out of
    control lawyer feeding frenzy that is a catch 22 self defeating pandoras
    box of a mess for software companies.

    >
    > The article talks about the internet protocols being developed by a
    > software commons. However, it is a fact that mass access to the internet
    > has happened because it was opened up to commercial development. Before
    > that time the internet was limited to academics in universities.


    How do you explain new open standard protocols, and ongoing development of
    existing ones since 1995 then? They are still being developed in a
    software commons, and commercial interests take part in those groups the
    same way the academics did.

    I dispute that mass internet access happened because it was 'opened up to
    commercial development'. It was the open internet that killed off
    the proprietary commercial networks, and the big commercial players only
    realised that after the fact.

    --
    Cheers
    Anton
     
    AD., Mar 16, 2005
    #8
  9. Peter

    Rob J Guest

    In article <> in nz.comp on
    Wed, 16 Mar 2005 14:34:02 +1300, AD. <> says...
    > On Wed, 16 Mar 2005 13:01:39 +1300, Rob J wrote:
    >
    > > There is nothing inherently wrong with software patents any more than
    > > hardware patents and the like. Software can be just as much an invention
    > > as hardware.

    >
    > Software patents aren't granted to inventions, they are granted to methods
    > of doing something. Companies aren't patenting an application, they are
    > patenting methods of doing something in those applications.


    Let's suppose a word processor and a spreadsheet program could be
    patented. As applications, patenting them would be entirely reasonable in
    my view.

    I personally deplore the likes of Eolas trying to patent the ActiveX
    download dialog in Internet Explorer.

    >
    > Software algorithms (ie Computer Science) are basically just written
    > expressions of mathematical ideas. Should maths be patentable? Should
    > written work be patentable? Should science be patentable?


    But if you apply these to hardware (mechanical devices) that in some
    cases is entirely what is being patented.
     
    Rob J, Mar 16, 2005
    #9
  10. Peter

    Peter Guest

    This is how they do law on software patents in Europe.
    http://progenitor.se/luxembourg9cu.jpg

    The question is whether we'll see this sort of stuff in NZ. I guess it
    depends who wins the next election.


    Peter
     
    Peter, Mar 16, 2005
    #10
  11. Peter

    AD. Guest

    On Wed, 16 Mar 2005 21:10:49 +1300, Rob J wrote:

    > Let's suppose a word processor and a spreadsheet program could be
    > patented. As applications, patenting them would be entirely reasonable in
    > my view.
    >
    > I personally deplore the likes of Eolas trying to patent the ActiveX
    > download dialog in Internet Explorer.


    What's the difference? The only reason it looks like Eolas will now fail
    is that there is prior art (mainly Viola, which incidentally was an
    academic open source browser) not because it was a bad patent.

    If you think software patents are valid, then surely the Eolas patent was
    valid?

    >> Software algorithms (ie Computer Science) are basically just written
    >> expressions of mathematical ideas. Should maths be patentable? Should
    >> written work be patentable? Should science be patentable?

    >
    > But if you apply these to hardware (mechanical devices) that in some cases
    > is entirely what is being patented.


    How so?

    Can you give any examples of mechanical patents that are just maths or
    pure science? Algorithms are more like maths formulas or a set of
    instructions.

    Mechanical patents are for specific devices doing relatively specific
    stuff. Devices don't get copyright protection, and are very difficult to
    get trade secret protection for, whereas software can already be covered
    by those.

    Software patents are just a massive land grab. It is expensive for
    everybody and counter productive. At the rate software patents are being
    granted, soon the whole industry will be crippled by them.

    MS spends $100M a year defending itself against patents, and possibly
    similar amounts checking for and getting them (they get about 1000 a
    year). IBM probably spends 2 or 3 times that. In the software industry the
    amounts of money spent applying for, checking for existing ones, and
    defending against others must well exceed royalties for licensing patents.
    It's a big endless circle that lawyers get to clip the tickets on at every
    step. Patents are a drain on the entire industry that only benefits
    lawyers. After all it was lawyers who pushed for them in the first place
    in the 80s.

    Most patent licensing is just cross licensing agreements between big
    companies - ie I promise you that I won't sue you over patents if you
    promise to do the same. There are no royalties generated - just non
    aggression pacts. The smaller firms don't have the patent arsenals to do
    this though, and can't afford to create them, so are very vulnerable. And
    its the smaller firms that create innovative software.

    Software patents stifle innovation instead of promoting it. They are non
    productive. All the money spent on them could be better spent on more R&D,
    or marketing, or support etc etc. It's the ultimate example of prisoners
    dilemma.

    I remember years ago reading the CEO of Autodesk saying that they don't
    like patents, but are only getting them so they can defend themselves
    against infringing others. MS executives have themselves come out recently
    calling for major patent reform, saying that the situation is out of hand.

    --
    Cheers
    Anton
     
    AD., Mar 16, 2005
    #11
  12. In article <>, Peter <> wrote:
    >
    >This is how they do law on software patents in Europe.
    >http://progenitor.se/luxembourg9cu.jpg
    >
    >The question is whether we'll see this sort of stuff in NZ. I guess it
    >depends who wins the next election.


    ... more likely it depends on if we are stupid enough to take a "free trade"
    deal with the US under any circumstances. :)
    A recent listener (or herald ?) had a good article on it IIRC.


    Bruce


    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to
    think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone´s fault.
    If it was Us, what did that make Me ? After all, I´m one of Us. I must be.
    I´ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No-one ever thinks
    of themselves as one of Them. We´re always one of Us. It´s Them that do
    the bad things. <=> Terry Pratchett. Jingo.

    Caution ===== followups may have been changed to relevant groups
    (if there were any)
     
    Bruce Sinclair, Mar 16, 2005
    #12
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