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Red Hat Urges USPTO To Deny Most Software Patents 175

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-giving-it-away dept.
Julie188 writes "The United States Patent and Trademark Office asked for public input on how it should use the Supreme Court's Bilski decision to guide it when granting new patents. Not surprisingly, Red Hat took them up on it. The USPTO should use Bilski and the fact that the machine transformation test is 'important' to Just Say No to most software patents, it advised. Rob Tiller, Red Hat's Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, IP, is hopeful that the patent office will listen and put an end to the crazy software patent situation that has turned patents into weapons that hinder innovation."
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Red Hat Urges USPTO To Deny Most Software Patents

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  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:43AM (#33744276)

    The USPTO isn't going to change their policies to help one small company steal ideas from others.

    That would be quite a feat, as stealing ideas is just not possible.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:55AM (#33744352) Homepage

    Indeed. It will instead maintain its policy that helps a small company steal an idea many large companies are already using and considered too obvious to protect, and register a patent on it in order to make money from lawsuits.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:08AM (#33744416)

    Might want to ease up on the flavor-aid. Patents are a tool of extortion so people can steal the inventions of others and have no useful purpose in a sane society.

  • by pesc (147035) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:08AM (#33744418)

    I am a software author. Software patents interferes with my right to publish texts that i write myself.

  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:19AM (#33744456) Homepage Journal

    It's not "steal ideas", it's "copy ideas". And, as far as I am concerned, it is a Good Thing. I have also been told that patents were invented specifically to promote publishing ideas so that they might be copied. Skimming the article, I didn't see any place where someone is asking the USPTO to "help one small company steal ideas from others". In short, I don't know what you're talking about.

    What I do know is that many small companies (as which I don't think Red Hat qualifies, by the way) fear software patents. Not because patents prevent them from "stealing ideas" or even copying ideas, but because, as the article puts it: "there are hundreds of thousands of software patents, with tens of thousand more granted each year. Many are so vague that it's impossible to ensure that a new piece of code doesn't infringe on one of them, somehow. This in turn places a big fat bullseye on the back of all software developers, as infringement lawsuits cost millions to defend, let alone actual damages or injunctions." If that sounds like software patents are a great tool for wealthy companies to discourage, slow down, halt, or even destroy competitors or would-be competitors, you've got the right idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:22AM (#33744460)

    Yeah, right. The idea of people buying software patents, as opposed to actual software, for the benefit of new marketable technology is absurd on its face. Sure, people will buy patent licenses to reduce legal uncertainty, but software ideas without the software are worthless. There are more useful ideas than people know what to do with in the public literature and in the heads of competent engineers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:23AM (#33744466)

    If the inventions were so useful, patent trolls would spend money on factories that implement the ideas. The truth is they don't really know which inventions are useful. No one does, so no one reads those patents. Any useful stuff in there is independently reinvented, so those "inventors that do pure research and development" don't contribute anything -- implemented ideas would occur at the same pace without them.

  • by lennier1 (264730) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @04:09AM (#33744626)

    Why shouldn't we allow patents of film plots including (for example) a teleportation device as found in Star Trek?

    Because the movie industry is too busy running its extortion racket to follow up on things like this?

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @04:12AM (#33744644)

    The problem with this is that if I decide to patent "Online Purchasing of Movies", then I will effectivly shut off all other people and get a monopoly on it.

    Patents lock down ideas. In software this makes no sense, because there are so many ideas which are the effective 'next step', so its all a race to see who can get it first - no matter how abstract it is.

    Patents make sense for certain things. If I design a program to sort a list in the most effective way to date, then I don't believe anyone should use it without my permission - however if I patent "Sorting a list", then that suffocates competition.

    In conclusion, the actual instance of software is already protected enough by laws, we don't need patents to block entire segments of the market by patenting the "Idea".

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @04:15AM (#33744652)

    To give a counter-example:

    I just patented "Commenting in an online news aggregation website" - now do research and development on that. You can't in fact. You can't get around it. My code was protected WITHOUT the patent. In fact, allowing ideas to be free and watching people make their own code and their own implementation and twists on it is what increases research and development.

    To give a good example of this - there are TONS of sorting algorithmns. If someone had patented "Using a computing device to sort a list" there would only be one.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @05:32AM (#33744946) Homepage

    Not so long as they get paid per patent accepted they won't.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @06:48AM (#33745204)

    To quote from Isaac Newton:

    If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

    Patents on ideas go against the most basic principles that brought the modern age to be.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @07:29AM (#33745340) Journal
    Not necessarily, because if they implemented ideas, they would likely infringe on other people's patents.

    For example, say you hold 3 patents. If you don't do anything and just wait for someone like IBM to infringe, you can sue them and get $$$.

    However if you actually try to make something, you might infringe on one or more patents of the tens of thousands in IBM's patent portfolio. So you might have to cross license, maybe even pay IBM more than IBM pays you.

    In which case you might not make as much money per capital invested for the risk you take.

    So the patent system actually encourages many people/companies to try to patent a vague loose description of a useful idea and then just sit on it, rather than actually build stuff to help society.

    And it also encourages the rest to patent lots of crap in defense against each other (doesn't work against the trolls). Not very good for innovation. And overall it just ends up being an unnecessary tax on society. Useless friction on the wheels of progress etc.

    Ideas are easy. Many of us here can come up with lots of ideas. The difficulty is getting them done.

    Plagiarism on the other hand is something different. So to me it's fine for you to copy someone, but you should not claim you are the first if you aren't - that would be lying (and if it's lying for gain it's fraud).

    To me if you wanted to encourage innovation, you could have Prizes for Innovation. These would be judged in hindsight (hindsight is easier right?). You could have many different categories, and two classes of prizes - one judged by the Public and one by Experts in the Field.

    So even if the expert snobs think your invention sucks, if the Public think your invention is good, you still could win a prize.

    Yes it's not a billion dollar bonanza but neither are Nobel Prizes, and still many regard those as prestigious.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @07:45AM (#33745410)

    Does anyone know of any fledgling software companies that were strong-armed into oblivion by software patents?

    Mine.

    I'm afraid to go into business with my great idea thanks to software patents. So I'll just keep it to myself and keep working my 9 to 5.

    That's what's so insidious about software patents. They have a chilling effect on the industry.

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @08:12AM (#33745544)

    Then they should be payed per patent processed (either accepted or rejected) instead.

    Which means they'll green light anything and everything they see.

    Better to pay them to do their job regardless of the number of patents. You know...like much of the rest of the world.

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