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Red Hat Urges USPTO To Deny Most Software Patents 175

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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:32AM (#33744500)
    as a holder of patents on random shit that shouldn't be patentable all I can say is that the USPTO cleans up the mess they have created.
  • by pesc ( 147035 ) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:49AM (#33744574)

    So why should authors of software have different rules than authors of (for example) film plots?

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

  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @04:23AM (#33744662)

    Interestingly enough, the way patents work nowadays amongst large companies is "We won't tell if you don't"

    Which means that Xerox won't sue apple because they'll counter-sue on X other patents.

    Which also means that pa-and-ma's software development house can't raise its head high enough to avoid getting sued into oblivion.

    And this is good for innovation :)

  • by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @05:20AM (#33744884)

    Patents lock down ideas.

    This is the problem, the patent system does not lock down ideas, it locks down implementations of ideas, or at least is meant to. The problem is that with software they are patenting the ideas themselves.

    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

    Your individual program of course not, that would be limited by copyright. But the method you used to sort?? By patenting it you would essentially be patenting the mathematics behind your algorithm, which is obviously a stupid idea from the get-go and there are reasons math is not allowed to be patented.

    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".

    Close, but I think what you mean to say is, specific implementations of algorithms in source/binary are already protected by copyright. People should be unable to patent different mathematical ways of doing the same thing, as well as the general idea.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:01AM (#33745884) Homepage

    Maybe they should have a big fine for every patent which is later invalidated. Subtracted directly from the salary of the department boss where applicable.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:36AM (#33746162) Journal

    Sure, but I was more wondering if there was actually a fledgling business who tried to get off the ground, but was hit with a hard lawsuit. I'm not saying there isn't a problem here (I think there probably is), but I was just hoping for a solid, measurable basis for such fears.

    I don't know about you specifically, but it can be kinda scary to give up the 9 to 5 and run a business full time. Fears that look big may turn out to be small or non-existent. That's why I'm curious about actually filed anti-competitive lawsuits.

  • by eulernet ( 1132389 ) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:49AM (#33746312)

    To me if you wanted to encourage innovation, you could have Prizes for Innovation.
    Yes it's not a billion dollar bonanza but neither are Nobel Prizes, and still many regard those as prestigious.

    In France, we have subventions for innovation by an organization called Anvar.

    You have to present your R&D advances, and if it's innovative enough, you'll get money to help you pay your development team (they'll pay you a percentage of your expenses for the R&D salaries).

    Of course, all companies are taxed for this organization, but the money is redistributed to the innovative ones.

    In my opinion, this is a better way to handle innovation than patents, since you can be paid around 2 years after having started...

  • by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:01AM (#33746476)

    You seem to be treating this as if a computer is an extension to a machine. While the hardware of a computer is a machine it is in the software that the wanted functionality resides. Computers essentially only do math, extremely fast math but math.

    You don't patent mathematics, in the same way that a mechanical drawing doesn't patent drawing. Let's say you figure out the mathematic substrate of an algorithm: you patent that algorithm (aka process or method), not the mathematics involved. Remember, it's the method, system, or product what you are patenting.

    Your argument seems to be that pure mathematics without applied use is not patentable, but apply mathematical formula and methods to a problem and it suddenly is? ludicrous. You would in essence be sectioning off certain parts of math applied to certain topics to specific people.

    Any form of useful mathematics takes an input and produces and output, and could be considered a 'process' as such that transforms something. That being said, it is entirely abstract unless you argue about the computer modifying electrons, and is irrelevent to actual physical inventions

    Only the program product deserves protection, and it is already protected by copyright, so what useful purpose do software patents serve except limiting what uses people can use math and abstract ideas for?

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard