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How do professional developers deal with software patents?

P: n/a
What is the impact of software patents on a developer's plans to
market, or even use, his/her work? I have a set of my own PHP scripts
that I want to use for building my clients' sites, but I am not sure
if any of the routines violate patents or if I should pursue patents
on them myself.

It is a very difficult, time consuming task to research all the
software patents out there (over 200,000 I have heard), and many of
them are so generic and vague,one could easily misunderstand the scope
of their application. Any court action is out of the question, due to
limited financial resources. Patent challenges cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars.

So do you just plunge ahead and hope to make some money before a
challenge comes? Do you try to stay under the radar and hope no one
catches you? Do you try to get patents of your own, as some sort of
feeble self-protection? ... Or do you just give up and take that job
as an auto mechanic?

By the way, I've checked with a very prominent patent attorney in my
city, and the only help he could offer was to confirm that the
software patent situation is as I describe. Furthermore, he can help
only to the extent of guiding me through the legal issues that come up
in the course of whatever decision I make. In other words, he had no
advice regarding how to approach this at all. That is a business
decision, and he does not place himself in the position of advising
his clients on that level.
Jun 2 '08 #1
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9 Replies


P: n/a
firewoodtim schreef:
What is the impact of software patents on a developer's plans to
market, or even use, his/her work? I have a set of my own PHP scripts
that I want to use for building my clients' sites, but I am not sure
if any of the routines violate patents or if I should pursue patents
on them myself.

It is a very difficult, time consuming task to research all the
software patents out there (over 200,000 I have heard), and many of
them are so generic and vague,one could easily misunderstand the scope
of their application. Any court action is out of the question, due to
limited financial resources. Patent challenges cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars.

So do you just plunge ahead and hope to make some money before a
challenge comes? Do you try to stay under the radar and hope no one
catches you? Do you try to get patents of your own, as some sort of
feeble self-protection? ... Or do you just give up and take that job
as an auto mechanic?

By the way, I've checked with a very prominent patent attorney in my
city, and the only help he could offer was to confirm that the
software patent situation is as I describe. Furthermore, he can help
only to the extent of guiding me through the legal issues that come up
in the course of whatever decision I make. In other words, he had no
advice regarding how to approach this at all. That is a business
decision, and he does not place himself in the position of advising
his clients on that level.
Hi,

Good question.
In my opinion it is almost impossible for a mere mortal to get an
overview, which is why I hate software patents very deeply.
Every time I think up some solution, I am afraid of infringing
somebody's patent. I simply stopped caring.

Ever since lawers took interest into programming (or better the money
going round in programming) they made sure nobody, in their right state
of mind, could make sense of it. They usually do.
Add to that the different 'logic' (if that word can be applied to laws)
that exists in different parts of the world, and you know you need at
least a phd in the field to make sense of it.

I have a lot of respect for Richard Stallman, who saw this whole mess
coming when it was just starting.

More info here:
http://www.gnu.org/

Regards,
Erwin Moller
Jun 2 '08 #2

P: n/a
rf
firewoodtim <fi*********@cavtel.netwrote in
news:8r********************************@4ax.com:
What is the impact of software patents
What?

There is no such thing as a patent on software. There my be copyright which
simply means don't steal somebody's code.
--
Richard
Killing all threads involving google groups
The Usenet Improvement Project: http://improve-usenet.org
Jun 2 '08 #3

P: n/a
rf schreef:
firewoodtim <fi*********@cavtel.netwrote in
news:8r********************************@4ax.com:
>What is the impact of software patents

What?

There is no such thing as a patent on software.
No such thing?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patent

The definition of what a software patent is excactly might be hard, but
that is quite a wikipediapage for a thing that doesn't exists. ;-)

Regards,
Erwin Moller

There my be copyright which
simply means don't steal somebody's code.

Jun 2 '08 #4

P: n/a
rf schreef:
>firewoodtim <fi*********@cavtel.netwrote in
news:8r********************************@4ax.com :
>>What is the impact of software patents

What?

There is no such thing as a patent on software.

No such thing?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patent

The definition of what a software patent is excactly might be hard,
but that is quite a wikipediapage for a thing that doesn't exists. ;-)

Regards,
Erwin Moller

There my be copyright which
>simply means don't steal somebody's code.
He's right, code can not be patented.

It can be copyrighted, just a book can. Parts can be trademarked. But
there is not avenue for patent.

Go to any of the hundreds of free legit patent lookups, including gvt
type, and try to find ANY software patent on ONLY the software; you
won't find any. Go to the CFR or whatever it is in your country and
read the definition of "patent" and what is "patentable".

So, don't plagairize the likes of Microsoft and you'll be fine.
--
Regards,

Twayne

Open Office isn't just for wimps anymore;
OOo is a GREAT MS Office replacement
www.openoffice.org

Jun 2 '08 #5

P: n/a
On Tue, 22 Apr 2008 13:53:39 GMT, rf <rf@x.invalidwrote in
<D5*****************@news-server.bigpond.net.au>:
>firewoodtim <fi*********@cavtel.netwrote in
news:8r********************************@4ax.com :
>What is the impact of software patents

What?

There is no such thing as a patent on software.
There is in the U.S. and it's a recurring issue for the European
Union. I don't know about the rest of the world.

In the U.S. one can patent all kinds of things, including algorithms.
RSA had a patent on their implementation of the Diffie-Helman public
key algorithm that just expired a few years ago, for example:

<http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/computing/09/07/security.patent.release.idg/>
<http://www.rsa.com/press_release.asp?doc_id=261&id=1034>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSA>
>There my be copyright
In the U.S., Canada and the European Union, software is indeed subject
to copyright. I believe that's also the case for much of the rest of
the industrialized world (possibly excluding communist counties like
China).
>which simply means don't steal somebody's code.
It also means that you can't make copies of the code without
permission, even if you don't claim to be the author. E.g.
duplicating MS Excel in ways not permitted by the license. Copyright
protection is also what allows the GPL and LGPL to be enforced by
copyright holders or their proxies.
--
Charles Calvert | Software Design/Development
Celtic Wolf, Inc. | Project Management
http://www.celticwolf.com/ | Technical Writing
(703) 580-0210 | Research
Jun 2 '08 #6

P: n/a
On Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:16:37 GMT, "Twayne"
<no****@devnull.spamcop.netwrote in <9rmPj.5297$Ux4.4737@trnddc07>:
>rf schreef:
>>firewoodtim <fi*********@cavtel.netwrote in
news:8r********************************@4ax.co m:

What is the impact of software patents

What?

There is no such thing as a patent on software.

No such thing?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patent

The definition of what a software patent is excactly might be hard,
but that is quite a wikipediapage for a thing that doesn't exists. ;-)

He's right, code can not be patented.

It can be copyrighted, just a book can. Parts can be trademarked. But
there is not avenue for patent.

Go to any of the hundreds of free legit patent lookups, including gvt
type, and try to find ANY software patent on ONLY the software; you
won't find any. Go to the CFR or whatever it is in your country and
read the definition of "patent" and what is "patentable".
You can't patent the expression of an algorithm (that falls under
copyright, as you said), but you can (in the U.S., at least) patent an
algorithm. Perhaps that's what you meant, but your statement was
unclear to me.
>So, don't plagairize the likes of Microsoft and you'll be fine.
You won't be fine if your software implements a patented algorithm and
the patent holder discovers it and decides you're worth suing, either
for the money or to shore up the legal position of their patent.
--
Charles Calvert | Software Design/Development
Celtic Wolf, Inc. | Project Management
http://www.celticwolf.com/ | Technical Writing
(703) 580-0210 | Research
Jun 2 '08 #7

P: n/a
Twayne schreef:
>rf schreef:
>>firewoodtim <fi*********@cavtel.netwrote in
news:8r********************************@4ax.co m:

What is the impact of software patents
What?

There is no such thing as a patent on software.
No such thing?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patent

The definition of what a software patent is excactly might be hard,
but that is quite a wikipediapage for a thing that doesn't exists. ;-)

Regards,
Erwin Moller

There my be copyright which
>>simply means don't steal somebody's code.
Hi,
He's right, code can not be patented.
Here we go again. ;-)

Do you remember the gif/LZW missery?
A simple storage idea for indexed pixels and a compression technique.

I don't care about the actual *code* used to do these basic things, but
the idea.
It did get patented.
Graphical editting software that wanted to offer gif-export had to pay a
fee to Unisys, who obtained that patent by then.

The League for Programming Freedom (Stallman again, hurray) even started
a 'Burn all gifs' campaign.

It was the public opinion that made them change their mind, not the law.

It can be copyrighted, just a book can. Parts can be trademarked. But
there is not avenue for patent.

Go to any of the hundreds of free legit patent lookups, including gvt
type, and try to find ANY software patent on ONLY the software; you
won't find any. Go to the CFR or whatever it is in your country and
read the definition of "patent" and what is "patentable".
So we can get into WHAT excactly can be patented (code or idea) and
WHERE (depending on where you live), but you know as well as I do, that
is not a clear line in the sand, but a swamp.

It is not clear at all, it is a total mess.
>
So, don't plagairize the likes of Microsoft and you'll be fine.
You can only hope for that.

Regards,
Erwin Moller
Jun 2 '08 #8

P: n/a
On Tue, 22 Apr 2008 08:49:35 -0400, firewoodtim
<fi*********@cavtel.netwrote in
<8r********************************@4ax.com>:
>What is the impact of software patents on a developer's plans to
market, or even use, his/her work?
That really depends on what you're doing. If one writes in-house
software, it's unlikely that anyone holding an applicable patent would
ever know the software exists, much less sue.

If you're creating software for commercial distribution, however, you
might have to give this some thought, as competitors and patent trolls
may well notice your product and check into it if they think it might
infringe.

[snip]
>It is a very difficult, time consuming task to research all the
software patents out there (over 200,000 I have heard), and many of
them are so generic and vague,one could easily misunderstand the scope
of their application. Any court action is out of the question, due to
limited financial resources. Patent challenges cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
Most people just ignore the problem, figuring they'll cross that
bridge when thy come to it. Recent activity by companies like SCO has
brought this issue to people's attention, so that may change. Still,
if you're a self-funded one or two person start-up, it isn't
economically feasible to do a search.

[snip rest]
--
Charles Calvert | Software Design/Development
Celtic Wolf, Inc. | Project Management
http://www.celticwolf.com/ | Technical Writing
(703) 580-0210 | Research
Jun 2 '08 #9

P: n/a
On Tue, 22 Apr 2008 08:49:35 -0400, firewoodtim
<fi*********@cavtel.netwrote:

<snip>

To clarify, I am in the US, and here there definitely are software
patents, as well as the even more egregious "business method" patents
(think Amazon's "one click").

I gather from the posts so far that no one has an answer to this
question, at least in the USA, except to just go ahead and hope for
the best, which is what I will do.

However, there are some points regarding patents in general which
could help to clarify whether or not one's project may be infringing
on some unknown, blocking patent already in existence. Every patent,
to be legit, must be both novel and non-obvious. So if you create a
solution to a problem that no one has implemented yet; that is novel.
However, it still has to be sufficiently sophisticated that an expert
in the field, given the problem, would not think to implement the
solution you developed. That is non-obvious.

Of course, what is obvious to you may not be obvious to me, and
therein lies the rub. How does the law define obvious, in regard to
software? I do not know. In a sense, to someone or other, every
solution is obvious. I remember asking a near-genius friend in
college how to solve a calculus problem. He scribbled some stuff on a
piece of paper and showed it to me. I looked at his solution and then
at him blankly. He asked, "Don't you understand?" I could only
wonder what it all meant.

Of course, convincing a judge or even a patent examiner that a
particular solution is non-obvious should be a snap; they, after all,
don't write software and have no way of knowing, one way or the other.
Thus, lots and lots of software patents. What a situation we are in.

Yet, if anyone can give guidance on what criteria are used in software
patents by patent examiners to establish non-obviousness, that would
be very, very helpful.
Jun 2 '08 #10

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