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Stallman Critical of OSDL Patent Project 226

Posted by Zonk
from the moving-back-before-you-move-forward dept.
PatPending writes to mention a News.com article about Richard Stallman's objections to the OSDL patent project. He argues that the project may actually be 'worse than nothing', as it will undermine certain legal tactics. From the article: "'Thus, our main chance of invalidating a patent in court is to find prior art that the Patent Office has not studied,' Stallman wrote. Second, patent applicants could use the prior art uncovered by the OSDL to write patent claims that simply avoid the technologies used in the tagged software. 'The Patent Office is eager to help patent applicants do this,' Stallman wrote. Finally, he wrote, a 'laborious half measure' such as the Open Source as Prior Art project could divert attention from the real problem: that software is patentable in the first place."
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Stallman Critical of OSDL Patent Project

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  • Aboslutly correct. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:04PM (#16157328) Homepage Journal
    "Finally, he wrote, a 'laborious half measure' such as the Open Source as Prior Art project could divert attention from the real problem: that software is patentable in the first place.""

    Aboslutly correct.
    • I was beginning to think everyone had just accepted the idea that the patent system is just a game people will be forced to play.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cloricus (691063)
        Oh god. I think I just read a Stallman point of view and agreed with every point. :| I didn't think that would ever happen...

        I guess I'm going to be one of the people chanting "down with this project" now?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by orasio (188021)
          The problem is that the guy in the past was talking about bad things that would happen if you didn't follow his lead. He sounded a little nutty, talking about an oppressive future, for example whn he discussed Palladium, or "Treacherous Computing".
          Right now, the problems he was talking about are more real, DRM, and trusted computing are real problems that affect you right now.
          He hasn't changed, but the reality did change into what he said it would.
          Software patents right now have a harmful effect, but they c
      • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Interesting)

        by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:06PM (#16157676) Homepage Journal
        Keep in mind that the we're talking specifically of software patents here.
        Drug and hardware patents are also problematic, but the reform had better be well considered, or the cure could be worse than the disease. The specific case of software, however, is one where we can eschew playing without destabilizing the economy too readily.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:13PM (#16157379)
      It's like saying nobody should steal, so I won't lock my car/house/whatever.

      Sure, in the long term, and a perfect world, you might want to get rid of software patents. Right now however they are real and are here and measure that combat them face to face have some merit.

      • by geekoid (135745)
        Measures like this give they appearence that something has been fixed.
        We must continue to point out that it's not only broken, but that software patents are a mistake to begin with.

        You don't need the perfect world, you need to put in the efforts to take political steps to see that congress ends software patents.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Measures like this give they appearence that something has been fixed.

          Indeed. Look at crypto export regulations. A lot of people now think that cryptography isn't meaningfully regulated, but in reality, only mass-market software is free from the onerous restrictions. If you start selling, say, a secure wireless keyboard over the Internet, you can still be charged with a crime. (Why do you think there are *still* no actually-secure wireless keyboards on the market?)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by grcumb (781340)
        It's like saying nobody should steal, so I won't lock my car/house/whatever.

        -1 Analogy

        No it's not like that at all. It's not like anything, except the plain statement that patents, designed for finite, physical objects, should not be applied to infinitely reproducible items like software.

        Software is not a house, a car or any other physical thing. Please stop pretending it is.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Millenniumman (924859)
          Why does software not being a physical object make it less suitable to be patented? Patents are there so that if you invent something, someone else can't copy it and mass produce it cheaper than you can, without having paid anything for the development. If I invent a new software algorithm, and it is not patented, then someone can copy it (not a copy of the code, but of the process) into their own software, which they have far greater resources to distribute and undercut on price. Why should I spend time in
          • by vertinox (846076) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:22PM (#16157784)
            If I invent a new software algorithm, and it is not patented, then someone can copy it (not a copy of the code, but of the process) into their own software, which they have far greater resources to distribute and undercut on price. Why should I spend time inventing new algorithms, then?

            Because chances are the algorithm you created was most likely neither novel nor unique to the large amounts of algorithms created before you. As in... Your algorithm had to be based on some math that everyone knows or at the most an obscure math professor came up with years ago.

            You aren't writing your own language but taking from knowledge of mankind and applying it to your own methods.

            Secondly, copyrights protect someone from copying your code, but not your methods because if someone can simply recreate your algorithm simply by looking at the results and not even see any of your source code then again... your algorithm was neither novel nor unique and therby not deserve a patent.

            However, your effort and code should be copyrighted and protected by such methods.
            • by LordLucless (582312) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:33PM (#16157844)
              Building on what you said: the whole basis of a patent is that of a trade. The public gives the inventory a time-limited monopoly, the inventor tells the public how his invention works. The reason this is a good deal for the public is the non-obvious clause. Patents are designed to protect things that nobody else can figure out how to do. If someone can look at your invention and think "Eh, I know how to do that", then your invention is not worthy of patent - the public would be getting a bad deal, because they're trading a monopoly for something they already know. Patents are designed so that when someone invents something really cool, he doesn't keep it as a trade secret. If he does, and he dies, then the world loses knowledge. If he patents it, then everyone knows how to do it (even if they can't use it for another ten years) and knowledge is retained. That is how patents can (and should) act towards the good. The problem now is that the USPTO is betraying their purpose by making crappy deals on behalf of the public. They're giving away monopolies like candy, and reaping the kickbacks (errr, I mean processing fees).
              • inventor, not inventory. I knew there was a reason for the preview button.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Soldrinero (789891)
                Not that I'm a fan of the current patent system, but patents can and should cover things other than just "things that no one else can figure out." Non-obvious doesn't mean that you can't figure it out, but that you wouldn't think of doing it. For example, I've used a set of Allen wrenches that had specially beveled ends. The way they were shaped allowed you to turn the screw even with the wrench at a significant angle, like 20 degrees or so. Now, it's not at all difficult to figure out how they work, but th
          • by F452 (97091) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:29PM (#16157827) Homepage
            Maybe you shouldn't, if you're concerned about not getting monopoly protection. No loss to the rest of us. Someone else will do it in your place. Patents are supposed to promote innovation for the benefit of society. Software patents just stifle people who are already working on making better algorithms with no interest in idea monopolies.

            ----
            Freedom is on the March!
            http://www.movingtofreedom.org [movingtofreedom.org]
          • The fact is *VERY* little software is actually anything truly new, not derivative, original, and worthy of a patent in the first place. It all builds off of other ideas, and concepts.

            I also beleive that patents in regards to software don't fit the timeframe for patents on physical devices. It would be a far different situation if patents were only valid on software concepts for 3-5 years opposed to 20.

            I would seriously challenge anyone to name a software concept from the past 20 years that doesn't h
          • by codehead78 (452976) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:39PM (#16157876)
            Dude, cloning existing good software, assigning it a 0.1 version number, giving it away for nothing, and telling everyone they should be using the clone instead is what Open Source is all about.
          • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:42PM (#16157894) Homepage
            Why should I spend time inventing new algorithms, then?

            The same reason you spend time writing software at all (that others with more resources may duplicate and undercut): The new algorithm solves a particular need of yours. It is useful.

            This is why Sir Charles Hoare created the quicksort in 1960. It probably didn't even occur to him that this was something he should prevent others from using, and he still found it useful to invent. Thank God he did not -- could not -- patent it, or it would have been over a decade before people could have taken free advantage of the fastest-average-time general sorting algorithm known today. Imagine everyone else had been doing the same thing -- locking up merge sort, bin sort, r/b binary trees, avl binary trees, b-trees, etc etc. With all these foundations of computer science locked up in patents for 14-20 years, how much progress do you think the software world would have made compared to what it did with free access to all these ideas? Remember, we're talking about a fourth of the entire existence of computers.

            Why does software not being a physical object make it less suitable to be patented?

            Because software is math.

            That's all it is. A program is just a series of mathematical operations performed by a computer. Now the computer is an invention. But the software is just a calculation. Patenting a software algorithm is like patenting a sequence of button pushes on your calculator, and by "like" I mean "is very literally the same".

            Imagine if Sir Issac Newton had decided to lock away his Calculus? He might have had some legal troubles from Leibniz, but once they came to an amicable arangement, everyone else would have been out of luck. Is Calculus not a great invention? Of course! But like all math, it is an invention whose benefit comes from what could be built upon it. Thank goodness that Newton published his book and did not restrict others from using what it described, or you have to wonder where we'd be today.

            Why shouldn't software be patentable? Because it's a patent on math, the fundamental language of the universe.

          • by grcumb (781340)

            Why does software not being a physical object make it less suitable to be patented?

            Because there are laws covering ideas and, however wrong they might be, they pass the test of applicability. Ultimately, patents were designed to present the rapid duplication of physical objects (and explicitly not ideas).

            Patents are there so that if you invent something, someone else can't copy it and mass produce it cheaper than you can, without having paid anything for the development.

            I'll get to development costs i

          • by thePig (964303)
            Because, unlike other products, it is of no cost to mass produce in case of software.
            It is quite easy to bring the product to fore, in case of software.
            • It is not easy at all to bring software products into popularity. First of all, due to the lack of cost to duplicate you mentioned, it is easy for a large company to sell it cheap, or even give it away, in order to gain dominating marketshare. Second of all, popular products become de facto standards and it is hard to overcome them.
          • The advantage you should (and naturally) have is that you can put the product into production and profit from it before anyone else--sometimes that is all it takes to achieve market dominance. If you invent a new type of software, you will be the originator that everyone will see as the genuine thing or real deal. By the time others copy it, you'll have improved the product for the next release of the software. Why do you think even though there are tons of iPod knockoffs that iPods are still unrivaled as t

            • The iPod wasn't a new idea. It was an old idea done well.
              • It incorporated new ideas and innovations--the culmination of which was a new and innovative product in itself which others have tried to imitate ever since. In any case, my point still remains: having others copy your idea doesn't negate your ability to continue to profit (lucratively) from something you created first.
          • by arose (644256)
            Why should I spend time inventing new algorithms, then?
            Because you have a problem to solve. How many programers currently go over software patents to find a solution for their problem as opposed to find how to ovoid a patent problem?
        • No it's not like that at all. It's not like anything, except the plain statement that patents, designed for finite, physical objects, should not be applied to infinitely reproducible items like software.

          It not anything nearly that general. Or, at least, we don't know that it is. What we know is that we've tried applying patents to software, and over the last few decades, it's proven to be detrimental.

          Personally, I think you should be able to file a patent on nearly any invention, but patents should be

      • by anarxia (651289)
        It's more like having a law that doesn't sense and instead of voting it down you have a law firm that will take cases for free.

        Does the problem still exist? Yes.

        Does the law firm help? Yes

        I would call it a "better than nothing" measure but I wouldn't call it a solution.
      • by D. Book (534411)
        It's like saying nobody should steal, so I won't lock my car/house/whatever.

        Sure, in the long term, and a perfect world, you might want to get rid of software patents. Right now however they are real and are here and measure that combat them face to face have some merit.


        IMHO, a closer analogy to Stallman's position would be: "it's like saying people shouldn't spend money on wireless home security cameras if it makes them neglect securing their windows and doors, and particularly if it will make them even le
      • Your views neglect to account for how much say Europeans have had, the history of patenting in Australia, and most importantly, what could happen if more people get involved in the decisions of their governments. Patent regimes are not natural, they are designed, proposed, and adopted (sometimes by force). It's time the people get busy and become more interested in this fight before they lose more freedom to express themselves. Software developers can tell the stories and I've found through my experience
    • by westlake (615356) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:10PM (#16157704)
      Aboslutly correct.

      We are two months from an important mid-term election, two years from a presidential election. Patent reform ranks somewhere below The Bridge to Nowhere on the national political agenda.

      • by geekoid (135745)
        It doesn't mean it's not important. Some people can work on more then one thing in their lives.
        Considering how patenting software is stifling innovation, I consider it pretty important.

        "Aboslutly "

        you know, I proof read that and still screwed it up. sigh.
        • by westlake (615356)
          Some people can work on more then one thing in their lives.

          The thing is, you have to be realistic. You might see a slightly more centrist Congress after November. But that is all you are likely to see.

    • by RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:50PM (#16157937) Homepage Journal
      Yes, okay, sure... the Real Problem is that software is patentable in the first place. But does Stallman think that we're going to change that fact quickly just by being absolutist about it?

      If not, how many ideas do we want to see slip into proprietary hands while we maintain our moral purism about software patents? This is a political issue, and political agendas live, eat, sleep & breathe half-measures. According to Stallman, "If we are not careful, this can sap the pressure for a real solution." Erm, what pressure? Where is the well-funded, politically connected lobby that's creating more pressure for a Real Solution than beneficiaries of software patents can create in the opposite direction? `Cause short of that, we all know that we're not going to see a Real Solution anytime soon.

      IMO, the idea of "Open Source as Prior Art" is basically a good one that needs some tweaking. If Stallman is correct (and I have no way of knowing whether he is) that "when prior art is considered by the Patent Office during the patent-granting process, it usually loses any weight it might have had in a court case," then that might be a problem. However, I can't understand how patent holders of a variation on an OSDL-tagged thingamabob could (a) claim their idea is patentable because of some variation, and still (b) go after the FOSS-derived works. Wouldn't the very granting of the patent in spite of the OSDL art be the basis for establishing non-infringement?

      Stallman wants the very idea of ideas to be irrevocably tied to freedom. That's a beautiful vision, and God bless him if he can ever pull it off; I'm (sadly) not optimistic. Meanwhile, I'll settle for having as many of them as possible stay clean from proprietary claims. Failing both, anonymous/pseudonymous coding & releasing might be our only refuge.
    • It is correct as far as it goes, but what he's failing to realize is what is in place today.

      In an ideal world, software wouldn't be patentable. But we don't live in an ideal world. Therefore, it might be good to deal with the situation at hand first.

    • ...but I would suggest that playing by their rules may help to expose the insane number of patents that should not have been granted, should not have even been considered, should have been shredded for Fatmouse bedding long ago.

      After gathering enough evidence (while, at the same time, actually protecting people from lawsuits), we will win either by actually educating patent officers to the point where it's no longer fashionable to patent a system for swinging on a swing, or something even more ridiculous in
  • by xtaski (457801) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:10PM (#16157365)
    Have to disagree. For those without $1M of FSF funds to run around fighting granted, bad patents, it's much more difficult to fight in a come-from-behind position when XYZ Patent Troll Inc. already has a patent granted. Litigating patents is expensive. It's cheaper to lop off the 10% that are obvious "spam patents" before they're ever granted than to let all 10% (that would be like 4,000 these days) go through and clean up later...
    • by cswiger2005 (905744) <cswiger@mac.com> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:03PM (#16157664) Homepage
      It's better to lop off as many software patents as we can, agreed. Litigating patents is usually expensive, but then, having to pay a patent troll royalties for a bogus claim usually becomes expensive, too. Having prior art available to refute a patent troll's claim makes litigating bogus patents a lot easier and a lot cheaper.

      I don't believe anything which could be described as an algorithm should be patentable. I also don't believe that you should patent public API's, as such "programming interfaces" are by definition intended for use by other programs; public APIs normally are widely distributed in documentation, which at least prevents others from patenting the APIs which you might release (as your release will obviously constitute prior art). I suppose that if you implement computer software which is sufficiently original, not completely obvious after 5 minutes of thought, and is not representable as a mathematical algorithm, that might deserve the protection of a patent, but for the most part, simple copyright ought to provide enough protection....
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        I suppose that if you implement computer software which is sufficiently original, not completely obvious after 5 minutes of thought, and is not representable as a mathematical algorithm, that might deserve the protection of a patent

        So was everyone asleep in that part of computational theory where they point out that everything (including hardware) is reducible to a mathematical algorithm?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cswiger2005 (905744)
          So was everyone asleep in that part of computational theory where they point out that everything (including hardware) is reducible to a mathematical algorithm?

          In theory, perhaps. More accurately, ideal hardware can be represented or modelled by mathematical algorithms, but real-world hardware exhibits a number of differences from ideal models, including non-perfect TTL response: real transistors aren't ideal binary on-off devices and exhibit non-linear behavior especially as they heat up or run outside of

    • It's cheaper to lop off the 10% that are obvious "spam patents" before they're ever granted than to let all 10% (that would be like 4,000 these days) go through and clean up later...

      Perhaps it's cheaper in the short term, but if letting the worst 10% of software patents go through annoys enough people that we're able to get rid of all software patents, or the worst 90%, it would be cheaper in the long run to allow obvious "spam patents".

      What's broken: the obvious "spam patents" or the system that approves

  • by xtaski (457801) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:12PM (#16157372)
    Would you wait for the rest of the house to burn down and rebuild the entire house from scratch... or put out the fire on the counter and replace the counter...?
  • Playing the odds (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:24PM (#16157431) Homepage

    I'd bet on RMS, smelly hippy though he is, being right in the mid to long term, if for no other reason than he hasn't (to the best of my knowledge) been wrong yet. In any prediction. Ever.

    In purely practical terms, the OSDL patent project is like trying to put out a burning forest by standing close enough to sweat on it.

    • Lets pull out the GNU Manifesto, shall we?

      "All sorts of development can be funded with a Software Tax:

      Suppose everyone who buys a computer has to pay x percent of the price as a software tax. The government gives this to an agency like the NSF to spend on software development.

      But if the computer buyer makes a donation to software development himself, he can take a credit against the tax. He can donate to the project of his own choosing--often, chosen because he hopes to use the results when it is done. He c
  • patent GPL? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by delirium of disorder (701392) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:25PM (#16157435) Homepage Journal
    I actually agree with rms for the most part, but will play devil's advocate for a bit here. Stallman never liked conventional software licenses. He wanted to create and use free software but licenses got in the way. He could have fought all licenses and even all copyrights, and demanded that all information be free. Instead he built a license upon established copyright law, and the GNU GPL was born. Now he has a problem with software patents. Instead of supporting the free and open use of patents, he is saying that all software patents are unjust. Why does Stallman consider the OSDL patent initiative so bad? If it is unfair because it uses the same legal protections as the corporate trolls, then doesn't the GPL legitimate the unjust system of software licenses in the same way?
    • But this is *different*

      Actually I think you are right (and I think the OSDL is doing the right thing), problem is there is no other way. If there was a way seperate from what the OSDL is doing then great. I don't think there is. I don't think that the establishment will allow change as massive as abolishing SW patents. Next best thing is a Db that demonstrates that everything is enough a deritive of prior art as to not be patentable.

      -nB
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mateo_LeFou (859634)
      One kinda important difference is that copyright automatically attaches to any software that is written. Patents do not. So getting a patent on software would be an active (evil) step to take, but getting copyright on software is totally inadvertent. And rms correctly realized that putting software into the public domain was -- well, not evil -- but not as good as it could be.
      • "One kinda important difference is that copyright automatically attaches to any software that is written."

        This is a cop-out argument. If you write software and choose not to protect it, the copyright is meanlingless. Putting a copyright notice on your software and thus signaling to the world that you intend to protect it (as RMS does) is just as active an act as filing for a patent.
    • Re:patent GPL? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by illuminatedwax (537131) <stdrange@alumn i . u c h i c a go.edu> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:08PM (#16157691) Journal
      Because if someone patents something, you can't make a free version of it yourself. A software patent closes off all versions and iterations of that software completely.

      Stallman's issue isn't with copyright - his issue is with people not voluntarily giving up their code to the community. He is all for copyright and ownership of code. His problem is that software is not something you should be able to patent, and that the OSDL initiative distracts from this point.
      • by bgarcia (33222)

        Because if someone patents something, you can't make a free version of it yourself.

        Sure you can... IF the patent-holder allows you to do so. That is OSDL's goal.

        Stallman's issue isn't with copyright

        Oh yes it is [gnu.org]. In particular, his issue is that copyrights were meant as a concession to artists & inventors to further the public good. The public gives up its freedom to use certain arts, ideas, and inventions for a short period of time in exchange for making those things public knowledge. But nowa

        • Sure you can... IF the patent-holder allows you to do so. That is OSDL's goal.

          But that's the whole problem - people shouldn't be allowed to have that kind of power over software. Having a law you disagree with shouldn't be fixed by begging people not to enforce it. That kind of goal puts us at the mercy of patent holders. If you agree with Stallman, and think that software patents are bad in part because it means you can't make free software without violating patents, that basically makes the entire free so

    • by DrJimbo (594231)
      Patent law and copyright law are totally different. That is why RMS insists on not using the term "Intellectual property". Use of that term throws totally different things together and causes confusion.

      Suggesting that RMS should deal with patent laws the same way he dealt with copyright laws is like suggesting he use a plunger to extinguish a kitchen fire since clogged drains and kitchen fires are both "household problems".

      The GPL allows software authors to publish and distribute their software in a
    • Stallman and the FSF -aren't- against software copyrights as a matter of principle. He does call for reducing the length of copyright and the scope of what it can restrict, but not for an outright abolition. On the other hand, the FSF (and incidentally I agree) regards patents as inappropriate in any case involving software. That is, in fact, their position-software should be eligible only for copyright, never for patents.

      You can read more here, [gnu.org] which probably explains it a lot more thoroughly then I do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asuffield (111848)

      Why does Stallman consider the OSDL patent initiative so bad? If it is unfair because it uses the same legal protections as the corporate trolls, then doesn't the GPL legitimate the unjust system of software licenses in the same way?

      Because something like the GPL cannot work for patents. Every time the design is changed, you have to take out a new patent, which costs a large amount of money. In effect, this would be a fee for modifying the software. There is no way to construct such a system that is compati

  • at least, not any time soon. Stallman is a great thinker, but he seems to have a reality distortion field that Steve Jobs would envy. I agree that the fact patents exist at all is a problem -but it's one which is not going to change, period. So the OSDL Patent project really is the only practical way of coping with the situation.

  • So, let me get this straight: RMS has come out against measures which would ensure that inventions which people patented were truly new and not copies of prior art. In other words, if he has his way, it will be more likely that patents which will be issued which don't represent truly novel inventions. This is a good thing?
  • Horns Of A Dilemna (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:47PM (#16157573) Journal
    On Stallman's (probably long) list of things he doesn't like, the following rank at or near the top:
    • Software patents.
    • Proprietary (that is, closed) software.
    Here's the thing: Probably the best defense against having to deal with software patents is to keep the software closed. Don't make the code public and don't tell how it works. If people don't know you've violated their patent, they are not likely to sue you, and their software patent won't be worth very much.


    Such a strategy is not dishonest - even when behaving with the highest integrity, inadvertent patent violation is not only possible, but likely. You should not knowingly violate patents, but you aren't required to help the patent holders identify offenders either.

    By hating both simultaneously, RMS has given himself a very tough row to hoe. Open software is highly vulnerable to patent litigation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076)
      Probably the best defense against having to deal with software patents is to keep the software closed. Don't make the code public and don't tell how it works. If people don't know you've violated their patent, they are not likely to sue you, and their software patent won't be worth very much.

      I hate to ask this, but if someone uses your code and uses it in their own... Isn't that a copyright violation?

      I say this because just because you have the code doesn't make the process easy to copy. Unless of course yo
      • I'm not exactly sure what your point is, but...

        if you can simply copy the process by looking at the end results (and or code), chances are it wasn't worth patenting in the first place.

        Many brilliant and inventive ideas can often be implemented in a few lines of code. The Fast Fourier Transform and Quick Sort are just two examples (although neither were patented).

        If I come up with an idea and use that to create a physical working device then I should patent the device... Not the idea of the de

    • And bravo to Mr. Stallman for taking such a hard line for what he considers to be freedom.
  • Firstly I am completely convinced software patents are a big mistake and all available effort should directly to completely abolishing them, no less.

    This debate has been rehashed so much, but I really get tired of hearing some things like:

    "Software patents are here to stay get used to it."

    Bloody hell, how defeatest is that. They aren't here to stay, but they will be if that is going to be people's attitude. Also aiming at stop gap measures is a complete waste of resources and will only give softwar
  • http://threeseas.net/abstraction_physics.html [threeseas.net]

    Stallman is correct that this OSDL based project is of FALSE intent.
    The intent is to deceive and distract from the real issue.

    When honesty of the matter (the nature of software) is dismissed via non-sequeturs and illogical irrational response, you just can't help but know what the genuine intent of the effort is.

    There is no real excuse to not address the matter correctly. So why is it not being honestly addressed, but instead the presentation of so called short t
  • Say it aint so! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by novus ordo (843883) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @11:05PM (#16158886) Journal
    Critics have pointed out that many of the large companies behind patent reform efforts in the United States, such as Microsoft and IBM--both also OSDL members and supporters of Open Source as Prior Art--are the same companies aggressively pushing for software patents to be legitimized in Europe.
    Umm...there is no contradiction there...let us explain...

    But the truth is they WANT software patents. I don't see them lobbying to change the status quo. All they are interested in the "quality":

    "OSDL supports the USPTO's drive to improve the quality of software patents."
    Stallman:
    "Thus, our main chance of invalidating a patent in court is to find prior art that the patent office has not studied. Furthermore, patent applicants can use this information to write patent claims that cover important activities while avoiding the known prior art that could invalidate the claims. The patent office is eager to help patent applicants do this."
    Ding? If not:
    IBMicrosoft: "Thank you little critters for making our patent applications the strongest on the planet. Now we can make sure that nobody will ever overturn our patent on quicksort, mergesort, bubblesort, mydickinyourassort...and don't forget the youinventedandIpatentedsort [wikipedia.org]"

    Backfire is an understatement...
  • I work at OSDL... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bryce (1842) on Friday September 22, 2006 @02:19AM (#16159326) Homepage

    I don't actually work on this particular project, but I did contribute some of the verbage for the project's main page. Not because I particularly believe in the project, but because my best friend asked it as a favor.

    Like generally EVERYONE, I believe software patents should be abolished. Like RMS, I worry this project might be a crutch for the software patent system. Part of me wants to just see the patent office fall smack on its face and be forced to drop the whole idea of software patents entirely.

    But realistically, come on, that is head-in-the-sand thinking. Software patents aren't going to simply go away because we wish it so. The U.S. Patent Office itself doesn't have the authority to stop granting software patents. Getting rid of them is going to take a concerted effort by a LOT of people, and ultimately may simply come down to the whims of whomever is in control of the U.S. government. From what I've seen, most people don't care enough about software patents to put time into fighting to eliminate them. (Speaking for myself, I'd rather be fighting the U.S. government about global warming or international relations, before I'd fight about software patents.)

    Despite my reservations, I'm actually glad to see OSDL taking action against bad software patents. It actually has the USPTO in good solid dialog with the community, and has engaged a wide variety of FOSS organisations like SourceForge and OSU-OSL on issues geared towards realistic, feasible approaches to mitigation of the problem. Last week OSDL held an on-site meeting with several representatives from the USPTO and various FOSS organizations to start towards some really cool solutions. While I philosophically am of the same mind as RMS about eliminating software patents entirely, I am seeing this OSDL effort making actual, tangible progress towards at least eliminating the absurd patent stories that keep appearing here on Slashdot.

    That said, I wish things were this simple. My friend that was organizing this project has left OSDL to go work for Canonical on Ubuntu. While he says it's mainly because he *really* wants to contribute his efforts towards improving Ubuntu's security, I suspect secretly a part is because of his true feelings about software patents. Whatever the case, in practice this prior art effort has suffered a major setback by the loss of its primary technical person.

    In the end, like always, it comes down to the rest of us. What do you think about software patents? Do you care enough to put your own time into solving the issues? Do you choose to do nothing and allow any form of software patents at all? Would you prefer to at least eliminate the bad ones? Or do you wish to devote time to getting rid of all software patents entirely? The easiest thing to do is what my friend, myself, and RMS are doing, and simply ignore it with the wish that software patents should just magically go away. The harder but probably more effective thing would be to put time into some sort of project aimed at pushing back and achieving some progress. I really respect those who have chosen this more difficult course, and suspect in the end they will be the ones that define our future situation in regards to software patents.

  • This is dog bites man. That is not news. Man bites dog is news. So I am waiting for an article where Stallman DOES like something he did not think of himself.

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