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US Software Patents Hit Record High 146

Aditi Tuteja writes "US Patent and Trademark Office made a new record for the number of software patents awarded in a single year. The agency has issued 893 new patents yesterday. Pushing the total to 30,232 in this year. If this is the trend, more than 40,000 software patents will be issued this year, according to the Public Patent Foundation. The previous record was set in 2004. Several major technology vendors have pledged not to enforce their patents against open source projects. IBM for instance essentially donated 500 patents to open source projects last year. Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court overthrew a prior judgement that required a judge to issue an automatic injunction if he found that a patent was being infringed."
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US Software Patents Hit Record High

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  • Thank God (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:39PM (#16150601) Homepage
    If we didn't have all this intellectual property everywhere, I feel very certain that we as a society would never write a line of code again.
    • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ruie ( 30480 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:43PM (#16150617) Homepage
      If we didn't have all this intellectual property everywhere, I feel very certain that we as a society would never write a line of code again.

      Indeed.

      In fact it is the second biggest thing after paper money: paper thought.

      • Over here in Australia, our "paper money" is made of plastic. Does that say anything about our "paper thought"? Maybe we're more synthetic than you guys...
      • I'm informing you now that "Paper Thought" has been patented by me. You've been warned.

        I've also got patents on the following:
        • Big Ball of Flaming Light to Light the Earth
        • A Unit of Measurement for the 4th Deminsion
        • The Multiplication of Living Organisms
    • Of course not. We don't really do anything with computers except let them run our lives mindlessly. Noone would ever do anything new if we couldn't make a buck on forcing other people to buy it only from us.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Without any intellectual property there could be no code. All code requires some intellectual property. When everything is patented, everyone will be a patent infringer. If you can selectivly enforce your patents, then get as many as possible and wait untill someone else uses the idea and gets rich. Then start enforcing the patent.
      • Patents in general poison the design, engineering and production regimes of progress. They direct wealth to specific individuals, often to what seem to be absurd degrees, at the expense of getting the next (set of) thing(s) done.

        Like many efforts that one can trace back to good intentions, patents represent a spectacular backfire in social planning.

        This wouldn't be so bad (speaking as a US citizen), but we have entirely lost control of our government and can no longer make changes of government syste

    • It isn't going to be pretty when all these submarine patents surface and open fire.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, because people in Europe never write any code...ever.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ich werde stark diesen Patenten entgegengesetzt. Sie hemmen Innovation. Mindestens tun einige Firmen die rechte Sache und schützendes OSS von diesen Patenten.
  • by Watson Ladd ( 955755 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:47PM (#16150644)
    How many of these are based on methods that are centuries old, like Projective Gauss-Siegel? And how many are just plain obvious?
    • by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:58PM (#16150697) Homepage
      Whoa, just because an idea has been around for CENTURIES doesn't mean it's has prior art. I mean, clearly $IDEA "on the internet" is a completely new and non-obvious idea.

      Hehehe, people should just ignore patents and hope they go away. It's much simpler than getting all in an uproar about it.

      Tom
      • by db32 ( 862117 )
        I believe you are close to right on this. I think it shouldn't be an ignore so much as blatantly disregard. If the system gets so flooded with patent lawsuits and countersuits and so on and so forth, eventually someone is going to have to fix it. The government wants their dollars, and if all the tech sector is deadlocked, slowed down, or otherwise crippled by this, the government will not be getting their dollar because foreign companies will just press forward and destroy what part of the tech market w
    • by donaldm ( 919619 )
      A method that is obvious people in the field may not be obvious to people outside the field. The problem is the people who find a method obvious are never consulted till it is to late and by that time they cannot (most likely get a headache first) understand the legal jargon that goes to make up a patent that in turn was made up by legal people who have little if any understanding of the technical aspects of the patent in the first place.

      Solution - disallow patents on all software (it's maths and logic anyw
    • ***How many of these are based on methods that are centuries old, like Projective Gauss-Siegel? And how many are just plain obvious?***

      Who the hell knows? Patents are, by intent, generally written in such a manner as to be pretty much incomprehensible. At a guess, the percentage of software patents that would pass muster amongst knowledgable software people as passing reasonable tests of originality and non-obviousness is in the single digits.

      BTW, it isn't just software. An acquaintance recently bent

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:48PM (#16150650)
    How about patenting laws and social program methods? Then, if a party needs a particular law, they can license it. Imagine, campaigns of the future will be "Democrats to license healthcare law from LawPatentFolksInc Inc." This can also help prevent the passing of asinine laws. Think about it .. just before speeding, one can patent "method of reducing roadway speeding by fining arbitrarily large amount of money".

    There's gold in 'dem there holes.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Basically the patent system is "accept all submissions, if it's wrong let people contest it in court". But don't they realize what a burden this is on society? Are patent examiners evaluated on how many wrong patents they let through, and fired if it is too high?

    Let's think of something else insane. An office where you fill a form and for $1000 you get official permission to punch anyone you want in the face. Insane? Yes. But is the patent system less insane?
    • I can tell you that it is not a rubber stamp process as ours took well over 16 months and several submissions, back and forth questions and answers, clarifications and justifications. Probably several hundred pages in total and I shudder to think what it cost in lawyer fees. The USPO examiner did his job and really made us work for it, narrowing the claims and causing us to better differentiate from prior patented software.
      • The USPO examiner did his job and really made us work for it, narrowing the claims and causing us to better differentiate from prior patented software.

        I've been through that too... it took six years to get it all approved. They are indeed very careful to check each patent against earlier patents.

        What the USPTO doesn't do, is check each patent against prior art. In effect, a patent simply says "This method may already be in common use, but this is the first time anyone has thought to patent it."

        To illus

        • by WebMink ( 258041 ) <slashdot@[ ]mink.net ['web' in gap]> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:41AM (#16152188) Homepage
          So, it's up to the courts to sort out the question of prior art. The common complaint here on slashdot (and in my own heart) is that the USPTO should check prior art... but now that I think about it, that seems inefficient. It's inefficient because most patents will never come to dispute, and hence are irrelevant. Why spend a gabillion dollars bringing in the necessary expertise, until you know that it actually matters (i.e. is actually challenged)?

          Seems to me that the main problem here is that there's no meaningful penalty for ignoring prior art. One idea that seems easy but I've never seen pursued is for the law to be changed to treat a failure to cite prior art as perjury. Then, should a successful prior art case be prosecuted against a patent, the applicant would be subject to fines or even imprisonment. This simple change would rebalance the system and result in far fewer lame patents with obvious prior art.

          • Seems to me that the main problem here is that there's no meaningful penalty for ignoring prior art. One idea that seems easy but I've never seen pursued is for the law to be changed to treat a failure to cite prior art as perjury. Then, should a successful prior art case be prosecuted against a patent, the applicant would be subject to fines or even imprisonment. This simple change would rebalance the system and result in far fewer lame patents with obvious prior art.

            Now that is frikkin' insightful.

            It re

          • One idea that seems easy but I've never seen pursued is for the law to be changed to treat a failure to cite prior art as perjury. Then, should a successful prior art case be prosecuted against a patent, the applicant would be subject to fines or even imprisonment.

            The reason your idea would not work is that there is no duty to conduct a comprehensive search for a prior art before filing a patent application. The reason that there is no such duty is that a full search of every printed publication that is

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by mavenguy ( 126559 )
            Well, there already is a Duty to disclose information material to patentability [gpoaccess.gov]. The Oath [cornell.edu] (or Declaration [cornell.edu]) requires the inventor(s) to swear or declare that he/they is/are the "original and first inventor or inventors of the subject matter which is claimed and for which a patent is sought." There is also a general Federal law [cornell.edu] that prescribes fine and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years for anyone who, in Federal Government proceedings knowingly and willfully
            1. falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick,
    • by bxbaser ( 252102 )
      "An office where you fill a form and for $1000 you get official permission to punch anyone you want in the face"

      Website link please.
    • 1. Process whereby individuals cast "ballots" to choose "representative leaders."

      2. Process for granting intellectual property rights.

      3. ...

    • But don't they realize what a burden this is on society?

      They don't care.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    In other words, does anyone know if any of those IBM patents were good for anything? Because we all know that most patents are useless and IBM probably lets at least that many patents lapse every year to save patent maintenance fees.
    • I know postgresql at one point unintentionally used one of IBM's patents. They removed/rewrote [builder.com] the code though, since they use the BSD license. Using IBM's patent would prevent people from close-sourcing it without negotiating a license from IBM.
    • ...patents are useless...

      You need to have watched SCO v. IBM more closely. When time had come for IBM to counter-sue, they have used 7(?) patents they have had for pretty obvious ideas.

      It's not about quality - it's about quantity. If I hold 1000 patents you would think twice before suing me on patent infringement: it might take long time to overthrow my counterclaims backed by patents. If your patent is tested in court - that hurts credibility of your patent. And drain your resources to protect your

      • Also note, that there are pretty much of solid software patents. e.g. Frauenhofer's MP3 is one of them. They have come up with idea on how to make efficient digital music compression possible - and they have patented that idea along with adjacent methods to implement the idea. If you read the patents, you would notice that they are very narrow and do not conform to general patent structure "and the kitchen sink".

        Though it is very hard to say that MP3 is software: I think now we have parity of number sof

  • by illuminatedwax ( 537131 ) <stdrange@@@alumni...uchicago...edu> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @08:00PM (#16150711) Journal
    Pop the champagne and unleash the balloons!! We finally made it past 40,000! Congrats to all those patent workers working overtime, scouring through all that prior art to make sure that it was a solid 40,000 patents, congrats to the management for finally making a system to promote real progress, and finally, a huge congrats to the inventors! You guys really did all the hard work, discovering 40,000 things that no one would have ever thought of if not for your hard toiling work! Now it's time to reap those benefits as you take your inventions and begin building factories to build or use those inventions of yours! We wish you could give you longer than 23 years, but with the market as it is now, everyone's going to want a piece of the action eventually, and it's only fair that we give them a chance.

    Here's to another year of unprecedented technological improvement!!! Wow, 40,000... Who would have ever thought the human race was capable of such wondrous achievements?
    • Re:We did it!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by The Real Nem ( 793299 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @08:44PM (#16150918) Homepage

      Look on the bright side, at least we're getting all this patenting nonsense done with and out of the way all at once. In another 20 years there will be no more software patents because everything patentable, or at least worth wile patenting, (even the stupidest most obvious of ideas and interfaces) will have expired. Then we'll be free to bath and bask on two centuries of wealth wasted on two centuries of greed. Perhaps only then will true innovation begin.

      I'm dreaming again.

      • It will be over with at least until we come up with a new medium, say "FutureScape" and then everything will be patented. "Patent #6,234,432,441: Characters expression emotions on FutureScape (i.e. "smileys on FutureScape")
      • In 20 years they'll be resorting, like Sesame Street, to asking for patents on the letter "M". If they can't get a blanket patent then they'll be asking for a patent on the novel approach of using "M" to spell "M"other! Of course there will be a lot of litigation already about the use of the letter "S" as in "S"ue.

        But who cares, with the new "Digital Rights Managment" that "M"$ will create by then, it will probably be illegal for anyone other than a certified "M"$ programmer to write programs because "w"e
      • Then we'll be free to bath and bask on two centuries of wealth wasted on two centuries of greed.

        Which, exactly, were the two centuries of wealth that were wasted, and the two centuries of greed?
      • by Britz ( 170620 )
        Was it called the Disney rule? Every time the Mouse comes close to loose its Coyright the law is extended. Guess what will happen to all your favourite patents.
      • The US just lacks a strong movement against software patents.

        It is no big deal to abolish Us software patents or at least put the system under pressure. But some money is needed for that task.
  • I bet David Banh [slashdot.org] is getting a woody right now.
  • by SafariShane ( 560870 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @08:02PM (#16150716)
    not that so many patents are issued. If need be, you can strike them down, though it is costly. But it's possible. Once we move to the first to file [wikipedia.org] method of patent law, these numbers will seem quaint. At least with first to invent you have the opportunity to right a wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by back_pages ( 600753 )
      not that so many patents are issued. If need be, you can strike them down, though it is costly. But it's possible. Once we move to the first to file method of patent law, these numbers will seem quaint. At least with first to invent you have the opportunity to right a wrong.

      I think you may misunderstand the first to file vs. first to invent situation.

      Under both systems, if you have no patent, and somebody with a patent sues you for infringement, you can invalidate the patent by demonstrating prior art.

      • That really doesn't add up. First to file means I can invent something a week before you, you file it first and get the patent, and then mine can still be used as prior art, thereby making a simple timing issue cause there to be no patent at all? I thought prior art under such a system had some requirements on some things, e.g. the invention had to be previously publically known or disclosed.
        • by Znork ( 31774 )
          "the invention had to be previously publically known or disclosed."

          Yes, and this is intentional. The patent system was arguably intended to encourage disclosure in a time when we had nothing like the communications infrastructure we have today and science and innovation were not as collaborative with as rapid turnover as today. Therefore, the first-to-file system actively discourages sitting on inventions for years without disclosing them, essentially forcing a publish or patent situation.

          Of course, at that
        • That really doesn't add up. First to file means I can invent something a week before you, you file it first and get the patent, and then mine can still be used as prior art, thereby making a simple timing issue cause there to be no patent at all? I thought prior art under such a system had some requirements on some things, e.g. the invention had to be previously publically known or disclosed.

          As the other response noted, which I'll distill to a single phrase, "First to file awards the earliest possible di

  • by kcbrown ( 7426 ) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @08:02PM (#16150717)
    Several major technology vendors have pledged not to enforce their patents against open source projects.

    Such pledges aren't worth squat. While they may wind up in the record and thus could be used by open source projects as a defense in court, the bottom line is that one would still have to go to court to present that evidence. Against a well-financed corporation, that's likely to mean little, especially since some judges have even gone so far as to disregard prior art in order to uphold a patent claim.

    The bottom line is that the court of law is not a rational venue, but instead seems to be a place to roll the dice, where the odds are stacked heavily in favor of whoever has the most cash.

    That means that open source projects are going to be very vulnerable to patent lawsuits, even in the face of a "pledge" by the patentholders that they won't sue.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rjstanford ( 69735 )
      It gets worse. What you have here, is a bad idea. However, the people pushing and benefiting from the bad idea are effectively "buying off" their nosiest critics. Selective enforcement is just plain wrong. All it basically says is that software patents are meaningless... unless we don't like you, in which case we can shut you down. Kinda like (although not as bad as) traffic rules that everyone knows won't ever be enforced... unless you're a minority from out of town. But hey, its legal, they're on th
  • dupes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @08:03PM (#16150724) Homepage
    I'm waiting for the case of N peeps with vaguely overlapping patents [N > 2] and then they can have fights about it. I'd pay to watch that... wait...

    I don't know why people are all proud about their patents. Places like IBMs hand out awards and framed pictures of [first page] the patent to inventors. Most of the time it's like "method and apparatus of doing something obvious, on the Internet." When patents are so easy to come by the value of them should be nil, or at least you'd like to think that...

    Tom
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rix ( 54095 )
      It works, more or less, between large corporations. Patents are used essentially as nukes, with the politics of MoD [wikipedia.org]. Odds are they'll each have patents they could use against each other, but there's a tacit agreement that you won't use yours and I won't use mine. (Destructively, at least). That all falls apart when a large company feels threatened by a small one, without a stash of patents to threaten with.
    • by Eivind ( 15695 )
      The worst are patent-trolls that *only* exist to litigate patents. They don't actually produce *anything* so there is no risk that they'll do something that is covered by somebodys patent.

      This also means defencive patent-pools are pointless against them.

  • Simple question (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    In general I'm pro patent and copyright but I may be facing a real problem with a new project. How can I be sure I'm not infringing on some one else's patent? Is the first sign the lawsuit? There's no real system in place for spot checking so anything I do in software development may be in breach and I have no way to know it. I want to support the system but with potentially millions of patents in place it's going to be hard to avoid infinging. We're a small company so a lawsuit is french for bankruptcy.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Congratulations, you've just discovered the problem everyone is complaining about with software patents.

      You cannot possibly check all these patents for infringements. And any non-trivial piece of software will infringe some of these patents - some of the patents are on laughably trivial and common ideas.

      Even if you could afford to pay an army of lawyers and programmers just to scour patents, there's still no way around it. The patents are worded in language that is obtuse and without a serious investigation
    • Re:Simple question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aeoo ( 568706 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @09:01PM (#16150985) Journal
      In general I'm pro patent and copyright but I may be facing a real problem with a new project. How can I be sure I'm not infringing on some one else's patent? Is the first sign the lawsuit? There's no real system in place for spot checking so anything I do in software development may be in breach and I have no way to know it. I want to support the system but with potentially millions of patents in place it's going to be hard to avoid infinging. We're a small company so a lawsuit is french for bankruptcy.

      If I told you that such system for spot checking could not be feasibly created, would you still be pro patent?

      In other words, does the pragmatic usability of idea affect your opinion about it? Or do you like some things, no matter how well they turn out in real life? (In other words, are you an idealist?) It's a real question. I'm not trying to imply anything.

      Are you pro patent, then, in hopes of such system coming online soon? If there is no obvious reason to hope for such a system becoming available soon, then why are you pro patent?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by back_pages ( 600753 )
        To answer the original poster's question, I'd suggest either buying liability insurance, hiring a patent attorney to investigate his liability or patent suit, or both.

        When starting up a new business, it's common practice to hire an accountant. Managing your finances, withholding from your employees' wages, and filing your taxes is complicated. If you screw up, it could destroy your company. It should be done by a professional.

        Funny, all of those arguments apply to intellectual property as well.

        Of cour

        • > ...hiring a patent attorney to investigate his liability or patent suit...

          With 30,000 patents per year, that means that a patent attorney has to read more than approximately 150 new patents every work day to stay current. That's ignoring the, what, 100,000+ patents already in existance. There is no way that a single attorney can be of any help any more. You need to hire the services of a large patent law firm. Since only big companies can afford that, where does this leave the small developer? Hun
    • by drsmithy ( 35869 )
      In general I'm pro patent and copyright but I may be facing a real problem with a new project. How can I be sure I'm not infringing on some one else's patent? Is the first sign the lawsuit?

      I do have to wonder how you can be "pro patent" "in general", but then say you're facing "real problems" that only exist *because of the fundamental way patents work*...

      • by chefren ( 17219 )
        I think he meant he is pro-patent in principle (the right to patent your ideas) but has problems with how the patent system is implemented.
    • Actually in France (EU) we fought very hard in order NOT to have SWPATs.

      So you should write: Lawsuit is "English (US)" for Bancrupcy.

      And do not worry about infringing, you are, the solution is to stay small enough so that it is not worth it to take you to the cleaner.

      Do not forget to create multiple corporate entities, so that you can drop any part that gets sued.

      Or sell to a company with at least 1 Billion of yearly revenues

      Or migrate to a business friendly country (ok that's a troll :-))
    • ***In general I'm pro patent and copyright but I may be facing a real problem with a new project. How can I be sure I'm not infringing on some one else's patent?***

      You can't. Which is why you should rethink your position on patents. At least for software and other intangibles. Personally, I think the patent system is just plain rotten from bowsprint to rudder post and should be scuttled.

      Copyright is a different issue. It is largely enforceable. Many people, including me, feel that the duration of c

  • Ironically (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Ironically, this might actually be a good thing.

    If, say, 90% of all obvious patents are granted _now_, then 20 years from now, all obvious patents will have expired and there wont be many more obvious "inventions" to patent.

    Ergo: in 20 years - no more obvious patents. //0xFE
    • They won't all expire at the same time. Not even close.
  • Denial of Service (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Our current software patent practices make a mockery of the true intent of the patent system. Nobody working on any software project would be foolish enough to go checking to see if the software infringes because: (1) Odds are it probably does, and (2) if you proceeded without licensing all of the "inventions" that you "infringed" on, you are then liable for triple damages for willful infringement.

    By allowing this state of affairs to continue, truly innovative patents are harmed because of the extreme disi
  • If this is the trend, more than 40,000 software patents will be issued this year
    Man, I gotta get ahold of a patent on linear regression.
  • You know? Programmers can be clever, but not THAT clever. So I have to wonder not *IF* duplicate patents exist, but how often they exist and go on like that?
    • Yeah, and then I would be asking why they didn't put those duplicate patents in a library that could be easily maintained and shared between other patients.
    • You bet (Score:2, Insightful)

      It's statistically inconceivable that 40,000 original, unique, useful and non-obvious methods would be created in a year. Most of them are probably garbage. If the PO did it's job, there might be a couple of dozen methods that would qualify under the Constitutional definition of patentability.
    • by Znork ( 31774 )
      You dont have to wonder. The classic would be the LZW patent, patented by both Unisys and IBM. And that was in the 80's...
  • Better Headline: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @09:46PM (#16151154) Homepage
    US Software Patent Examiners Hit Record High.

    Because, judging by the kinds of patents they're approving these days, it's farqing weed city down there at the patent office.
    • There are random posters on my university campus recruiting patent examiners.

      I'm not even at a spectacularly big university.

    • I think we can now be fairly certain they are getting performance pay based on patents approved.
    • by rts008 ( 812749 )
      Wish I had mod points to give you.
      That was truly a subtle, yet insightful post.
      IANAC (I am not a christian), but am familiar with the Bible (some interesting stories there)and your reference summed it up rather succinctly!
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:33PM (#16151517) Journal
    The sooner everything is patented, the sooner the patents will run out.

    Not only will every thing then be up for grabs, but it will all be neatly documented at the USPTO!

    Wake me up in 20 years.

    A related question - if someone suspects you of infinging their software patent, but you claim closed source, trade secret status, how can they prove you infringed, if you don't allow them to reverse engineer your software, under penalty of the DMCA?

    • Everyone keeps getting modded up for variations on this comment, like Slashdot as a whole has conveniently forgotten that Congress does stuff like extending copyright every time Disney has its lobbyists ask real nicely. You don't think these software companies, and especially useless leach-on-society patent-hoarding lawsuit wranglers, will be sucking up to Congress to extend patents in another couple decades?
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      A related question - if someone suspects you of infinging their software patent, but you claim closed source, trade secret status, how can they prove you infringed, if you don't allow them to reverse engineer your software, under penalty of the DMCA?

      I imagine that if they were able to convince a judge that there was reasonable cause to believe you were infringing, the court would compell you to reveal your source. Refusing to do so would likely land you in trouble for contempt of court.

      ObDisclaimer: I can b
    • by IIH ( 33751 )

      The sooner everything is patented, the sooner the patents will run out. Not only will every thing then be up for grabs, but it will all be neatly documented at the USPTO! Wake me up in 20 years.

      Unless, of course, in 19 years, someone patents "Analysing the USPTO database for soon-to-be expired patents for use in business."

  • So with 800 something new software patents arriving every day, I am to get less than a minute a piece to read them through and figure out if any of it has anything to do with my line of business?

    Hey, that way there is really only one viable business left. Logically I am forced to become a software patent attorney! Or a terrorist perhaps? ... Whatever the difference!
  • When everyone has patents, the worth of an individual patent is reduced effectively to zero. I recommend that all IT companies apply for as many patents as you can afford, don't bother with patent lawyers and the like, just make vaguely unique things up and apply because the value of a patent is that you have one which others don't. If you can threaten them the way they are threatening you the value is lost.

     
  • A while back I wrote an article on this [blogspot.com].

    Patents don't drive innovation, they are what happens when lawyers discover lucrative deposits of innovation sheltering in nice little shaded valleys, and decide to burn down the trees, strip mine the valleys, and extract the last drop of value from the accumulated innovation, creating havoc and destruction in the process.

    The sad thing is that governments are convinced that patents are equal to innovation, making the stupid mistake of confusing correlation with causat
  • There was a time when patents were awarded for inventions. Nowadays they are awarded for innovations. What is the difference?

    The difference is that an invention is something new. An innovation is something old and well-known, where the innovator is the first to apply for a patent for, with the words "on the Internet" added.

  • My dad has a great story about trying to get a software patent from the stone age of computers. The US PTO came back and said to him, "there will NEVER be software patents."

  • Let's keep in mind: (1) A survey of pantents shows somethng like 80% of patents could likely be successfully challenged on the basics: obviousness and prior art. (2) Only about 3% of patents are ever licensed to others. Less than 1.5% of patents ever make any money for anyone but patent lawyers.
  • If I patent something, I patent it in my own country. If I get the patent, I can then apply for a patent in other countries citing the unpublished patent in my own country. In the UK I cannot jump straight to applying for a US patent, even if all my market is in the US, and my UK/European patents are not needed. This is a sensible ruling - it means that the US patent office is not flooded by foreign patent applications, as the local application processes should weed out the unoriginal ideas, the unworkable

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