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Comment Re:Actually a case for stronger patents (Score 1) 325

Counter-intuitively, this actually presents a case for stronger patents.

It portrays - anecdotally, in narrow circumstances, and hypothetically - just one potential (benefit side) effect of such a change, which even if realised still only might lead to an overall improvement in the performance of the patent system - and might just as easily do the opposite.

Just saying. ;-)

It would be nice if cases for change could be made so easily in patent system economics, but the system is complex and they can't.

Comment Re:Patentability issues (Score 2, Insightful) 238

I thought even US law said that purely mathematical algorithms couldn't be patented?

They can't. But what is a "purely mathematical" algorithm? Can you find one which, for some reason, could never have any useful application whatsoever? The RSA algorithm wasn't patented - it's use in encrypting "messages" was.

This is why the typical programmer argument against software patents, "But it's just math!", is futile and justifiably derided by the typical Patent Attorney. The proper (and extremely powerful) argument to use aganst software patents is an economic one.

Comment Re:/. fails again (Score 1) 120

"I can explain exactly how the claim isn't nearly as broad as the summary."

I really appreciate the work you put into that but I'm afraid I don't think you've succeeded - at least not from the perspective of the ordinary programmer or entrepreneur etc. I don't want to start quibbling about the degree and practical significance of each of the narrowings you identified - although in light of claim 21 at least one of them seems /entirely/ moot! - I just don't think those perfectly valid and patent-lawyerly-proper distinctions make the broadness that most of those reading this article would've initially perceived go away.

Comment Re:/. fails again (Score 1) 120

While you have a point about the general level of comprehension of patents and patent matters on /. (and you're hardly the first to make it) I'd say this was a very poor choice of article against which to raise that criticism - unless you can explain exactly how that claim "isn't nearly as broad as the thing posted in the summary".

Comment Re:Big Software Corps (Score 1) 278

The standard of non-obviousness has never been particularly high (in all fields, not just software) and, for various reasons (desirability of examination objectivity; demand pressure; ...), is never likely to be. A low standard of inventive step isn't the only contributor to contraindications such as a high rate of independent (re-)invention anyway.

You've correctly identified the fundamental rationale for granting patents in the first place, and seem to have recognised that it is primarily a question of economics, but you've made some assertions / indicated some implicit assumptions which don't really stand up to economic scrutiny. Have you read e.g. Machlup or any of the more recent literature on patent system economics - and the wisdom of allowing software as patent eligible subject matter in particular? It's really not so clear that there is a baby in the bath. ;-)

Comment Re:under-resourced (Score 1) 278

Yeah - they'd already been granting software patents and just wanted to ratify that rather dodgy practise* with the C.I.I. Directive. When confronted by the strong opposition, instead of just making their case in an honest manner, bizarrely they tried to make out that they didn't grant software patents and never had and that the Directive would merely uphold that (fictitious) practise. Some MEPs even fell for it but then SAP lost the plot and came out with a big pro-Directive, pro-software patent advert in a publication widely read by MEPs!

* Dodgy because of the apparent specific exclusion of software from patentable subject matter in the EPC - a statutory exclusion which they'd earlier tried and failed to have deleted.

Comment Re:under-resourced (Score 1) 278

There are no software patents in Europe

FSVO "no" of around 50,000 and rising?

There are only "no software patents" in Europe in the sense in which a "software patent" is not really a software patent as such* in Europe (it's really a patent for an invention implemented on computers!). This definitional trick, infamously, was the means the EPO, (then) UKPO, and other interested parties used in order to deceive people during the C.I.I. (software patent!) Directive war. I'm disappointed to see people still falling for this absurd and absurdly blatant** lie after all the hard work done by the FFII and others.

* /snigger.
** The EPO database is online, its many software patents in plain view; its "Guidelines for Examiners" and various TBoA decisions - all also available online - couldn't be clearer; a great deal has been written about this issue online, in the press, in the economics and patent research literature etc.

Comment Re:Fundamental technology (Score 1) 197

DarkKnightRadick is correct: there's nothing "fundamental" that can be "owned" (as in property) in all this. You can't patent abstract concepts. Unless the patent describes a very specific process that is both non-obvious to someone skilled in the art and is not already revealed in other prior art/pre-existing technologies then this is totally bogus.

That's rather a naïve view and not really correct at all - certainly not as far as the real-world patent system is concerned, and likely not even in theory. In practise the non-obviousness requirement is often indistinguishable to POSITAs from the novelty requirement (i.e. in an everyday, non-legal, non-pseudo-objective sense); broad and abstract patents abound (and always have done - they're just more visible and worse in software)*; and non-novel patents - even those which duplicate or overlap other patents - can be and are often granted and can still be effective against anyone unable to afford to fight them in court.

* http://researchoninnovation.org/dopatentswork/

Comment Re:Free markets (Score 1) 144

Finally - Software patents are not all bad. If you find a new way to compress/decompress video

I don't think you understand the term "free market" (or was that comment title ironic?), let alone what makes granting monopoly patent rights in some field good or bad. Hint: for one thing, even 'clever' compression methods almost certainly should not be patentable if they're likely to be invented/discovered by multiple independent parties within the period of monopoly.

Comment Re:European Patent Convention (Score 1) 330

"The European Patent Convention does not apply here. This is a matter of German patent law, which exists in parallel to the European system. German patent law states that software is not patentable "as such" (PatG 1, Abs. 3+4)."

Where do you think the "as such" qualification comes from?

"Today, all EPO member states have national patent laws, which, in their basic provisions, specifically in patentability requirements, have been harmonised with the EPC."

http://www.epo.org/topics/issues/computer-implemented-inventions/software.html

Comment Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (Score 1) 219

So when someone develops a way of doing something electronically that is novel, it should be just as worthy of receiving a patent as another idea that needs physical implementation. The milieu shouldn't matter.

The only thing that really matters is whether or not granting patents in some field "promotes progress...", as the US Constitution says, and there are a number of reasons why it is a mistake to think about patents at the individual level and in terms of "worthiness", "natural rights" etc. [q.v. the historical and economic literature]. For example, the purely ethical but very serious concerns arising from the fact that independent invention is no defence in patent law (unlike copyright), and of course the economic fact that patents can actually impede progress and reduce economic welfare.

What does matter is the quality of the idea and the quality of the process to determine the validity of the patent application. This is where the problem lies today. It's not that people shouldn't get patents for software, it's that the patents that are being granted are of such poor quality that it calls into question the whole system.

It does matter but it is by far not the only problem with patent eligibility for software and the whole system has been called into question irrespective of software and quality (by economists and long before software patents even existed). Furthermore, even if somehow only "good" software patents were granted, the overall effect on economic welfare might still be negative, and there are serious barriers (to do with things like patent examination objectivity, cross-field homogeneity of treatment, and what is practically feasible) to filtering out "bad" software patents anyway.

Comment Re:Documentation (Score 1) 891

But I still had to resort to Google.

Well no you didn't. The (often very good) documentation for GNU software is primarily in texinfo format, not man pages - although a rudimentary man page is often supplied too. I'm not surprised you didn't know that though. I used to frequent the Ubuntu developer forums but eventually became very disillusioned with what I saw there. One of the most frustrating things was the sometimes merely ignorant but sometimes apparently 'politically' motivated way the 'experts' would fob the 'newbs' off with any old shitty website or man page rather than show them how to access the excellent texinfo documentation under their noses.

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