ciaran_o_riordan writes: "After two private meetings with Microsoft and IBM, New Zealand's proposed new patent legislation has been changed by "replacing an exclusion in clause 15(3A) (which relates to computer programs) with new clause 10A. Rather than excluding a computer program from being a patentable invention, new clause 10A clarifies that a computer program is not an invention for the purposes of the Bill". The difference is that the new 10A clause contains the "as such" loophole, the wording that is used by the European Patent Office to grant software patents. This is the same Patents Bill launched in 2009."
ciaran_o_riordan writes: Ever wanted to tell Obama's policy advisers what you think of software patents? For this week only, the White Houses' policy advisors are taking input on the topic of innovation and the "digital highway". You can draft your responses on End Software Patents' wiki page, and you'll find info and arguments there too that might be useful. Getting a foothold for pushing software patent abolition in the USA is difficult, so let's make the most of this. A good submission has already been posted on Techdirt.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: After last month's unfortunate ruling by Canada's Federal Court that Amazon's 1-click shopping idea could be patented, the Commissioner of Patents and the Attorney General of Canada have filed notice to Amazon.com inc (respondent) that an "appeal will be heard by the [Federal Court of Appeal] at a time and place fixed by the Judicial Administrator", probably Ottawa. This case, called Canada's Bilski, has been in the works since Amazon filed their patent application all the way back in 1998. Just like Bilski, the object of this case is what subject matter is and isn't patentable — a question which will create crucial case law, making participation in this case important. Anyone looking for more background, particularly those interested in helping to prepare an amicus brief for this case, is welcome at ESP's wiki page.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: Anyone who feels that patent quality is just far too high nowadays
will be glad to hear that the USPTO has decided to ditch four of their
seven tests for obviousness. Whereas
guidelines said that an idea is considered obvious if it consisted of
"[predictable] variations [...] based on design incentives or other
market forces" or if there was "Use of a known technique [prior art]
to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way",
guidelines do away with those tests. The classic
"teaching-suggestion-motivation" test is still there, with two others. For
software developers, silly patents
the main problem, but they certainly aggravate the matter. As
described in one patent
lawyer's summary, this change will "give applicants greater
opportunities to obtain allowance of claims."
ciaran_o_riordan writes: More than twelve years after filing its application, Amazon is going to get it's one-click shopping patent in Canada. The application was shot down in court last year because of Canada's "tradition" of excluding business methods from patentability. However, on appeal, a higher court has ruled that this tradition doesn't exist and the patent's subject matter is valid. The patent office still has to re-examine the application, but given that it's been already approved as novel and non-obvious, and it has now been ruled to be patentable subject matter, the approval is just a formality. A bad decision for software and web developers in Canada.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: Confirming that "doing X on a phone" is the new "doing X on a computer", the mess of phone patent litigation just continues to expand. The lasted suit is from Gemalto, who have just announced filing a suit against Google, HTC, Samsung, and Motorola. Having all these legal fees filtering down to users is bad enough, but the real casualty here is phone user who adds some functionality. When all the litigation settles down, we'll be left with a dozen bruised companies who've paid dearly to stay in the game, and they won't be too keen on letting newcomers get in without paying the same. That's how megacorp patent suits affect individuals.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: A month after the Supreme court rejected Bilski, the USPTO published updated Interim Guidance (pdf) and called for comment. Bilski wasn't as wide-reaching a ruling as most parties thought it would be, so a certain amount of textual digging is needed to find the aspects that can help us reduce software patenting at the USPTO and in future court cases. The End Software Patents campaign sent some such comments. FSF also published a call for participation and got cc'd on over 450 responses. When these comments are published on uspto.gov, and when the USPTO publishes its revised guidelines, we'll have a conservative idea of what effects Bilski will have.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: The US Supreme Court has finally decided the Bilski case! We've known that Bilski's patent would get thrown out; that was clear from the open mockery from the judges during last November's hearing. The big question is, since rejecting a particular patent requries providing a general test and explaining why this patent fails that test, how broad will their test be? Will it try to kill the plague of software patents? and is their test designed well enough to stand up to the army of patent lawyers who'll be making a science (and a career) of minimising and circumventing it? The judges have created a new test, so this will take some reading before any degree of victory can be declared. The important part is pages 5-16 of the PDF, which is the majority opinion. The End Software Patents campaign is already analysing the decision, and collecting other analyses. Some background is available at Late-comers guide: What is Bilski anyway?.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: Due to lobbying by a group called NZICT, New Zealand's parliament is now set to let go of its proposal to ban software patents. Patent attorney Steven Lundberg announced the details in a blog entry. This was quickly deleted, but not before it got stored in Google cache. Here we can read that "Hon Simon Power has asked MED [Ministry of Economic Development] to work with the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office to redraft the section along the lines of the European Patent Convention." Which is exactly the opposite of March's announcement that "computer software should be excluded from patent protection as software patents can stifle innovation and competition, and can be granted for trivial or existing techniques" The background to this case gives every reason to be hopeful, if computer users in New Zealand get active again.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: No matter which side the US Supreme Court's Bilski decision pleases, it will be just the beginning of the software patent debate in the USA — the other side will start a legislative battle. The lobbying has already begun with venture capitalist Brad Feld arguing against software patents, mailing a copy of Patent Absurdity to 200 patent policy setters. As Feld puts it, "Specifically, I'm hoping the film will bring you to an understanding of why patents on software are a massive tax on and retardant of innovation in the US." The patent lawyers and big patent holders often tell us that patents are needed to secure investment, so it's interesting to see now that venture capitalists are refuting that. And Brad Feld's not the only vocal one, there's a growing list.
ciaran_o_riordan writes: For the past 19 months, the European Patent Office's highest board has been reviewing the legal validity of the software patents they grant. Many groups submitted amicus briefs in April 2009. The decision was announced today: we can't review that. The EPO's board ruled each of the four questions "inadmissible". They said they can only review the consistency of their granting, and they didn't find any significant inconsistencies. Their entire conclusion is "The referral of 22 October 2008 of points of law to the Enlarged Board of Appeal by the President of the EPO is inadmissible". Null and void, or spun another way, no change will result from this. Or, spun to another level, the EPO's astonishing press release: "EBoA confirms EPO approach to computer programs" — no mention of "inadmissible".
ciaran_o_riordan writes: With the Supreme Court still working on the Bilski ruling (due before the Summer break), FSF has published a film: Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system. Most players in the patents game have an interest in making it sound as complicated as possible. Using the Bilski case as a backdrop, independent film-maker Luca Lucarini explains the situation for a general audience and looks at the series of court cases that dumped software and business method patents on us. The story is told through interviews with Dan Bricklin, Timothy B. Lee, Mark Webbink, Eben Moglen, Dan Ravicher and others. All video production done with free software, and there's a good symphonie at the end.