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Arek the Absolute

Software Patents

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I know I've seen this topic come up here a number of times, so I figured it's a good place to ask for some opinions on highlights in the topic. For all of you who've been provoked by the issue of software patents, could you post some of the best examples you've found of abuses, or for that matter, justifiable use of software patents? I'm interested in reading more about the topic as it occurs on both sides, (those who consider them purest sin, and those who use them) and I'd appreciate any particular examples all of you can produce.

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I think you'll find patents to be about as religous a topic as OpenGL vs DirectX or Java, good or bad:).

I used to think that all software patents were bad, but as I gain more experience I've only personally seen patents used in a defensive manner, ie companies trading them to cross license each others technology in a constructive manner. Or they get them just to protect themselves from other companies trying to patent the same thing.

Microsoft is good in thisarea I find. They amass a heck of alot of patents but I've never heard of them sueing someone for use of their patents. Perhaps I'm out of the loop on this though:)

For all the big cases you hear about patents bringing about the end of the software industry, I'm surprised I've never personally seen this happen.

Perhaps its because I'm Canadian and many of our patent talks are done under Canadian law?? I don't know, IANAL.:)

Cheers
Chris

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The best known example of software patent abuse is the case of the LZW compression used by the GIF file format. Basically, the company said anybody could use it for free, then later changed their mind and all hell broke lose.

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Quote:
Original post by Extrarius
The best known example of software patent abuse is the case of the LZW compression used by the GIF file format. Basically, the company said anybody could use it for free, then later changed their mind and all hell broke lose.


didn't something similar happen with mp3?

software patents exist for good reasons, but they're constantly abused. there are even companies that literally do nothing other than buy patents only to profit from lawsuits.

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

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I've never seen a good software patent.

Quote:
I used to think that all software patents were bad, but as I gain more experience I've only personally seen patents used in a defensive manner, ie companies trading them to cross license each others technology in a constructive manner. Or they get them just to protect themselves from other companies trying to patent the same thing.


So, how are you, a one person startup with no patents, going to join the software development community then? You only hope will be to shell out big cash to get a bogus software patent so the other guys won't sue you.

The worst abuse, aside from the one's mentioned above, has to be the NTP vs RIM case. Not that RIM is such a decent, upstanding company in the field of software patents, but they were convivted to pay a 9 figure sum to NTP over patents that were wrong and were even invalidated by the USPTO during the course of the lawsuit.

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The medical imaging field has good cases of patent use. You need patents to protect the image reconstruction algorithms of next-generation systems so that you still can profit from your R&D in the long run while putting your invention under everyone's scrutiny when it goes under testing.

-cb

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Original post by Sander
So, how are you, a one person startup with no patents, going to join the software development community then? You only hope will be to shell out big cash to get a bogus software patent so the other guys won't sue you.


Its a valid question! You could just write something original:) But seriously I believe you need to strike a balance between protecting R&D IP that was done by a company and lowering barriers to entry for other companies.

How, I"m not sure:)

Cheers
Chris

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Original post by cbenoi1
The medical imaging field has good cases of patent use. You need patents to protect the image reconstruction algorithms of next-generation systems so that you still can profit from your R&D in the long run while putting your invention under everyone's scrutiny when it goes under testing.


The algorithms do not need patent protection. Simply patent the machine itself. If I want to use that algorith of yours to make some crazy 3D shooter engine or build a 3D cinema projector then I should be able to. Only creating another medical imaging machine that does essentially the same as yours should be off limits.

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Simply patent the machine itself.

Some machines only have the sensors and they feed the raw data to a separate workstation. Some algorithms use data from machines already in existence. You really want to protect the software, not just the machine.
Quote:
If I want to use that algorith of yours to make some crazy 3D shooter engine or build a 3D cinema projector then I should be able to.

Why should I restrain myself to only one market? Maybe I wouldn't care about video games, but if the algorithm is also useful to compute oil well location from surface sonar rebound data, why can't I make money off that market too?

-cb

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Quote:
Original post by cbenoi1
Quote:
Simply patent the machine itself.

Some machines only have the sensors and they feed the raw data to a separate workstation. Some algorithms use data from machines already in existence. You really want to protect the software, not just the machine.

The software is protected -- by copyright law.

Quote:
Quote:
If I want to use that algorith of yours to make some crazy 3D shooter engine or build a 3D cinema projector then I should be able to.

Why should I restrain myself to only one market? Maybe I wouldn't care about video games, but if the algorithm is also useful to compute oil well location from surface sonar rebound data, why can't I make money off that market too?


But you can! You can sell it to me like any other copyrighted work, or you can let me invest my own R&D and research the algorithm myself on my own cost.

The biggest prolem with software patents is that software is already protected by copyright. The only advantage a parent has over copyright is the ability to kill an independeltly created work similar to your own. In the software world, where new things are evolved from old things rather than radically redesigned and completely reimplemented in a new way, this kills the market.

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