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Patent Violation?

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Occasionally while researching means to an end, you stumble across something like this: a patented algorithm. This applies to the following: http://en.wikipedia..../Marching_cubes.

So, logical methods can be copyrighted; flagged as someone else's territory. The only efficient way to do something turns out to be illegal in itself.

And what's more, in the final paragraph: "While the invention has been described in detail herein in accord with certain preferred embodiments thereof, many modifications and changes therein may be effected by those skilled in the art. Accordingly, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such modifications and changes as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention."

I have a few questions:

1) How likely is it that the owner of the patent will sue a popular company which uses a patented method, or an obscure company which uses it?
2) How much damage can a successful claim on their part do?

Thanks,

Matthew Rule

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Both of the questions are unknowable in advance.


On the likely hood of suing and being sued, Marching Cubes algorithm was strongly enforced in academic circles and was big source of contention.

Or consider the LZW compression patent held by Unisys. Originally the patent was broadly licensed. Not knowing about the patent, CompuServe used the compression method in their .gif file format. The file format gained popularity, and online service providers and image editor developers were asked to pay license fees. There was significant confusion about who was required to pay and who was not, and there were many small hobby projects and small shareware image editors that were asked to pay the fee, even though it was relatively large for them. The patent has since expired, but the fallout of their decisions continues to this day.


As for damages that can be successfully claimed, that is entirely up to a judge involved in a case that goes to court.

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And ofcourse, the easiest way around software patents is to simply not distribute your software in the countries with broken patent systems. (Software patents by themselves aren't all that bad, it only becomes a real problem when they are granted for insanely obvious things that you are likely to come up with on your own)

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And ofcourse, the easiest way around software patents is to simply not distribute your software in the countries with broken patent systems.

Just as long as you don't mind writing off most of North America and Europe as potential markets :)

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And ofcourse, the easiest way around software patents is to simply not distribute your software in the countries with broken patent systems. (Software patents by themselves aren't all that bad, it only becomes a real problem when they are granted for insanely obvious things that you are likely to come up with on your own)
Whilst it's true that the particularly bad problems come from being granted to things that many developers would independently come up with, I think software patents have some additional issues specific to software:
* Software is already covered by copyright. Whilst an algorithm isn't, it's not like someone can just copy your work (if the source is even available), they have to reimplement it. Unlike a piece of hardware where you could look at every single component and copy it bit by bit.
* The argument for things like drugs patents is the billions it costs to invest - yet software can cost far less, even just a single person writing code for free. This also means that required legal costs to have a lawyer check your code are higher in proportion for software.
* A patent on algorithms seems to me a patent on mathematics.

Software is also arguably in a younger stage that other areas of engineering, and also has a fast rate of progress such that 20 years can have a stifling affect. Much software is dependent on earlier concepts, so a patent on one thing can be a big problem - it's like patenting the screw, or if important bits of mathematics were covered by patents.


[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1328640250' post='4910583']
And ofcourse, the easiest way around software patents is to simply not distribute your software in the countries with broken patent systems.

Just as long as you don't mind writing off most of North America and Europe as potential markets smile.png
[/quote]Where in Europe are pure software patents enforceable?

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Where in Europe are pure software patents enforceable?

In practice? Maybe nowhere. But as far as I can tell, there is also nowhere in Europe that specifically refuses to grant software patents. The EPO criteria seems to allow for software patents as long as they also demonstrate 'technical innovation' in the traditional sense.

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1) How likely is it that the owner of the patent will sue a popular company which uses a patented method, or an obscure company which uses it?

Depends on the company. Some companies collect and purchase (incredibly stupidly broad) patents for the sole purpose of extorting large fees from companies that 'infringe' on those patents.
2) How much damage can a successful claim on their part do?[/quote]
Loads. It can cause the collapse of small companies.

The United States patent office didn't want software algorithms to be patentable, but were forced to when companies leaned on the US government which leaned on the United States patent office, and suddenly we have a MAD (mutually assured destruction) arm race of patents, where large companies are snapping up as many patents as possible to defend against other large companies, and to threaten, extort, and suppress smaller companies.

Remember that in America, you don't have to be in the wrong to go bankrupt by a lawsuit... the trial alone is enough, that you might never survive to see the verdict. Corporations with large cash reserves can take advantage of this, having long drawn out lawsuits until their opponents run out of money, regardless of whether they did a single thing wrong or not. (Note: I am not a lawyer, so I may be mistaken about all this. This is just my armchair view of software patents and lawsuits)

Intellectual Ventures
Listen to this: "When patents attack"

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[quote name='mdwh' timestamp='1328710445' post='4910897']
Where in Europe are pure software patents enforceable?

In practice? Maybe nowhere. But as far as I can tell, there is also nowhere in Europe that specifically refuses to grant software patents. The EPO criteria seems to allow for software patents as long as they also demonstrate 'technical innovation' in the traditional sense.
[/quote]Yes, I believe it is that they can be filed, but not enforced - at least, it's something that comes up in the news every so often about EU politicians voting on the issue, and I don't think this has changed yet (although I may be out of date).

(Not that I'm saying EU is perfect on this front, what with the whole blocking the Samsung Galaxy tab thing...)

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