EFF proposes adding working code to software patent applications

February 17, 2013
43 81 3

software patents

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling for a change in the software patent system, requiring any submission to come with working code. This simple yet elegant proposal will help thwart patent trolls who, in the current state of the system, are able to secure their intellectual properties with mere broad or vague definitions. These exploiters later use them to take advantage of legal loopholes in order to squeeze out money from unknowing parties under the pretense of licensing.

By requiring to include working code, anyone who gets a patent will then be restricted to the invention they claimed. This means that functional claiming, a characteristic tactic in software patent trolling to assert one’s right to a function of their program instead of just how it was particularly done, will no longer be applicable. In other words, they can only lay claim to the particular solution they proposed, instead of all possible approaches–including broad and vague methods–to a problem.

Requiring applicants to attach running software code, or at least comprehensive, line-by-line notations, to their patents is part of the EFF’s Defend Innovation project to foster new ideas and inventions through the patent system instead of actually impeding it. Other proposals in the reform project include shortening patent terms, shifting legal fees towards patent trolls and away from innocent parties, and assessing the software patent’s value to the economy.

If the Patent Office and lawmakers do listen to the EFF’s recommendations, then this might be a good sign that software patent trolling days are numbered.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/baunachj Jim Baunach

    If restricting protection to exactly “how it was particularly done” (i.e., the code itself) then what protection would be provided beyond what copyright already provides?

  • eclectice

    A working code means it is a real implementation of a software design that can really represent any software function that a software patent tries to claim. No doubt, it is really a strong evidence for any software claim of a software invention. The copyright of the code or even the content of a patent in this regards will still remain under a copyright law so it won’t influence any design patent claim since a patent is about protecting a design. Whoever is making copies of the code or the content of the patent will be subjected to a copyright law. In this case, the source code owner may need to worry about protecting his copyright of the code in a patent. Other possible issue is on how to manage a code change inside a software patent.

  • eclectice

    Sorry I have made a mistake there…it should be “The copyright of the code or even the content of a patent in this
    regards will still remain under a copyright law so it won’t influence
    any design patent claim since a patent is about protecting an invention”…