EFF proposes adding working code to software patent applications

February 17, 2013
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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.

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