The American software patent system is broken. I am no lawyer but I am a software developer and the very fact that patent trolls exist proves that the system is in a bad state. Earlier this year House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) started putting together a bill known as the “‘Innovation Act” which as Goodlatte describes it is a “way to address the issues that businesses of all sizes and industries face from patent troll-type behavior and aims to correct the current asymmetries surrounding abusive patent litigation.”
Patent trolls are companies that buy or license patents from others and then aggressively pursue licensing fees or file infringement lawsuits, as a means of business and not to protect innovation.
Money and greed are the driving forces behind these privateers.
So, Goodlatte puts together a bill against patent trolls, including software patent trolls, then has a few meetings, a few drinks after work and now suddenly he removes the software patent provision. Was he visited by the ghost of Apple WWDC to come? According to reports, Goodlatte had a change of heart due to “very concerted lobbying effort” from certain parts of the tech industry.
Entrepreneurs across the country are telling Congress that it is time for reform. Innovators are frequently roadkill for patent trolls armed with bad patents. Jon Potter, President of the App Developers Alliance
The problem with software patents is that the applicant is trying to patent a method and not an actual device. Imagine if maths could be patented. Sorry children you can’t learn about calculus today that is a method that has been patented and we aren’t allowed to teach it unless we pay a license fee. The argument that algorithms are just forms of mathematics is fairly strong, but the USA doesn’t seem willing to listen. Interestingly in the USA applicants aren’t allowed to patent business methods, a way of doing business. This then begs the question why can a software method be patented but a business method can’t!
This doesn’t mean that innovators and inventors are left without any protection, there are other laws like copyright that protect their rights. In fact it was copyright law that was used by Apple to successfully sue Samsung over claims that it the latter copied the former’s ideas.
Open source software and patents is a hot topic and a complex one. Unlike copyright or trademarks, software patents prevent software engineers from implementing a methodology. It doesn’t matter in what programming language or on what system, or even if the programmer has no knowledge of the patent or any system that implements it. The basis of modern computing was built on the concept of the free exchange of ideas. The very protocols that govern the Internet like TCP/IP or SMTP aren’t patented but yet the new ones, especially for things like video codecs or mobile communications are patented. This will ultimately cripple invention. The other problem is that many software patents are for very obvious ideas that just about any engineer would think of, not because they are clever or have special insights, but because is just the most obvious thing to do. But the people at the patent office aren’t engineers so for them to make a judgement call about what is obvious and what isn’t, is very hard.
A couple of years ago the company started suing app developers for patent infringement because their apps have links to other apps!
However all is not lost, there are other US lawmakers who are keen to seeing the current patent laws changed including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who is putting together a bill that includes provisions about software patents. But the machinery of government grinds slowly, so we shouldn’t expect any changes very soon!
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The biggest patent troll is Apple!!!
Apple needs to be able to exploit the minutia of patents in order to continue going “nuclear” on Android. Horrible, just horrible.
Not at all… Microsoft and Nokia.
Thats why I won’t buy any of their products
I am glad that slowly (and god willing, SURELY), the government is at least trying to address this issue.
In the meantime, pay close attention to Adam Carolla, and his fight against patent trolls. He is currently being sued by “Personal Audio” for “violating” a patent, along with several other podcasters, but they aren’t settling. He’s going to begin crowd sourcing a legal fund, along with other podcasters, to try and win the case and set a precedent for all the podcasts out there.
When the crowd funding starts (supposedly early in 2014) be sure to check it out and donate. I know I will.
the american system is crap!
Aaand meanwhile the Chinese are laughing at the patent system :D
Patent trolls need protection from other patent trolls ?
Would be easier to let them fight between themselves.. It’s their own karma
The USA should follow Europe and most sensible countries who recognise that all software patents do is stifle competition and enrich the legal profession.
There ya go Microsoft and Apple are the biggest patent trolls on the planet..
imitation is the highest form of flattery
Meanwhile in the Android world, we managed to actually improve our OS many times (more than 1 row of icons)
Apple = jealous of Android
Samsung = jealous of Apple’s jealousy of Android
this doesnt make sense at all
I rephrased everything. I wrote something without giving the context. Hard for you to know what I think!
the samsung is jealous part is what confused me lol
“Apple haven’t improved much since a while.”
Wow you engrish so good.
As much as I hate Apple, iOS7 looks really nice and is a big improvement.
yeah, ios7 improved by copying WebOS, Android, and WP. . . sad, really sad.
Yeah, it looks like Web oS, ICS and Win Phone 8 had a baby and runs features found in Gingerbread. 2010 called and wants you to actually innovate, Apple.
And there’s no need to pick on someone for speaking poor english. It’s in bad taste.
Hey they call it innovation haha
its no wonder, rockstar anyone?
This is an interesting and passionate article. There were some parts that gave me pause, but on the whole I enjoyed reading it.
• Patent trolls ” are nothing more than legal highway robbers.” — I feel for the author as this applies specifically to software patents. But I think the case could be made that all patent rights are effectively nothing more than means to legalize some equivalent of highway robbery. At least from the prospective of domestic law. A country’s international perspective may be different.
• “The problem with software patents is that the applicant is trying to patent a method and not an actual device.” — if I’m not mistaken, this is the reason why India has completely stuffed software as being a patent-able thing. Still, doesn’t this leave open the approach of combining the software with the device? A decryption algorithm is not patent-able, maybe, but the use of it in a mobile phone might be. The problem with attacking this from the perspective of software is that it doesn’t stop patent trolls, it just invites them to build their strategy a bit differently.
• “In fact it was copyright law that was used by Apple to successfully sue Samsung over claims that it the latter copied the former’s ideas.” — this is something I didn’t know, or so thoroughly forgot that it is like discovering it anew.. now I have to go look that up! :)
With that second point I wonder if there is really anything that could be done. With the first point, I wonder if anything should be done: patents already arbitrarily draw a line through the people and our collective and individual rights.
OJ Simpson 4 Prez!
Great! Cause he will kill every ex-wife!!
These are the same companies that pushed software patents through in the first place. Is anyone surprised that they don’t want them gone?
And let’s not forget that these are the same companies that ripped off anyone and everyone’s software throughout the 80′s .
Proving once again that the US government is owned by big business.
Apple and Microsoft need to shut the fuck up, get a bottle, and go-to-bed. They’re whiney…..