EU to head down the patent rathole?

EU to head down the patent rathole?

Summary: OK, with a headline like that, you're probably saying I'm anti-patent. I'm not.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Patents
34
OK, with a headline like that, you're probably saying I'm anti-patent. I'm not. All I know is that the system is broken. Seriously broken. On the one extreme, patents on software and business processes are getting awarded left and right via a process that's dubious at best -- one that does little more than clog up courtrooms and progress on technology.

On the other extreme, you have inventors like Dave Winer. Here's a guy who has almost single-handedly turned all of software and the Internet on their ears with XML-based RPCs over HTTP while also turning all of the media world upside down with his work on RSS. Two revolutions that needed to happen and maybe a third on the way (OPML). One man (with some help). No credit (that's just bad form, folks). He, like some other modern day software Edisons such as Tim Bray (co-inventor of XML), collects nothing directly off these inventions. (He is a stakeholder in Userland. whose solutions are inbred with these technologies.) If he did, he'd be richer than Bill (so would Bray). Instead, he can draw comfort

Topic: Patents

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

34 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Being flat out against patents is not extreme - it is balanced

    [i]On the other extreme, you have inventors like Dave Winer. Here's a guy who has almost single handedly turned all of software and the Internet on their ears with XML-based RPCs over HTTP while also turning all of the media world upside down with his work on RSS. Two revolutions that needed to happen and maybe a third on the way (OPML). One man (with some help). No credit (that's just bad form folks). [/i]

    What about work done by Isaac Newton, Euler, Albert Einstein, etc.? What about all the Nobel prize caliber work done by scientists at various private companies, in which these guys received little more than a pat on the back, while the companies they worked for cashed in big on their work? In the scientific community, the prestige of accomplishing something big, has always been largely enough for men who did great things. To try and say that some or all of these men should be able to patent their work (which involved not only discovery, but also inventions) throws a whole new dynamic into scientific progress. Let it be clear. Patents in very large part do not benefit individuals or small accomplishers: they benefit the large and established. An individual cannot take a mega-corporation to court to defend his patent, because he doesn?t have the money to do so. And most individuals cannot afford to take out a patent in the first place. Therefore patents in very large part simply do not provide benefits to individuals or small companies. Then you get into the quagmire of placing taxes on ideas that inherently build on one another ? resulting very quickly in the unprecedented situation of business process implementations becoming prohibitively expensive, by virtue of the fact that what was once free, has become unbearably expensive, as a result of tens or hundreds of patent licensing fees companies have to pay.

    If our society wants to better offer individuals reward for innovation: I?m all for it. However, patents are as appropriate for trying to do this, as chainsaws are appropriate for operating on people. Being flat out against patents is not an extreme position, it is the only balanced position in this situation.
    P. Douglas
    • then what is extreme?

      if its not an extreme view then it must be somewhere in the middle ground; what then is the more extreme on that end of the spectrum? Being reasonable or correct has nothing to do with how extreme it is.
      zijiang
      • Advocating no IP Protection

        [i]if its not an extreme view then it must be somewhere in the middle ground; what then is the more extreme on that end of the spectrum? Being reasonable or correct has nothing to do with how extreme it is.[/i]

        An extreme view is to annul all software patents that have been issued so far, instead of merely stopping the issuing of software patents. An even more extreme position, is to advocate no protection whatsoever (copyright, trade secrets, trademarks, etc.) on IP. As I?ve indicated before, it is virtually unprecedented for societies to allow for the placement of ownership on ideas, for the manipulation of software and other IP. That is like allowing Einstein to own his theory or relativity: forcing every text book that has ever been written that quoted it, every invention that has ever made use of it, every research that ever used his work, etc., to pay a license fee to him. When you compound this with license fees needed to pay Kepler, Newton, and every scientist (particularly contemporary ones) whose work we now use freely, you see that in no time at all, virtually no one would be able to work in the field of science. As for the idea of ensuring that only unique on unobvious things be allowed to be patented: when you try to do this (make things complicated or indefinite), you run into the problem of one thing seeming obvious to one person, but not to another. This situation leads to the problem of a field becoming highly litigious and even more expensive, as people go to court to resolve their differences.
        P. Douglas
    • You make a very good point. Patents are

      good for only one thing - making money.

      If I have to choose between one who is in the business because they love and believe in what they do, and one who is in it for the money, money loses every time. You can't serve two masters. If money is your motivation, it is your master. And money will not encourage you to give something all you have. Money soons loses the ability to motivate. A passion for something continues to drive one to be the best they can be.

      Patents do not nor have they ever been a motivation to discover breakthroughs in one chosen field. Real advancements come from those who put store in their endeavor and not the money that it could bring. In fact, patents actually stifle progress in that they limit the minds that will be able to build upon what others have started. Once an idea is patented, improvements to that idea are curtailed. The idea is in effect, locked away. And the total possible benefit to the rest of the world is never taken to fruition.

      Patents are for the lovers of money and not the lovers of technology. Big business has bought off the lawmakers plain and simple. Either directly or indirectly. If large IP producers were actually about what they claim, they would share their ideas so everyone would stand a chance to benefit. The reality is Money, money, money at the expense of true and unfettered progress.
      bjbrock
    • You make the point for patents perfectly...

      ---What about all the Nobel prize caliber work done by scientists at various private companies, in which these guys received little more than a pat on the back---

      True, now had they had a good patent attorney....
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • They would have still gotten jack..

        the company would still get everything.
        Patrick Jones
        • Which company?

          Oh, you mean that if they were given WAGES to perform the work they have already been paid. Yes, you are correct...

          Just ask Thomas Edison...
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Sometimes I don't understand you...

            You say these scientists could get more with a good patent attorney. But in this day, especially with contracts, a patent attorney isn't going to help them. Then you claim that they already got paid, which still wouldn't get them more. Then you try to bring an example from 100 years ago at a time when work "contracts" were practically non-existant. And through all this, you are probably patting yourself on the back thinking you made some sort of big point.
            Patrick Jones
          • Someone else brought up the name "Thomas Edison" in a previous thread

            So Ax is now using this in a vain attempt to appear clever:

            http://news.zdnet.com/5208-3513-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=8715&messageID=175668&start=13
            Zogg
    • Hmmm, I don't know

      There is still a large difference between discovering something, inventing something, and a software patent.

      Discoveries should never be patented. The information should be free to all. However, inventions (real inventions) should be allowed to be patented. If something thinks of something TRUELY new and innovative, and never before conceived; then put the time and expense in to actually figure it out create it, they should be allowed to make some profit off of it.
      I have always considered software to be just the manipulation of data, and thus a copyright issue.
      Most software is just a translation of a real world need, and thus should be only patented in conjunction with a real working piece of hardware.
      All the software patents I've seen are ideas, and you shouldn't be able to patent a basic idea.
      ON THE FLIP SIDE, there are a couple of software features I must say probably deserved a patent (though I still will not agree they should have one on principal).
      -The first spreadsheet with field calculations.
      -specific algorithms for compression or encryption

      That?s pretty much it.
      el1jones
    • Allowing patents for software is like allowing patents for movies.

      Imagine how ludicrous it would be to be able to patent the "use of a computer to produce special effects for motion pictures".

      Or "the use of a suprise twist at the end of a film".

      Or "using a television series as the basis for a motion picture."

      Allowing software patents is stupid. Not per se, but because the patent office allows ANYTHING. If software patents were restricted to things like "Visicalc" (the spread sheet concept), THEN they would be reasonable. But "creating a buffer in memory to collect key strokes for later processing so the main processor does not have to stop immediately and process key strokes" is trivial.

      The patent office has no idea of what is trivial and obvious and what is truly a new concept/non-trivial. Many of these patents fall apart when they try to enforce them because there is so much prior art.
      maxo_z
  • Debate?

    I'm confused. You said in your story that Europe gets to debate the issue - but the link you gave to the European story appears to indicate that the Euroean Beaureaucracy is railroading software patents through their system on the basis that 'now we've started the process there's no way back without creating a precedent for deomocratic debate on everything else' [go figure]

    I feel I must agree with the previous post too. Being flat against software patents is not an extreme position, and was not considered extreme for centuries - until the US courts tilted the playing field.

    I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Why do we need software patents? Does sticking with copyright mean that we will never see another Bill Gates - who made all his money with no other protection?

    If we must have more protection, then please, can we at least have a properly thought out set of rules? It will never be perfect,but almost anything will be better than what we have now.
    Stephen Wheeler
  • Hasn't wrecked the EU so far...

    ... those 30,000 software patents the EU has already issued, following rules very similar to those in the US.

    And patents were started in part to protect the inventor against the big corporation; get the government into IP protection.

    Some adjustments will be needed; I'm guessing there'll be international provision for compulsory licensing in a few years. That's after similar patent regimes are worldwide and compliance made compulsory by a forceful international regulatory body.

    Software is a business in which people work to make money. Advocating the end of software patents is an attempt to deprive people and companies of money that could be obtained legally and appropriately, nothing more, nothing less.
    Anton Philidor
    • That's because they can't be enforced in Europe.

      So far, anyway. And people in the software industry have made literally *billions* of dollars without enforcing software patents left, right and center, so please dismount that high horse.

      Hmm, imagine if Steve Jobs had *patented* the Mac's "look and feel". What would Bill Gates have done then?
      Zogg
      • IBM made $2.6 BILLION last year

        off their patent licenses. Care to try again?
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Oh, please! (Give me strength)

          This thread is about the ability to enforce software patents in Europe. Are you suggesting that IBM successfully prosecuted one or more persons in the European courts for the sum of $2.6 billion last year, on grounds of *software patent* violation? In which case a link would be nice instead of a snide figure pulled out of (ahem) thin air.

          On the other hand, I am quite prepared to believe that companies are *voluntarily* licensing patents from IBM. After all, even SCO found one company (EV1 Servers) to buy its most ridiculous license. And then there's Microsoft's FAT patent. People bought that one too, although it was later thrown out by the Courts. I wonder if those companies got their money back?
          Zogg
      • Apple inventions

        Xerox invented the GUI, and Apple, IBM and Microsoft made vast improvements in the GUI. Al of them would be entitled to patents on the initial invention and the improvements.

        Clearly, Xerox would have reaped huge financial rewards for inventing the GUI is they had a patent on it, and would have been able to continue funding PARC at the huge levels of the 1970's.

        I think we all would have been better off if Xerox had a patent for the GUI, as Xerox was a good member of the software community and would have brought us other great inventions.
        smacker_z
    • I've seen it happen

      I know personnaly someone who had their patented idea stolen by a large company. $500,000 in patent insurance was insufficient to defend his patent (10 years ago), so he lost. The company simply refused to comply with court orders, he couldn't continue to take them to court and simply ran out of money.

      Name one small individual that has made big dollars from a patent. You will find nearly all of them sell their idea to a large coporation who then use the patent themselves to enhance their profits - the original inventor nearly always gets a pittance in comparison.
      Fred Fredrickson
    • That's what copyrights are for

      If you're in the software business you copyright you work. That protection would still be there. All removing software patents would do is increase competition and that's never a bad thing.

      So you code a software application that does X. If someone wants to compete they still have to do all the work to code thier application to do X. There is no need for patent other than to make sure no one can compete with you on any level because you can do X.
      voska
  • erroneous information

    Belind's comment "patents on software and business processes are getting awarded left and right via a process that's dubious at best" is very outdated.

    The Business method examination area of the Patent Office has particularly harsh examination procedures that have resulted in the highest rejection rates ever seen in any area of the patent office. The procedures were implemented in 2002.
    smacker_z