Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

Summary: The patent is still complete tripe, and should never have been filed

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Tandberg, the videoconferencing unit of Cisco that some reporters have called a patent troll, has accidentally revealed the stupidity of software patents with a recent application.

X264 developer Jason Garrett-Glaser, a student at Harvey Mudd College (from which this picture was taken after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs referenced his blog) wrote that Tandberg had tried to patent his open source code.

His first blog post on this read:

This is not coincidence. We already know from one of their employees that they follow x264 development. We also know that they file patents for practically everything he comes up with. Well, this time, it looks like they ran out of ideas, so they had to go use the cheat sheet: open source.

This quote set the media off on Tandberg, which contacted Garrett-Glaser to deny the charge.

"Tandberg claims they came up with the algorithm independently: to be fair, I can actually believe this to some extent." He asked people to stop harassing the Tandberg programmer involved.

But he did not back down about his claims concerning the actual patent application.

"The patent is still complete tripe, and should never have been filed." What's being patented is too basic, too simple, to be worthwhile, using the phrase "an apparatus" to try and fool the Patent Office.

At a time when governments around the world are trying to tighten the intellectual property regime, aiming to stop piracy and plagiarism online, it's still ridiculously easy for corporations to steal some kid's code and try to get a patent on it.

Software is not a mousetrap. It's a way for building mousetraps. It should not be patentable.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Software

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10 comments
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  • So this patent can be refused on grounds of "prior art".

    <i>Furthermore -- the patent application was filed a mere two months (Dec. 30, 2008) after my original commit (Oct. 22, 2008). </i>

    But it's an interesting can of worms, nonetheless.
    Zogg
  • RE: Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

    I guess it's more fun to stir the pot with rabblerousing headlines than to, you know, actually offer some analysis of the code or something useful like that.
    Vesicant
  • Piecemeal snippets of software shouldn't be patentable

    Whole software packages, such as Windows, iTunes, etc.? Fine, patent those, but make it clear that ANYONE can use code from them to make OTHER software applications.
    Lerianis10
  • It isn't software patents that are the problem

    It isn't software patents that are the problem, what is needed is a reform of the patent review process. Right now there is no good technical review of the patent to show it is not prior art. The only review is after the fact when you can take a firm to court and challenge the patent, but the process is expensive.

    Software patents have a place, many non-software patents are granted for things that once you look at them you think "duh, that is simple and obvious" and it is once you see it. But those patents are valid, since someone had to think of it first.

    Copyright protection is not enough for software, I know of whole programs and major components where the source was taken and edited from one language to another (for instance one of the mini-computer companies proprietary languages to C), and through this fairly trivial process bypassed the copyright protection of the late 80's. Some of this software is now under GPL.

    So yes we need software patents, but the process of getting a patent should have a peer review component in it.
    oldsysprog
    • RE: Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

      @oldsysprog Don't change the story. Tandberg is accused of stealing open sourced GPLed code, not the other way.
      atari_z
  • theft depends who you steal from

    Remember theft depends on who you steal it from. If a individual steals from a corporation, its IP infrigment, and liable for a multi million lawsuit* ahem music* Company steals from individual money wise, its called a billing error. Stealing open source code is perfectly fine. Corporatism
    franklin101
    • RE: Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

      @franklin101
      Using open source code in your own proprietary product is permitted by virtually all open source licenses.
      However, taking anyone's code and calling it your own is called "Plagiarism" and when it comes to IP laws, is a criminal offence, no matter who you happen to be.
      mheartwood
  • RE: Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

    @myheartwood That's simply not correct. The GPL (both v2 and v3) explicitly prohibit the use of GPLed software in non-GPLed software. Thus, a company that incorporates GPLed code in their proprietary software is in violation of the license, and many have found themselves in legal trouble for doing just that.

    -Nick
    nickleroy
    • RE: Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

      @nickleroy Ooops, I didn't reply to the thread correctly.
      nickleroy
  • RE: Tandberg illustrates stupidity of software patent policy

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