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					Software patents

        Monopolies
 for Ideas and Algorithms
      By Eric Driggs
Intellectual
 Property:
Their intellect,
 Their property?
Intellectual
 Property:
Your intellect,
Their property?
  Assertion:

   Without laws to
 protect intellectual
property, most people
 wouldn’t pay for it.
   Corollary

For software companies
   to be profitable,
        they need
 intellectual property
         laws.
   Copyright Good


You control who gets to copy
  your software and how they
       pay you for it.
    SW Patents Bad

Monopolies for algorithms

Cause greater net $ harm
 than benefit.
Copyright     Patent

People pay           pay to
              People a
to use your   use your
code          algorithm
       Copyright

For art, literature and
 finished works.
Automatic and free ($35
 optional registration)
For 95 years
         Patent

For inventions and processes
Expensive (avg $5k-$20)
Usually need a lawyer
Takes years before granted.
For 20 years
 Patent Eligibility

1) Useful
2) Invented it first (no
   prior art)
3) Not obvious
4) Not law of nature,
   algorithm.
         Whoah!

If you can’t patent
 algorithms, how do you
 patent software?
         Simple:

You patent the process of
 using the algorithm
 (basically the same thing)
      Algorithms:

The basic building blocks of
 all programs.
“The basic algorithmic ideas
 that people are now rushing
 to patent are so
 fundamental, the result
 threatens to be like what
 would happen if we allowed
 authors to have patents on
 individual words and
 concepts...
Algorithms are exactly as
basic to software as words
are to writers, because
they are the fundamental
building blocks needed to
make interesting products.”
(Knuth, Donald)
              Software Patents per Year from 1981-2007
45,000

40,000

35,000

30,000

25,000

20,000

15,000

10,000

 5,000

    0
    1975       1980                 1985                 1990                1995                2000                 2005        2010
                                                               S our c e :
           ht t p:/ / c om m ons. wi k i m e di a . or g/ wi k i / I m a ge :U S _ gr a nt e d_ sof t wa r e _ pa t e nt s. png
                                           obt a i ne d f r om U S P TO we bsi t e da t a
   Does your code
  violates any of
300,000+ sw patents?
          Each program
          becomes a
          land mine of
          liability.
                     IBM Revenue 2007 (Millions USD)




100,000



  90,000



  80,000


  70,000



  60,000



  50,000



  40,000



  30,000


  20,000



  10,000



              0
                  Gross                      Software   Patent Licensing


 Millions $       98,000                       12,900              135
 Software Companies

Earn most of the money by
 selling software licenses
 (protected by copyright)

Earn low % from patent
 licensing.
 Why patent software?

Protect self against
 lawsuits.
Cross-license patents with
 big companies.
Prevent others from copying
 your ideas.
Make money suing others.
    Patent Trolls
Toll please,
    $650
  million.
                RIM




          NTP
      RIM v NTP

NTP got patents for wireless
 email, even though other
 people did it first.
NTP’s patents were revoked,
 but not until they won
 $650 million from RIM.
   Obvious patents

Microsoft: Page up/Page Down
Amazon: 1-click checkout
EOLAS: Browser plugin
          EOLAS
Won $521 million from
 Microsoft for Active-X in
 Internet Explorer.
They can still sue other
 browser makers / web
 designers.
Oh yeah, they weren’t the
 first to do plugins.
  Tim Berners Lee on
    EOLAS’ patent
“A patent whose validity is
 demonstrably in doubt ought
 not be allowed to undo the
 years of work that have gone
 into building the Web…. The
 Web functions only on the
 strength of its common
 standards” (Letter to USPTO)
       Java Model
   Railroad Interface

Bob Jacobsen publishes first
 version in 1998. It’s free
 and open-source (GPL).
      Matt Katzer

Applies for a patent for
 JMRI’s functionality 3 days
 later without any working
 code.
Reverse engineers and steals
 Bob’s code for his own
 program.
  Matt Katzer pt.2

Sues Bob in 2003 for patent
 infringement.
Bob is still trying to
 demonstrate prior art to
 the court’s satisfaction.
Social Contract + Act
   Utilitarianism:
Public gives up rights to
 copy inventors for 20 yrs.
Inventors have incentive for
 R&D and can recoup
 investment faster.
“The promotion of the
 progress of science and the
 useful arts is the main
 object of the patent
 system, and reward of
 inventors is secondary and
 merely a means to that end.

(United States v. Masonite
Corp., 316 U.S. 265 (1942))
   Contract Broken

Software patents stifle
 innovation instead of
 encouraging it.
Software patents should be
 reformed or eliminated.
         Kantian

Hard to justify SW Patents.
No categorical imperative in
 monopolies.
Greed != Duty or Obligation
          The Future
.     “When I think of the computer
    programs I require daily to
    get my own work done, I cannot
    help but realize that none of
    them would exist today if
    software patents had been
    prevalent in the 1960s and
    1970s…
If present trends continue, the
 only recourse available to the
 majority of America's
 brilliant software developers
 will be to give up software or
 to emigrate.”

 (Knuth, Donald. USPTO letter)
         Changes

More $ and people for USPTO
Let public search for prior
 art before award patents.
Too easy to sue for patent
 infringement.
      Conclusion

Algorithms are ideas, so
 shouldn’t patent them.
Software patents encourage
 litigation, not innovation
 so get rid of them.

				
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posted:9/29/2012
language:English
pages:37