CSIRO is an organisation that holds a patent on wifi. They’ve already sued twenty companies and have said that they want royalties from “the entire industry”. If this includes software developers, then we have a problem. Can anyone help analyse if their patent is a software patent or a hardware patent? Thanks in advance.
There are links at the end to get started, but first: Why is the distinction important?
Hardware manufacturers all have two things: a legal department and a pile of money in the bank. If they’re attacked, they can defend themselves. If they lose, they don’t have to close their project, they just add a new expense to their existing list of business costs. Hardware is always manfactured for money, so we can assume that adding a financial requirement to their distribution won’t radically ruin their work, it will just change the numbers.
Patent attacks among companies are an expected part of business. Patents do cause problems among hardware companies, but these can be fixed by initiatives such as the US Patent Reform Act. They can do their own lobbying on that.
Software developers are completely different because we can’t assume they have the legal or financial resources to defend themselves, or even to investigate the legitimacy of a patent attack. Secondly, software is not always developed for money. For some software, with great value to society, adding a financial requirement completely ruins the development process, or even makes the process impossible.
Tweaking the numbers (as the Patent Reform Act proposes) does nothing to fix the problems faced by software developers. For software developers, the only solution is to abolish software patents.
If CSIRO’s patent can only be used to attack hardware manufacturers, then there’s no social problem. If it can be used to attack all software developers, then they could become a pest. I would be very interested to read their patent and the existing court rulings, but I’m a little snowed under right now. Has anyone already taken a look? Know of any articles discussing this distinction? Anyone motivated to take a look now? Here are some links as starting points: