Venture capitalist Brad Feld has long been an outspoken critic of software patents. He was kind enough to answer some questions for End Software Patents.
The latest leaked ACTA document shows that the EU, USA, and Japan are pushing to extend the this draconian treaty to cover patents! This eye-popping proposal would give patent holders the power to send a cease-and-desist letters to software developers, with threats such as paying the “lost profits” of the patent holder and having the developer’s computer broken and sending the developer the bill for the destruction!
(Note: the original title incorrectly said “2010”)
Germany’s Federal High Court, the Bundesgerichtshof, handed out a ruling that some say upholds a software patent. The ruling was published as a PDF. I converted it to text here so that we can use online translation services to read it in English. Below is the full text in German. Here are links to automatic translations to English:
Australia seems to be headed for software patent legislation in 2010. The bad news is that there was a consultation, and we missed it. The good news is that the consultation was just a preliminary step, so if we start organising now, we can still participate fully in the legislative phase. Other good news is that when I discussed software patents with people in Australia six months ago, there was plenty of interest.
I need help contacting groups in Israel. With a February deadline, the Israeli patent office is asking if it should grant software patents. To help, join this mailing list: firstname.lastname@example.org. As usual, the small businesses, individual programmers, and software user groups don’t seem to have noticed this consultation. This is common in public consultations – but you can bet the lawyers groups and the multinationals are aware and working on their submissions. So I need help with informing people in Israel now so they have some time to get prepare submissions. More info below.
I was recently asked to give an introduction to our perspective on software patents. Below is a quickly edited copy of what I sent. The purpose was to help someone prepare for a meeting, so these are starting points, not an overall summary.
Analogies are useful for explaining the issue to people who don’t have the same background. There’s no single best analogy, so it’s useful to have a few to choose from when the need arises.
There were 38 responses to the consultation in Australia about patentable subject matter. I’ve quickly analysed them all and below are my initial comments. There 400+ pages of writing, so I only skimmed them and I’ve surely made mistakes. There’s a copy of this analysis on the wiki at: http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Australian_consultation_responses_2009 – please add notes there to correct my analysis or to add your own.
The Australian Government’s Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) is performing a review of patentable subject matter. There was a public consultation, but it closed on November 13th. It seems a legislative proposal is being prepared for 2010.
There are two phases left. There’s a phase of maybe four or five months until the ruling, and there’s a longer post-ruling phase where we may get legislative proposals or a second Supreme Court case. This is the first time in 28 years where the USA could rid itself of software development’s biggest problem, so let’s look at what we have to do over the coming months.
I recently found a paper published in 2004 by European Schoolnet: Software Patents – A Potential Hindrance of
ICT in Education. This if the first paper I’ve found on this topic and I find it well written, so I’ve summarised it below.
Another US district court has made a ruling based on Bilski – rejecting three patents, although giving ambiguous comments about one of them. Together with two previous rulings based on Bilski, we can look at how it might be used, and what are its shortcomings.
At Monday’s hearing (court transcript), neither party had the objective of abolishing software patents. The Bilski case is about a business method patent, so there was Mr. Jakes arguing that business methods should be patentable, and Mr. Stewart arguing that they shouldn’t. For software to be excluded, we’re relying on the judges (to whom we wrote an amicus brief, as did many others). There’re a few worrying statements, but there’s also a lot of hope.
Reports are starting to appear from today’s hearing of the Bilski case at the US Supreme Court. I’ll keep updating as they appear.
- In Re Bilski – Transcript of Today’s Oral Argument at the US Supreme Court – Groklaw
- Supreme Court Hears Bilski v. Kappos – Patently-O
- Bilski patent decision: trying to return patents to their technological origins – praxagora.com
- Bilski Arguments Complete at the US Supreme Court – IP Watchdog
- Analysis: The “Lorenzo Jones” case emerges – Scotus blog
- “On the Scene” Reports and Blogs from SCOTUS Bilski Arguments – The 271 Patent Blog
- Justices Skeptical in Patent Case on Business Methods – Wall Street Journal
- Justices Question Patent for Abstract Business Innovations – New York Times