Software Patents

  • Brad Allison

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3540

    Interesting that this topic is resurfacing.  My husband and I this morning were just discussing the same topic, as we are both gamers, and we saw a story about Activision trying to put a patent on the gaming microtransaction system.  Well, how can they claim that when there are many variations of the microtransaction system in different games?  Activision/EA are going to be the death, sadly, to the gaming industry.  I think this is why more and more indie titles (like Ori or Cuphead) are turning out to be excellent games.

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 996651

    I think the people granting patents such as the "1-click" thingy need to find a new job.  They've obviously not done any due diligence when it comes to "prior art" and have stretched to the breaking point the concept that new uses for prior art can be patented.

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.
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    "If "pre-optimization" is the root of all evil, then what does the resulting no optimization lead to?"

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  • roger.plowman

    SSChampion

    Points: 10243

    It's really simple.

    Software is math.

    You can't patent math.

    Full stop.

    The fact the courts are ignorant of this simple truth has caused an uncountable number of crimes (i.e. unjust enrichment) to the detriment of the human race.

  • mjh 45389

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5695

    When I was made redundant may years ago Human Remains came up with a document to sign regarding patents, IPR, etc. It was total nonsense as it would virtually mean I could not do a similar job for the rest of my life. I also said anything I had done was the product of my education, my experience and to a small degree to my work environment. I never signed but a number of people did. Subsequently the product,, and IPR, I had been working on was sold on. It still exists but obviously has been developed significantly. The company that axed me no longer exists!

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104773

    Jeff Moden - Wednesday, October 18, 2017 6:29 AM

    I think the people granting patents such as the "1-click" thingy need to find a new job.  They've obviously not done any due diligence when it comes to "prior art" and have stretched to the breaking point the concept that new uses for prior art can be patented.

    What, only to breaking point?  It seems to me that both USPO and EPO have stretched things way beyond the breaking point, the German courts have backed Apple in cases where it was claiming stuff for which there is a vast quantity of prior art so they have taken it beyond breaking point too, and the UKPO while not as bad as EPO or USPO probably goes beyond the breaking point too.

    Tom

  • Matt Miller (4)

    SSC Guru

    Points: 124208

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 18, 2017 7:15 AM

    It's really simple.

    Software is math.

    You can't patent math.

    Full stop.

    The fact the courts are ignorant of this simple truth has caused an uncountable number of crimes (i.e. unjust enrichment) to the detriment of the human race.

    Well - that "math" can be used to build cars, ships packages, pilots drones, monitors a patient's vital signs.  We somehow can patent the mechanical devices that can automate that, but once you put code inside of that to replace some of the moving parts you can't patent it anymore?  For ever "obvious" case of patent trolling if you think a bit I am sure you can come up with hundreds of cases where the line s a lot more blurred.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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  • roger.plowman

    SSChampion

    Points: 10243

    Matt Miller (4) - Monday, October 23, 2017 3:12 PM

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 18, 2017 7:15 AM

    It's really simple.

    Software is math.

    You can't patent math.

    Full stop.

    The fact the courts are ignorant of this simple truth has caused an uncountable number of crimes (i.e. unjust enrichment) to the detriment of the human race.

    Well - that "math" can be used to build cars, ships packages, pilots drones, monitors a patient's vital signs.  We somehow can patent the mechanical devices that can automate that, but once you put code inside of that to replace some of the moving parts you can't patent it anymore?  For ever "obvious" case of patent trolling if you think a bit I am sure you can come up with hundreds of cases where the line s a lot more blurred.

    Nope.

    Mechanical translation of mathematical concepts results in a concrete (and fixed) object. For example the beads of an abacus or the shape of a cam in an engine. You can patent an abacus (assuming no prior art :)) but you can't patent the idea of manipulation of objects to represent units (which is what the abacus does).

    Objects take time and effort to create, translating the idea (mathematics) into a concrete expression of that idea (the object). A PHYSICAL object. It is that time and effort that is being rewarded and protected.

    A computer's memory is the same physical device no matter what program it runs. Thus the program is not an "expression" of the idea any more than writing the math on a chalkboard would be. Thus you can't patent software.

    It's similar to copyright. You can't copyright an idea, only the concrete expression of that idea. Thus writing a story about a hero that overcomes challenges to triumph couldn't be copyrighted, any more than an algorithm could be.

    You can copyright Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, however. 🙂 Or could, had it not already been done. Just the same as an abacus could be patented.

    But not math. Nor can math be patented--by law.

    QED

  • x

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 23570

    roger.plowman - Tuesday, October 24, 2017 9:26 AM

    Matt Miller (4) - Monday, October 23, 2017 3:12 PM

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 18, 2017 7:15 AM

    It's really simple.

    Software is math.

    You can't patent math.

    Full stop.

    The fact the courts are ignorant of this simple truth has caused an uncountable number of crimes (i.e. unjust enrichment) to the detriment of the human race.

    Well - that "math" can be used to build cars, ships packages, pilots drones, monitors a patient's vital signs.  We somehow can patent the mechanical devices that can automate that, but once you put code inside of that to replace some of the moving parts you can't patent it anymore?  For ever "obvious" case of patent trolling if you think a bit I am sure you can come up with hundreds of cases where the line s a lot more blurred.

    Nope.

    Mechanical translation of mathematical concepts results in a concrete (and fixed) object. For example the beads of an abacus or the shape of a cam in an engine. You can patent an abacus (assuming no prior art :)) but you can't patent the idea of manipulation of objects to represent units (which is what the abacus does).

    Objects take time and effort to create, translating the idea (mathematics) into a concrete expression of that idea (the object). A PHYSICAL object. It is that time and effort that is being rewarded and protected.

    A computer's memory is the same physical device no matter what program it runs. Thus the program is not an "expression" of the idea any more than writing the math on a chalkboard would be. Thus you can't patent software.

    It's similar to copyright. You can't copyright an idea, only the concrete expression of that idea. Thus writing a story about a hero that overcomes challenges to triumph couldn't be copyrighted, any more than an algorithm could be.

    You can copyright Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, however. 🙂 Or could, had it not already been done. Just the same as an abacus could be patented.

    But not math. Nor can math be patented--by law.

    QED

    Currently you can patent software, there are many examples. Perhaps you should google before you assert that you can't patent software, folks are doing it all the time.

  • roger.plowman

    SSChampion

    Points: 10243

    Granted, people are patenting software, my point is the patent office is IGNORING the fact software is math. Therefore no software patents are valid by definition.

    Of course convincing lawyers who make their living patenting software is a lost cause. Lawyers are very good at ignoring reality in favor of the fever dream of what they can get away with. Congress is even worse.

  • ZZartin

    SSC-Dedicated

    Points: 30414

    roger.plowman - Tuesday, October 24, 2017 9:26 AM

    Matt Miller (4) - Monday, October 23, 2017 3:12 PM

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 18, 2017 7:15 AM

    It's really simple.

    Software is math.

    You can't patent math.

    Full stop.

    The fact the courts are ignorant of this simple truth has caused an uncountable number of crimes (i.e. unjust enrichment) to the detriment of the human race.

    Well - that "math" can be used to build cars, ships packages, pilots drones, monitors a patient's vital signs.  We somehow can patent the mechanical devices that can automate that, but once you put code inside of that to replace some of the moving parts you can't patent it anymore?  For ever "obvious" case of patent trolling if you think a bit I am sure you can come up with hundreds of cases where the line s a lot more blurred.

    Nope.

    Mechanical translation of mathematical concepts results in a concrete (and fixed) object. For example the beads of an abacus or the shape of a cam in an engine. You can patent an abacus (assuming no prior art :)) but you can't patent the idea of manipulation of objects to represent units (which is what the abacus does).

    Objects take time and effort to create, translating the idea (mathematics) into a concrete expression of that idea (the object). A PHYSICAL object. It is that time and effort that is being rewarded and protected.

    A computer's memory is the same physical device no matter what program it runs. Thus the program is not an "expression" of the idea any more than writing the math on a chalkboard would be. Thus you can't patent software.

    It's similar to copyright. You can't copyright an idea, only the concrete expression of that idea. Thus writing a story about a hero that overcomes challenges to triumph couldn't be copyrighted, any more than an algorithm could be.

    You can copyright Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, however. 🙂 Or could, had it not already been done. Just the same as an abacus could be patented.

    But not math. Nor can math be patented--by law.

    QED

    That's like saying a car company can't patent a car design or part because it's just metal.

  • x

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 23570

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 9:45 AM

    Granted, people are patenting software, my point is the patent office is IGNORING the fact software is math. Therefore no software patents are valid by definition.

    Of course convincing lawyers who make their living patenting software is a lost cause. Lawyers are very good at ignoring reality in favor of the fever dream of what they can get away with. Congress is even worse.

    software might be considered math right up until the instant a piece of hardware executes it. and for all practical purposes beyond the merely scientific and research areas, software is intended to be executed on hardware.

    really, if you tried to take this "software is math" into a modern courtroom, you'd get chewed to pieces.

  • roger.plowman

    SSChampion

    Points: 10243

    patrickmcginnis59 10839 - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 10:49 AM

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 9:45 AM

    Granted, people are patenting software, my point is the patent office is IGNORING the fact software is math. Therefore no software patents are valid by definition.

    Of course convincing lawyers who make their living patenting software is a lost cause. Lawyers are very good at ignoring reality in favor of the fever dream of what they can get away with. Congress is even worse.

    software might be considered math right up until the instant a piece of hardware executes it. and for all practical purposes beyond the merely scientific and research areas, software is intended to be executed on hardware.

    really, if you tried to take this "software is math" into a modern courtroom, you'd get chewed to pieces.

    Possibly, but the Supreme Court has nixed "do it on a computer" patents. And if your argument is all software is "do it on a computer"... :hehe:

  • x

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 23570

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 12:59 PM

    patrickmcginnis59 10839 - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 10:49 AM

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 9:45 AM

    Granted, people are patenting software, my point is the patent office is IGNORING the fact software is math. Therefore no software patents are valid by definition.

    Of course convincing lawyers who make their living patenting software is a lost cause. Lawyers are very good at ignoring reality in favor of the fever dream of what they can get away with. Congress is even worse.

    software might be considered math right up until the instant a piece of hardware executes it. and for all practical purposes beyond the merely scientific and research areas, software is intended to be executed on hardware.

    really, if you tried to take this "software is math" into a modern courtroom, you'd get chewed to pieces.

    Possibly, but the Supreme Court has nixed "do it on a computer" patents. And if your argument is all software is "do it on a computer"... :hehe:

    In that same case the SC declined to eliminate software patents entirely, if you're thinking of "ALICE CORPORATION PTY. LTD. v. CLS BANK INTERNATIONAL ET AL." That's a good ruling, and hopefully can provide guidance on all those "do it on the internet" variants also.

    "...The fact that a computer “necessarily exist in the physical, rather than purely
    conceptual, realm,†Brief for Petitioner 39, is beside the point. There is no dispute that
    a computer is a tangible system (in §101 terms, a “machineâ€), or that many
    computer-implemented claims are formally addressed to patent-eligible subject matter."

    in addition to hinting that computer programs are patentable, there's also the indication that computer programs do not remain in the "purely conceptual realm" but are rather physical implementations of a system. Indeed, you can't store a 1 or 0 without some help from physics, that is, if you want to read it back at some point (qubits well I don't know about those LOL).

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104773

    roger.plowman - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 9:45 AM

    Granted, people are patenting software, my point is the patent office is IGNORING the fact software is math. Therefore no software patents are valid by definition.

    Of course convincing lawyers who make their living patenting software is a lost cause. Lawyers are very good at ignoring reality in favor of the fever dream of what they can get away with. Congress is even worse.

    Actually, Roger, whether patenting mathematics is against the law is a matter of the law in a particular country.  The rules are not the same everywhere.  An internatonal conventions on patent law doesn't apply in countries which haven't both signed up to the conventionand formally ratified it.  In fact international law in general may not apply in a particular territory.  Even something which is regarded as pretty much fundamental international law may or may not be applicable in a particular country.
    Patent laws are not though of generally as something particularly fundamental, so patent laws are very much local.  But even something as funcamental as the Geneva Convention and its additional protocols are nowhere near universal.  As for the Geneva convention, UK has signed and ratified the four 1949 conventions, the three subsequent protocols,  and committed to the Protocol I article 90 declaration, while the USA has signed and ratifuied the four 1949 conventions, signed protocols I and II but ratified neither, signed and ratified protocol III, and not accepted the Protocol I article 90 declaration (ie they alone will decide what the bits they've ratified mean - ie they have committed to nothing that they can be held to).  So you can see that even the most fundamental international conventions have no relevance at all in the USA (there's lots of other evidence for that as well) so there's no imaginable reason to believe that mathematics isn't patentable there (or indeed anywhere where it isn't specifically written into the local national law).  
    And prior art is also irrelevant in many countries (specifically for example in Germany, where the courts determined that rounding corners on a rectangle in a dozent products antedating Apple's devidce by a decade or more didn't prevent them from holding an exclusive right to use that shape; and also in theUSA except on the rare occassions where someone has enough money to figght the big guys in court and the court possesses sufficient brain cells to recognise that the USPO fucked up when granting the patent).

    Personally, I'm inclined (unlike Steve) to agree mostly with Richard Stallman on software patents, at least to the extent that a software patent should be valid only as a patent for using a specific technique to achieve a specific product and also excluding software that just uses pure mathematics to provide extreme performance for something that could in principle be done by hand (like the first public key encryption patent).  At times I even think that RS doesn't go far enough.

    But given the current ridiculous patent law situation I have produced (in collaboration with a colleague)  patent applications for a pair of softwre algorithms because if I disn't do things like that my employer might go bust - because of the ridiculous European and American patent laws that will allow some other company to patent it; this is particularly necessary because the US courts will usually uphold a patent even if plentiful prior art can be demonstrated, so it would be insane while working in industry to publish research before applying for a patent on exploiting it.

    Tom

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