Now we can make it easy on ourselves and cut a single cheque of what amounts to basically all the value in the world to Don Knuth. I'm sure he can pass various bits on to the other stake holders.
- The technology company you work for is now out of business, you're jobless.
- Don Knuth is now Emperor of the planet.
which sounds like a pretty good state of affairs, really. Satire isn't supposed to end up like that.
However, bottom line remains: no one who would be a real stakeholder in the field is in favour of software patents. Software is mathematical; again, no experts have ever argued software isn't mathematics, almost by definition.
Knuth is so fundamental to computer science, because he sighted, assessed, categorized and published the main body of the field. That's curation, not invention.
Unless I'm not a real stakeholder. What's the definition of that?
Languages differ in expressive power in ways that effectively mean that 200kLoC in one language is trivial to implement in a few thousand lines in another. Even within one language, two implementations of the same effective feature can be devised with similarly large differences in line count, if one prioritizes brevity over efficiency.
A simple criterion like this would be laughably useless and abused to absurd degrees.
Patent trolling is blatant abuse, and none of these loopholes ever get fixed because patenting is a one hundred year old legal concept that hasn't been touched in decades.
Why not create a better system? To patent your idea it should have to be non-obvious; therefore pinch-to-zoom wouldn't be patentable. To patent your idea it would have to take a significant amount of work to implement. Maybe certain 'types' of ideas cant be used to litigate for financial compensation.
Really theres so many ways the system could be better but i don't see the need to throw it out. People like having their ideas protected and valued. The concept is there, it's just been corrupted by corporate greed.
- there is only one way to implement it: then it is just an embodiment of the idea and shouldn't be patentable
- there are multiple ways to implement it: then there is no point patenting them because somebody will just do it a different way and you have no protection ... except ... copyrights which are already what everyone uses for software.
Similar problem occurs in biotech, if you developed a drug and proved it helps cure a disease, usually it is trivially simple to create the same drug (generics). This means that without a patent, companies would lose part of the incentive to innovate.
However, if your patent is simple, it's an idea like pinch to zoom that realistically didn't need millions in research to develop, then that patent should not be granted as the purpose of the patent is not return on investment from research.
Have people forgotten the terrible user experience with media file formats in the 90s and 00s? You had to download a bunch of codecs and fiddle around with different programs in order to watch a video. The details on this point are a bit fuzzy, but I also remember having to needlessly jump through hoops in order to encode some audio files for my MP3 player. Fast-forward to the current year: now I can use ffmpeg for conversions and either mpv or VLC for playback, providing a vastly superior user experience. This is only possible because the developers of these tools have opted to completely disregard software patents.
By definition that's every software patent, given the same problem to solve.
Of course, RSA is just math, and patent law already forbids patents on math (but somehow unless it is math related to computers). But that was just the first example off the top of my head of algorithms that took a bit of work to develop (just like many other encryption algorithms, or ML algorithms, etc).
Intellectual property is a thing that exists. Somehow Apple’s Ax processors are several times faster than the best Qualcomm can do. That’s intellectual property. Given that, I’m not sure it makes sense to divide up patentability based on whether it’s software or something else.
(At the same time, I’d probably say that nothing bad would happen if we simply banned advertising. Since my paycheck never depended on ads I have to admit I don’t really get why it’s necessary, beyond the abstract intellectual arguments. People’s world views are limited by their direct experience.)
At the core of the argument, software engineering is applied math. Math is not patentable. Software patents are workarounds around the fact that math is not patentable. Yes, the work is valuable, but it should not be patentable.
Here are USPTO's guidelines https://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2106.html
The purpose of a patent is to grant a monopoly for an invention that would not be obvious to someone skilled in the art.
These business methods should not enjoy patent protection that prevents someone from independently discovering and implementing same solution. There is a finite number of ways to efficiently implement wayfinding for a self-driving car.
Similarly, I can convert any hardware into a software model of it, which makes it into pure imagination.
There is hardly any field where you can improve the state of the art, without stepping on dozens of patents. Of course you can ignore those patents if you don't care about making any money off your work. But if that's the case, you don't need patents in the first place.
Microsoft made a lot of money selling Windows and their Office suite precisely by locking people into their ecosystem.
You say you like markets, yet you don't like others offering goods at a lower price (free software), but you do like government-enforced monopolies on ideas (patents, and even copyright). If we're diving things into 'market' and 'not market', shouldn't you categorize them in the exact opposite way as you did?
> Now, you get Android for “free” but only by turning your customers into the product.
You also get linux for free, or you can pay for Windows and still be made into the product. The only way I can see someone arriving at your position is to selectively pay attention only to cases where free software with anti-consumer features crowded out straight-forward proprietary software, and ignore cases where free software turned out good (compilers, linux, firefox, text editors, libre office, lineageOS, VLC, etc. etc. etc.)
Every product Apple sells incorporates various standards, including open source. The key is to use open source to reduce the barrier to participating in a market and then add value on top of open source to make a profit.
Only if you can't create something valuable. But if it's not valuable, then it's not your property, it's worthless.
>Now, you get Android for “free” but only by turning your customers into the product.
Paid services still turn the customers into the product, e.g. Windows. Also Android is not open source.
>get to control the standard by fiat
Commercial dealers have a long track record of anticompetitive practices. It's the whole reason why antimonopoly law was written.
That is precisely my point.
At least some multinationals would benefit from software patents going away, since they are often used defensively.
Software might have some kind of protection, even how you design your DB is protected, but you can't forbid someone to make a similar software that does the same thing.
Software is engineering, not art. It should be protected like technology, not art.
There is strong moral argument for copyright, a sentiment most people at least in Western culture agree with: you shouldn't be able to take work of others without doing any yourself.
Let's not forget that for quite a few years, asymmetric cryptography was patented and you couldn't implement any kind of cryptosystem that used it. God knows what the state of cryptography would be today if we didn't have our equivalent of a "dark age" thanks to fears over patent litigation.
What is that supposed to tell me?
In this context, _nobody_ is going to stand up and call BS on the game. Certainly not Larry.
Senior engineers in BigTechCo get paid bonuses for patent filings so they're unlikely to speak up for fear of those bonuses.
I feel a bit nervous posting this to be honest, but hey..
Also the nature of patents incentivizes you to claim patents even if you fundamentally disagree with the patent system, if you want to continue doing business. Otherwise a troll or competitor could try to shut you down
Now it's protecting the turf of the large corporate, from any whiff of competition by fair means and foul.
In this landscape where it's almost impossible to build products without stepping on patents, the only way to defend a large company against being bled to the bone by patent lawsuits is to have a deep warchest of patents to file countersuits, basically just MAD for software.
I'd be 100% for ending software patents. We already ban patents on mathematics.
Because people will horde their inventions to themselves and reduce the rate of progression of civilisation?
I bet someone else who isn't silly like that will rediscover likely within twenty years of the hypothetical hoarder.
Also, you can hoard it under the current regime anyway:
> WD-40's formula is a trade secret, and has not changed over the years, according to historian Iris Engstrand. To avoid disclosing its composition, the product was not patented in 1953, and the window of opportunity for patenting it has long since closed.
I didn't think of that. I don't think the situation is quite so cut and dry though.
Imagine how many patents like one click  we can avoid if there simply was no patent.
I am not convinced that patents have an overwhelmingly positive effect on society at this point in history. We have to consider that communication (both one to one and one to many) is a lot cheaper today than even two hundred years ago.
I think reasonable people should push for an end to all patents.
It's not so much about understanding the space, it's about the mental availability of examples used to estimate the general state of the world.
People who watch TV news regularly overestimate the crime rate. Why? Because TV media focuses on the dramatic and attention-grabbing -- "if it bleeds, it leads". No effort is made to present a statistically valid sample of reality. Nobody is publishing "little old lady walks home safely for two thousandth time".
Similarly for patents. There are millions. Which ones get press? It's not a perfectly random sample, what we see is the absurd and outrageous examples, ones which deserve criticism and anger. But if you base your estimate of the entire system on examples chosen specifically because they will arouse anger, then you have an inaccurate estimate. Because "patent for neat idea lives quiet life until expiry" or "patent amicably licensed on reasonable terms" or "patent application invalidated by prior art during examination" don't make it to the front page of HN.
Please provide some kind of basis to this claim.
Well...I think all the basis is likely to be anecdotal unless someone performs a survey.
One data point: I've been doing this stuff for decades and I have never had reason to _read_ a patent filing. That has to indicate something, no? If they were so "inventive" wouldn't we need to read them to find out about new inventions. The only patents I've read were a) ones where I was the named inventor (even then I didn't understand them) and b) where I was employed as an expert by lawyers fighting trolls in litigation.
Furthermore, our company lawyer would probably choke me if he caught me reading patents, as then we'd be subject to much higher damages if we were ever claimed to be infringing something.
Knowing of a software patent exposes you to willful infringement, and you'd need a lawyer to understand what the bloody hell most software patents are even claiming to patent.
But, this is why historically patents were not a big deal: all tech companies (this is before software patents were even allowed, so we're talking hardware patents) all entered into cross licensing agreements and everyone used each other's inventions mostly without royalties paid.
I know you're implying "no, it's a bad idea". But doesn't the involvement of the individuals who do patent law as their sole job qualify them to know more about it then "almost everyone"?
Do we want to encourage the development of patent law, or of software?
Please provide evidence.
As it happens one of them left his law firm and founded a software company.
> I've worked with several
To be fair, that's not a compelling answer. Given the outrageous cases that are publicized, I can understand how there is an incentive to NOT know (or act as if) in an exploitative manner. According to a razor, it's less likely that the competence is a standard or relevant.
I have noted elsewhere that the outrageous examples are publicised because they are outrageous, but that doesn't make them a valid statistical sample of all software patents.
Patent lawyers need to understand the material well enough to draft the claims and perform clearance searches. If they can't do that then they are sailing towards failing their fiduciary duty; a lawyer anxious to hold onto their bar membership would refer you to another one with a speciality in the field.
If I go to a criminal lawyer and ask for tax help, they will refer me to a tax lawyer. If I go to a chemical engineering patent lawyer to talk about a compression algorithm, they will refer me to a patent lawyer who specialises in software and computing.
> who do patent law as their sole job
Then they have all the incentives to keep patents alive.
Frankly, I'm amazed that American companies haven't banded together to call for the end of software patents to erase that enormous and expensive trade deficit.
Historically, some of the very earliest documented cases of industrial espionage were performed against China by european powers. - The US is not innocent in that regard either, but probably much better at hiding their activity. We needed Edward Snowden to substantiate what people in the industry here in Germany had been suspecting for decades : I've heard of numerous cases where german companies are developing new tech, and shortly before or after release an american company with close ties to the government releases an equal product.
Public goods are chronically undersupplied in a normal market situation. Providing them imposes a cost on the provider, but because the good is non-excludable you're relying on the goodness of consumers to pay for it. Some will, some won't, but the net amount recovered will be less than it would be otherwise.
So what do we do about the undersupply of public goods? There are a variety of options. Taking knowledge as a particular example, one option is the patent system, which grants a temporary legal monopoly on the claims in the patent. It creates an artificial excludability that allows the provider of the knowledge to recover more of the cost of providing it. Overall that should raise the production of knowledge.
But, you say, that reduces competition. And sometimes it will. But many ideas can be substituted and so the competitors will patent different things. In fact the monopoly of the competitor gives them an incentive to find new ideas that the competitor hasn't found yet, an incentive which was weaker in the original situation.
The alternative is provision through a central supplier, typically: government. But it turns out that the costs of developing knowledge still remain, so how are they paid for? Taxes, essentially. Generally speaking the costs work out to be about the same, but become differently distributed. Instead of knowledge being created by active, incentivised parties who can then get a return from those who value the knowledge most, the incidence of cost falls on everyone.
Someone who doesn't value that knowledge gets ripped off, and someone who values it very highly gets subsidised.
That said: pure research almost always needs to be publicly subsidised because, by very sensible policy, the laws of nature can't be patented. And representatives passing public budgets can give consideration to which public goods ought to be subsidised, beyond the cold light of economics, as a principle of fairness or morality or furthering humankind.
But most knowledge is not pure research. So either we pay for it with taxes, or we pay for it with patents, or we pay for it by getting less common knowledge. Nothing comes for free. Not even ideas.
That greed is a motivation for obtaining a patent doesn't make them bad, any more than my decision to care about my wages makes me bad. Greed will exist either way, the question is how best to direct it towards maximising the total good.
I have heard this argument a lot of times, but I don't see how it applies to software patents in particular. At one of the previous jobs, I was doing some research, and there were lots of useful inputs: conference/journal papers, technical reports, thesises, and so on. The only exception are software patents -- I have never learned anything from them.
Let's take for exa/mple first google hit for "software patent", which for me is https://patents.google.com/patent/US6353926B1/en "Software update notification".
In my opinion, it is completely useless.
- It has nothing particularly innovative. It describes a specific Windows update mechanism in needless details -- while it is a solid design, most engineers, given the same problem, would come up with similar design. I know I did, and I did not know anything about OSD, CDF or windows update subsystem at all.
- It does not present information clearly. The text is hard to read and needlessly complicated. There are better sources of information about this topic -- I am sure there is a MSDN article and a dozen of blog posts which describe this much better.
- It did not even motivate the inventor! I am almost sure that whatever motivation Microsoft had for promoting Open Software Description standard, it was not to get this patent.
So what good is this patent? As far as I can see, there is no public benefit at all. The only value is for Microsoft, so they can threaten others and stifle competition.
We already have strong intellectual property protections, and yet you still claim we have an undersupply of those kinds of public goods?
Is there a lack of software being produced?
Is there a lack of books? Of blogs?
If the right software algorithms or the right books or blog posts aren't being written, isn't it because we've broken culture to discourage sharing? Every good idea that generates the next great algorithm or the next amazing book or blog post is sparked mostly by other people's work. Standing on the shoulders of giants and all that.
What we've done is to discourage free exchange of ideas and writings, without actually preventing it (piracy is still commonplace, just not in polite company).
Western society has fetishized the ownership of practical ideas (inventions), as well as words and pictures and sounds, despite no evidence that it actually helps promote progress.
IP creation is high-risk even with current IP protections. Reward (for labor) is highly variable. Most work ends up not being worth much. So the reluctance of most people to toil to invent something is due to not having the financial security (financial independence or a secure job) to do that. Most people who aren't famous can't live on a book advance, and there's no model for advances on not-yet-patented inventions. IP protection does not remove those barriers.
> In fact the monopoly of the competitor gives them an incentive to find new ideas that the competitor hasn't found yet, an incentive which was weaker in the original situation.
In the software patent world, when that happens, the competitor typically isn't inventing new groundbreaking ideas as a result of being forced to; they're hacking around the patent in very obvious ways, sometimes resorting to sub-par alternatives. Why? to avoid paying a ridiculous patent license fee which the patent holder is using as a moat rather than the original intention of recouping whatever sales they'd lose to their competitor.
Companies like Apple and Amazon, if they don't get to wage cold wars against their competitors for things like 1-click or whichever corner or symbol you use to get your phone to do something, would soldier on and continue selling mobile devices. Not only would it not make any difference to anyone, but it would increase interoperability since companies would be more likely to reuse familiar design patterns.
Here's a pure algorithm-design case study on the horrible effects of patents even by non-trolls: h.265 patents discouraged and slowed down mass adoption and prompted a bunch of major companies to waste a lot of time developing a marginally superior but much less efficient alternative in AV1. And for what? What poor starving coder wouldn't have developed h.265 except for the piles of gold bars they received for their effort? Wait... they did get piles of gold bars, didn't they?
Normal market situation here refers to a competitive market without government intervention. Copyright, trademarks and patents are all government interventions. These greatly improve the attractiveness of creating software and publishing books.
> Every good idea that generates the next great algorithm or the next amazing book or blog post is sparked mostly by other people's work. Standing on the shoulders of giants and all that.
This is what I mean by knowledge being a public good. When it is shared, it becomes more valuable to society as a whole. But if sharing it is a burden with no prospect of profiting, less sharing will occur. Everyone wants to have a fire service, for example, but unless there is some mechanism to ensure everyone chips in, fire services will be undersupplied.
> What we've done is to discourage free exchange of ideas and writings
Patents are public. Trademarks are public. Copyrighted works are submitted to national libraries.
It's harder and more expensive to get unpatented work. I can download any patent from the USPTO free. If I want to read a paper published by the ACM or IEEE then there is a good chance I'll have to pay for it.
> In the software patent world, when that happens, the competitor typically isn't inventing new groundbreaking ideas as a result of being forced to; they're hacking around the patent in very obvious ways, sometimes resorting to sub-par alternatives.
And sometimes they will come up with better alternatives. But without having the patent being public, they wouldn't have anywhere to begin, because the details are completely secret. Patent coverage can last for 20 years, but the concepts and possibilities it can create start from the instant the application is first published. Whereas a company sitting on the idea for 20 years doesn't spark anything. For anyone. At all.
Secondly: patents are inherently a form of publishing your ip. The "giving away" part is enforced by laws, but the whole concept of patents is to make knowledge publicly available. Typically, "giving away" is only restricted to commercial uses - anyone who duplicates the patented invention for personal use is fine. You may argue that that is foolish for an advanced economy, but that is what most of them do.
Methods have been patentable for as long as we've had a patent system--why should they become unpatentable because they're machine-implemented?
The machines, computers, are so widespread and accessible that a huge number of people are making such new methods constantly. The patent system hinges on a patent office that can reasonably assess novelty and obviousness. With software that's impossible.
I'm not saying that non-software patents are necessarily great, just that there's a clear distinction between a patent system that handles 19th century steam engines and a patent system that purports to handle software in an age of ubiquitous computers.
This is one of several intellectually honest cases for ending software patents that don't necessarily end all patents.
(whole book: https://www.anu.edu.au/fellows/pdrahos/books/Information%20F...)
Just because innovation happened without software patents does not mean that higher quality innovations can not exist with patents. I know of algorithms which give certain companies an edge in their flagship international products. If these algorithms were able to be patented globally, it would be a large benefit to the entire industry. Since China is part of this market, the company does not patent this algorithm and instead keeps it as a trade secret.
I think in this case it would be better if the algorithm was patented.
We need to distinguish this case where the patent is truly non-trivial and would not be able to be re-created without great expense. It's very difficult to evaluate this, especially for those who aren't experienced.
Honestly, I don't think "end of all software patents" is the solution here. Imagine if NNs were developed completely as a trade secret.
How so? The company is under no obligation to allow others to use the algorithm, and now it can sue anyone who uses it, even if they arrived at a similar solution independently. And by the time the patent expires, there may be a better solution, or the problem the algorithm solves might not even be relevant anymore.
The idea that Apple would have a goverment-enforced monopoly on good trackpads for 20 years sounds like a far, far worse outcome to me. If it were 5 years or less, maybe...
in the software world 20 years is almost as bad. by the time the patent expires the patented algorithm may no longer be relevant
Copyright doesn't do that at all.
However if someone else wrote their own code to do the same thing, it would not be protected, which is the point.
With respect to patents, inventions are about how you do something. Whether it is written in java or C is irrelevant. Similarly, for gadget patents, the material it is manufactured out of doesn't matter.
This is incorrect. Translations, in either natural or computer languages, qualify as derivative works under copyright law.
The question of rewriting a library in a different programming language has never been litigated, to my knowledge, so there's no precedent as to whether or not it would violate copyright. The customary practice is to assume that the code produced by anyone who has seen the original source code would qualify as a derivative work, and therefore to rely on a clean-room implementation, where one group inspects the source code and builds a spec that a second group uses to implement the replacement.
In the absence of legal precedent, the customary practice tends to be accorded legal preference, so it's reasonably likely that a court would rule that somebody who looks at a C implementation and produces a Java implementation without any intermediaries would constitute a derivative work and therefore be in violation of copyright if not properly authorized by the copyright owner.
 It's literally the first example given in the US law.
IBM and al are pushing for a law to restore them (the STRONGER patent act).
EPO ignore the law and the courts to keep granting them. And european courts gonna be replaced by puppy captive Unitary Patent Courts.
what makes a "physical" patent you consider valid different from a software patent?
I know there is some difference, it's hard to formalize though.
Say someone spent years building a compression algorithm 10x better than everyone else's in some novel way and then tried to capitalize on it. And then google just copied the idea and put this guys company out of business. Isn't that bad?
Some of the problems with software patents is "on a computer" or "on a server" just aren't novel enough. In fact, that is the problem with most patents, they aren't novel enough.
Totally wrong. Ideas are exactly what is protected by patents.
My resolution to the conundrum is this: software should be patentable, but we should recognize that the bar for a software patent is much higher. It is much, much easier to iterate on several ideas and concepts in software than it is in hardware: I can try five approaches in a day in software, but building five prototype machines may take several months.
As an example of something that might make the bar, I'd submit PageRank. It's easy to say that it's merely taking the eigenvalue of the Internet, so therefore it's not patentable. But the novelty and creativity is not in figuring out how to take the eigenvalue, but recognizing that the result of this operation is tremendously useful in the problem of searching the internet. The combination of the algorithm and the use it is put to is the basis of the patent--for prior art here, note that drug patents do not patent the molecule itself, or the process of manufacturing the molecule, but using the molecule to treat the condition.
I generally agree that picking the right line is hard and that nobody will ever be happy.
Yes. You don't invent or build math; you discover it. It's nature.
Patenting DNA is also silly for similar reasons.
Software on the other hand, is still the product of a thinking mind, so it should be given proper protections as intellectual property. However, the standard for the patent needs to be much higher than it is right now (presumably because those determining the uniqueness of the idea aren't all that experienced or up to date with the industry the idea relates to).
Either that or a better way for people to contest the validity of patents.
That’s not what DNA patents are. People are patenting genes that they find in nature. No invention at all, nothing created.
The investment. When you do process development or manufacturing the outlays for research and development are infinitely larger. You need a pilot plant, prototypes, testing, and soon you have spent tens of millions that you need to recover. In software you pay the salaries of a team of programmers. The investment in research that needs to be recovered before you can turn a profit is infinitely smaller, in software you have a government-protected money printing machine. Trade secrets work well enough.
Several patents from several inventors can be directed to solving the same exact problem. It is the 'how' that matters not the 'what'
If you find the patent valuable enough to license, you have the advantage that you have a description of the idea sufficiently detailed that you can recreate it after paying the license. The patent owner gets a return for their very chancy investment (well-prepared patents are expensive). After 20 years everyone can use it for free.
The alternative is that nobody shares anything with anyone. You still wind up with monopolies on ideas, but no incentive for anyone to convert their ideas into a public good after a fixed term.
Open Source software demonstrates otherwise.
Also interesting, several major companies in existence today (including a well known chocolate manufacturer) were started when their home country decided patents weren't useful, so stopped using them.
Major opensource projects are predominantly developed by fulltime professionals working for companies that obtain patents as a matter of policy.
We have an example of what the world was like before patents: the guild system. It didn't appreciably advance technology.
Confidentiality agreements for employees and former employees that doesn't actually give the employees something in exchange for that confidentiality, is not legal in my jurisdiction.
Premise 2: Algorithms are pure mathematical objects.
Tentative conclusion 1: Algorithms cannot be patented.
Premise 3: Hahaha, lawyers don't know math but they do know billable hours.
Firm conclusion: See figure 1.
"Although the Supreme Court has not delimited the precise contours of the abstract idea exception, it is clear from the body of judicial precedent that software and business methods are not excluded categories of subject matter."
You could present any patent as a discovery of a "pure" fact about physics or mathematics: a particular configuration of physical objects would behave in this particular way according to the laws of physics, or, a certain abstract dynamical system described by this formula (i.e. algorithm) has these properties. The thing is, the patent doesn't protect the discovery or the knowledge or the fact itself. Even with a patent, anyone is free to study the design/algorithm, teach it, write about it, print it on a T-shirt etc.; in fact, patents are meant to help spread the knowledge they contain -- in exchange for a certain protection. What the patent protects is the exploitation of the discovery in some physical product for certain ends, i.e. not the fact about the universe/mathematics, but its practical implementation. So in this respect software patents and, say, mechanical patents are exactly the same: a monopoly is granted for some years on the practical exploitation of certain physical/chemical/biological/mathematical facts in certain ways and for certain means.
There are many possible programs, but only some are useful. In this sense, patents might protect only those useful programs, and not the useless programs. However, you'd have to write new law to cover this case.
Laws written before the advent of information theory are missing fundamental truths of mathematics. In this case, given that patent law already knows about mathematics, surely patent law is prepared to yield.
No, an algorithm is very much patentable (and not copyrightable, while a program is copyrightable but not patentable), it's just that the patent does not protect the notion or knowledge or mathematical fact of the algorithm -- in fact, it very much makes it public -- it's just gives a monopoly for exploiting the algorithm for some business benefit.
> Laws written before the advent of information theory are missing fundamental truths of mathematics. In this case, given that patent law already knows about mathematics, surely patent law is prepared to yield.
As I said, this reasoning is irrelevant. Every patent is some "truth" of physics, chemistry or mathematics, but the truth is not what's being granted a monopoly. Everyone is free to know it or teach it. Rather, it is its implementation for profit that's protected. Moreover, because I believe that in the US patents apply to physical inventions, the language of software always describes some computing device computing an algorithm. It seems that technically everyone is allowed to perform the algorithm by hand, even to exploit it for profit.
Software patents are therefore not different in principle than any other kind of patent, but they are different in practice, simply because of how they've come to be used.
IE: Fast Food Franchise "Secret Recipes"
Algorithms can actually produce a real physical result, whereas mathematics exists beyond pen and paper.
Algorithms that we (programmers) construct usually aren't done in terms of Turing machines or the lambda calculus. Therefore they're not purely mathematical.
> Premise 3: Hahaha, lawyers don't know math but they do know billable hours.
A patent lawyer I worked with had a mechannical engineering degree. I'm fairly sure he knew some math that I didn't.
You are confusing the algorithm, which is an abstract procedure with no physical existence, with the set of possible processes that can implement it.
> Algorithms that we (programmers) construct usually aren't done in terms of Turing machines or the lambda calculus. Therefore they're not purely mathematical
Sloppy math is still math. Any program that an interpreter or compiler will accept is a mathematical object. If it weren't, it couldn't be parsed. That said, it is possible for a mathematical statement to be undefined, ambiguous, or erroneous.
But the EPO keep polluting France with software patents.
Edit - It seems to me that there’s clamoring about software patents without suggestions for alternatives. Were software patents always disallowed in these countries? If not, what was the overall effect of “ending” them? Was there innovation and business activity, before and after?
Edit2 - https://patents.google.com/patent/RU2470358C2/en
Are those the companies that force patented technology, to the exclusion of free alternatives, into widely used standards, so that they can charge everyone that wants to read a FAT32 filesystem?
The ones that patent an idea, not method, like one-click buying, or minigames in loading screens?
The ones that have some overly broad, unreadable patent, that would be invalidated in court due to countless prior art, but use it to extort businesses for amounts too small to make litigation worthwhile?
Or is this some mythical inventor, that creates something actually useful, and licenses it to others at fair prices? Something that improves the state of the art, but bizarrely does not rely on any prior patents in that area (otherwise existing companies could simply block the use of the new method)? And this someone isn't already employed at some company where the invention was made during the normal course of R&D (because otherwise, you already have your answer as to what software inventors do - write software/do R&D for existing companies that need it).
How many such people are there? Enough to justify the enormous headache of software patents?
Software can rarely come under a patent in the EU, but there is a very high bar to reach first. It's not my field so I'll avoid trying to explain where that bar is.
Software patents are a hack, they are really against the patent law. The patent law requires an invention of new hardware, which software obviously doesn't.
My team found the what3words patent very useful in reverse engineering the what3words geocoding system, and have open-sourced our results: https://whatfreewords.org/
- VCs used to be about finding someone with a new technology and a patent, then funding them to commercialize it. Now they're about buying market share, losing money on every sale and making it up in volume. When VCs funded real technology, from about 1970 to 2000, they made money as a class. Now they lose money as a class.
- Everything is a trade secret now. When patents were strong, you could disclose how things worked. With weak patents, NDAs are a bigger deal than ever. Right to repair suffers. Companies use unmarked components to inhibit reverse engineering.
- Trade secret law has criminal provisions, which patent law does not. You can go to jail for supposedly stealing your employer's technology, even if you just went to work for a competitor. Like Sergey_Aleynikov, and possibly Anthony Levandowski.
- Most of the fuss was about business method patents, but those were prohibited years ago. That's a dead issue.
- Patents are for 20 years, then it's public domain. Trade secrets are forever.
The "America Invents Act" made it hard to maintain a patent. Now you can face repeated challenges in post-grant proceedings.
China now has tougher patent laws than the US does. In China, you can routinely get injunctions to shut down an infringer.