--On 20 March, 2005 12:00:11 +0000 Colm Buckley <colm at tuatha.org> wrote:
> On 20 Mar 2005, at 11:51, Joseph Kiniry wrote:
>>> On the other hand, to play Devil's Advocate, given the public nature
>> of patents and the fact that small changes in realization are cause
>> (in the current US system) for the execution of a new patent, one
>> could argue that software patents would *encourage* innovation,
>> because FOSS developers would be forced to innovate beyond the (fairly
>> uninspiring) bounds of existing and pending patents.
>> No. Because so many patents are held on what would otherwise be termed
> basic techniques (eg: the XOR trick to highlight an area of the screen),
> it is extremely difficult to write unencumbered software. The trouble
> with the current system is that patents are held on many methods and
> devices which are trivial yet essential.
How does this contradict my point? Even the technologies covered by "basic
technique" patents are easily implemented in other, innovative ways.
Note that I *do* think that the existing US patent system is extremely
broken, particularly with regards to software and business patents.
History has shown that existing trivial patents are voided once they reach
the courts or once an enormous corporation forces the USPTO into a review.
Of course, this is often a quite costly process. A primary factor in
giving evidence to void a patent on the basis of "obviousness" is the
frequency of its use in existing software systems. E.g., one would guess
that every sprite-based video games of the past 20 years uses the XOR
method previously mentioned. This means that FOSS developers, IMO, need
not be aware of each and every "obvious" patent because, unintentionally,
their violation of said patents *supports* the case against the patent in
the first place.
Joseph R. Kiniry
Dept. of Computer Science, University College Dublin
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