--On 20 March, 2005 13:50:12 +0000 Niall O Broin <niall at linux.ie> wrote:
> On 20 Mar 2005, at 12:30, Joseph Kiniry wrote:
>>>> No. Because so many patents are held on what would otherwise be
>>> basic techniques (eg: the XOR trick to highlight an area of the
>>> 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
>> The problem with "basic technique" patents is that they ARE so basic and
> are often NOT easily implemented in other, innovative ways.
In my experience I have yet to discover a "basic technique" patent that was
not easily implemented in other ways. Perhaps you have an example?
> The XOR trick
> is a very good case in point (though that patent was granted in 1978, so
> I presume it's expired by now) because it is so basic, obvious and simple
> to implement, and importantly when it started being used, very cheap in
> CPU cycles. I don't know if sprite based systems infringe that patent,
> because I think many of those use a hardware overlay plane. I do know
> that Autodesk was a licensee of that patent for AutoCAD, and I imagine
> other CAD vendors and other large visible targets using this idea were
The XOR patent was never actually contested in court to my recollection.
Had it been I firmly believe that it would have been rejected given I saw
work from the early 60s that discussed the technique (e.g., Sutherland's
>> Note that I *do* think that the existing US patent system is extremely
>> broken, particularly with regards to software and business patents.
>> Indeed - one click comes to mind straight away. I grew up as an engineer
> being told that a patent was on the implementation of an idea, not on an
> idea, but those halcyon days are gone.
Agreed. But even though the system is seriously broken, that should not
prevent me from filing a patent that I believe is of high quality, fully
implemented, properly researched, and (very) non-obvious. I and my
companies are not hypocritical: no matter how screwed up the system is I
will not "take advantage" of it at the cost of my personal morals. (Note
that the same holds true from my POV wrt taxes, social services, etc.)
>> 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.
>> Exactly. And in the U.S., where in the majority of cases AIUI each party
> pays its own court costs, simply being threatened with a court case will
> make most companies cave in, because even if you win the court case, you
> lose financially. I wonder what's the general practice in patent
> infringement cases in Ireland, where in general in civil cases the losing
> party pays the costs of both parties.
I do not know what the general practice is here; all of my experience is in
Holland and the USA. It is an interesting question.
Joseph R. Kiniry
Dept. of Computer Science, University College Dublin
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