The 2015 guidelines could have resulted in making it difficult for software developers to innovate with expansion of scope of patentability in the field of software. Prasanth Sugathan, counsel at SFLC.in, who represented the organisation at the consultations said: “The legislature by limiting the scope of patentable subject matter in the field of software wanted our software professionals and industry to innovate and not be stifled by companies holding a stockpile of patents. We are grateful to the Government and the patent office for listening to our feedback and suggestions and preserving the freedom of our coders and entrepreneurs to innovate without shackles.”
Patents also last too long. Protection for 20 years might make sense in the pharmaceutical industry, because to test a drug and bring it to market can take more than a decade. But in industries like information technology, the time from brain wave to production line, or line of code, is much shorter. When patents lag behind the pace of innovation, firms end up with monopolies on the building-blocks of an industry.
In defining the limits of patent rights, our political institutions have gotten an analogous question badly wrong. A single, politically captured circuit court with exclusive jurisdiction over patent appeals has consistently expanded the scope of patentable subject matter. This expansion has resulted in an explosion of both patents and patent litigation, with destructive consequences.
In an opinion (PDF) published this morning, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision to invalidate two patents, numbered 6,398,646 and 6,656,045, claiming to cover computerized bingo.
Yes, you read that right: bingo.
The patent also contains a method claim, but it “recites a process of taking two data sets and combining them into a single data set,” the judges noted. “Without additional limitations, a process that employs mathematical algorithms to manipulate existing information to generate additional information is not patent eligible,” wrote the judges.
The language used seems like a fairly broad application of the new Section 101 law. If the logic is used by other appeals and district court judges, it suggests that the results from Alice v. CLS Bank could invalidate a wide range of software-based patents.
In any case, it would be mistaken to read the case as grounds for invalidating all software patents.
But it most certainly does provide a basis for invalidating some bad software patents. This is progress. As lower courts apply the Supreme Court decision, we may see more progress.
The evidence suggests that in the software industry, the patent system does more to hinder innovation than to reward it. Inventors spend more money defending themselves against patent lawsuits than they earn from patent royalties. More and more entrepreneurs are losing sleep about the risk that patent litigation will drive them into bankruptcies. And companies that traditionally haven’t had to worry about the patent system, like restaurants, grocery stores, and casinos, are facing demands from trolls over dubious patents, most of which involve software.
Basically, you look in one person’s account to see if there is enough money to make a transfer, and if there is, you transfer the money. I’ll bet you’ve done that before.
In fact, here’s the whole program:
10 LET account1 = 200.00
20 LET account3 = 300.00
30 INPUT “Value to exchange for transaction”; exchange
40 IF account1 < exchange THEN PRINT “Inadequate value”: STOP
50 account1 = account1 – exchange
60 account3 = account3 + exchange
70 PRINT “Instruction to 1st institution: adjust 2nd account by ”; -exchange
This implementation demonstrates that Alice’s patented invention requires only seven simple lines of code, not complex programming or specially designed hardware.
Patent lawyers may be surprised to know that while today, most companies today use open source software, most of them struggle greatly with implementing the internal controls to coordinate their use of open source software with their patent portfolio management. This means it is quite possible that a company is seeking patent protection, or seeking to enforce patents, that read on open source software the company is using or developing — a combination of activities that would often not be considered economically rational.
The drafters of open source licenses intended to use the terms of those licenses to win a war against software patents, and whether they can do that remains to be seen, but in the meantime, don’t pass up the opportunity to use the principles of open source licensing to win your battles as well.
Patent assertion entities (patent trolls) typically do not make any kind of product for the above advise to be of any use.
On Quora, Messina explained why he chose to let the hashtag become a free device anyone can use and not a licensable product that he could have made money from:
- claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what I was hoping for, which was broad-based adoption and support — across networks and mediums.
- I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.