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Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Monday, October 18 2004 @ 11:32 AM EDT

I received many, many reactions to my decision to publish Craig James' article on reforming the patent system. One of the emails was from Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation, who now continues the conversation.


Richard Stallman On Software Idea Patents

The supposition that software idea patents are inevitable is a form of
defeatism that is already visibly mistaken. The movement against
software idea patents in Europe, led by FFII ( [sic. Correct address is]) and supported
by organizations as diverse as Deutsche Bank Research and the
Confederation of Associations of Small and Medium-size Enterprises,
has already persuaded the European Parliament once. The outcome will
be so close that it is absurd to think you can predict the winner.

Yet even now, thousands of people who oppose software idea patents
still shy away from imagining we can prevent them. At my speeches, I
constantly encounter people who look for methods to reform the
system's details or to game the system, partial solutions that could
at best palliate the problem, because they simply can't believe in the
possibility of a real solution.

These people don't realize how little practical difference even a
major reform would make. We recently learned that Linux, the kernel
of the GNU/Linux system, is covered by 283 US software idea patents.
(If Linux is .25% of the system, as I read recently, the whole
GNU/Linux system would be covered by something like 100,000 US
software patents.) This is an overkill situation.

Imagine a patent reform so effective that it would cut the number of
issued patents in half. If such a reform were enacted today in the
US, all 286 patents that already cover ideas used in Linux would
remain. If such a reform had been enacted 15 years ago, Linux would
now be covered by around 143 US software idea patents today.
Practically speaking, this would not change the situation much. If
there are 286 malaria-infected mosquitos buzzing around your house,
killing half of them won't make you safe from malaria. "Get rid of
half the patents" sounds like a big change, but the chance that your
large program is safe would remain small.

The idea of enacting substantial reforms of software idea patents is a
remote possibility. It would require a long sustained strong
campaign. For completely rejection of software idea patents, we have
already mounted the campaign, already build up strength--aided by the
fact that this would really solve the problem, not just reduce it
slightly. If you want to support the campaign that has a chance to
win, support our campaign now!


Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents | 432 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Authored by: Nick_UK on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 11:47 AM EDT
I think one reason people seem to think software patents
are inevitable, is due to the Governments and such that
make decisions are mainly lawyers and legal peoples - or
have close ties with them in big business Companies etc.,
and thus software patents to them == $$$$$ bigtime.

The honest, decent hardworking folk (like us) haven't a
say in the matter - just like any other political


[ Reply to This | # ]

Richard Stallman is right...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 11:52 AM EDT
...and our lawmakers are most vulnerable to input right now! You all saw what
the 9/11 families were able to accomplish. What can Groklaw do right now to
pressure this issue?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Richard Stallman on Music Patents
Authored by: linonut on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 11:54 AM EDT
Patenting software is like patenting a book or a song.

I use Linux. So sue me.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I wonder...
Authored by: Turin on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 11:55 AM EDT
Is it worrisome that I find myself agreeing with Richard Stallman about patents
and free software but yet voting Republican every chance I get?

Well, belay that, I find myself wanting to go further than he does. I would
junk the whole patent system for anything that wasn't hardware, immediately, in
the interest of innovation and not losing the US technological lead, which is
all that has carried this country this far.

Maybe the question should be rephrased: why aren't fiscal conservatives getting
on this train?

[ Reply to This | # ]

An opinion I can agree with 100%
Authored by: dyfet on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:01 PM EDT
Since I personally believe it has long been time that we should persue repealing software patents in this country, naturally I find nothing I personally disagree with in Mr. Stallman's words. In Europe they (the pro-patent lobby) tried to create in actual law through the EU council what in the U.S. is only the consquence of one court decision gone amok and then taken to an extreme. I think it was a year ago now where against this lobby the European Parliament found it's own voice and in a majority vote essentially said no.

Those organizations that do believe in and promote information freedom in this country could choose to speak with a clear voice rejecting software patents like the ffii has done in Europe, and I wish more of them would do so. I do believe the only answer to protect freedom against intellectual slavery is to abolish software (and business method) patents in this country. Ideas are not property, just as people are not and must never be legally treated as property.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Trolls here please...
Authored by: tiger99 on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:02 PM EDT
I expect there will be a lot of you on this topic, so please keep to your proper
place under the bridge.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm with Stallman on this one ... we need a marketable political leader
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:03 PM EDT

Stallman is right but unfortunately is viewed as too left wing to lead this
charge. We need someone to take charge here. I am ready to write a $200 check
to the right organization to help. Please.

-Mike (Anonymous)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is development done outside the US?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:03 PM EDT
Just wondering; if OO-project are hosted on servers outside the US (e.g. Europe,
China), nobody in the US can sue the project-owner/group, guarding at the least
a degree of continuity in the development.

Although this initially doesn't halt the flood of patents and software, it does
give a strong signal to US legislators that their IT industry is basically
'outsourced' and that, I believe, would be a good trigger to seriously question
the patent system.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT here please....
Authored by: tiger99 on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:04 PM EDT
... and I will start it off by observing that SCOX is currently $3.35 and
touched $3.30 at one point.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here please...
Authored by: tiger99 on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:06 PM EDT
..if any.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Software Idea Patents: Either we got or we don't! Can't water down or else...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:06 PM EDT
Software Idea Patents: Either we got or we don't! Can't water down or else...

or else you run into the lawyer legislative types who are ammending this and
that to include their slant.

We got em or we don't... it's kinda like being a little pregnant - there is no
such state of being.

I vote we do away with this - let's focus on copyright only and get the
protection time for copyrights back to a reasonable period of time (and maybe
require that corporations can't own them, only individuals, the acutual authors
- like skills in baseball, if the author is good and has a body of copyrighted
work then they are worth more and then could be paid what they are worth due to
this body of work or production - vs work for us, we own what you do, then

[ Reply to This | # ]

Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Authored by: sjgibbs on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:14 PM EDT

I see I'm in good company when I describe software patents to people as idea
patents. We should realise that as coders its our job to sit at our desk and
sequence and otherwise construct ideas into programs at the rate of dozens per
hour. The expression of those ideas is often barely removed from the idea
itself, that is, there is no great burdensome requirement to translate an idea
to code in the same way as there is for an idea for a drug or idea for a

Seeing the triviallity of many software/idea patents I have confidence claiming
that any good programmer could churn out a few hundred such ideas a year
sinlge-handed. (I'm being very conservative). Its madness to formalise these
ideas, we're effectively asking people to pay for the right to type in what's in
their heads already.


[ Reply to This | # ]

People abuse all tools
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:15 PM EDT
For example; cars, knives. Yet we work with them, but using the right scheme,
e.g. driver's licenses, sales only to adults.

Why can't something similar be available for patents? That would catch all the
non-software stupid patents as well.

Richard is way too left-wing to be taken seriously by businesses, including me.
His demand for the repealing of (intellectual) property rights will only bring
scorn from those who could otherwise be helpful.

Stop patent abuse: Yes.
Throw away property rights: No.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Software Patent Information
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:20 PM EDT
Anyone have links on software patents in general, and especially for specific

I can't find any software patent information for Canada.

[ Reply to This | # ]

My Software Patents Idea
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:24 PM EDT
There are nothing inherently wrong in patents on software,
the problem arise when using todays method and definitions
of such patents. I think we have to go back to the core
reasons used for creating the patent system. The system
was meant to protect the idea for the inventor <b>and</b>
serve the publics best interest by publishing the idea.
Using this principle, to grant a software paten the patent
application should include one or more implementations of
the idea. And only the implementations/algorithms included
on the application are covered by the patent.

This would totally eliminate overbroad patents and make
submarine patents harder to hide. Blocking competition and
pattent hording will become much harder and expensive. As
for the bad in this system, reverse engineering will
become more hazardous and one have to be more careful. And
I don't think the "you can't patent mathematical truths
gang" But I see it as good solution, you get to patent the
real revolutionary ideas but most software houses would
not bother pattenting the obvious.


[ Reply to This | # ]

RMS is, as usual, absolutely right about this...
Authored by: Groklaw Lurker on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:24 PM EDT
"...If such a reform were enacted today in the US, all 286 patents that
already cover ideas used in Linux would remain. If such a reform had been
enacted 15 years ago, Linux would now be covered by around 143 US software idea
patents today..."

RMS is absolutely right! This is one of those things in which half-measures are
completely impractical. Only the complete abolition of software patents will
remove the dark and forbidding clouds that enshroud the FOSS community today.
This threat is so dire, it has to capacity to provide for the dissolution and
eventually, the utter destruction of much, if not all, of what we in the FOSS
movement hold dear, our freedom to innovate and develop our own ideas.

The only question is, how to best approach the abolition of software idea

(GL) Groklaw Lurker
End the tyranny, abolish software patents.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Apply the lessons of the GPL to patent law
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:26 PM EDT

RMS has succeeded in making use of copyright law to promote and protect free software via the GPL. In the same spirit, I wonder if patent law might be similarly employed.

Among the ideas raised in last week's discussion of Craig James's essay was that of requiring that royalties on the use of patented technology be determined as a percentage of selling price with no flat-rate component allowed. I suggested at that time that any percentage of zero is a reasonable royalty for using patented algorithms in free software.

If it were possible in this way to exempt free software from the ill effects of patents, however, we might then be able to enjoy their benefits. What benefits? I can think of two:

  • they encourage disclosure of what might otherwise be held as trade secrets (the motivation for establishing patents in law in the first place)
  • their ill effects would hasten the demise of proprietary software.

Of course, the huge difference between this idea and those behind the GPL is that a change in law would be required to make patents harmless to free software; the GPL works brilliantly within the framework of existing copyright law. So free use of patents for free software can only come about by working to change the law; but of course, the same is true of any patent reform.

Some people say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Patent Process ...
Authored by: ujay on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 12:57 PM EDT
Needs an Enema!

Windows - How do you want to be exploited today.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not to troll..
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 01:10 PM EDT
But IMHO it's rare to see RMS formulate himself this short, concise and

Good job!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 01:37 PM EDT
I often find myself responding "Right on!" to what Richard has to say,
and there's no change in my response to this writing.

For me, the heart of the matter is lack of trust in the bureaucracy, and justice
system, or government in general, to do the "right" thing, which is to
allow freedom, especially freedom of expression.

Patents are antithetical to the notion of freedom of expression and unnecessary
to protect intellectual property. There is copyright and other laws that can
perform that function, although the same government that enables the patents
also controls copyright law, and isn't to be trusted to do the "right"
thing - witness how the congress continues to stretch out the time copyrights
are in effect.

What needs to be changed is the government, how the people are selected that run
the government, and the state of knowledge of the people doing the selecting,
and well as their motives.

I've watched our freedom diminished for the past 35 years, with the rate of
change accelerated recently, and we haven't bottomed-out yet, so I don't expect
the changes I hope for to happen any time soon, but changing the patent system
to allow freedom of expression would be a good start.

I support Richard's campaign, and I hope you will too.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 01:40 PM EDT
I also agree that all patents are a bad idea. However, would it be possible to
arrange a counterattack?

I suggest that anyone with an idea would pass it to an organisation like the
FSF, who would then patent it for the benefit of the public. (Let's call them
the "FPF" for this purpose). The FPF would then license this gratis to
anyone, on condition that that user never started a offensive patent attack on
anyone else.

Thus the FPF arsenal would become an effective tool to make patent litigation
practically impossible. [This is similar to the way the "League of
Nations" was considered: everyone unites to counterattack an aggressor.]

What do people think? There are more geeks than bad corporations, so we have
numbers on our side.

Obvious advantages: It might just work.
Obvious disadvantages: time & money; also there would be a *lot* of power
handed to the FPF.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 01:51 PM EDT
I am sure of one thing: IBM, SUN, Novell, all have software patents. Yet, they
support Linux. Then we have Microsoft for example, which has also patents. Two
camps, one pro-linux, the other anti-Linux. We all know that, of course. The
point is, we are afraid that the anti-Linux camp uses their IP software to
affect Linux, but we rest assured (e.g., by IBM) that the pro-Linux camp will
give Linux a brake. Let's face it, we are ambiguous. I find Richard Stallman
ideas that Software patents in USA can be invalidated as absurd. I simply cannot
believe that to happen. Do you expect that IBM or SUN or Novell will back your
ideas? How come? Their income depend in large extent from having exclusive
rights to their IP. It's like you ask them to kill the golden eggs' hen. In my
opinion, the Linux community should start adressing how to modify the Linux
Kernel as to not infringe those identified patents. Is that difficult? I am not
a developer at all, but since Linux does exist, I am sure that developers will
find out ways to circumvent those patented 'ideas'.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Bad Intentions
Authored by: Prototrm on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 01:52 PM EDT
For some time now, I've tried to think of some good that comes out of software
patents. So far, I've been unable to think of any.

While Mr. Stallman and I part company on an assortment of issues, I agree with
him here. Software Idea patents need to be abolished. At the very least, current
patent law should be changed to give it a little sanity (any would be an
improvement), but this would be better.

As I see it, there are two forces behind the creation of a software idea patent:
companies attempting to prevent honest competition, and those with neither the
resources nor the smarts necessary to make money off their nifty idea who decide
to milk the efforts of others.

Copyright law is quite sufficient to protect the rights of companies and
individuals, without threatening competition.

In short, this sort of patent is nothing less than an elaborate con game, and
ought to be treated as such before the industry gets hurt.

[ Reply to This | # ]

On fighting software patents -- a modest proposal
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 02:27 PM EDT
It seems obvious (to me) that software patents are a bad idea, and that many
want to end it.

What I have not seen people discussing is alternative ways of fighting it.

So... my proposal: what about setting up a site that will collect new code, in
any language, or new ideas/algorithms/designs for software? Every submission
would have to explicitly state this code (idea/algorithm/whatever) is dedicated
(IANAL, so I leave the wording to those that are), and that, to the best of the
submitter's knowledge, it is not copyrigthed/patented; the submitter could also
issue a copyright claim.

This site would index, catalog, and whatever (probably in some way compatible
with the USPTO cataloging). And... it would them be possible to use this as
proof of prior art when fighting software patent claims.

We *can* use the system to fight it!

The FSF could be a nice place to put it in.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 02:32 PM EDT
Software patents are not wrong. They are good. The area of law that is wrong is
the area that says that corperations are people and have all rights as such.
Companies should not be allowed to hold "intellectual property"

Companies have an unfair advantage over people in that they can produce
patentable work more often, faster than the average man.

Patents should have one pwner - the name on the application, and the patent must
belong to that person. If companies want to use ut, they license it, but the
patent owner is free to go to any company he wants ansd license it there (unless
it's resicted by the license)

The patenst system is fine, its the companies that are broken.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Political dimension?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 03:53 PM EDT
"It would require a long sustained strong campaign."

Surely he is speaking of political action. Does this not go against the ethic
of Groklaw, or is this considered to be a good cause. Politically correct

[ Reply to This | # ]

Musing about software patents...
Authored by: cybervegan on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 04:16 PM EDT
What's a typical for patents for a "physical" invention to be covered
by? Mayve a passing IP Attorney will elucidate for me?

Ok - I know there's no such thing as a "typical" invention, but you
know what I mean: Would it be realistic to assume that there aren't that many
inventions that are covered by as many as 283 patents? (That's a genuine

If there is (or even hypothetically were) an invention covered by that many
patents, how would the patent holders expect the licensing to be divided? Would
each patentee be happy with around 0.35% share or less of sales/profit from the
sale of the item?

Would or could such an invention ever be "brought to market"? If so,
how could the manufacturer ever make any money on it?

How could any licensors ever make any money on it?

To me, this begs the question "What's wrong here"?

How come, so early on in the development of computers and computer software,
that there is such a vast number of patents which cover such a fundamental item
such as an operating system kernel - a helpless chunk of binary numbers that
can't do anything much useful on its own? A kernel, is, after all, mostly just
good at doing stuff for higher level programs - the OS utilities, the GUI and
the applications themselves.

As RMS says, GNU/Linux is far more than "just" the kernel. Just as
well it's free - as in BEER - most of the time, or nobody would be able to
afford it (or to sell it).

Makes you wonder how many patents cover, for example, MS Windows XP - ones that
Microsoft don't own. No wonder they're building a patent arsenal. They don't
think they have a choice.

How can this situation possibly good? For the software industry? For the
consumer? For the FOSS community?

But *why* has this situation arisen? Could it be that either patents are a
fundamentally flawed idea or just that they don't work properly with computer
software? Is software just so 'multifarious', with so many possible combinations
of its' simple principles, that it's simply too difficult to spot the difference
between true innovation and a 'simple' rearrangement of already established

You've got to ask yourself if they truly make sense when applied to computer
software: Are patents trying to force software to conform to a mould into which
it is impossible for it to fit?

Sometimes established concepts lose their applicability when truly new ideas
appear. I think that computer software is one of these things.

Under the current US software patent regime, there are quite obviously too many
lions at the haunch, and not everybody will get a share. Watch any safari
programme and you'll see what happens when there isn't enough of the kill for
every lion to get their share: the biggest lions fight over the carcass and take
what they want. The rest go hungry. If this goes on too long, the pride begins
to dwindle - as the weaker members - the elderly and the young begin to die off.
Eventually, even the dominant male will die.

Is this what is to become of the software industry because of software patents?

Is this what we want?

Where does Free and Open Source Softwar fit into this ecosystem?

just musing,

Software source code is a bit like underwear - you only want to show it off in
public if it's clean and tidy. Refusal could be due to embarrassment or shame...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Pardon my Ignorance...
Authored by: Mecha on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 04:24 PM EDT
But if I make something physical that includes a series of gears in part of an
invention that does one thing and someone creates something else that has
nothing whatsoever to do with my invention with the same series of gears, is
that legal?

The reason I am asking this is because if I write a series of code for a program
that does one thing and someone else writes another program that contains the
same "func" as what I wrote (minus my comments) but the overall progam
does nothing of what I wrote, that is the basic underlying issue with software
patents is it not?

If that is the case, then I feel as though there should not be a
patent/copywrite on it. But if my program was taken and inserted into the other
program so that it also has my program's capabilities then there will be an
issue. Unless of course my program is GPLed and the new program is as well.

Am I wrong in all this? Again, pardon my ignorance of this issue. My view can
change if the argument is presented intelligently and not condescendingly.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Patent downside needs legal adjustment
Authored by: lightsail on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 04:24 PM EDT
The current patent system encourages broad pooorly documented patents. A patent
holder is not liable for having a patent that is clearly bogus. Only the patent
holder has leverage to "attack" with the patent.

The public does not have a legal avenue with teeth to counter bogus patents. The
needed change is a legal precedence that would allow a class action against a
holder of a bogus patent for the actual value of the claimed patent.

Imagine a lawsuit against Kodak for claiming to have invented the operating
system (disguised by calling every part an object), prior art of operating
system (filled with computer objects interacting) invalidates the patent and
Kodak becomes liable to every user of an operating system, the class that was
threatened by the over-broad claim. Does ownership of a patent have any

[ Reply to This | # ]

Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Authored by: blacklight on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 04:54 PM EDT
It is interesting that the apparently extreme approach of abolishing software
patents is actually the most rational and beneficial approach, just as Great
Britain's apparently radical abolition of slavery in the early pat ofthe 19th
century turned out to be the most rational approach and the most beneficial in
that it forced that country to propel itself forward and bet its future on its
nascent Industrial Revolution instead. The rest, as they say, is history.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Software Idea Patents - The Debate
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 05:01 PM EDT

Thank you for publishing this. The debate on patents needs to develop a higher
profile. It is beyond question that the US patent system is badly broken. It is
among other things too expensive, too slow and too likely to create perverse

What to do about it is something which should be discussed and debated.

I am not sure if there should be software patents of not.

It does seem to me that if there is a reasonable way to do it individual
inventors should be able to secure their creation, however it is implemented, in
hardware, software or otherwise.

It is also difficult to define what is a significant enough innovation to
qualify for a patent.


"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • The problem - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 06:53 PM EDT
COPYRIGHTS !!! (sorry for shouting)
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 05:06 PM EDT
You guys are forgetting something that's been discussed a loong time ago her on
GrokLaw: There are other ways to protect IP, namely copyrights and trademarks.
If you've got somtehing unique in the sense of look'n'feel, go for a trademark
registration. If you've got something (e.g. software) that works in a verry
special way, with some fancy algorithms, that you don't want to become outright
accessible to the public as source code, keep the code closed and copyright it
in a proprietary fasion. There's nothing wrong with that - open and closed code
can coexist just fine!

My main point is, you don't need patents on math to protect your
invention/investment. And if you want to follow another analogy: Let's say
source code is art. Now, let's say I patent a device which consists of a drawing
of a house on cardboard: If anyone wants to draw houses (on cardboard - my
patent wasn't _that_ overly broad ;-) they'd have to consult me first if they
wanted to keep their IP path clean...

:-) *just another paranoidnorwegiandolphin*
*andigotthatrightaftersixbeers* ;-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

What's in it for the politicians?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 06:05 PM EDT
The key question is why should a politician back this cause?

"Because it ruins open source software?"

They have probably never heard of open source software, and even if they have it
doesn't sound like something that creates jobs or sustains the economy - they
may even have heard Microsoft say it does the opposite.

"Because US software companies pay $x billion per year in software patent
related legal costs that their off shore competitors don't have to pay. (No
wonder so much work is being outsourced to India.)"

This is a much easier argument for a politician to support. It's
pro-business, and pro-jobs, even if small open source businesses have most to
gain. The $x billion can be arrived at by taking the average price of filing a
software patent including legal fees and multiplying by the number of software
patents filed each year. Then adding software patent judgements like that
plugin one against Microsoft, and the recent Kodak one against Sun.


[ Reply to This | # ]

But what about
Authored by: Pat Pending on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 06:26 PM EDT
The "IP Goldrush"?
I'd wager the usual suspects would still be doing the same thing, patents or no
Trying to turn $euphemism into gold, like a bunch of mad alchemists.
What patents does SCOX own?

Thanks again,

[ Reply to This | # ]

Silly Idea
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 06:55 PM EDT
If there were no patents on original ideas (I am not talking about all the junk
that gets patented too), then the person or company with the most money wins.
For example, Joe comes up with this great idea for a program that will handle
every single security aspect of an OS. Then, someone, say for example, Symantec,
looks, and says, "What a great idea! Let's take it, all of it". What
does Joe get? Nothing. What recourse does he have? None. Symantec, however would
make millions, because it has all the programmers, distributiom channels and
marketing that Joe could never hope to match.

Yes the patent system badly needs an overhaul, but let's not be throwing the
baby out with the bathwater.

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Opensource ticket:
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 18 2004 @ 10:09 PM EDT
"We recently learned that Linux, the kernel
of the GNU/Linux system, is covered by 283 US software idea patents."

No, we did not learn anything about the details of those 286 patents Richard,
not from the FSF that claimed to have found them in the first place. Richard's
statement here is contradictory to a statement made by FSF. At the time the FSF
had said they could not tell what (286)patents they were, as it would put the
community at greater legal risk; now however, Richard Stallman states the
patents as being fact. Now no matter what patents they are, Richard Stallman has
established legal ground for the patent holders.
Richard Stallman failed to point out how did a kernel that has been in
development for the past 13 years, by many thousands of developers and only now
with so much success that the FSF finds only 286 patents. [Over 13 years that is
22 patents a year average]. It seems fair to ask where was this work of finding
these patents, when the number of them was smaller, say 192, and when a time
that linux and opensource had less success then they have today.

The FSF relationship with opensource Risk Management (OSRM) that has taken a
number of different approaches, and this seems to be one more as now a

There is already a "campaign" to fight patents, Stallman like Perens
would have everyone believe otherwise. The fight of patents is on going
worldwide, with a greater success of linux and opensource at hand, the force
together as a global community will win more then any amount of money anyone
could pay to someone else to fight. Patents number has been growing, and Iam to
believe Richard Stallman and the FSF will now do something about them.

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Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents: Free Rproxy.
Authored by: rusty on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 01:13 AM EDT
I've said it before: I see the harm of software patents, but I don't see the benefits. See the tragedy of the RProxy.

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End game
Authored by: capn_buzzcut on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 08:19 AM EDT
Personally, I don't think that significant patent reform will come about by
folks campaigning for change. That's not to say we should stop, just that I
doubt it will do much good. What will happen though, in my opinion, is that we
will have a whole series of lawsuits in the future based on things already
patented that are in open source software (not just the Linux kernel). The only
reason this hasn't happened yet is that the GNU/Linux system simply hasn't
reached critical mass. Once it does, real patent reform will come from the
carnage these lawsuits create.

I look at SCO/IBM as a sort of litmus test. Think about it; their claims are
ridiculous and their legal tactics make no sense, but look how much damage
they've done and are still doing to the image of open source.

Once GNU/Linux starts having a significant impact on the entrenched system, I
expect the heavy hitters to start hitting back. That means look for Microsoft
to start a patent war with anyone that can afford it, like Novell and Redhat,
and with other large companies that use or develop open source software. I
think Microsoft will eventually become a bigger, badder, and meaner version of

But let's say just for kicks that someone manages to totally outlaw all open
source software. Will it just die? No, because the cat is out of the bag
already. That won't happen, but I believe that Microsoft and other proprietary
software companies in the future will make life much more difficult for us than
SCO has, before the laws change and they finally either change their tack or
fade into insignificance.

In the meantime, we need folks like Stallman. His reform ideas may seem to lean
toward one end of the spectrum now, but I think that's in large part because the
man is simply ahead of his time.

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Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 01:13 PM EDT

I observe that RMS are using the words "idea patents", this i would like to clarify.

RMS is absolutley right when he uses theese words to describe softwarepatents. But isn't all patents "idea patents"? No! Patents have never ever in history been about ideas as subject matter. Because with that line of thinking you will end up owing rights (copyright) to unwritten books, as ideas still left in the head, wich makes thinking to an exlusive right. All these exlusive rights like copyright and patents is (or rather should be) about something that exists, since you can't grant rights (property/restrictions to all else) to something that doesent exist. Patents is about an industrial implementation of an idea, not the idea "as such" (good i hate that phrase "as such" on this subject).

But since you can't patent abstract ideas "as such" (see above), neither i europe or USA, they constantly tries to find ways around it, because "they" want monopolies on ideas. With the typical SWP "they" have found that way, and even got case law on their side.

The questions they forgot to answer was something like:

  • What does this claim refer to, what is the claim object?
  • Did the applicant really invent this claim object, or did he invent something else, e.g. an algorithm, idea, something purely abstract, which he is now claiming like this in order to circumvent the law?

This misstake, both done in europe and USA clearly shows that courts are having troubble to interpret the law when it comes to subject matters they do not understand. So, do we need to make the law more clear or educate the courts to be able to make new caselaw?...

This misstakes (the caselaw) is the reason for all these "apparatus" in softwarepatents, where the subject matter isn't an apparatus. Since patents not are allowed for ideas "as such" they have to claim it with theee words to make the examiners interpret it like a technical industrial application. And because of this the patents becomes a monopoly on an idea that gets infinite broad, it becomes a monopoly on solving the problem insted of a specific technical solution to a problem, or making a spcific use of computers into somebodys property.

What we need is to define industry to "production of material goods", technical to controllable forces of nature, and that publication of information in whater form never can constitue a patent infringiment. And this is what the european parliament voted yes to a year ago. I think i wrote a quite good description of the euroean situation in a comment here on groklaw, where i explain how they are trying to codify these "misstakes" in law with "technical effects beyond normal interaction" (sic).

//Magnus Stålnacke

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Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 02:25 PM EDT
It's also worth noting that Micro$oft has taken out a patent on the ability to
perform privilege escalation to allow a user to perform actions otherwise denied
to them.

The description is a blatant copy of the *nix "sudo" command.
It clearly shows that there is insufficient care taken in the granting of
patents, as the sudo command substantially pre dates Micro$oft's patent on the
same idea.

Any attempt to provide the US Patent Office with the relevent pointers (a URL in
this case) is met with a canned message stating that they do not accept e-mail
on any patent issue, but only a formal submission using their specific forms,
and accompanied by a significant number of US$ to have them look at the

There is a clear need for the US patent system to:
(a) Perform far better investigation into prior art implementations of the
patent being applied for.
(b) Be held accountable for applications granted without due care being taken to
assure that pre-existing implementations do not already exist.
(c) Be open to accepting external input refuting the validity of granted patents
where the source of the refutation provides clear and concise information on
where publically available proof can be obtained.
(d) Provision by the public of such refuting information must not require
payment for performing the work that their investigators should have performed
prior to the granting of the patent in the first place.
(e) Any form of software patent should only ever apply to a specific
implementation of an idea, not to the idea itself.

Failing that, I would like to take out a patent on vowels "aeiou" and
their upper case equivalents, as software idea patents are clearly just as
trivial, and are just as easily generated from multiple independent sources with
absolutely no knowledge of the existence of other similar works, let alone a
copy of the original source from which to plagiarise.

Does anyone else remember when the US patent office granted a patent for the

Food for thought anyhow.

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Pro IDEA (Software) Patent People @#$%!
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 03:43 PM EDT
I swear! You people make me so angry! I don't want to troll or flame, so I'm trying very hard to write something constructive.

As a programmer with a background in electronics let me be the next person to tell you, yet again, that it is absurd to suggest that code sequence should be patentable. Even if you don't subscribe to the "all software is nothing but math" camp (which it IS ALL math, I swear to GOD, take an assembly programming class if you don't believe us), you can't dismiss the fact that software patents attempt to patent already patented technology!

If I design and patent a processor then you sure as HECK-FIRE have NO, ABSOLUTELY NO right to patent how my patented processor works at any given moment. You cannot lock my product down by patenting my processor's instruction sequences!


And shame on anyone who would refuse to affiliate with someone who is trying to do the right thing simply because of their political party.

Do the right thing. Support people who understand the problem and seek to void all software patents.

I'm going to take my meds now.

Just keep in mind that software patents make the baby Jesus cry.

Thank you. God bless America. Go in peace.

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Richard Stallman on Software Idea Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 04:07 PM EDT
RMS isn't left wing or a "commie".

He's really a Libertarian, as far as I can tell, because he supports both
economic freedom and personal freedom.

Although he claims to support Dennis Kucinich, who appears to be a tax and spend
liberal, also anti-war.

I've always voted Republican, but I support Stallman's ideas on free software
and patents. I don't see any conflict.

I'd be a Libertarian if the party wasn't so damn dopey.

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Stallman Just Isn't Credible
Authored by: Simon G Best on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 05:47 PM EDT

Stallman's belief that we can bring an end to software patents is the same sort of wishful thinking that he, and the FOSS communities in general, have become notorious for.

It was Stallman himself who launched his ludricrous campaign, back in the early 1980s, to voluntarily build a freely redistributable operating system. Whatever came of that? Does anyone seriously believe that a bunch of widely dispersed hackers could voluntarily write and build a whole operating system in their spare time? It's a fantasy that just doesn't stand up to the most basic scrutiny.

Sure, they tried, and they wrote some useful pieces of software for use in such an operating system. But what about when it came to the crucial need to run this operating system on real hardware? Ah, yes, the kernel question. It's a gaping big hole, right in the middle of GNU. After all, for GNU to be widely useful, the kernel would need to run on all sorts of different pieces of hardware, and an even vaster number of possible hardware configurations. That's a mammoth task, and one which we're expected to believe could be achieved without anything like the sorts of resources which Microsoft have at their disposal.

Despite the plain impossibility of the task, they still expect us to believe that it's not only possible, but would actually be a better way of doing it than the established, traditional way! That's about as likely as the idea that their missing kernel will be written for them by some student in Finland.

When it comes to the proprietary way of developing software, we've seen that it not only works, but works incredibly well. If that were not the case, then how did Microsoft end up being such a phenomenally successful software corporation? They're not only successful, they're the biggest software corporation in the world! Are we really to believe that there will come a time when this giant will feel the need to actively market its own operating systems against the mythical FOSS alternatives?

But this isn't the first time when hackers, and the like, have dreamed dreams of a computing utopia. Even more fantastic than the idea of a voluntarily written, freely redistributable operating system was the idea that everyone would come together in a spirit of cooperation and join all their networks together to form one, huge 'internet'. That's not just a technological dream, but a fantasy about human nature.

However, not only do the fantasists believe in such an 'internet', but they actually believe that we'll have it in our own homes! Now this is just pure 'science' fiction. Maybe in Star Wars computers have become domestic appliances, but this isn't "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," this is here and now, planet Earth in the twenty-first century.

The idea that we, the people, could possibly succeed in defending our freedoms against those who wield, provide and support software patents is no less a fantasy.

Open Source - open and honest? Not while the political denial continues.

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cooperation vs competition
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 06:56 PM EDT
There has been a few posts that go in to the Political ideology of RMS.
I'm in now way trying to say where RMS is politically, this is just me.
But I do think the whole Open Source/Free Software thang has more to do with
socialism than capitalism.

I originally started writing this as an answer to one post, but my answer soon
grew to big for just that post, so I'm presenting it here instead.
Hope you don't mind! And pardon my spelling, me no spik avery gud inglesh.

"It is possible to be pro personal freedom and also value
cooperation over competition."

Isn't that the whole concept of Open Source & Free Software?
To be able to cooperate and have freedom, more freedom then what can be offered
by the competetive (commercial) world.

And seriously, who can argue that cooperation in itself can be bad? Work
together... Nah, thats just some commie crap!!

Real men think only of their own good, helps no one, use Microsoft software on
Intel CPU's, drinks Coca Cola, eats at McDonalds, drive either Ford (Be that a
Volvo, Jaguar, Landrover, Aston Martin, Mazda or even an actual Ford) or GM
(Maybe a Saab, Opel, Vauxhall, or maybe one of their American cars, Buick,
Cadilac or Saturn)

Here we have a prime example of the great benefits of competition:
See the big american car brands get bigger, and instead of competing, they buy
the other companies. Because if there's something all big corporations are
afraid of, it's just the competition they so vocally advocate in the media.
What all corporations strive for is Monopoly, even if they would never say that
in public.
Which brings us to:

Another fine example lot's of more people on this site will agree on (probably
pissed of 90% of you Yankees with the sentance above): Microsoft

They are so scared of the competition that they do everything to keep them out
of their way:
- They buy them up and incorporate them.
- They steal their stuff, incorporates it, and then drive them out of buisness.
- They slander and mischaracterize them in the media.

And this is probably the way most niches on the marketworld will go:
Big get bigger, until there is maybe 2 or 3 players left, then the largest one
buys them off or drive them out of buisness and wham bam you have a Monopoly
(Oracle seems to be heading this way, they just have to give some money to the
guy who will appoint the next Attourney General).
And then you can do a Micorsoft (do whatever you want, if someone sues you, you
pay them off, if DoJ goes after you, just stall for a few years and then buy
yourself a new President who will take the heat of your back)

As long as we let big corporations rule the world (and they certainly do,
especially in the US, with your so called "Campain Contributions", or
Bribes and Kickbacks as they would be called if it were anyone but the ones who
make and pass laws who gets them) the rich will get richer and the poor will get
poorer. And the middle-class will become fewer and fewer, as their jobs get
offshored to Asia.

And to think that competition will make this better is to me quite naive.

Just so you don't have to speculate, I proudly call myself a socialist, and
calling me communist won't insult me.
I know this has a VERY BAD meaning in the U.S.A.
I would also like to say that I don't belive there has ever been a
"true" socialist or communist state or country on this world (by that
I mean a state run by the people for the people).
What we had with Soviet, China and Eastern Europe was simply fascist states run
by powerhungry leaders who used used the left wing ideology to divert their
people from the fact that they were enrichening themselves.

Oh my god, people are just going to tear this post to shread! Have Fun :)

Revolution is Evolution with an R

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Poor argument
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 19 2004 @ 08:46 PM EDT
As much as I respect RMS, this is a very poor argument but is consistent with most of the arguments I've seen against software patents.

This article doesn't even say that software patents are harmful. All it says is that reforming software patents would only reduce the total number but many would still be left. But he doesn't say at all why this is bad.

OK, so I'll make an assumption that he meant software patents are actually harmful by stoping him (or others) from doing certain things. Well, there's nothing in there that argues, or even says, that we should be allowed to do the things that software patents stop us from doing. Normal device patents stop us from doing things too, for obvious reasons. Maybe the things software patents stop us from doing is a reasonable balance, the way device patents are (supposed to be) a reasonable balance between protecting inventors and publicising how the invention works (to grow from). So "stopping us from doing things" isn't even a reasonable argument. It needs to be showing why this is out of balance.

OK, so I'll go a step further and assume that the things software patents stop us from doing are not balanced, that they are favouring the "inventor" over the public good. So, how is this different from device patents? Are device patents out of balance as well? If so, then the fight against software patents is misplaced, it's a problem with patents in general. Should we then get rid of all patents? If not, then why is it justification for getting rid of software patents but the same justification doesn't apply to device patents?

OK, so I'll go yet another step further and assume that software patents are out of balance and device patents are not. So, why wouldn't reform fix this? RMS argues that reform would result in fewer software patents. But this takes us back to the questions at the top. If patenting has a use, and the patents remaining after reform fit that use, how is this a bad thing? As I indicated above, stopping people from doing things isn't inherently bad. This can be justified in a balanced system.

So, even if I stipulate to three levels of assumptions, which I don't think have been demonstrated, there still is no valid argument for tossing out software patents. The problem I see with all discussion against software patents is that none of them examine what a patent system is for and how algorithms (software) does not fit into this purpose.

Yes, the patent system right now is screwed up. That's for all patents. Even if it was just for software patents, tossing out all software patents does not fix the system, it dumps it. It's like getting rid of an infection by amputating. Infection's gone, but so is the limb. If software patents weren't allowed that would harm a lot of people. You'd be trading the harm of one set of people for the harm of another set. How is that fair or just?

If there were no software patents, what would stop companies from stealing Craig James' spectrometer code. They put a lot of time, money, effort, innovation, and ingenuity into coming up with those algorithms that could make mass spectrometers up to 10 times faster. Where's the justice if any company can just take that code and algorithm? In that world, why would Craig James ever bother putting in the effort to write it if it's just going to be taken?

These are points and questions that need to be addressed by the anti-"software patent" crowd. I'm not so set in my ways that I can't accept that there might be some good arguments out there, but nobody is presenting them. All I see are either arguments against obvious patents ("1-Click"), or the things some patents stop us from doing (GIF). But nobody's explained how reforms, like those proposed by Craig James, won't fix this. Nobody's explained how throwing out the system is better than reforms. Nobody's explained how the harm to the Craig Jame's of the world deserves less consideration than the harm to Richard Stallman.

Please, if you want to be taken seriously, answer these questions.

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News Flash! - Taxi Drivers Patent Routes!
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 20 2004 @ 12:22 AM EDT
Ever wonder why that cabby seems to be taking the "long" way to your
destination? Sure, I use to think he was trying to stiff me... boy was I wrong!

*beep* *beep* - *beep* *beep* *beep* - *beep*

News flash!

New York taxi cab drivers to patent cab routes!

Genious cab drivers finally able to protect their intelectual property via the
United State's superior patent system! No longer will newer cab companies leech
the profits of established cab companies by copying their cab routes! All new
cab route patents will ensure that any cab company wishing to drive their
customers along a patented route will pay their dues to the geniouses who carved
the original trails!

Thank god for the United States patent system! If not for the United States
patent system the established cab companies would have no way to protect their
intelectual property!

Tune in tomorrow to hear commentary on the latest sexual intercourse position
patents being filed by Penthouse magazine!

If you can think it, we can own it!

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