Wednesday, October 20, 2004

MORE ANTI-SOFTWARE BLOWHARDS: A new campaign against software patents in the EU was launched today in 12 languages at The campaign is managed by Florian Müller of SWM Software-Marketing GmbH, a software industry veteran with almost 20 years of expertise, and is supported by three corporate partners: 1&1, Red Hat, and MySQL AB. The campaign manager will discuss the issue of software patents with politicians and the media."Software patents are used for anti-competitive purposes, stifle innovation, and would cost the entire economy and society dearly", Florian Müller said. "On the bottom line, they create more injustice than justice. There is only a small group of people in the patent system who would benefit from them, and some large American corporations have ulterior motives. "

This is getting tiresome. Unfortunately, what many of the anti-software-patent crowd doesn't seem to get is that the whole reason software became patentable in the U.S. was that the USPTO and the courts could not reconcile what a "software" or "algorithm" patent really was. If you look at the USPTO web site, you can see that software patents were being granted prior to the USPTO's "Guidelines" issued in 1996, and certainly before the State Street decision in 1998. Any patent attorney worth his/her salt can tell you that disclosures can be manipulated to describe and claim inventions in terms that technically recite one thing, but can be easily interpreted to mean another.

I will be the first to admit that software patents have their problems, but these problems are mostly logistical (i.e., proper examination before the USPTO, having decent search tools, having effective ways to challenge patents, etc.), and banning software patents outright (like many in Europe are advocating) is certainly not the answer.

A good history of software patents can be found here.

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