Software Patent Scares

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regress
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Software Patent Scares

Post by regress »

Not sure if this has been brought up yet, but just recently saw it on slashdot.org

http://www.igda.org/columns/lastwords/l ... _Mar05.php

Seems that AVG apparently manage to patent "a method of displaying 3-D panning and a zoom feature on a graphics display terminal".

Certainly seems to be a scary proposition . . .

and the part about Magnavox patenting pixel-collision detection, and suing activision until it went bankrupt . . . . that's disgusting :x

Anyway, anything Ogre developers are going to have to watch out for? Assuming AVG sets another precedent like Magnavox that you can use patent litigation as a source of funds and not to stimulate research (i.e., they win).
regards

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Post by sinbad »

I personally don't give a flying toss what patents are out there - if I stopped to worry about it I probably wouldn't write another line of code ever again, because it appears everything has been patented by the joke of a US patent system by now. I have the luxury of not having to give a damn unless (until?) this self-serving sytem makes it across the Atlantic.

[rant]
I don't check patents, and never intend to - it's a total exercise in futility since I bet we violate loads of them - like every other piece of software on the planet. The result - everyone with a patent can sue everyone else, thus making the patent office and the lawyers rich, and getting absolutely nothing useful done in the process. What a great driver of economic prosperity. I'm just waiting for all US companies to sue each other into financial oblivion, at which point they'll realise that all the business has gone to China anyway while they were farting around making lawyers fat. Think I'm joking?

Software patents are a crutch for companies that can't make good products any more (or perhaps ever). If you can't sell stuff, sue everyone else for stuff you claimed to have invented (but most of the time didn't, you were just the person lame enough to file paperwork over it). It's sickening, pathetic, and will eventually doom software development in the western world unless something is done to stop it.

My message to the US: wake up and realise that litigation is not a sustainable profit centre; all it does is bleed money and other resources from all parties concerned and it leaves no legacy or investment behind. It's inherently a self-perpetuating downward spiral with people who produce nothing of value (patent office & lawyers) creaming off the top. What a waste. Don't take your economic superiority for granted, because there are a lot of emerging countries out there unencumbered by your laughable legal system who will happily kick your arse if you take your eye off the ball.
[/rant]

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Post by zarthrag »

I don't think that could be said any better. :-)

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Post by stodge »

Yeah right on brother! The only people that win with litigation are Bill Gates and the Lawyers.

Every time I read a new story about patents in the US, I despise their patent office more and more. Way to screw up an industry guys. Maybe they need re-colonising? :twisted:

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Post by Bill »

I'm in favor of the patent system. It gives financial incentive to inventing. It would stink to work on developing something for many years and then have someone steal your idea and put you out of buisness.

That said, I am against moron patent examiners. The patent in question was files in 1987. By 1987 the techniques described in the patent were common practice. A patent is supposed to be original and non-obvious. This should never have been awarded a patent.

Under the old law the patent was valid for 17 years after it was granted which would make this patent void after March 28 2005.

Under the new law a patent is valid for 20 years after is was first filed. (The law was changed to match the Japanese system) In this case the patent is good until April 6, 2007.

I am not sure if the patent is under the old or new system. In either case the technology in question was old hat by the time the patent was filed so I think it should be easy to find prior art to bust the patent.

(disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and I could be completely wrong)

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Post by pjcast »

Bill wrote:I'm in favor of the patent system. It gives financial incentive to inventing. It would stink to work on developing something for many years and then have someone steal your idea and put you out of buisness.
For something that is non-obvious then it's very unlikely that someone could come up with the idea themselves anyways... so why patent it... If it's your source code... well, that's already coveredby copyright, so no one is allowed to steal that anyway.
That said, I am against moron patent examiners. The patent in question was files in 1987. By 1987 the techniques described in the patent were common practice. A patent is supposed to be original and non-obvious. This should never have been awarded a patent.
In practice yes... Though, the patent office is overflowed with patent requests... And the manpower/funding isn't there to check every single patent request.
I think it should be easy to find prior art to bust the patent.
Easy..? Sure... Cheap? No.. Can you (or I, or Orge) stand up in court with multi-million dollar companies?

IANAL either :)
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Post by Minion »

Unisys/Gif rides again :(

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Post by SomeFusion »

The Creative <> ID thingie wasn't nice either. Creative had an ZFail shadow patent and forced ID software to integrate EAX into Doom3 with it. If ID would not follow that order they have to pay expensive royalties to Creative, or use a slower method.

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Post by sinbad »

I think it's rather telling that when you examine all the software patent litigation that goes on, the parties doing the suing are invariably not actually using the technology they claimed to have invented. They merely sue the people who do actually implement it, most of whom figured it out for themselves anyway and did the legwork to make it practical. Cue lackwit company pointing the finger and crying 'I thought of that first!'. IMO, if you 'invent' something, you bloody well better have done something incredibly cool and innovative with it that no-one else could do (that's the meaning of invention), otherwise shut the f*** up. What actually happens is that corporate scumbags stealth-patent stupid little things, wait for someone else to do the real work of writing real software (and it's writing software well that's hard, not thinking up obvious ideas - any moron can do that), and then sue them.

The theory of the patent system protecting the small inventor is a long, long, long way away from the actual practice.
Last edited by sinbad on Sun Mar 27, 2005 11:58 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Minion »

File a patent. Sit on it for 10 or so years and let it become widely used, all the while leaving people totally oblivious to the fact that you've got the technology patented. Then bam, whip out some blanket lawsuits against the largest product distributors who have been going years unchallenged by it, and begin claiming license infringement. Reap the rewards.

Patents are a good idea in theory. The problem is that people like Unisys and AVG try to abuse it to their advantage. Let other people do the real work then force them to pay royalties to you ten years later.

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Post by dorvo »

I think they're doing this because they don't have the talent to produce anything on their own. It's just plain sickening. Hell, I could probably come up with an idea and get it patented then go out and sue anyone that successfully uses it. Remember, they're only suing companies that have successfully implemented the idea in their patent. So, if I try to go out and use their patent idea and end up failing, is it highly unlikely that they would go after a single person with their team of shark lawyers. The companies being sued definitely aren't poor!

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Post by Xingo »

... Bah i hate em...

Microsoft annouce the stopping of IE dev and only supply secureity updates. Now seems firefox is taking its market a lil bit and now M$ is making IE 7.0....I am sure massive ammount of patents will follow after that....

I would hate see free/open software sued (if possible) because of patents. Let them burn! Invention encentive?, how about fame...And the ability to have a kickass reason to be hired...

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Post by sinbad »

You won't see your everyday open source projects getting sued - they don't have any money to take. I'm less worried about individual open source projects themselves, and more worried about the destruction of the environment which caused it to be - the environment of free interchange of ideas which IP obsessives seek to destroy.

We're fast heading back to the dark ages of software development - where the only way to avoid litigation is to hide everything you do behind virtual 20-foot high walls. If you write any software at all, you're probably violating a patent, it's gotten that bad. The only way to address this farcical situation is a mass disarmament of all software patents.

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Post by Bill »

pjcast wrote: For something that is non-obvious then it's very unlikely that someone could come up with the idea themselves anyways... so why patent it... If it's your source code... well, that's already coveredby copyright, so no one is allowed to steal that anyway.
Well copyrights and patents protect things in different ways. A copyright will protect your stuff for your lifetime or for 95 years in the case of a corporation. There are a number of loop holes in the copyright law under the fair use clause. For instance, you can copy copyrighted materials for scolarship purposes. But the main difference is that a patent protects your idea where a copyright only protects an instance of your idea.

So lets say you come up with a really good compression algorithm. So you write a program and market it. M$ likes your program and want to include it in their OS. So what they do is buy a copy and reverse engineer it to figure out your algorithm. They produce a document that describes the algorithm and hand it over to a bunch of programers who have never seen your code (clean room). They produce a new program that goes in to their OS and your market ceases to exist. And there is nothing you can do about it even though your code was copyrighted.

Now if you had a patent on the compression algorithm you could sue them for a large amount of money for stealing your idea.
sinbad wrote: The theory of the patent system protecting the small inventor is a long, long, long way away from the actual practice.
This is somewhat true. The main problem is that there is no federal prosecuter that is going to take your case on for you. You have to fund the lawsuit yourself so unless you have deep pockets the patent system doesn't work for you. The exception is if the company that stole your idea has deep pockets, then you can get a lawyer to work for the payoff and not have to pay him out of your pocket.

I mainly blame the legal system for the high cost. Look how long the SCO vs IBM linux lawsuit has dragged on. It should not take years to determine wheather IBM stole SCOs code or not. (This is a copyright lawsuit and not patent lawsuit, but it serves to make my point)
Last edited by Bill on Fri Apr 15, 2005 1:51 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by pjcast »

Bill wrote: Well copyrights and patents protect things in different ways. A copyright will protect your stuff for your lifetime or for 50 years in the case of a corporation. There are a number of loop holes in the copyright law under the fair use clause. For instance, you can copy copyrighted materials for scolarship purposes. But the main difference is that a patent protects your idea where a copyright only protects an instance of your idea.
What's wrong with being able to use copyrighted items for educational purposes? That's how people learn... And that practice has been around long before software was around (for literature and what not)... And it's not as if a educational institute can start competing with you with your own copyrighted material. And that's exactly right that patents protect ideas... The point is idea's should not be protected, implementation should (ie software itself), although with limits (like time limts).

Bill wrote: So lets say you come up with a really good compression algorithm. So you write a program and market it. M$ likes your program and want to include it in their OS. So what they do is buy a copy and reverse engineer it to figure out your algorithm. The produce a document that describes the algorithm and hand it over to a bunch of programers who have never seen your code (clean room). They produce a new program that goes in to their OS and your market ceases to exist. And there is nothing you can do about it even though your code was copyrighted.
Reverse engineering something is not against the law afaik. So tey can, and will do it anyway.

Either way,we could argue forever and I don't think either of are views will change.. So there is little point in me discussing any further :wink:

though, you don't see many software coders pushing for stricter patent laws... only lawyers and corporations with $$... So, that has to say something.
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Post by dorvo »

Hey, I had an idea! Wait... maybe I shouldn't tell anyone, it's likely already patented. Oh hell, I'll tell you anyway... it's a friggin idea! Multiple people have the same ideas all the time! Unless these lawyers can prove (through evidence) that these companies have stolen the ideas (yeah, like they'd be stupid enough to stamp a "this is from patent no. ########" in their code), there's almost no way to prove these coders have even seen the patent!

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Patent warfare

Post by Mawen »

Sinbad had great rants. Software patents are one of the biggest things that make me angry, and I want to see sanity restored before there is a IP holocaust, things blow up, and those of us unfortunate to be tied to a the US style patent system (which is anyone who wants to sell things in a US market? That's pretty big.)

Seriously, these patents are bad and what is anyone doing besides pointing out that they're bad. I've seen hundreds of slashdot rants (and Sinbad's rate tops, didn't read much of the rest of this thread), but little feasible actions. I can think of a few fronts for activism, but have only seen little icons on websites. Pressure points:

1) Mindshare. I even saw on slashdot about a M$ bigshot who was worried about submarine patents. (Even Microsoft has been bitten on ActiveX embedded in websites or something asinine like that. And Sony just lost a patent case and have been ordered to halt PS2 sales with dual-shock controllers as well as 40 infringing games (ouch!).) If we can convince the big corporations that patents are retarded (maybe this will play out) and that this is a big artificial gambling game played in courtrooms that crushes a lot of small people and companies, with devastating potential for big companies, and on average funnels a lot of their own money to lawyers and portfolio managemet. If there is marketing specifically directed to them and it wins, it seems to me that's the last major political lobby group.

2) Patent war. Raise money to buy submarine patents of our own, assign them to someone like the FSF, and then sue the pants off corporations that we don't like. The OSS community and other people with sanity could come up with a lot of ideas, and Sinbad said, we don't even have to really implement them. Instead of thinking 1-3 years ahead on our hobby projects, we could think 10 years ahead. (Relatively few companies come up with R&D.)

3) Lobby US and other governments (seems impossible) that they will fall behind economically unless something is done. If I could guess about the future, I'd guess the US will eventually have to bend and recind software patents to be able to compete with countries like maybe India and China that won't put up with it.

Just some random thoughts, but I thought I'd try spark something productive, out of curiosity.

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Re: Patent warfare

Post by sinbad »

dorvo wrote:Unless these lawyers can prove (through evidence) that these companies have stolen the ideas (yeah, like they'd be stupid enough to stamp a "this is from patent no. ########" in their code), there's almost no way to prove these coders have even seen the patent!
It doesn't make any difference - that's what is so ridiculous about patents. You can quite innocently come up with an idea and implement it, only to find that a patent you never heard of stops you from using it. Now, when patents cover something rather complex which requires years of research - fine, you can't stumble over that. But there are thousands of software patents covering shockingly trivial ideas that anyone with even a passing knowledge of the subject matter would have realised was covered by prior art. But the patent office stamps them anyway, and lets people waste money sorting it out in court. Meanwhile, they rake in the patent fees which I'm sure aren't refundable if the patent is later thrown out. Quite a sweet deal they have there. What's that? License to print money? Surely not..

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Post by setrodox »

Isn't even the progressbar patented?
I think I've also heard about a patent for a "buy now" button...
Such things make me angry. :evil:

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Post by Project5 »

Does anyone know what sort of laws govern the rights of sale over the internet from one country to another?

One option I've been considering is to have a small company incorporate in Europe somewhere, and just sell via credit card online, while being run by the inventors in America.

I'm wondering about the legality of such a setup, but the option not to put up with the american system seems worth the hassle of paying foreign taxes.

--Ben

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Post by :wumpus: »

Don't bother moving anything to europe, I wouldn't be surprised if we had the american system forced upon is very soon.
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Post by setrodox »

Nooooo!!! not mplayer!!!! these [insert your favorite bad words here]!!!
:cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:

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Post by haffax »

setrodox wrote:Nooooo!!! not mplayer!!!! these [insert your favorite bad words here]!!!
:cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:
Please, be a bit more perceptive. It is just a notice to the problematic, no relevance to the day-to-day business of the mplayer people. You can still download it and mplayer is still being developed.
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Post by setrodox »

the question is only how long they are allowed to develop it further...

sorry for my emotional post but it just isn't right that a free opensource programm get in troubles with the commercial industry...

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