Swpat: Define them Out of Existence

by on February 8, 2005

Now that software patents in Europe have gone back to the drawing board, both sides will now doubtless regroup. I feel that we have a head start though, if for no better reason than the FFII looked like it was fighting an uphill struggle most of the time until the eleventh hour, when at last MEPs saw their point and showed their displeasure at the Commission’s railroading of the issues.

Meanwhile, one of Lord Sainsbury’s invites for another session with the Patent Office landed on my doormat last week, this time to discuss what people want the words “technical contribution” to mean. This is something that’s incredibly difficult to define, according to the UKPTO, but it seems pretty easy to me:

First, no patentablity for ideas. Patents are about material inventions, plain and simple. You design it, build it and make it work first – then let’s talk about patents.

Second, no patentabilty of systems or techniques defined as a protocol, standard, or mechanism of interoperability. You want to pass data into, through, or talk to another system? Let’s be grown up about this: we’re all open now. It’s just a means to an end, after all.

Third, effort should be respected. Demonstrate you have taken an abnormal amount of effort to create something, and that gets you on first base. You have to get off your arse to contribute.

Fourth, nothing gets a patent until it’s been decided by peer review. But who would vote to give a competitor a patent for their software? If you meet the above two criteria, then anyone who understands that tomorrow, they might be the ones applying for that protection, that’s who.

There, that should keep the patent lawyers in a job, while making sure that nothing much gets a patent.

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