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Re: US Patents vs Non-US software ...

From: "J(dot) Andrew Rogers" <jrogers(at)neopolitan(dot)com>
To: pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: US Patents vs Non-US software ...
Date: 2005-01-18 19:38:45
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Lists: pgsql-hackers
On Tue, 18 Jan 2005 09:22:58 +0200
>Many countries do not grant software patents so it is not 
>that IBM applied through PCT since a refusal in one 
>country may
>cause to patent to be refused in all countries.

Contrary to popular misconception, virtually all countries 
grant software patents.  The problem is that people have 
applied the term "software patent" to USPTO-specific 
lameness like "one-click shopping", which really is 
outside the scope of traditional software patents.  While 
most countries do not grant patents for this flavor of 
frivolousness, they do grant hard-theory algorithm design 
patents across virtually all types of machinery (including 
virtual machinery).

Traditional software design patents are structurally and 
functionally indistinguishable from chemical process 
patents, which are generally recognized as valid in most 
countries.  Software patents have to have novelty that 
survives reduction to general process design (and the ARC 
algorithm looks like it qualifies) if you want most 
countries to grant it.  The problem with USPTO and 
so-called "software patents" is that they allow people to 
patent what is essentially prior art with re-named 
variables.  Chemical process patents are a good analogy 
because literally every argument used against "software 
patents" could be used against chemical process patents, 
which no one apparently finds controversial.  What often 
passes for material "novel-ness" in software processes 
with the USPTO would never fly for chemical processes with 
the same USPTO.  If someone invents a better pipe alloy 
for carrying chemical fluids, you cannot re-patent all 
chemical processes with the novelty being that you use a 
better type of pipe -- that change is not material to the 
chemical process, even if it improves the economics of it 
in some fashion.  The only thing patentable would be the 
superior alloy design in the abstract.

Most of the lame "software patents" are lame because 
reduction to machine process design gives you something 
that is decidedly non-novel.  In other words, the 
"novel-ness" is the semantic dressing-up of a non-novel 
engineering process.


j. andrew rogers

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