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Patent reform and how to stop patent trolls

Acacia is at it again. This time they are suing NetFlix for infringing their patents. There is a strong movement right now to put an end to software patents which, to me, makes complete sense. But, I don't see the US government agreeing to that any time soon. As long as the government is still controlled by big business, it's not going to happen any time soon. That is why I propose this very small addition to how software patents should be handled.

Owner of the patent must also provide software to which they own the patent for said patent to be valid. This can be achieved in two ways.

1) The owner of said patent must currently be working on the software and must provide proof, either by...

a) providing an executable, or
b) providing the source code,

to the patent office for review.

2) The owner of said patent must provide evidence that said company is planning on producing said patent in their software by...

a) Providing proof of hiring software developers, or
b) By proving proof of outsourcing the development process to third party development firms.

What does this do? This revision makes it mandatory that if a company wishes to own a software patent, they must own it with an intent on actually producing products that use said patent. This will also stop companies like Acacia from surviving. Companies like Acacia do not actually produce anything with their patents but rather they make their money on suing companies who violate the patents which they own. IBM did manage to patent a way to indemnify them from patent trolls by the method of “a system and methods for extracting value from a portfolio of assets, for example a patent portfolio.” What that means is, if a company now tries to sue another company for patent violation, IBM has every right to sue the plaintiff for patent violation. This is a rather ingenious method to stopping patent trolls and I wish that IBM were to give this patent to the OIN in hopes of getting more companies, other than IBM, on board to suing any patent trolls who wish to make a profit on other peoples inventions.

Comments

The end goal should be to

The end goal should be to make software patents in general illegal, but I agree that the above would be a step up if all else would fail, to deal with one of the biggest problems that the current software patents system causes.

Btw, this kind of topic (non-technical issues related more to politics, economy and philosophy) is what Libervis.com is about. Smiling Feel free to check it out. It's Nuxified's sister site.

Cheers

I am very uncompromising

 

I am very uncompromising when it comes to software patents.

Keeping with that perspective, I'll say that it does not look to me like what your request is a major issue for large corps. It does make life more difficult for independent inventors and small companies, which is garbage anyway for software patents; however, do we want to give large companies even more leverage? There is such a thing as defensive patents. Do we want to make it impractical for small groups to support FOSS becuase of the expense of acquiring patents? We would then depend even more on the large groups.

Finally, this could all be helpful if is slows patents enough, but it may not. And once a patent is out, it is sold like anything else in any market. I see the Microsoft's of the future selling their stakes to trolls in exchange for interest of some sort. This is likely also a way to get around the GPLv3 and almost any practical license that would be created trying to address this (maybe using quid pro quos or complex arrangements covered with NDAs). The result would mean almost as many trolls or more but with the balance lying on the side of large corp backers.

I would think that maybe taking the small inventor out of the picture would help our cause in overturning the law, but likely there would be a way for the small to participate, just with less money in their pocket after covering expenses.

Also, less patents, if not sufficiently less, can still be a serious issue and may appear to be a result of a more legitimate system because of their smaller numbers.

I appreciate all ideas to some degree, but maybe my great dislike for software patents keeps me from seeing the silver lining in almost any proposal that falls short of abolishing software patents completely.

Yes, I am in favor of some of the new efforts underway to eliminate the problem entirely (eg, http://www.linuxtoday.com/developer/2007110101426NWLLDV ). I really hope we can make a good case and get enough votes and logic on the record behind this. A failed attempt that leaves the system unchanged but changes some minds may be worthwhile for the future. A broken system like we have now is not that bad just because it is broken and causes many pain with each passing day. Storing some pain is good for an ultimate explosion (which may be what is needed to get enough shak'n).

The arguments for software patents are mostly few in numbers and mostly weak. The potential burden on society from software patents is real.

***

For the record and fyi,

I replied to the following article with links and personal views http://blue-gnu.biz/content/call_patent_reform . There are some good third party opinions and examples among all the comments and links. [..which reminds me, I have another link I want to post ( http://www.linuxtoday.com/developer/2007110300326OSLLDV ).. and I think missing from the picture too is a nice piece RMS wrote. Maybe someone will add that one.]

Groklaw also has some good stuff (IMO), and there is probably a whole lot more elsewhere looking for bloggers to bring those essays or research papers to light.

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