Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Are Software Patents Legal and if So Who Legalized Them?

Timothy B. Lee (Disruptive Economics) raises a cardinal question at Forbes in The Federal Circuit, Not the Supreme Court, Legalized Software Patents.

Has the Supreme Court of the United States ever said specifically that software code is patentable? We agree with Lee, not really.

Software code consists primarily of mathematics such as the simple formula,
"if n=1 then go to 2".

Of course, it can get much more complicated than that, but the basic mathematical foundation remains.

The idea that software code itself can be a patentable "discovery" or "invention" probably arose in the minds of people who have never programmed a line of code themselves.

Software code is a mathematical language that is ultimately used to instruct hardware, things like printers and screen displays. Many greatly differing software programs could use the line: ""if n=1 then go to 2". The commands are themselves never the invention or the discovery, but rather what is done by the software should be the invention or the discovery, and that narrows the patent field down enormously, since most so-called "software patents" are erroneously issued for nothing else than the application of digital technology to previously made discoveries and inventions, i.e. obvious prior art. No patents should be issued for that.

Hat tip to How Appealing.


David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer of Google, Seeks U.S. Patent System Reform on Software Patents

Evan Ramstad at the Wall Street Journal "Digits" has the story in Google Legal Chief: Patent Reform a Balancing Act writing inter alia about David Drummond's comments at a Google-sponsored innovation forum as follows:
"[Drummond] said the U.S. patent system makes it too easy for companies to get patents on software. “There are places in the world where you can’t get a software patent, or at least it’s harder, like Europe,” he said. “We think that’s probably the better way to go.”"

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