A patently good idea

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is considering to invalidate many (if not most) software patents and significantly restrict the issuance of new process patents. No doubt, intellectual property does deserve decent protection, and I think that this move by the USPTO will in fact result in better protection of property: copyright law provides ample protection against IPR theft while not getting in the way of real innovations.

To draw a technical comparison, process patent law protects the API, while copyright law protects the implementation. Although it takes a lot of thought to come up with a good API, it should be the implementation that is at the heart of the competition to not harm the end-user.

In this sense, the new direction of the USPTO will benefit the end-users (consumer as well as application developers) by allowing the concrete implementation of ideas to compete while keeping interoperability at the idea-level intact. In the end, the entire market will benefit including the vendors by lowering the barrier for interoperability significantly. 


One thought

  1. There seems to be no question that copyright protects the source code. Whether it protects the object code generated therefrom is an iffy question in my book. But protecting the implementation? Isn’t that like saying that copyright protects ideas as well as expression? It most certainly doesn’t do that; that’s one of the most important parts of copyright that encourages a balance between rights for the author and advancing the arts and sciences via creativity.

    As for software patents, I think it’s pretty clear to everyone other than the patent holders that the USPTO doesn’t have much of a clue about what "not obvious" means in the software field. So invalidating a lot of them is probably a good thing. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t think that some software ideas are patentable; I think there are. The software push-down stack would be one. Note that is wasn’t patented. Curious, huh? I’ll bet a lot that whoever invented that concept (Dykstra?) never even thought about patents. It just wasn’t something that anyone cared about back in those days, and look what happened.

    And by the way, just to yank your chain, you don’t have the copyright on the this comment, contrary to what it implies below. That’s OK though; copy it to your heart’s content.

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