[openip] Re: "rights" and "freedoms"

V. Alex Brennen vab at pog.ufl.edu
Tue Oct 19 13:33:26 UTC 1999

"Ross N. Williams" wrote:
> At 9:29 AM +0200 19/10/99, Robert M. Muench wrote:
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: Richard Stallman [mailto:rms at gnu.org]
> >> Sent: Monday, October 18, 1999 8:44 PM
> >> To: jread at semiotek.com
> >> Subject: [openip] Re: "rights" and "freedoms"
> >
> >> The US Patent Office is incompetent in all fields, and issues
> >> trivial patents habitually.
> >>
> >> If the Patent Office did a good job, perhaps patents would
> >> be beneficial overall in many fields.  But I am convinced
> >> that patents in software are inherently harmful, and would
> >> be harmful even if the Patent Office handled them "well".
> >
> >As I have some knowledge with all these patent stuff, the only
> >possible way to go for us 'free fighters' is to beat them with
> >their own weapons. Each patent has a 3 month public period were
> >everyone can file an objection to a published patent. It should
> >be trivial to show prior art to the PTO and argue about the
> >triviality of the filed patent.
> >
> >So why not make a patent-tracking-and-objection group, which just
> >does this job? I'm sure it would help a lot of people and do much
> >more for the community than any other project. Richard, may be
> >the FSF is the right place for such a watch-dog group.
> Answer: Because there is one US software patent issued, on average,
> every 20 minutes, and it would take several days of work to find
> prior art for each one and prepare a submission.
> (One per 20 minutes is about 25,000 per year which I think is
>  about the current rate. Anyone can correct me if I'm wrong, but
>  even if it was just one patent issued a day, it would still be
>  overwhelming).

The number of trivial software patent applications should
slow  drastically if a significant number of such
applications were rejected.

At a cost of near $20,000USD it's unlikely a companies
would continue to apply for trivial patents if they knew
that many of their applications would be denied. A patent
application represents a significant investment, investments
require confidence on the part of the investor.  Companies
are virtually assured a successful application at this time.

There is a group called the LPF which at one time which
provided some public opposition to software patents.  
While the group has an active web page at 
http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/ they appear to be inactive 
at this time.

I think that it's critically important that some
effort be put into eliminating trivial software
patents. I would be willing to put some effort
into a group such as Robert suggested.  I think 
a revitalized LPF would server better than an
expanded FSF.  However, I think the FSF could 
play an important role as well by working on the
authoring of internet standards free from trivial
patents.  The W3C does not appear capable of 
authoring such standards.

	- Alex

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