How are all the small companies out there dealing with software patents? It seems to me that pretty much all software written probably infringes on one or more patents. Of course many of these patents are completely ridiculous, but the patent office can't possibly check for all prior art (and many times it doesn't seem like they even do a basic check). If everyone checked for patents for all software that was written I imagine software would take several times longer than it already does to develop and much of it wouldn't be written. Not to mention the additional costs that would probably be involved in legal staff. How can this system continue? Does the average small software company get contacted very often about patent infringement?
"Does the average small software company get contacted very often about patent infringement?"
Go Linux Go!
We don't worry about them. My company is medium sized, and not producing web products, and our only concession to software patents is not to infringe on the obvious ones, like GIF. We've never been contacted by anyone.
Even More Anonymous
When it comes to patents, it makes absolutely zero difference if you thought of something yourself or not. That's part of what is so horrible about them. Even if the algorithm being patented is so obvious a freshman CS student might discover it as an answer to a homework question, if it is patented you cannot use that method without a license. Period. Ignorance of the patent won't save you. Having come up with the answer on your own won't save you.
Actually "Obviousness" make an invention un-patentable so in the case George proposes, the patent could be invalidated without demonstrating that someone had done it before.
What's really cheesing me off these days is all the ridiculous patents being granted. I just came across one on Fark.com today - Amazon now has a patent on product related discussion boards:
Regarding patents and Amazon, go read http://www.userfriendly.org today. Kinda funny...
Go Linux Go!
Yes, blackmail over software patents that concern widely known and applied technologies is ongoing. The following article describes a company that is going after smaller companies that sell merchandise over the internet:
Two interesting articles on the costs and benefits (if any) software patents:
I'm sure I've posted this before, but has anyone noticed that one of the organisations that "use graphical and textual information on a video screen for purposes of making a sale" is the US Patent Office!
The first poster mentioned the cost of checking for patents before writing code. However, one of the real absurdities of American patent law is that it imposes a penalty on companies for doing this. If you violate a patent accidentally you can get sued for damages. But if you *knowingly* violate a patent, you can be sued for treble damages. So how does a company avoid this latter fate? By not checking if there are any patents applicable to what what they're doing. In fact I've heard that the lawyers for some technology companies specifically tell the engineers to avoid looking into patents so that they can't be accused of knowingly violating a patent. They're willing to run the risk of accidentally violating a patent to avoid being accused that they knowingly violated it.
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