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Software Patents

Tim Bray has an interesting war story, on software patents and text searching, at

Key Quote:
"The Lesson: In software, assume that everything is already patented. You can’t build anything, no matter how new it is, without infringing someone’s patent"

Max Hadley
Friday, August 6, 2004

Excellent post. Clearly Microsoft has decided to get in the patent game with a full scale assault, and it is evident in many of the posts by Microsofters on their blogs.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, August 6, 2004

I guess the answer is that when developing software one really can't afford to worry about it.  If he comes up with something worth selling and soemone takes the time to decompile the code and find patent violations, payoffs are acoming.  Few patent holders would be looking to drive someone out of business or even to challenge the patent in court.

If what the author says is true, then the system is inherently unstable and eventually some catastrophe will force the legislature to action.

BTW- wouldn't patents dating back to the 70s be over by now? 

I think a big problem is that in software and software controled processes the patent office doesn't have much of an idea about what is obvious.  I remember some software that controled the stage of a microscope.  People had software moving the stage in two dimensions and software that could move the stage in the third dimension (to focus) and then some company actually got a patent for doing all with software.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, August 6, 2004

The other thing that's pretty nasty about software patents is that if you knowingly violate a patent you get socked with triple damages. Considering that every possible software invention has been patented at least four times, this means that developers are actively discouraged from researching existing patents, because if they accidentally use the patented thingamabob later, SMACK!

If they get sued and haven't done the research, it's just normal damages.

Chris Tavares
Friday, August 6, 2004

Which all goes to show that it's time we stopped letting lawyers make decisions in the technology industries. They don't have a clue.

Friday, August 6, 2004

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