Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Release Management , Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Open Source Cloud

Release Management : Article

Do Software Patents Stifle Innovation?

A debate has been raging about the usefulness of the US patent law governing software patents

Of late patents around mobile technologies have been in the news. Four high profile news items are (1) Oracle suing Google for Java patent violation, (2) Apple and Samsung fighting each other in different parts of the world, Microsoft, Apple, Rim and others jointly buying Nortel patent library for $4.5 billion and (4) Google buys Motorola Mobile and gets 17,000 patents.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. This diagram from Reuters shows the complex battlefield of mobile patent and significant portion of these patents are for software.

In the sideline of this patent war, a debate has been raging about the usefulness of the US patent law governing software patents. Point to note here is that each country has a different patent law. For example, in India, software per se cannot be patented.

If you want to have a quick look at what patenting is all about have a look at -

ABC of patenting – why, what and how

What is the debate on Software Patents about?
In US the patent law is expected…

“…to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited time to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries…”

However, the distractors claim that the software patent law does the exact opposite – it stifles innovation. They claim that there are enough scientific studies to prove this point. With so many patents around it is practically impossible to write a piece of software and feel confident that it does not violate any existing patent!

Here is couple of references to those studies:

There is also a Wikipedia page which discusses this topic.

For and Against – Three Arguments each

For:

  1. Public disclosure: Since patent must publicly disclose the invention it is expected to accelerate software development by making previously unknown and not obvious software inventions public.
  2. Allow the inventor to peacefully perfect the invention: Since every invention requires time and effort to perfect, the patent provides protection without the fear of imitation.
  3. Encourage the inventor to additional use to maximize return: The inventor will have incentive to search for further applications of the patented software.

Against:

  1. Patent has never been an incentive for a Startup or VC: Survey of software entrepreneurs and venture investors indicate that they would have invested even without patent protection.
  2. Defensive patenting locks up invention: Companies patent everything they can think of that might be relevant to their business and then implement only a fraction of those things, which creates a barrier for innovation.
  3. Deterrence to work on innovative idea: Companies may be reluctant to invest in a new idea because of the fear that the work may infringe on some existing patents.

What about economic benefit?
Pro
: For small companies patent should (1) provide protection to market their products, (2) increase the valuation of the company and (3) combat large players through patent law suit.

Con: The process of patenting is very expensive and only a small percentage of patents land up making any money. Small companies aren’t very well protected by patent because the damages awarded may be very small. It appears that the economic benefit goes to the “Patent Troll” who buys patents just to fight law suit and claim infringement.

Is Copyright not sufficient protection for software?

Sufficient: Copyright is the right of an author of any software to prevent others from copying their creative work without a license. Copyright protection is given automatically and immediately without the need to register, though registration strengthens protection. Often copyright infringement is relatively easy to determine.

Insufficient: Patents protect functionality. Copyright on the other hand only protects expression. Substantial modification to an original work, even if it performs exactly the same function, would not be prevented by copyright. To prove copyright infringement also requires the additional hurdle of proving copying which is not necessary for patent infringement.

Inventions aren’t created by a single genius
Current research suggests that inventions are created from a bunch of people competing and collaborating as the world changes. That makes the whole theory behind our current patent system is flawed. The current patent system is built around the idea that lone genius individuals need to be incented to make great leaps forward.

See this paper – The Myth of the Sole Inventor

If you believe in FOSS movement then it is very difficult to support software patent
Let me just refer to this post – Why Patent Injunctions Are Even Worse For Open Source.

Finally…
Some believe that…

Software = Algorithm = Mathematics … so it cannot be patented

Related Article

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
Google

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Early Bird Registration Discount Expires on August 31, 2018 Conference Registration Link ▸ HERE. Pick from all 200 sessions in all 10 tracks, plus 22 Keynotes & General Sessions! Lunch is served two days. EXPIRES AUGUST 31, 2018. Ticket prices: ($1,295-Aug 31) ($1,495-Oct 31) ($1,995-Nov 12) ($2,500-Walk-in)
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...