Open Source Patents

You know... I just realized another reason why the idea of software patents annoys me to no end.

When you are applying for a normal patent (say, a new way of manufacturing springs), you have to provide enough information on how "someone skilled in art" could build a duplicate. The dual idea being that if you know how a patented invention works, you can avoid it - and also once the patent expires, it is then readily available for the common good.

However, most of the software patents I've read only contain very vague descriptions about how the system really works. I do consider myself being "skilled in art", but it would still take me effort do duplicate the ideas presented in those. And that's what they are: ideas. They are not implementations, nor algorithms, not even flow charts. They are just that, general ideas on how a problem could approximately be solved. Which means they are pretty easy to infringe - drafting such a patent does not even require a functional implementation to prove it works.

I would really like to see the actual source code (or UML charts, or whatever) be added to the patent applications, as mandatory components. This would greatly add to the visibility and clarity of the patent applications, probably making them easier to understand to the patent office engineers as well - it's much harder to obfuscate code than it is to write vague descriptions on how things are supposed to work. Currently patents pretty much describe software as a machine, but you can examine a machine - build it and let it work to understand the process how it works. But with software, the process flow is integral to the invention, and thus should be described as well.

Of course, I don't mean patenting the actual implementations: software lives and evolves (and it should be allowed to do that), but there should be enough code so that it works, and the idea becomes clear.


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"Main_blogentry_180404_1" last changed on 18-Apr-2004 12:03:28 EEST by JanneJalkanen.

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