Software patents was Re: [extropy-chat] Care Economy?

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at
Fri May 20 08:06:36 UTC 2005

Rik van Riel wrote:

> On Wed, 18 May 2005, Brett Paatsch wrote:
>> I tend to see patent law as a potentially good thing but it has to strike
>> the right balance between creating incentives for people to be practical
>> and to innovate and not creating disincentives or other side effects that
>> produce a net or suboptimal social benefit.
> Exactly how do you think software patents would encourage
> innovation ?

Exactly? ;-)    I used the term "software patents" and put it in the
header because you used that terminology in the thread that this
was forked from.

My personal commercial experience with intellectual property (IP)
related to software has been around copyright and licensing, I don't
know that patents as such apply to things that are software only,
(nor do I know that they don't, so I appreciated your and Emyln's
feedback), my IP law knowledge has gotten a bit rusty and is due
for a general refresher which I think I'll get onto shortly.

Just as an aside, it had occurred to me that some AI prototypes
might involve some nifty little hardware tweaks as well as software
and so I wasn't sure that patent law would be applicable to an AI
prototype consisting of both hardware and software.

I can't answer "exactly" without having a particular application
in mind, and if I had a particular application in mind for a particular
targetted market, and I told you (and everyone else potentially
reading) about it on an open list then I'd be giving it away ;-)

> In many (most?) companies, engineers are not allowed to
> look at patents, unless explicitly asked to do so by the
> people in the legal department.  Also, software patents
> take a few years to get issued.

If software is included in patent law then I think Mike's comment
might be right. I think it might have changed recently and been
jurisdiction dependent.

> In short, patents can only protect your idea, but not
> the actual product that your business is trying to make
> a living off.  In fact, patents can endanger your product,
> and with 150,000 granted software patents in the US alone
> I don't think there's anything you can do to avoid potential
> infringement.

Is that a fact ?  150,000 *software* *patents* as opposed to
licenses or other types of patent ? Would you by chance
have a source for that?

I'm about to dig into a chunk of gene patent law and the issues
will be similar I imagine so I might bump into the stuff anyway
but I'm curious as to whether software is separately patented
and if 150,000 in the US is the count of them.

Brett Paatsch 

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