Information/Mental Process Patents

Information/Mental Process Patents can include everything from computer software, business models, and possibly even methods of organizing people (Roberts Rules), parliamentary processes, and acts of parliament/law.

See: NoSoftwarePatents.com (EU), Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (EU), League for Programming Freedom (US).

Should first to file vs invent matter in a well managed patent system?

This is a discussion that has bothered me for a long time.  There are debates and studies which try to suggest that one or another of "first to file" (FTF) or "first to invent" (FTI) is better for one or another type of inventor (small inventors, etc).

A recent article in IP Osgoode demonstrates the problem.  In referencing a study the article suggests, "The study finds that the shift to FTF resulted in a reduction in the number of patents granted to individual Canadian inventors and small businesses".  This is a study based on the Canadian experience having made the switch to FTF in 1989, with the USA switch coming into force in 2013.

The assumption of the article, and most of the debaters, is that if some patents are good, more are better.   The fact that the number of patents granted went down after a change should not be presumed to be a bad thing, when in fact patents not being granted may just as easily be a good thing for innovation.

Statutory knowledge monopolies and supply management

Two forms of government manipulation of the marketplace have become the most controversial aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for Canadians: supply management and statutory knowledge monopolies. Each are government interventions in the marketplace between producers and consumers, each have a stated public policy purpose, and each are controversial.

Players or pawns: Big Copyright's war on technology?

One of Canada's best technology journalists, Jesse Brown, interviewed Techdirt.com editor Mike Masnick on the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act. While I agree with most of the discussion, I want to challenge some of the conclusions made at the end of the interview. It was discussed how "big copyright" had a history of lobbying, while tech firms were part of a start-up culture and until recently didn't play that game. This was behind why "big copyright" has been so successful at pushing forward laws which break some of the best features of modern technology, while at the same time not helping copyright holders.

This is based on the idea that there is only one tech sector involved, and that "big copyright" are in control of this game rather than being pawns of a more powerful player.

Open source champion supports Microsoft in i4i patent challenge

Nestor E. Arellano included an interview with me in his coverage of the patent case between Toronto's i4i and Microsoft.

“It would be very easy for me to wave the open source banner and yell ‘down with Microsoft’ or wrap myself in the Canadian flag and cheer 'yeah for i4i.' But it’s far better to support what’s right than be concerned with who or the brands that are involved,” he added.

New Prior Art Proves Eight Abbott Laboratories Patents on Ritonavir are Undeserved

While it would be better if patent offices did proper examinations and rejected all but the inventions most deserving of this intrusive government granted monopoly, it is great that public interest groups like the Public Patent Foundation ("PUBPAT") exist.

New York, NY -- August 26, 2010 -- The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) announced today that it has formally asked the United States Patent and Trademark Office to reexamine eight patents held by Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) relating to the critical HIV/AIDS drug ritonavir, which is marketed by the Chicago, Illinois pharmaceutical giant under the name brand Norvir.

(Read full press release)

It's official: Software will be unpatentable in NZ

Some great news from New Zealand via Paul Matthews of the NZ Computer Society.

Software patents and disclosure

Techdirt has a useful article about how useful software patents actually are.

He points out that :
- companies will usually only patent stuff that would get disclosed anyway, relying on trade secret protection for the rest;
- Microsoft tells their employees to "never search, view, or speculate about patents", partly due to the worries over "willful infringement" and partly because you wouldn't learn anything from them anyway.

Software and business method patents take a hit

A blog article by Dana Blankenhorn provides some links, including to Groklaw. I'm curious what other people have been reading, and whether they think this could be the beginning of the end of information/mental process patents?

Question: If software is distributed unbundled with any specific hardware (ie: "not tied to any machine"), then are the methods it implements patentable? I have no problem with a patent regime that applies to those shipping hardware/software bundles, but not to those simply shipping/sharing software. This would in my mind largely solve the incompatibility between software patents and FLOSS.

The cost of bad patents

There seems to be more and more recognition of the idea that more and more patents aren't necessarily a good thing. This blog post points to a paper (PDF) that tries to quantify the costs of bad patents.

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