When the word patent is heard, I would agree that many in the Android community cringe or may even clench with anger. Patents are nothing of the fun sort, and make the mobile industry very difficult. They can make users miserable, but for software developers it can pose as a huge threat. Even though they are "referred to as software patents," they are not about software as you would think, but about "some practical idea, and says anyone carrying out the idea can be sued." Nice right? We all know what they are, and we all agree that they should be thrown away!
Unfortunately, it's not up the U.S patent system to decide which one is a "software patent" and which one is not. It's up the developers to decide. These "computational idea patents" can be anything from hardware to software, and according to the recent patent wars, even designs seem to be included as well.
What's the Problem?
I'm sure I really don't have to ask that question because we all know that answer to this question. These patents cause problems. Let's say a software program "implements thoughts of ideas into one program" and 10% of those are patented, thousands will threaten it.
Dan Ravicher from the Public Patent Foundation went further and studied the Linux program in 2004. His finding?
".. he found 283 U.S. patents that appeared to cover computing ideas implemented in the source code of that program. That same year, it was estimated that Linux was .25 percent of the whole GNU/Linux system. Multiplying 300 by 400 we get the order-of-magnitude estimate that the system as a whole was threatened by around 100,000 patents."
Whoa, that's a big number not to mention a big threat as well, am I right? This is why patents are just pointless to have! We all know Apple is the worst when it comes to keeping "their eyes peeled" for violators. Suggestions have been made to change the "granting" process of patents, but they just ended up with drawbacks. How so? Well patents can be taken and twisted, or molded to fit any certain rule, which would make one say, "What's the point then?"
Another issue is the fact that thousands of these patents already exist, so changing the process still would not eliminate those that already exist. Good point made! So how long would it take for the patents to expire if you were to wait it out? 20 YEARS! Unfortunately, they can't be abolished either because that would raise the "unconstitutional" flag, and no one wants that, especially the court systems.
What Can be Done?
The suggestion was made to change the "effect" of patents. Well what would that do? Here's the advantages:
- No classification of the patent or patent application would be required.
- Developers will gain a better protection system from existing and future patents.
- No one, including patent lawyers, can tweak, twist, or mold it to possibly mean something else.
Those are some good advantages, yes, but I"m still not sold. It was argued that this would "eliminate an argument against the legal validity of the plan." An example was given of surgeons. Surgical procedures can be patented, so say a certain procedure is patented surgeons are still safe because the U.S. passed a law that "shields" them from patent lawsuits." Smart thinking right? So why can't "computational idea patents" be this way? It's a solution right?
Protection is needed for developers, and users need protection from patents, and that's the bottom line. This would enable all to go back to market of "competition" and "cooperation" and no one would have to fear that someone is going to "wipe away" their work!
What do the Android readers think? Do you think this solution would solve the patent issues that exist today?