back to article UK firms contest 'absurd' software patent ruling

A group of small British businesses has mounted a challenge to changes made by the Intellectual Property Office's (formerly known as the Patent Office) to the scope of the monopoly a patent holder can be granted for a software patent. They are objecting, specifically, to paragraph 14 in the IPO's recent November guidance on …


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  1. Robert T

    Doesn't copyright already handle this?

    The right "to control the distribution of computer disks and internet downloads of the programs which configure an apparatus to perform a patented process" is something adequately handled by copyright law, not patent law, I would imagine. They should be able to stop verbatim copying of the software, but they shouldn't be able to stop someone implementing their own version of the software.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not patentable: 2a. (a) mathematical methods;

    'In Europe, they argue, where an invention involves novel software, a patent owner is entitled "to control the distribution of computer disks and internet downloads of the programs which configure an apparatus to perform a patented process"'

    Not true. A process like that would be an algorithm, a mathematical method, that comes under 2a. and is not patentable in Europe.

    "(1) European patents shall be granted for any inventions which are susceptible of industrial application, which are new and which involve an inventive step.

    (2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:

    (a) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;

    (b) aesthetic creations;

    (c) schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;

    (d) presentations of information."

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    Copyright is all that is needed

    I don't see what the problem is. Surely you can stop distribution of s/ware by use of copyright ? A patent is a monopoly on an idea; copyright is a monopoly on a particular implementation of something. The two are very different.

    However: what the patent office has said makes sense anyway and opens healthy competition. Preventing anyone else from reloading the s/ware in a washing machine would mean that you would have to go back to the manufacturer for every repair; by opening it out you get competition in the repair market - which will bring down prices.

    S/ware patents are outlawed in the EU anyway (which is a good thing).

  4. Robert Long

    Absurd indeed

    As usual, it is the European patent system which is absurd. In this context, the software is simply a component of the washing machine. Should the distribution of replacement drive belts breach the patent? Of course not. Likewise, neither should the distribution of a software component, that should be and is covered by copyright law.

    These companies are seeking to have extra special protection of a component which is already more than adequately protected by copyright in order to make a landgrab on the spares market and create a lock-in for comsumers.

  5. Neil Wilson

    But what about Copyright

    I would have thought that the software part would be covered by copyright, like all other creative works. The necessary protection sits in that sphere.

    Software is built from only three primitives, as music is built from just 12 notes. You can hardly suggest that music has suffered from a lack of progress simply because you can't patent a tune.

  6. Lee Fear

    Copyright is good enough

    Software should never be patentable at all. Otherwise we my well find ourselves in the ridiculous position that the US finds itself in, where Amazon can patent the vague idea of holding a users details so that they can buy with only a username and password! Not only is this Idea obvious, it has been done before Amazon as far as I am aware. This is like being able to Patent the idea of a bagless vaccuum cleaner regardless of how it actually works. Or Patenting a machine to wash clothes without saying how it actually does the washing.

    I heard somewhere that AACS Have patented the Hexadecimal Number that forms the key to their encryption! Now that is dumb!

    Microsoft got to where they were with the old copyright laws so as a software developer I can't see what is wrong with them. After all, could anyone imagine programming while having to check you are not infringing on a patent every ten seconds?

  7. William Donelson

    Just another scam

    Patents are a protection racket, with big companies trading licenses to bolster their patents in the eyes of courts.

    Most patents are hogwash. Criminal hogwash.

  8. Peter

    Patently a copyright issue....

    Well, why not echo the obvious sentiment.... Code should be protected by copyright, not patents. I can write a program that multiplies numbers by recursive additions to a variable, and go copyright that & licence it as I see fit.

    What I can't do, is then tell YOU that you CANNOT multiply numbers within your code without a licence from me. And I believe this is essentially (though somewhat simplified) what 'software patents' are being used for, such as the amazon patent mentioned, or the revoked MS patent on the FAT filesystem. I doubt anyone would disagree that MS validly did own the copyright to their own code that e.g. done file I/O to a FAT partition. There's a subtle but at the same time massive difference.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Copyright doesn't cover it

    They are trying to cover the case of software being an important operational component of the machine. So to supply alternative software that does not infringe copyright but does allow the machine to operate correctly is an infringement of the patent.

    Simple reason being that without it the machine wouldn't work. If the machine works correctly then any attached patents must have been infringed.

  10. Boz

    Copyright doesn't cover it - 2

    In response to Robert Long. He's right and it is just a component and why shouldn't I be allowed to get better software on the machine which might fix the bugs.

  11. Peter

    re: Copyright doesn't cover it

    Not sure I can see the logic here. If I buy a car with a GPS system that's essentially a (mips | x86 | whatever) computer, don't like the GPS software so replace it, you'd say I'd infringed on the car manufacturers patent(s) relating to the car design?

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