The End Software Patents Coalition

My railing against software patents shouldn’t be new to you, dear reader.  Recently, this tilting at windmills has generated some attention.  Among other things, a new group of interesting people is forming a coalition named End Software Patents.

This group is being spearheaded by several very smart people, including Ben Klemens – a guest scholar at The Brookings Institution.  Ben is also the author of Math You Can’t Use, a fascinating exploration of patents, copyrights, and software that I’ll review in depth at some point.

In the short term, this coalition is looking for examples of innovative and profitable software companies that have been successful without any patent activity of any sort.  While this success doesn’t necessarily correlate with a desire to abolish software patents, we want to better understand real life examples of successful companies that don’t care about software patents.

If you fit this description and are willing to have a discussion, please contact me.

  • James D Kirk

    Read your earlier post about software patents, Brad. But what about patents on methods or processes? I've just sent in my first application to the USPTO and am working on my second. Do specific methods also fall into this category? Curious.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I dislike method and process patents also. The group is calling things “soft” patents which theoretically captures method and process patents. There are cases where method/process patents work when they are integrated with a machine of some sort, but there are a large number of patents that I think fall in the irrelevant category. Fundamentally, you should not be able to patent “an idea.” However, I'm starting with something I know well, which is software.

  • Robert

    The BIG problem I have with software patents is when a company files them, but doesn't use them. If you're protecting your product or service… fine. But if you're patenting stuff with no intention of using it, then don't waste your time (or anyone else's).

    Take the Blackberry case as an example. Blackberry might have infringed on a patent, but as far as I'm concerned the original patent holder should have taken their ass to market sooner. Instead, they sat on it and waited for someone else to do the leg work before crying about it… or at least that was my take on it.

  • Deb Miller

    In case you haven't seen this: http://www.ipadrblog.com/2007/11/articles/busines… This video is not directly related to patents, but is about the other IP issue — copyrights. It's about 19 minutes long.

  • http://www.theopensourcerer.com Alan

    Move to the EU ;-)
    We don't really allow patents on software – although M$ have tried to corrupt the system….

  • Reinier Bakels

    I do believe that “software patents” are the worst form of legal extortion that exists. Still, for a successful opposition against such patents, eventually the question must be answered what is in and what is out. The US courts struggled from 1973-1998 to draw that line, and then opened the floodgates. The EU courts still struggle with the “technical contribution” criterion which is a confusing pretext to make arbitrary decisions.
    Imho a fundamental change in patent philosophy is needed. The question is *not*: does this alleged inventor deserve a patent, *but*: can he survive market competition without legal protection? In the capitalist economy, imitation (preferably improved) is the rule and protection should only be applied in rare circumstances. Patent protection is for losers!

  • Deborah

    We are an innovative and profitable ISV. We intentionally haven't used patents, and agree that software patents are evil. What jeopardizes our profitability is the legal costs in negotiating indemnification. There's a rising expectation that we can afford to fully indemnify our customers against any alleged patent infringement, whether we infringe knowingly or otherwise. A patent lawsuit could kill us.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/robert960 robert960

    The BIG problem I have with software patents is when a company files them, but doesn't use them. If you're protecting your product or service… fine. But if you're patenting stuff with no intention of using it, then don't waste your time (or anyone else's).

    Take the Blackberry case as an example. Blackberry might have infringed on a patent, but as far as I'm concerned the original patent holder should have taken their ass to market sooner. Instead, they sat on it and waited for someone else to do the leg work before crying about it… or at least that was my take on it.

  • Alan

    Move to the EU ;-)
    We don't really allow patents on software – although M$ have tried to corrupt the system….

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jamesdkirk jamesdkirk

    Read your earlier post about software patents, Brad. But what about patents on methods or processes? I've just sent in my first application to the USPTO and am working on my second. Do specific methods also fall into this category? Curious.

  • Deb Miller

    In case you haven't seen this: http://www.ipadrblog.com/2007/11/articles/busines… This video is not directly related to patents, but is about the other IP issue — copyrights. It's about 19 minutes long.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I dislike method and process patents also. The group is calling things "soft" patents which theoretically captures method and process patents. There are cases where method/process patents work when they are integrated with a machine of some sort, but there are a large number of patents that I think fall in the irrelevant category. Fundamentally, you should not be able to patent "an idea." However, I'm starting with something I know well, which is software.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/reinier_bak2181 reinier_bak2181

    I do believe that "software patents" are the worst form of legal extortion that exists. Still, for a successful opposition against such patents, eventually the question must be answered what is in and what is out. The US courts struggled from 1973-1998 to draw that line, and then opened the floodgates. The EU courts still struggle with the "technical contribution" criterion which is a confusing pretext to make arbitrary decisions.
    Imho a fundamental change in patent philosophy is needed. The question is *not*: does this alleged inventor deserve a patent, *but*: can he survive market competition without legal protection? In the capitalist economy, imitation (preferably improved) is the rule and protection should only be applied in rare circumstances. Patent protection is for losers!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/deborah2361 deborah2361

    We are an innovative and profitable ISV. We intentionally haven't used patents, and agree that software patents are evil. What jeopardizes our profitability is the legal costs in negotiating indemnification. There's a rising expectation that we can afford to fully indemnify our customers against any alleged patent infringement, whether we infringe knowingly or otherwise. A patent lawsuit could kill us.